Tuesday, January 19, 2010

The Big Chill


On the night I left Milan for the Christmas holidays, the temperature was forecast to drop to -14°C (7°F). That's unheard of here. Sometimes in January we might get -6°C (21°F), but that's about the limit.

There wasn't much I could do. The plants on the balcony were already covered in fleece and tucked up against the walls of the house. And quite honestly, I was too busy packing to worry.

But all through the holidays, it was at the back of my mind. What would I find when I got back? Would anything survive?

When I got back, pulling off the fleece to check was not a happy experience. In particular, the succulents had been decimated. The
sedum seems to have pulled through, but my lovely, lovely money plant (Crassula ovata) has been frozen to death ...


as has the prickly pear ...


and the mesembrantheum. But at least that saves me having to decide whether to throw it out as I'd been thinking of.


I'm worried to about the aloe. The outer leaves have gone but the centre doesn't look too bad. Will it make it?


I've lost other plants too - the spider plants have been massacred ...


All these are plants which, with due protection, have always overwintered outside without problems. Yet, amazingly, the plants I was most worried about - the annuals that were hardly more than at seedling stage, and the more delicate perennials like my plumbago - all seem to have come through unscathed. I've lost a couple of hollyhocks, but the rest are all there. Even my chrysanthemums - in full bloom when I left. At first sight I thought I'd lost them ...


But look what's happening around the back...


In theory, the coldest period of the year is yet to come - in the next week or so. But fingers crossed that nothing will exceed the pre-Christmas period.

PS : Apologies for the time lapse since the last post. I have been swamped with work. But from now on, things will be back to normal - promise.



22 comments:

Jan said...

Oh what a shame about your plants, but that was a really cold snap. Although we've had a lot of snow, we haven't had any frost as such yet, but there's plenty of time left for some!

JWLW said...

HI Sue: I think you will be surprised as to how many of your damaged plants will come back. You could try bringing some in side and letting them thaw and recover.

Interested in hearing how many recovered and what you did to help them.

Have a Good Day, John

Yan said...

Ouch, that prickly pear looks like a deflated balloon. Just think, though, the hard frosts have probably broken a lot of parasite and pathogen cycles. You'll have a balcony full of healthy blooms in the Summer.

The Rainforest Gardener said...

I've had the same thing happen to my aloes and they end up making it, but I've never seen them get that cold before! Yikes!

sev said...

ooh . I feel for you . You have annual seedlings ? I had to knock sow off my balcony plants to stop them breaking and im on the south coast of England . I hope some more of yours make it . :-)

Mary Anne said...

I have the same reaction as Yan: Ouch. Sorry to hear about your plants. I hope some of them recover too. I'm sure they will. Clip 'em back and let 'em do their thing.

Dreamybee said...

I had no idea plumbago was that hardy-glad to hear that it and your chrysanthemums are rallying.

I saw your comment on my blog and just wanted to tell you not to worry about the cards. I'll be thrilled to get them whenever they arrive!

gippslandgardener said...

Wow. I'll never complain about a little bit of frost damage again! I hope many of your plants can make a recovery and that the worst of the cold is over.

Edith Hope said...

Dear Sue, How too, too depressing. I do so feel for you. But take heart. Just as the Great Storm of 1987 in the south of England decimated swathes of the countryside, so it allowed for complete regeneration and new plantings. And so it can be with you.

I have signed as a 'Follower' in order to track your progress.

noel said...

aloha sue, wow nothing sadder than mushy succulents..hopefully if they have hard stems they will come back again....you might want to just cover them with a tarp on cold nights if you can, but i know its always hard to remember on those cold nights

phaedra said...

I am sorry to hear of your lost plants, here too in Florida we have had a 2 week cold snap, low 20's consistently and snow too. Most of my plants were covered with blankets for 2 weeks and I lost several.
I cut a few down to the soil surface with hopes they will revive, if not I will plant new ones. I think your aloe will be fine, I cut off the dead leaves on mine and she is doing pretty good already. Good luck

Chick-Weed said...

Hi Sue! Sorry your plants froze! I thought I had lost my spider due to leaving it outside a bit too long. Looked the same as yours. I cut it back to just above the soil, brought it inside, and it was full a lush by the summer!
Good luck!

Pam's English Garden said...

Sue, I am so sorry you lost so many plants! The weather was unprecedented in Europe this year. As "hope springs eternal" in the hearts of all gardeners, I am sure the upcoming gardening season will be a wonderful, successful one for you! Pamela x

easygardener said...

Last year my Agave suffered like your Aloe so I cut off the damaged leaves and it recovered very well - though it looked a bit shorn at first. This cold spell has really given us a few surprises, not all of them good!

Amy said...

I have lost some succulents as well. My Prickly Pear Cactus that I propogated is one soggy mess. I live in Austin, Texas and we have had an unusually cold winter with two freezes. I am ready for the warmer weather! Stay warm, Amy

Garden Beet said...

I never understood frost damage until living in the UK - wow all that work and poof

Kelly@LifeOutOfDoors said...

Sue - these pictures made were painful to look at! I'm so sorry about the unexpected freeze. Thanks for your message on Blotanical - nice to know you and hear about your adventures in Italy. What fun. Kelly

Dracaena said...

The extreme cold this winter damaged most plants at my home. I just hope they recover.

Stone Art said...

Ahw your poor plants! At least you can take some comfort in watching plants you never expected to see again bounce back. Isn't it amazing what pops up after the hardest of freezes

Melanie said...

Awwe sorry to read about your plant decimation. The weather is crazy everywhere. Here in Northern BC its been very mild since Christmas, we even had a few days a degree or two above zero, Unheard of. We are not getting our usual amount of snow either.

Natalie said...

Hi love your blog and thanks for the welcome on blotanical. I have added you to my blogroll and I look forward to your posts.

The Redneck Rosarian said...

We too lost several succulents this winter. Mainly due to my neglect of them. We have had a very cold winter in Alabama. Glad to read this post. Very informative!

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