Austin, deep in the heart of Texas as it is, rarely freezes for more than a few hours at a time. We’ll dip down into the 20sF overnight a few times a year, and most of our plants can take it. As you can see in the above photo, it took a lot more than that to freeze over my waterfall.
I’ve had this waterfall for over ten years now, and this is a first. I’d left the pump running intentionally to move the water and keep it from freezing, which normally works. Yesterday morning, 3″ of ice was everywhere except for a small center area where a trickle of water kept moving. We were cold!
We were so cold that many of us Austin Garden Bloggers were pretty nervous about our gardens. Over the past 14 years, Austin’s winters have become increasingly milder. So much milder, in fact, that local nurseries began carrying many plants that were historically barely marginal. They thrived and we added more, thinking that the heat island effect accompanying our city’s rapid growth had increased our temps so much that our plants would be fine.
The bad news is, that plants were already stressed from 2 years of exceptional (the highest level, or worst possible) drought followed by a record setting Hottest Summer on Record in Austin. This Sweet Viburnum was gorgeous 2 years ago and was just beginning to perk back up this fall once we got some rain to break the drought (though we are still at very low levels and need much more). When our record setting freezing weather began 2 days ago, it melted again. I don’t know if it will ever recover from so much stress in such a short time.
The good news is, this is a brand spankin’ new Bog Sage Salvia uliginosa just planted a couple of months ago. The tiny 4″ plant bloomed immediately after I planted it in the most gorgeous cornflower blue and white flower. Now I find out that it is evergreen even when my yard stays at 13F for over 8 hours 2 days in a row. Supposedly aggressive but worth it, according to Dave’s Garden. I’ll keep you posted. Reviews there say it isn’t a water-hog, despite its name.
The bad news is the Society Garlic is lying down on the job. Normally evergreen, these plants are emitting a garlic scent throughout the front yard, just as they do when I crush the leaves with my fingers. I’ll cut off the mush and hopefully they will return.
The good news is that Yarrow is evergreen, feathery fern-like, and hardy as all get out. It’s my favorite ground cover, and it’s good to know that it is cold-tolerant as well as heat tolerant.
In the I-don’t-know-if-it’s-good-news-or-bad-news department, I still don’t know about my baby Rangoon Creeper that I adore. It’s just coming into its 3rd year, and I was hoping to finally have a good show of blooms this spring. In an effort to keep it warm, I’m leaving it covered as we are having yet another night in the 20sF. That feels balmy after reaching 13F both of the past 2 nights.
Again with the good news, the Bicolor Iris that I enjoy for structure as well as for its playful blooms in May/June isn’t fazed by low temperatures.
The bad news and good news, I think, is that this white potato vine isn’t looking so good. Why is that good news, too? I never really liked it, it hasn’t done well in over 2 years, but I felt guilty getting rid of it while it lived. Now I can redo this large potting with something prettier.
In the really, really good news list is that the Loquat tree seems just fine. I’m sure the fruit and blooms are gone, but I’m okay with that. It’s the leaves and privacy screen it creates between me and my neighbor that I love it for.
In the not-really-bad-news department, this is now what the Variegated Ginger looks like. However, I believe it will come back from the roots. This is the first time it has died back in the winter since I planted it, as it is in a fairly protected part of the yard. I’ll cut all that away in mid-February, when everything else gets a trim.
And in the “awesome to learn” department, this Powis Castle Artemesia is still putting on a good show of silver, airy foliage that I love. I have several sections of it and hope to create more from cuttings this year. This is becoming one of my favorite foundation plants for color and dependable foliage.
With one more night, at least, of deep freezing temperatures, it is still possible that I’ll lose some more plants. Most of my succulents are gone, certainly the Agave, and several I won’t know about until another week or so. The garden is all about change, isn’t it? I’m learning to go with the flow, and cold doesn’t bother me nearly as much as unrelenting, horrible, inhumane heat. Remind me this summer about going with the flow, ok?
Many of you left comments about your plants that survived our record setting drought/heat summer of hell II. Now we have to modify that list by filtering out the ones that ALSO lived through the record setting freeze. Shall we gather a list of REALLY TOUGH plants that we can share?