Saturday, February 26, 2011

My saddest post-winter photos

Today, Jack and I unveiled the lime trees from their rebar-and-row-cover cocoons. Unfortunately, our valiant attempts at protecting them from winter's wrath appear to be, as the kids say, an "epic fail."

The Mexican key lime (Citrus aurantifolia) was hit the worst. The branches that were green on February 16 have all turned brown, and the trunk is green when scratched only at the very bottom of the tree.
Freeze-damaged key lime

The trunk is also splitting at the base, just above the bud union (where the key lime was grafted onto sour orange rootstock). This is a bad sign that may reflect death of the cambium, the living tissue just underneath the thin bark of the lime tree.
Citrus trunk damage

January's blossoms froze right on the tree,
Frozen key lime blossoms

along with January's baby limes.
Frozen key lime baby

I don't have much hope for its return, but I'll give it until May. Until then, no pruning, no fertilizer, and very little watering, as recommended by Dr. Julian Sauls at Texas A&M, and Nick Sakovich and Ben Faber at UC-Davis.

In contrast, the Bearss lime (Citrus latifolia) is only 3/4 brown. (Can you tell where the heat lamp was pointed?)
Freeze-damaged Bearss lime

And, it's sooo nice to know the floating row cover spared the dandelions underneath the tree from freeze damage--bonus! If the economy gets much worse, at least we'll have dandelion greens and possum stew, jes' like the Clampetts.

I have more confidence this tree will rebound, albeit smaller and less fruitful. There are many more green branches on the Bearss than the key lime. No need to scratch these for signs of life.

Here's a nice healthy branch with green leaves and blossoms. Actually, this picture makes me sad, because I can't help but think if we'd had more heat lamps under the row cover, less of the tree would have been damaged. I guess that would have been a greater fire hazard, as well.
Blooms on Bearss lime

Some say it's best to grow citrus in a pot in these parts, but honestly, the Meyer lemon doesn't look a whole lot better than the limes in the ground. This lemon was a gorgeously lush little tree when I bought it. It lost half its leaves during the hot, dry summer, and dropped the rest when I moved the tree indoors for the winter.
Meyer lemon at winter's end

We'll see what it looks like once it leafs out. What doesn't kill us makes us stronger.
Leaf buds on Meyer lemon

Finally, here is an agave of questionable parentage (labeled as a Whale's Tongue agave, but has offset one pup) that suffered freeze damage, as evidenced by the white spots.
Freeze damage on agave

Time will tell whether these spots will continue to spread, or harden off.
Freeze damage on agave

Well, now. After all that depressing footage, it's time for a happy daffodil. More Erlicheer blossoms open every day. They're gorgeous!
'Erlicheer' daffodil

Words and photos © 2009-2011 Caroline Homer for "The Shovel-Ready Garden". Unauthorized reproduction is prohibited.


  1. Oh that is so sad. I've been envious of my Austin neighbors' orange trees, how do they do it?

  2. Lara, oranges are more freeze tolerant than limes. Kumquats are the hardiest citrus.
    If these trees survive, I'm trying the soil hill method to protect the trunk next year.

  3. The little frozen limes are just pitiful, Caroline! I think my Mexican lime is dead but it hadn't made blossoms or fruit. The in-ground Meyers is a question mark, the in-house Meyers not happy. But if we keep gambling on citrus, one of these years we might win... right?

    Annie at the Transplantable Rose

  4. Annie, the Bearss lime had a winner of a year last year. Onliest thing to do is to keep trying.

  5. Caroline,

    Any update on your Mexican Lime tree? I had similar damage on mine here in N. California. It looks like new growth is appearing now that it's mid-May.

    1. A year and three months later, the Mexican lime is no more. It sent up a couple of shoots below the graft this winter (likely from the sour orange rootstock) which froze off in a very light freeze. If your lime tree's new growth is above the graft, it may be making a comeback, much like my Bearss lime, half of which froze the same year as the Mexican lime; it's rebounded bigger and better than ever. Happy spring!