A Mild Winter Brings Head Start

“Mild Winter Brings Head Start”, a copyrighted post, was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana

Here along the Gulf Coast, our winters are never severe, but we do get some pretty cold weather. It may not last long, but many garden plants that are hardy here will freeze to the ground and come back when spring approaches. The last two winters had some very cold temperatures, and I did lose a few plants, also some plants which had never frozen back did. I was very surprised that in the last two years the agapanthus was knocked back almost completely since that had never happened before. But this year has been different. Oh, we have had cold weather which required heavy jackets or coats but only two episodes where the temperature dipped to about 27 for a short while.

While I did protect my tender container plants, everything in the garden was left on its own. Most will survive, but the tender summer plants don’t. Or so I thought. Imagine my surprise when I saw a coleus, yes a coleus, sprouting back. I could hardly believe my eyes. Coleus, that summer plant which melts at the first light frost, was coming back.



I have never had coleus survive even our mildest winters before this year. Another plant that survived this winter is the wax begonia. It is in a slightly protected area, so that helped, but it looks like I won’t have to buy any begonia this year.

Next, I noticed sprouts on the moonflower vine. This was planted in a hanging basket that was left to face the elements unprotected. In fact, I had purchased moonflower seeds to plant in this very basket last Sunday. Just as I began to take the basket down to clear out the old, dead vine, I saw sprouts.



Other plants that ALWAYS freeze back have not this year. Unfazed by the cold were the pink bower vine, white Justicia, Turk’s Turban, firespike, night blooming jasmine, and angel’s trumpet. Since the firespike always freezes back and takes a while to get back to blooming, it will be nice to have the blooms earlier. I know the hummingbirds will appreciate this too, since we have had two females spend the winter with us here. Look at these gorgeous red leaves.



Another survivor, the Angel Trumpet, was very small, but not only did it not freeze back; it now has new growth.



The only reason I can think of that would account for all these plants not being freeze damaged is that we have had a dry, cold winter with no warm ups. Usually, our temperatures fluctuate from cold to hot to cold, but not this year. So, the plants must have adjusted to the cold better than most years and combined with fewer actual freezes were able to make through this winter.

Seems like there will be a lot of plants in my garden this year that will have a head start on the growing season.



“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.

Good Time for Rain

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

For the last four days, I have been attending an institute and have been coming home exhausted. That is the reason I must have forgotten to include in the last post, a photo of the third new daylily that is blooming. So, to rectify that, here is the photo of that daylily that was just purchased last week.



Also, blooming is an old favorite that has been in the garden for a few years.



This turned out to be a good week for this institute because it rained every day (which is what the garden needed). While getting around town in the rain was a pain, it also meant that if I was home, I could not have worked in the garden anyway. There is nothing worse than being stuck inside when the weather is gorgeous and the garden is calling you.

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

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.

Frigid Blast

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


24.6. That was our low temperature when 29 was the foretasted low. Now, I know that is not anywhere near what other areas of the country had as low temps, but when your average low for this week is 41 degrees, this is cold. Areas along the Gulf Coast are simply not used to these lows since we only get this frigid very occasionally. It was freezing by 7 o’clock last night, and it is still below 32 degrees at 10 a.m. , so this really ended up being a hard freeze for us with even lower temps predicted for the next few days.

I have covered a lot of plants and gathered together the tropicals in containers under heavy plastic and sheets, but I think I am going to have to put a light bulb under this makeshift tent to insure that those plants pull through the lower temperatures. I am also hoping that the sunshine today will warm up the tent which should also help keep them from getting too cold tonight.

It’s too early and cold to uncover anything to see how plants made out, but in the garden, a few uncovered plants told the story.



Every bird bath was frozen over, so I went out early to add more water since there were a few chickadees forlornly looking for water.

Firebush didn’t make it, though it rarely does even in a regular winter. It has returned from the roots every year, so since it has about ten inches of pine mulch at its base, I am hopeful that it will return in the spring.



The calla lilies were damaged, but some still look okay, but I am sure that tonight’s lows will end them. Again, these have a heavy mulching and will return in the spring though the blooming will probably be delayed.



Now, don’t think that everything has been nipped back by the cold. There is still a lot of green around. The kalanchoes planted out in the garden still look okay. It always surprises my how much cold weather these plants can take. You’d think they’d be mush at 32 degrees.



The ferns in the side garden look okay, too.



Many other plants look fine also including the walking iris, Mexican bush sage, and variegated shell ginger, but with more cold weather coming, I don’t know how many others are going to succumb to this unusual arctic blast in the nights to come.

Since this blog is my way of keeping a record of what happens in the garden, I sure hope there won’t be too many more posts cold damage. Even though I think most damaged plants in the garden will return from the roots, I am still holding my breath about the tropicals in containers. I sure wish this extra cold weather would move out of here faster.

An Early Spring Bouquet

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


Even though it is the dead of winter, I got a springtime bouquet today. A very good friend of the family sent this lovely flower arrangement.



We will be getting our first really cold weather tonight and over next few days, and I know the garden will really be shutting down. Living in the Gulf South, we can garden all year long, but when a severe cold front comes through, many of the plants that will continue to bloom during our little dips of cold temperatures will stop. Many flowering plants that are annuals up North are really tender perennials and will often overwinter in my garden. But every now and then, we get a very cold blast of arctic air and many plants don’t make it. I am afraid that scenario is what seems to be shaping up for the coming week.

Today I was busy covering the tropical plants and very heavily mulching other marginal plants. Tonight is not supposed to be too bad, but the next few nights should be very cold.

This beautiful arrangement of lilies, roses, mums, and stock will help soften the blow if I lose any plants.

Wishing for Retirement

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


Sometimes it is so hard to have a garden and an outside job.  It is so much more fun to work in a garden than to work at your job.  It is also frustrating to have so many garden chores to do, and no time to do them because you have to go to work Monday through Friday.  Ever notice how many rainy weekends there are followed by sunny weekdays when you can’t work with your plants?


I have been feeling that frustration the last two days.  I have had to try and hurry home after work to take care of the garden.  Another cold front is coming through and a light freeze was predicted for last night.  Yesterday, when I got home, I immediately went out and covered the tropical plants that I want to make sure survives the winter.  I just lightly covered them because it was only barely going to freeze and the freezing temperatures would only last an hour or so.  Everything came through fine.


Tonight, there  is supposed to be a hard freeze here.  It should get down to about 27 degrees, but it will last maybe as long as six hours.  That means full protection for so many plants.  Unfortunately, I had an appointment after work and didn’t get home until around 5:30 PM.   That meant I had to work quickly to cover up so many plants and also fully cover the ones from last night.  It only took me a little over an hour to finish, but the last 25 minutes I was working in the dark.  I was beginning to think it wasn’t worth all the trouble, but then, if I don’t have to replace these plants, I can afford to buy more new plants this year.  Besides some of these plants have a lot of sentimental feelings attached to them, and I would hate to lose them. 


So, I guess all this means is I can’t wait until the only work I have to do is garden chores, and the only commute I have is just a few steps from my door to the garden.





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