After the freeze

I know, I know. I’ve been away. There’s lots to catch up on, but I’ll do that over the next few posts. Today, I want to keep it current and talk about our recent freeze. It started with some BIG west-Texas-style wind. It saved me some money, because it took out my last remaining photinia for me.

Fortunately, this photinia didn't hit the house or any desirable plants on its way down

Last year about this time, we had the coldest temps we’d had in years, in very dry weather, and for a prolonged period. Many of us in Central Texas fretted over the freeze, worked frantically to protect plants and ultimately lost quite a few despite our efforts.

What a difference a year makes!  We just had over 75 hours straight of below freezing temps, with wind chills close to zero. That’s cold for us Texans and plants accustomed to 8b weather. I observed, though, from twitter conversations, that we weren’t too concerned. Whatever would live, would live. It’s just too much effort to baby them through the summer, then have to do it again in the winter.

This Duranta looks sad, but will probably come back from the roots.

I know I’m “maturing” as a gardener, I suppose, because I’m using less exotic, borderline-hardy plants, and moving more towards the tried and true natives that I can count on. Or else I’m getting lazy and my pocketbook is getting thin.

As long as we stick to the native Columbines, they are happy and hardy.

So I’m documenting what worked and what didn’t in my garden. Between the previously mentioned post about last year’s freeze, and this post about the drought, I’ll have a list of plants that are tough. No more pansy-ass plants for me.

I know I'm picturing the over-used Cast Iron plant here, but you just gotta appreciate it's toughness and green filler. And the leaves are great in flower arrangements, to boot.

I’m learning to appreciate plants that I’ve taken for granted.

I have several Japanese Yew, and their structural grace looks good no matter the weather.

And surprised by a few.

Pink trailing Homestead Verbena provides evergreen ground cover and has a bud that looks as if it wants to open!

Some seem too delicate to survive, but they do anyway.

Native River Fern is semi-evergreen. This particular one was apparently protected enough to stay green.

And speaking of delicate, below is a passalong from ESP, and I’m delighted to learn of its hardiness! However, I’m hoping that my good friend will come to my rescue and give me the name again?

This plant deserves applause for maintaining its form no matter what.

And some I don’t know if they’ll be returning or not.

These Ground Orchids were a bit pricey, and never bloomed. Now they appear to be dead? Does anyone have any experience with them?

Diana, at Sharing Nature's Garden, tells me that this Dianella Flax Lily should return. I hope so, it's a new fall planting and gives me some needed brightness in a shady spot.

Some of my older plants have gotten smaller over the past two harsh winters.

This Aralia used to be twice the size it is now. I hope it returns to full glory someday.

This Sword Fern was quite large in its first year. The past two years, it has had to return from roots following harsh freezes and covers more ground but is less dense.

I love how the leaves of the Sword Fern turn brown after a hard freeze. They maintain shape for several days before turning to mush. It should return just fine.

Some plants do much better when I just leave them the hell alone. This Loropetalum below hasn’t been moved. It’s sibling has been relocated 4 times in 4 years. Needless to say, it is struggling but still surviving. (Blame the garden designer.)(me).

Chinese Fringe Flower, or Loropetalum, is Texas tough. I love its colors.

So what made it through the freeze in your garden? What pansy-ass plants can you tell me to avoid planting? I need John Wayne or Ann Richards style plants, not scene-stealing high maintenance Lindsey Lohans.


15 thoughts on “After the freeze

  1. The Dianella Flax Lily should return from roots (mine did last year) – though like some of your others, it will likely be diminished for a while. Can’t say re: the Ground Orchids – this was my first year with my variety: the outside ones are zapped to the ground, but I did keep one in a pot (where its blossoms are still hanging on!). My Autumn Ferns came through with no protection and no damage – their toughness is amazing.

  2. Ronnie, how did you get your ground orchids to bloom? I must not have the magic touch with them. If they are lost to the freeze, I won’t replant, I believe. I’m with you on those Autumn Ferns – they are great, aren’t they? Drought tolerant, evergreen hardy, changing colors in autumn – a good fern for our shade gardens.

    Diana, no more babying for me! My patience is apparently wearing thin with these plants, and hardscape is sounding better and better 🙂 .

  3. Welcome back to garden blogging. 🙂

    Most of my plants look pretty fried, but I think a bunch will come back from roots. not so sure about the variegated agave Bob gave me a while ago…or the society garlic. Unfortunately it does not appear that the freeze did me any favors by taking out any of the photinia or the asiatic jasmine. Sigh.

  4. Cindy, I’m sure your tropicals suffered much more damage than my yard. So sorry. I’ll be watching for your post of the disaster.

    Katina, I also have the asian jasmine curse, I feel for you. I think the Society Garlic will come back, even with my yard smelling vaguely of garlic right now.

  5. Hi Robin – quite a sad tale we’re all telling this week, but your green bones look good and I’m glad stuff like columbine is happy in your garden.

    The variegated Society garlic has lost the top growth in my garden and come back – guess the all-green kind will, too.

    Your ground orchids look like the same plant that I bought in 2007 as “Bletilla”. Mine have had the leaves frozen every winter and new leaves emerge in spring, but they’ve never bloomed.

    Good to see you writing!

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  6. Annie, yes Bletilla is the same thing as Ground Orchid, as I understand it. I’m not sure what the secret is to getting it to bloom, but I wish I knew as it has a beautiful delicate flower. I’ll put money on it that your society garlic will return.

  7. Robin, the reason I asked is because RBell’s Ground Orchid is Spathoglottis plicata and mine is Bletilla striata, a completely different species. If you also have Bletilla the experience of RBell won’t help either of us, unfortunately!

    I’ve seen the Bletilla blooming beautifully at Zilker Botanic Gardens and also flowering in Eleanor’s garden when it was on tour… so I know it can be done…. just not How.


  8. Annie, now I have no idea! I bought one of them at Home Depot, and one at It’s About Thyme. I don’t know the species of either. But since Ronnie’s bloomed, and mine and yours didn’t, perhaps you and I have the same species.

  9. It’s good to see you posting about your garden again, Robin. But oh dear, I must be getting less mature as a gardener because I find myself experimenting with more and more borderline hardy plants as I get older. Hey, it’s fun to try something new, what can I say? But I do rely on tried-and-true plants for the backbone of my garden.

  10. I think I remember Scott Ogden talking about the ground orchids. They are not for Austin was the gist of his comment. Some people seem to have success with them and I see HD has them again.

  11. Jenny, the ones at HD (which are the ones I had that froze) are not Bletilla, they are another species. I believe – but could easily be wrong – that the Bletilla species works better here. Diana has that one and hers bloomed quite a bit and seems to have made it through the winter. But I don’t believe I’ll be buying anymore.

  12. Will the Dianella really come back? Some of mined no last year dit, and I’m not optimistic their replacements will this year either. 😦 Is there any way to check if it will? If its really not going to, I’d like to know in advance as I’m anxious to fill that spot. I think I’ll be using bearded iris in it’s place, which stayed lovely green all winter long.

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