Damage Report

The creek only overflowed at the downstream end of our property.

The creek only overflowed at the downstream end of our property.

I apologize for my silence, gardening friends. But I suspect most of you can guess the reasons for the absence of fresh posts. First, to my gardening friends in Australia, you have my prayers for a speedy end to your heat wave and accompanying problems. My blog has received many views from Australian readers seeking information on how to keep their gardens alive during heat waves — a topic I’ve written on more than once.

But I will readily admit that your current heat wave is probably worse than those I’ve experienced. Again, you have my sympathies. However, those of us almost anywhere in the US have been having our own problems with the weather.

In the Southeast where I live, our December was extremely wet, wetter than I can remember for multiple decades. But I count myself lucky, because while I was slogging through mud, folks to my north and west were skidding on ice and snow. Fortunately for me, every time the precipitation arrived here, our temperatures were warm enough to keep it in liquid form. Then the skies would clear, and the temperatures plunged. The most spectacular example of that, of course, was the cold air delivered by the Polar Vortex.

The Tufted Titmouse on the left and Carolina Wren on the right are just two of my many avian visitors relying heavily on my feeders.

The Tufted Titmouse on the left and Carolina Wren on the right are just two of my many avian visitors relying heavily on my feeders.

The plants in my yard mostly did just fine, as I’d predicted in my previous post. The Florida Anise-trees did better than I feared they might. Only the most tender growing tips of the most exposed plants were damaged.

The most tender growing tips were killed by the deep, prolonged cold.

The most tender growing tips were killed by the deep, prolonged cold.

Temperatures on my hill bottomed out at 7 degrees Fahrenheit, staying there for about 3 hours. Temperatures did not go above freezing for 40 hours straight. That’s highly unusual for my area, especially with no snow cover on the ground.

Florida Anise-trees without a nearby tree or shrub to shelter them fared the worst.

Florida Anise-trees without a nearby tree or shrub to shelter them fared the worst.

I won’t bother to prune the damaged areas until I’m sure winter is long gone. At this point, the damaged areas may actually protect the plants from deeper damage if we receive another visit from the Polar Vortex.

This tree grows beneath the shade of a large loblolly pine. The pine seems to have prevented any damage to the Florida Anise-tree it sheltered.

Protected by a friendly loblolly pine.

Protected by a friendly loblolly pine.

I attempted some pictures of my 15-foot tall Loropetalum chinensis shrubs, but none of my tries captured the damage well. Basically, the top halves of the shrubs — about 7 or so feet — have brown instead of purple or green leaves now. I doubt the branches are actually dead, and I will wait until spring to see if new leaves appear before we attempt any pruning.

I did see some entirely unexpected damage. The Polar Vortex was ushered in by very high winds, and somewhere not far from my house, a power line or pole was damaged. My house was without power during the deepest cold — from 3:00 – 7:00 a.m. Wonder Spouse and I were fine in the house, but my little greenhouse full of houseplants and cuttings had no heat. I watched the remote temperature sensor for the greenhouse in my house drop all the way down to 18 degrees Fahrenheit. Ouch.

I was afraid to even open the door of the greenhouse to inspect the damage for several days. I waited until the deep cold had returned north.   An initial inspection showed pretty much what I had expected.

Tender annuals in pots that had graced my deck last summer were toast.

Tender annuals in pots that had graced my deck last summer were toast.

Wonder Spouse loves amaryllis plants, so the greenhouse was full of pots full of shiny green leaves with flower buds just peeking out. I was surprised that only some of the leaves had clearly frozen.

The leaf hanging down was mushy. I snipped it off after I took this photo.

The leaf hanging down was mushy. I snipped it off after I took this photo.

Damage was most severe to the amaryllises in pots on the bench. Those resting on the floor of the greenhouse fared better. Bulbs didn’t seem to have frozen. I think they may all recover and probably even bloom as usual.

Another pot of a still-blooming tender annual that did not appreciate 18 degrees.

Another pot of a still-blooming tender annual that did not appreciate 18 degrees.

As I went to work cutting off all the dead and damaged leaves in the greenhouse, I was astonished to see new green growth at the bases of the tender annuals. I guess the soil in the pots didn’t have time to freeze, which would certainly have killed the plants. I think perhaps they may actually re-sprout and re-bloom. Amazing!

All in all, it could have been much worse. I’m pleased to report that all three of my Prunus mume trees are now in full, fragrant, spectacular bloom, despite the prolonged cold and completely frozen ground. Only the flowers that were actually open were killed by the cold. All those rosy buds that I thought would certainly be killed have now opened into beautiful flowers. Stunning! Ditto for the January Jasmine. The yellow blooms fully open turned brown, but remaining flower buds survived and are now opening.

The winter parade of deluges followed by deep freezes has thrown my normal schedule of winter gardening tasks into chaos. It’s been either too wet or too frozen to work most of the time. I am a gardening Goldilocks in search of elusive in-between weather to clean up my gardens and yard.

As my itchy gardening fingers crave the chance to scratch in the dirt, I take solace from an article I read recently in my local paper. The experts predict that the uncharacteristically prolonged deep cold will slow down some of the invasive exotic species threatening to overwhelm our native forests. This likely applies more to invading insects than noxious weeds like Japanese Stiltgrass, alas. But if next summer brought fewer Kudzu Bugs to my garden, I would consider that a win.

For now, I will content myself with the fresh crop of seed and nursery catalogs, pondering my myriad options while I wait for spring’s return to warm the air. Stay warm and dry, everyone!

Spring will be here before long.

Spring will be here before long.

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