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.

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.





They Made It

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


As I have written before, I do not have much experience with lilies.  This is only the third year that I am growing lilium longiflorum or Easter Lily in the ground.  The first year, I knew they would do well because they came straight from the growers and then into the garden.  Since the flower was in the bulb from the year before, I was not concerned that they wouldn’t bloom.  Last year, I was a little anxious about the blooms.  Did they get enough sun? Were they planted at the right depth?  I needn’t have worried.  They produced spectacular flowers.

What did surprise me last year and again this year is how early the foliage emerged.  Late fall arrived, and I could see green shoots coming up.  Last winter when we had several hard freezes, I covered the green sprouts with newspaper and then plastic, and they came through with no damage at all.  Last night we had a rather unexpected hard freeze, and I didn’t have a chance to cover the Easter Lilies.  It got down to 28 for almost six hours.  I thought surely that my Easter lilies were going to be nipped back so bad that there would be no blooms this year.

I leave for work when it is still dark, so it wasn’t until this afternoon that I was able to go out and check on them.  Surprise, surprise (at least to me).




No damage – none at all; they came through just fine.  I always thought that lilies were rather delicate or fussy plants, but these guys are tougher than I thought.  I had no idea that they could survive a freeze of six hours unprotected.  I am impressed, relieved, and happy that the Easter lilies made it through the freeze and will be able to bloom in just a few months.

Dodged a Bullet

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


The weather service was predicting two nights of hard freezes for this past Thursday and Friday nights.  With all the warm weather we have been having, so many plants have broken dormancy and have started sprouting out.  I have written recently about all the flowers that are blooming now, some almost a month early.  Needless to say, I was very concerned about losing the plants that were putting out so much new growth.  This meant that I needed to protect from a freeze many more plants than usual.  I have the covering up or bringing in all my tropicals down pat, but now I had to cover plants which can take a freeze if there has been no warm up.


On Thursday night, we got a break because the cold front went to the east of us and some clouds rolled in, so it turned out to be only a light freeze (30 degrees) that lasted only about 2 hours.  The weather people then said that would not be the case Friday night.  Again, a hard freeze was supposed to be imminent.  Since the daytime temperatures were in the low 40’s and the sky was cloudless, it seemed that once the sun went down, we would get that freeze for sure.



Sure enough, by nightfall the temperatures started dropping fast.  But then about 10 o’clock, the temperatures suddenly stopped falling so quickly, and then stopped falling altogether.  Evidently some clouds had started to filter in and saved the day (night).   We did have a light freeze of only a few hours.  Some impatiens got nipped, and one birdbath had a thin film of ice on it, but that was all.  It took a while to pick up all the coverings and replace plants back outside, but I didn’t mind.  Everything made it through just fine, even the tropicals.  When you consider that so many areas are experiencing record cold, we really dodged a bullet with our weather, and I am so thankful.

Rain, Rain, Go Away

This post, “Rain, Rain, Go Away” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

It was rainy and cold again today.  The kind of day when all you want to do is stay indoors curled up in a blanket with a bowl of hot soup. The ground is awfully soggy.  I could only take a quick walk around the garden this afternoon.  There is going to be another freeze here tonight.  Even though it is not supposed to be a hard freeze, I did cover up most everything again.

The temperature today was not that low (42), but with the rain and the wind, it felt like it was much colder.  We have had almost 5 inches of rain in the last two weeks.  I know that come July, I will be wondering where all the rain is.  But, right now, we have had enough.

When the weather is as rainy as it has been lately, you really understand about good drainage for plants.  I garden where the soil has a lot of clay.  As I have started garden beds, I have added garden soil to raise the beds and also add compost.  Each year after that, I add compost, and lately I have started adding a thin layer of soil.  Since south Louisiana tends to get a great deal of rain at once instead of a little all year long, I’ve learned drainage is a must.

The drainage also helps with fungal diseases.  When the occasional deluge does come down, I have lost some plants to “the rot” as I call it.  I now plant things that are more adaptable to this climate.  Louisiana irises and calla lilies, for example, are plants that can take the water.  If it is a plant that doesn’t like sitting in water, like dahlias, I make sure to plant them high in a raised bed.  So far I have been lucky, and have not lost any since I have been doing that.

Powdery mildew can also be a problem here.  After a few bouts with this, I realized I needed to make sure there was good air circulation around the plants.  Also, esp. in the summer, overhead watering is to be avoided.  I found that out the year my hydrangeas had a severe powdery mildew problem.  Since I do not like to use any sprays, the plants looked pretty poor for a while.  To help combat this, I use soaker hoses now.

Tomorrow is not looking too good, but Saturday does hold some promise of better weather.  So to try and put a positive note on this cold, rain day – I can look at gardening books and dream, I have a good excuse for not weeding, and at least there are no mosquitoes.

Cold, Rainy Day

This post, “Cold, Rainy Day” was written for my WordPress blog called Always Growing by Jan in Covington, Louisiana 

Today it rained most of the day, and tonight it should be freezing by midnight.  We are expecting a low of 27.  The rain gauge shows 1.29 inches of rain fell.  It was a slow, soft rain which means that there was no run off, and all the rain has to soak into the ground.  There are still puddles in the yard tonight, and it stopped raining around noon.

With the low temperatures that are expected tonight, I had to protect the tender vegetation.  I had not moved very many plants since the last freeze, so I just had to cover them again.  There is supposed to be a light freeze again Sunday night, so I won’t really uncover anything until Monday.

Because of all the rain and the ground being so wet, I hated walking around the yard when I was trying to protect the plants.  Of course, I had no choice, but it is annoying.  The ground gets compacted, and it doesn’t help the grass any.

I guess I am finding everything about the weather today annoying because with a three day weekend, I was looking forward to being out and working in the garden.  I may still be able to work on Monday, at least I hope that things will dry out enough that I can do something.  There is still a great deal of yard work to do.  Winter weeds need to be dealt with, some pruning needs to be done – you know, a garden is never finished kind of things.  The kind of things that a good three day weekend would allow to get done. 

Because of our mild winters, Gulf Coast gardeners never really have to stop working their gardens.  It is during the hot summers that we don’t do too much.  I don’t know if I could live in the northern latitudes.  I can understand how anxious those gardeners must be to get outside and work in their gardens.  Our long growing season allows us to garden almost year round. After working inside all week, being able to garden or just go outside and walk around the garden is important to my mental health. I guess I miss that, and that is why I am so grumpy tonight.

I know I won’t be able to work outside tomorrow, so I am planning on starting all my seeds.  If I am able to do that, I’ll post an update on what I plant.