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

Winter here on the Gulf Coast is usually a series of ups and downs on the temperature scale. Below freezing one day and in the 80’s the next, and a few days later – freezing again. When temperatures fluctuate like that, plants can really be damaged or lost completely. Gardeners have to scurry around trying to protect plants when we get a cold spell following a warm period.

This year has been different. We have pretty much had consistently chilly to cold weather. Once cool weather settled in, we have had only two short warm-ups which means that plants have stayed on the dormant side. Many of the plants that flourish in our fall and winter gardens are really tender perennials which can succumb to freezing weather, and last night they were put to the test.

We had about eight hours of below freezing temps, and everything seemed to come through fine. While it only got down to 29 degrees, with that many hours, I was afraid I would lose a few of the more tender plants. But, so far, everything looks safe. Oh, some of the salvias have a few leaves burned and the coleus that was still trying to hang on are gone, but many plants that die back every winter are still up and look good. I believe this is the first year that the fire spike has not died back. Even my hydrangeas still have leaves hanging on.

However, I was really worried about the gerber daisies. The red ones I have in the entry garden are a little protected by the house, so I was only mildly concerned about them, but the yellow ones I planted this past summer are in the circle garden which is away from the house and in an open area. Since the forecast changed Friday afternoon to a colder and longer freeze, I did not have time to even cover them with mulch.

I was so happy this morning to see that they made it through the night with no problem. The red ones were fine.



And, so were the yellow.



Since the second week of January normally is our coldest period, I am thinking that we just might make it through this winter with lovely, dry, chilly weather and no plants lost. With no super cold weather in the near future, the plants may just be safe for this year.



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

Just like the rest of the country, we have had our cold weather, too. For the second morning, the birdbaths have been frozen solid.



While we haven’t had the awful extremes of cold that other parts of the country have, it has been very cold here in the Gulf Coast. The last two days have had freezing night time temperatures for six to eight hours. Luckily, it only got down to about 25 degrees, but for this usually mild area, that is cold.

I protected all my tender plants and everything seems to be fine. But, sometimes I am surprised by what survives cold freezing weather with no protection. A good example of this is the macho ferns that sprouted in the ground next to a large container of the fern. When I moved the container to a protected area, four little ferns were left. Even after the freezing temperatures, of the last two nights, these little ferns are still standing tall with the smallest only having a little freeze burn at the very tips.



When it warms up, I’ll have to pot these babies up.

Cold Weather and Tender Plants

“Cold Weather and Tender Plants”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

Our extra cold weather that was predicted for Sunday night/Monday morning, never materialized, but tonight’s cold temperature of 20 will probably arrive with no problem. We rarely get this cold around here, and, on the few occasions that we do, it is usually in mid-January, not December.

Well, this means good-bye to many of the tender plants. Of course, most will only die back to the ground and hopefully return in the spring. I would hate to lose the alocasia, Metallica. I have had this elephant ear for many years, and with last January being another unusually cold one, this elephant ear did not return until almost July. It usually is up by April at the latest. I am keeping my fingers crossed that come spring, this plant will once again send up shoots. It is disappointing to take a photo one day, and find the plant mush the next.



I know the gingers will die back, as will the night-blooming jasmine. Most of the really tender tropical plants are protected and should make out fine. They may die back also, but return when the weather warms up in late February or early March.

There really is nothing more I can do to protect the tender perennials or tropicals. Sunday afternoon was spent watering and covering up plants to try and help them survive the plunging temperatures. I do try to keep the attitude that if they don’t make it through the cold, it just gives me the opportunity to buy something new.

Saving Hibiscus

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

We may have our first hard freeze here on the Gulf Coast tomorrow. As I was protecting my tender plants this afternoon and looking at the hibiscus flowers, I was feeling a little sorry to see so many lovely summer plants doing so well, but knowing their days are numbered. I will really miss the coleus. It did so well this year and was a great replacement for the flowering annuals that require so much water in our hot summers.

I have a feeling this will be the last of the hibiscus flowers until next spring.





Most of my hibiscus plants are over seven to fifteen years old. Every winter, I protect them because it is often hard to find the double ones in the spring. Years ago, they were everywhere, but now I rarely see them in the nurseries. I can seem to find only the singles, and while they are pretty, the doubles have stolen my gardening heart.

