Saturday, February 5, 2011

Damage Assessment

It finally warmed up into the 50's today and I went out and unzipped the Greenhouse fearing the worst. The temps had been in the teens the past several days and the coldest day was not only plagued by bone chilling wind chills of at or below zero, but rolling blackouts. My little greenhouse is warmed by a heat lamp and when the power goes out, there is no heat. The rolling blackout occurred every couple hours lasting 30 minutes a piece on average. I was sure I had lost some of my plants.

I unzipped the greenhouse and what did I see? Green things! Not brown! The plants had survived:

The key lime, the palm, and the hibiscus all suffered a little frost damage to the tips. I just cut those parts off. The hibiscus did lose a few more leaves than the others, but otherwise it made it through OK.

The petunias, dianthus, and cyclamen look wonderful! Not a yellow, brown, or mushy leaf to be found.

The geraniums were closest to the edge of the greenhouse and the side of the pots that faced the edge were fried pretty good and mushy. These were pretty scraggly before the freeze anyway as I had them hanging outside most of the winter, so I just cut them back and they will make a full recovery come warm weather. The bougainvillea looks the worst. They lost almost all their leaves and blooms, but the wood is still green inside, so these will recover. I stored them in the garage last year with the same results. I was hoping the greenhouse would keep them leafy - which it did until we had Arctic wind chills of zero and rolling blackouts (ERCOT is SO not on my friend list this year):

I'm not sure what the temps dropped to in the greenhouse but it must have been very near or at freezing for a short amount of time (likely when the power kept going out). I think next year I will put 2 heat lamps in there instead of one so I can have extra heat if the temps dip into the teens for a long period of time. It's my first year with the pop-up greenhouse and overall, I am quite pleased. It's not the greenhouse's fault that the power kept going out on the very coldest day of the year. (I'm looking at you ERCOT).

Out in the yard, the agaves show cold damage. This is the first time I have witnessed this level of frost damage on the agaves:

The bulbine is complete mush and I'm sure I will have to replace it. I had to replace these after last year's week of record cold as well as they did not recover:

The globemallow carried through the cold with no problem at all! I thought for sure I would lose it. I didn't realize they were quite so hardy. This was a new planting of mine from last spring. I am really excited it survived so easily:

The windmill palm also shrugged off the freezing temps and wind chills. I picked it because I knew they were one of the most cold hardy palms out there and I wanted it to stay green all winter unlike all the neighbors' texas sabal palms that always seem to have brown fried palm fronds during the winter. I admit I was getting a little bit worried about my windmill palm when the wind chills were so cold as the fronds turned a blue-ish color, but once it warmed up, the fronds returned to their normal green and it is looking no worse for the wear:

In the entryway my philodendrons are looking awful. The one closest inside the entry will be fine and still has some green leaves, but the one on the outside looks really bad. This is the same result I had last year during our week long January deep-freeze and the philodendrons did recover, so I'm really not too worried about these guys. They will bounce back once it gets warm again:

Other items of note:

The abutilon in the entryway also lost all it's leaves - this is the first time I have ever had that happen. I really hope it will come back.

The Sagos are still covered - it is supposed to freeze down into the mid-lower 20's again later this week, so I am electing to just leave them covered. I did peek under their cover though, and they look to be green, so I think they will pull through.

I also have not removed the cover from the new senna I bought last year. I will wait another week to remove it to protect against the cold nights to come.

Isn't it about time for Spring? I've about had it with this Winter's crazy weather.

Friday, February 4, 2011

The week Austin turned into the Arctic

My garden has been in a deep freeze all week. Temperatures have consistently been in the low-mid teens overnight, with much lower windchills when the wind kicks up - at or below zero in some cases. The days have struggled to make it into the upper twenties. The upper twenties!!! That should so not be a high temperature at the 30th latitude! I haven't been in weather this chilly since I went skiing in the mountains up north.

This morning we woke up to snow and ice on the ground. Today is supposed to make it up above freezing - 35 degrees they say. Well, that is positively balmy, now isn't it? Let me throw on my shorts and flip flops and venture outside for some garden photos this fine summery morning:


The fountain this morning:

I have had to carry buckets of warm water out to the fountain every few hours to keep it from turning into one huge ice block. The other day when the wind chills were at or near zero and we were having rolling blackouts (don't ask - let me just say there was some very poor planning by ERCOT, our unreliable Electric Reliability Council of Texas), the very second the water stopped moving, the fountain would begin to ice over. I could actually watch, in real time, the ice building over the fountain. Here is what I have been waking up to the past couple of days:

I have to break off the ice every morning and add more warm water. The birds love that I keep the fountain going. They have been all over it the last couple of days:

Those birds better watch out though, I see tracks from their fearsome winter predator Felis catus in the immediate area:

Out in the front garden the agaves look particularly beautiful covered in the snow:

Although it has been wintery this week and snow and ice bankets the ground right now, I do spy some species tulips poking up signaling Spring shouldn't be too far away:

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

So much for the warmer than normal winter.

2 Days ago it was 80 degrees, yesterday it was 76, today the high at my house was 28. When I went to bed at 11:00pm last night it was 67 degrees and I found myself putting my plants into the greenhouse and turning on the heat lamp preparing for the impending deep freeze. It seemed wrong somehow. Turning on the heat lamp when it was 67 degrees out.

And then it happened. At 3:00am. I awoke to what sounded like large animals trampling my roof and the wind howling. The wind was absolutely tearing through my yard. I admit I was concerned. The wind had to be blowing at least 50 mph. At least. The rain was pounding. And that sound of animals on my roof? That was the sound of the shingles being systematically ripped from the north side of the roof. But what was I most worried about? My pop-up greenhouse!! I thought for sure the wind was gonna tear that thing up and fling it far, far way leaving my plants in shambles and bits.

I fell back to sleep and I dreamt of my greenhouse blown away, all the plants all torn and crushed. When I awoke, I immediately ran to the window and peered outside. What did I see? Shingles everywhere and my greenhouse completely and totally UNHARMED!! There it stood, plants snug and safe inside. I simply could not believe it. When I was reading reviews about my pop-up greenhouse before I made my purchase, there were reports that this greenhouse had made it through 70+ mph winds with no damage. I took these stories with a grain of salt, tall tales, I said to myself. However, it did make me feel more confident about my purchase.

Last night, the little pop-up greenhouse was put to the test. It was staked down with at least 10 stakes pounded flush into the caliche and clay ground a good 7 inches deep (that was a chore, mind you). And it was roped down at all corners as well. And it stayed put. When the shingles flew away, the greenhouse stood fast. Through 70 mph winds I came to find out from the national weather service. 70 mph winds. UN-believable!

Tonight the little greenhouse has become a little igloo for my plants. The inside walls were dripping with moisture from the heat and humidity and as the sun went down a slight icy crust has formed around the edges where the freezing winds beat down, the icy layer keeping the heat in and the winds out. Will my plants survive in there? I'll find out once the deep-freeze is over, but for now the heat lamp blazes on giving the greenhouse a warm toasty-red glow.

I am also worried about my sagos. Luckily, they are on the south side of the house and are spared the biting North winds. I wrapped them up good with an old car cover. They made it through last year's week of below freezing temps and snow, hopefully they will make it through again. They are planted snug up against the south side of the house, so as long as they are covered, I think they will make it. Other plants in the yard? Those will have to fend for themselves. I'm sure I will lose some. I mean, the wind chills are supposed to be less than zero. LESS THAN ZERO. In Austin. Central Texas. Holy cow. I take back that statement I made about it being more zone 9-ish here. It's zone 8 all the way.