I’ve got good news and bad news…


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?

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14 thoughts on “I’ve got good news and bad news…

  1. I think you’re right that it will be hard to say thumbs-up or thumbs-down on some plants right away – but it’s very interesting to see the preliminary results, Robin. Chindo viburnum wasn’t hardy for me even in previous wimpy winters – whole branches froze to the ground and it got smaller every year. Very disappointing.

    So far the branches and leaves on my loquats seem okay- an enormous relief to me, too. The privacy element is much more important than any fruit – and there’s nothing like seeing your plants in danger to realize which ones are essential, is there?

    Hope that Rangoon Creeper makes it!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  2. Glad to hear your Loquat seems okay, too, Annie. Yes, it will be interesting over the next couple of weeks as we see what truly turns to mush. Brings the saying “Texas Tough” to a whole new level this year, doesn’t it?

  3. Quite the mixed bag, isn’t it Robin? I hope your Rangoon Creeper surprises you. I’ve never lost ginger, but then again, the most mature of mine are 5 years old, so they haven’t seen this drastic a cold yet. Everything crossed!

  4. Ginger is considered Tropical, Diana, but as you know is very hardy. Hopefully those roots are just fine. And yep, keeping everything crossed for the Rangoon Creeper to be ok. Good luck to you, too.

  5. I think I mainly lost aloes, and maybe a few baby Barbados cherries I just planted. Also the Mexican bauhinia I got at Madrone Nursery with the garden bloggers looks rather sad. Maybe it will prove root hardy though. It’s been a roller-coaster of a year, hasn’t it?

  6. Wow, your yarrow looks fantastic! I WILL plant some this spring (the heat and drought got mine last summer). This year was the first year I’d tried ginger, and loved it. I was horrified to see it after the freeze; I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it comes back from the roots. Let’s hope this was the only really bad spell we will have this winter! On the whole, looks like you fared pretty well.

  7. Nola, if it’s not one thing, it’s another, yes? (Roseanne, rosanna-danna)I with you, let’s hope we got the crazy weather behind us all.

  8. Pam, I also lost many succulents, but perhaps we bloggers can all share some of what made it through with each other to start fresh.I’m not familliar with Mexican Bauhinia, but I hope it makes it through for you. Roller coaster? You bet! A BIG learning experience, all in one year.

  9. I just now uncovered everything and surveyed the damage–I’m such a cold wimp! I don’t know what kind of artemesia we have, but it fared just fine, like yours. Most of the veggies–I covered them–look like they’ll recover, but I’m still glad I harvested virtually all the lettuces Wednesday anyway. A few of my toughest plants (didn’t cover them) so far are bush germander, Mexican feathergrass, santolina, established rosemary, and cenizo. I covered my big plumbago, and I think it will recover, too. These are plants that also made it through our drought with very little supplemental water. Sadly, most of my Society Garlic looks like yours right now. Maybe they’ll surprise us and bounce back?

  10. Robin, I’m not trying to jinx us, but I have this nasty feeling that we’re not done with the severe winter weather. I keep having premonitions of an ice storm. Mind you, I’ve never demonstrated any great psychic abilities before so they will likely come to naught. We’ve had snow, we’ve had bitter cold … ice is the only thing left!

  11. Yikes, Cindy, let’s change that premonition to a rainy, normal spring! of course, an ice storm would be preferable to the dry, bitter cold we just had.

  12. Iris, we can hope for your namesake to return to us,yes? I’ll bet your garden smells interesting right about now! Thanks for your list; I’m planning to add Mexican Feathergrass this spring to be a staple in my yard now.

  13. Interesting to see what made it and what didn’t (or might not, I guess it might be too early to tell??). My chives, both regular and garlic, were also pretty mushy. When we lived in Austin we had a big loquat tree and it was always an iffy thing as to whether or not we’d get fruit. There always seemed to be a killing-enough freeze right when the fruit was setting. The weather can be just so unpredictable. I remember a really deep freeze in Austin in the 80’s when it got down to 4 degrees. Every potted plant in my garage froze! Sounds like you have the makings of a TOUGH plants list. Go for it!

  14. Pingback: After the freeze « Getting Grounded

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