To overwinter the hibiscus, I will cut them back and cover them with plastic sheeting. This is usually enough for the freezes we have because the below 32 degree temperatures rarely last more than four hours, and then we warm up enough to uncover the tender plants. If we have a really hard freeze of six or more hours, then I carefully put a light bulb under the plastic. This is enough to keep them from freezing. (I don’t know what I will do when incandescent bulbs are no longer available.) On the very rare occasions, every ten years or so, that we will not be above freezing for a few days, they will come into the garage. While the hibiscus plants will lose most of their leaves in the winter, come spring they bounce back fairly quickly.

Over the years, I have lost a few hibiscus plants even with these precautions, but if I get low on one color, I will root cuttings to ensure I always have my doubles. I know this is sometimes a lot of trouble for an inexpensive plant, but after all these years, they are irreplaceable to me.

Mother Was Right

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

Mother was right. It just took twenty-five years to show she was right.

Many years ago, my mother shared some of her Walking Iris (Neomarica gracillis) with me. She gave me a small container of them and said to protect them in the winter as they could be killed by a freeze. I put the pot of irises in the garden for the summer and forgot to take them in for the winter, but they survived with no damage whatsoever. They gradually spread around and covered a very large area. They survived short freezes and long freezes, and I thought my mother was wrong about their hardiness.

In fact, they became so crowded last year that I knew I would have to dig a great many up. Hating to just throw away good plants, I tried to find someone to take them, but was unable. Time got away from me, and these irises never got dug up. During last fall, I was lamenting the overcrowded bed and made a resolution to start removing plants as soon as it warmed up. It is a good thing I never got around to thinning out that bed because this winter – Mom was right.

I couldn’t believe the damage. I think I was left with about 20% of the plants. I feel that many of the irises that didn’t make it were the “babies” that didn’t get a chance to root because of the overcrowding. I still can’t believe that so many of these plants died this winter. They have really survived bad winters before.

I was not too upset to lose so many plants because it seems as if Old Man Winter just saved me the job of thinning out the overcrowded plants. I was disappointed that there were no blooms this spring. Usually there are scores of blooms, and it is such a pretty sight. Since these normally bloom in the spring, I was surprised to see one flower this week, the middle of June.



The remaining plants are starting to recover, but without flowers, there will be no spreading. You can be sure that I will be digging up a clump to overwinter just in case we get another winter like this last one since I would hate to lose plants my mother gave me that are so pretty. Besides, I just can’t stand to hear her say “I told you so” even if it took 25 years to prove her right.

Good Signs

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

Finally, after all this worrying about what would survive our recent unusual freezing weather, there are some good signs that many plants seem to have survived and are returning. Since our last big freeze, which was about ten years ago, I have planted many plants that have survived our occasional hard freezes without any trouble. Here, in south Louisiana, many flowering plants that are annuals in more northern climates can often survive our usual mild winters. It is not at all unusual for pentas, impatiens, blue daze, etc to survive our normal winters. In fact, I have not bought any impatiens in over five years because some always survive the winter. Not this year, though. Also, I have put in the garden many plants that I am not quite sure if they will survive the extra cold winter we have had this year. I have been concerned about some favorites that seemed to have died, not so much because I can’t plant something else, but so often a particular color flower or variety is no longer readily available.

Well, today I saw some very encouraging signs of life out in the garden. First, my pineapple sage, which I have had for over ten years, is coming back. My sister gave me cuttings from her garden all those years ago, and I would have been so disappointed if it died. But, I don’t have to worry, little plants are coming up all over where it was planted, and a few stems (which looked dead a week ago) are showing little leaves.



We had two moderate freezes this past week, but that isn’t stopping plants from waking up for springtime. The holly ferns are coming alive and sending up fiddleheads.



The flowering quince is starting to bud and bloom, too.




