Tuesday, December 8, 2009

After the hard freeze

Last Saturday morning, I went right outside (before coffee, even!) to see what Jack Frost had left me, and what he'd taken out. It was so early, the moon was still up.
Sunrise, moon up

The Old Blush rose bush was covered with long, icy splinters of frost.
Frost on Old Blush rose

Finer frost covered the Bright Lights cosmos, like a dusting of sugar.
Frost on Bright Lights cosmos

The zinnias had been on their way out; the frost merely sealed the deal.
Frost on dead zinnias

Frosty black raspberry plant...
Frost on black raspberry leaves

...frosty mutabilis rosebuds...
Frost on mutabilis rose buds

...and slushy bird bath.
Icy bird bath

I rather liked the look of frost outlining every detail of this Red Carpet sedum.
Frost on Red Carpet sedum

The late summer and early fall veggies bit the frosty dust. Here's a green bean, frozen on the vine, despite being covered with floating row cover that promised 6 to 8 degrees of frost protection. (Clarence Birdseye would be proud.)
Green bean frozen on the vine

The winter vegetables, like the bok choy and collards here, did very well in their snug, covered beds; their companion plants, the marigolds...um, not so much.
Bok choy and collards did fine

In the same covered bed, the zucchini turned to mush: blossoms, fruit and all.
Mushy frost-bitten zucchini

In the next bed over, tiny cold-weather veggie seedlings were no worse for wear, like this radish. The lettuce, spinach, turnip, carrot and beet seedlings did fine too, as did the strawberries and bunching onions (covered, of course).
Radish seedling
The nasturtiums (not pictured) suffered the same fate as the marigolds: mush city.

The roses couldn't be covered (too many, too big), but they survived the freeze, as did this little crab spider. She was moving awfully slowly, though.She's been living on this rose bush for about two weeks now. Unfortunately, her immediate residence is falling apart, petal by petal.
Crab spider on Buff Beauty rose

Luckily, once the frost melted, the rose buds seemed just fine. Miss Crab Spider will have plenty of new apartments to choose from.
Buff Beauty rose buds

Alas, the butterflies have lost their favorite flower. I pulled these sad stalks up on Sunday afternoon, along with the zinnias and warm weather veggies.
Frostbitten cosmos

The potted plants enjoyed a balmy evening indoors, like this spiderwort, a passalong plant (from Jenny at Rock Rose, if I recall correctly).

I just love its tiny white flowers! They're such a bright white, that they're difficult to photograph without 'blowing them out'.
Spiderwort, safe inside

Other Austin bloggers have mentioned an odd phenomenon after the frost melted; many trees shed all their leaves in a matter of hours after the sun rose. In our neighborhood, it was the hackberries. I tried to capture the rate of the drop in this short eight-second video.

According to Colorado State University extension agent Carol O'Meara, this is a normal phenomenon for many trees. Read more about it on her blog, Gardening After Five.

Final tally:
basil, zucchini, green beans, cucumbers, nasturtiums, marigolds
Died back/gone dormant: salvias, lantana, Turk's cap, passion flower, milkweed, bougainvillea, purple fountain grass, blue daze, rock penstemon, hibiscus, clock vine, Philippine violet. (Those last 4 look the worst. They may be beyond dormant. The last 2 were recent purchases)
Damage to new growth/tips: aloe, chard, bulbine, flame acanthus
Unaffected: roses, rosemary, cruciferous vegetables, root vegetable seedlings, bulbs, lettuce and spinach seedlings, columbine, sedums, cool weather herbs

How'd your garden fare, Austin bloggers?


  1. Thanks for your detailed observations. I'm glad that so many Austin garden bloggers are doing this. I also took a short video of the leaves falling. I guess they've usually all fallen before we get such a hard freeze. I can't remember ever seeing it happen before and I've lived in Austin for 35 years and in my current house for 16.

    I didn't rouse myself outside early enough to catch any frost photos. Yours are lovely.

  2. The tree leaf drop is awesome. Experienced it first hand as I was out taking photos that morning. At first I thought the "sound" was water from a broken water line. Then when I saw it - I could not believe how fast the leaves were falling. The guys (at work) came over to see what I was staring at for so long. Amazing - hard to describe.

  3. The hoar frost on your plants made such pretty pictures. When it melted I'm sure the plants just sagged. I missed the leaf drop but we were surprised to see every leaf off our pomegranate tree. Why are the leaves still on the Spanish oaks I wonder. There is much damage in my garden and I won't really know until the spring.

  4. At least you got those beautiful photos...I love the sedum, it looks like pinecones.