Malodorous Freeze

“Malodorous Freeze”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana


Yesterday, after I posted my Tuesday blog entry and the weather warmed up, I went outside to check on the plants that had been under layers of old bed sheets and plastic sheeting. I was immediately hit by a very unusual odor. At first I couldn’t figure out what it was. I thought it smelled of onions? garlic? But who would be cooking those so early in the morning? It was so strong it would have to be someone working with these outside – like on my patio. As I walked out into the back yard, it got stronger and stronger. Finally, I figured out where that smell was coming from. The society garlic. This plant has long, slender grass-like foliage and very pretty pink-lavender flowers. If the leaves are crushed or disturbed there is a faint garlic odor released. Well, I have found out that when the leaves freeze and then thaw, they release a tremendous amount of garlic “fragrance”. As the day warmed up, the smell became stronger and stronger. I am so glad we only warmed up to 39 degrees. I can just imagine what the yard would have smelled like if it had warmed up to say 50 degrees.

Later on that afternoon, I swear, you could smell it in the house. This was so embarrassing. Smelling up the entire neighborhood! Only about a quarter of the leaves were freeze damaged, so when the temps dip into the predicted teens Friday, Saturday and Sunday nights, I just may have even more damaged leaves and more smell!!!

This is the first time we have had temperatures this low since the late 1980’s, so I wasn’t aware this could be a problem. You can bet I am going to make sure and protect the rest of these plants so that no more leaves will be damaged and release such an odor.

Here is a photo of society garlic when it is warm weather and blooming – a lovely little plant



Last night we had another hard freeze of over 14 hours with temps going down to 26 degrees. A few more plants have freeze damage, but I am pretty sure that they will return at least from the roots. The ferns I showed Tuesday are showing damage, but there still are many around that are unaffected by the cold.
Some plants are showing no damage at all. The Iceberg rose flowers looked fine this morning. The paperwhite’s flowers were totally unaffected.



The cordyline (Red Star) had me a little concerned since it is in a container, but it has no damage at all.



Our worst freezing weather won’t come until the weekend, so I am still keeping my fingers crossed that the garden plants (esp. the tropicals) will come out of this okay. I just hope I don’t have to wear a gas mask in the back garden after the freezing weather is over.


  1. SuzEq said,

    January 7, 2010 at 5:58 am

    Jan, this is so funny. At least there won’t be any vampires hanging around your garden right now.

    • Jan said,

      January 7, 2010 at 6:00 am

      Yes, the only thing I can do about this is laugh. I just wonder what the neighbors think is going on in our block.

  2. Janet said,

    January 7, 2010 at 7:11 am

    Funny how the fragrance is released when the plant is frozen/damaged.
    My cordyline is showing signs of winter die-back. Had that happen a couple years ago and it came back from the roots….slowly!

  3. nancybond said,

    January 7, 2010 at 7:45 am

    Who would ever think that a plant could give off that strong an odor? It’s a pretty little thing, though. I hope all your plants survive your cold spell.

  4. January 7, 2010 at 8:28 am

    We have had a hard freeze here everynight this week, and today it is 56! Ugh! you know how crazy the weather is along the Gulf Coast! My plants look pathetic….except for the daffodils that are steadily poking up from the ground

  5. Linnie said,

    January 7, 2010 at 10:35 am

    I laughed out loud when I read this. However, I can assure you that I will cover my society garlic tonight. Since I live on the south shore we have not had a hard freeze yet-thanks for the heads up.

    Linnie in Destrehan, LA

  6. Jean said,

    January 8, 2010 at 3:56 pm

    “Fingers Crossed” is what I called my last blog post and it’s about the frigid weather of course! I hope your plants do well. So far I know for sure that I’ve lost a few. I probably won’t know the extent of the damage until early next week though. I have garlic chives and chives but haven’t smelled anything weird yet. But they don’t look very good. Maybe society garlic is different though. Good luck!

  7. Lana said,

    January 8, 2010 at 6:16 pm

    Ooooh. The iceburg rose flowers are gorgeous! My husband said the water in our yard wasn’t even frozen this morning (around 6:30,) & some of the puddles in Abita only showed the thinnest sheen of ice, so it must’ve been much worse over your way. Sorry to hear about your garlic!

  8. Cindee said,

    January 9, 2010 at 2:17 pm

    Hi Jan,
    Our Society Garlic freezes back each year and it does smell funky! Luckily, ours is far out in the garden so we can’t smell it from the resort. I notice it also has a “skunky” smell.

  9. Kate said,

    January 9, 2010 at 3:05 pm

    Popped over to see how the garden was coping with this cold snap. Had a good laugh over the garlic! It certainly has a lovely flower to go along with that malodorous fragrance. I would imagine everything can come back from the roots. At least I hope so…

  10. Barbara said,

    January 10, 2010 at 12:47 pm

    Glad to have the new odor in our yard confirmed! Garlicy for sure and as one of our guests mentioned, as if a skunk had left its calling card!! After unseasonably cold and freezing temps in Houston, our society garlic has leaned to one side but seems to be none the worse for wear except for the odor it has emitted and continues to emit! Do you think it will come back or should we pull it up and replant in the Spring? Hate to endure the smell if to no avail.


    • Jan said,

      January 10, 2010 at 5:59 pm

      Barbara, most of mine is looking okay, but the smell. Once it warms up a tad, I am going to trim out any wilted leaves and leave the rest alone. One stand that seems to be almost undamaged passed the sniff test this afternoon, so I think it is only the damaged leaves that are emitting the odor. I am not going to pull mine up because I think there is no reason to think that once this extreme cold spell passes the society garlic won’t bounce back – odorless.

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