I have seen some other signs that the garden may not have been affected too much by the recent cold weather. Irises are showing signs of growth, hydrangeas are showing leaves, and daylilies are springing up with vigor. They say that cold weather can be good for a garden. Overgrown tropicals are knocked back, bugs are less after very cold spells, and often flowering shrubs bloom more. While still being a tad cautious, I just may have to agree that this extra cold winter might have been good for the garden. Time will tell

Coming Back

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

While we all are sure that spring will return and many dormant plants will awaken with warmer temperatures, it is those marginal plants that have died back in the cold weather that have us holding our breaths. It seems that it has been so much colder just about everywhere this year. I know that I have had plants that have never had any trouble coming through our winters with its occasional freezes die back completely or have damaged leaves this year. However, there are signs that even these plants seem to be coming back.

The agapanthus, which has never had any damage before, took a pretty good hit from the late December freezes. Thankfully, it is starting to show new leaves emerging. I don’t know if there will be flowers this year, we’ll just have to see.



The lemon balm that I have had in a container for about ten years, is coming back also.



Finally, I noticed that the mint growing in a large container is sending out new leaves. This was another plant I was surprised was damaged. It has come through so many winters without any freeze damage.



Our temperatures this winter did not get that cold (mid 20’s) which isn’t unusual here, but the cold did last for 12 to 15 hours which is very unusual and we had five days of this. Normally if we get hard freezes, they usually don’t last but 4 to 6 hours before the temps are above 32. This year’s freezes over many hours and several days is what has knocked so many plants back. I am still looking for other signs of life around other plants. I am hoping most everything will come back.

Time to Cut Back

“Time to Cut Back”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

Today, was a lovely, sun-shinning day. It has been a long time since we have had mild temperatures and sunshine. Even though I had the day off from work, I was unable to work in the garden which means it will be the weekend before I can get out and cut back freeze damaged plant material.

Right now, I am only going to cut back the mushy parts of plants. Everything else will wait until it gets warmer. In the past, for example, I have cut back the Mexican Bush Sage stalks that had died in freezing weather, only to find later on that those stalks evidently helped protect the crown of the plant. After that first time of losing one of my favorite sages to cutting back too early, I have always waited until all cold weather is gone, and every year those perennials have sent out shoots from the base and lived.

There are several plants that seem crispy dead, and some that are mushy dead. It is time to cut back the mushy ones; the crispies can wait. The agapanthus and crinum plants need to be cut back. At least the agapanthus still has some leaves that are okay, and I don’t think you can kill a crinum, but the mushy leaves have to go.


Freeze Damaged Agapanthus


Freeze Damaged Crinums

Finally, Back to Normal

“Finally, Back to Normal”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

At last the extreme cold weather has moved on, and we have more seasonable temperatures. Our internet connection has been down for several days, so I haven’t been able to post or check out other blogs, so I have a lot of catching up to do.

Finally, the cold weather broke this last Thursday. I think this is the longest cold spell we have had since we moved here in 1976. I know that the temperatures were the lowest in over twenty years. Since I started gardening seriously just after then, many of the things I have planted have never had to take such low temperatures for so many hours.

It looks like everything I covered made it through the ten days of freezing weather though most of the tropical plants look a little shabby. There were a few plants, that I was surprised that made it through even though they were covered, for example, our little mango tree that was started from a seed looks fine even thought it was only covered with plastic.

The plants in the garden are another thing. I feel pretty confident that they will all return from the roots, but, of course, you just never know. The agapanthus and crinums are all wilted; the gingers are all scorched-looking; the cannas, amaryllis, and calla lilies leaves are all lying down on the ground and will have to be cut off. I did mulch just about everything with a tremendous amount of pine needles and was pleasantly surprised to see how many tender perennials had green leaves underneath the mulch. One example is pineapple sage ‘Golden Delicious” that seemed to have survived under the pine needles. I really didn’t think it would. It does look like I have lost the regular pineapple sage which I have had for over ten years in the back garden.

Of course many things didn’t seem affected by the cold at all. The Easter lilies are just fine and are now about four to five inches tall. The evergreen daylilies’ foliage came through the cold with no problem. Some of the sages did, too.

Of course, there are no flowers in the garden right now except for the paperwhites and violas. This is very unusual. When I look at previous January posts, there are so many winter blooms, but not this year. Not having more flowers in the garden certainly makes me look forward to spring coming even more than normal.

This is it, just about the only flower showing right now.

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.

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