Check Out These Pages, Too!

"Possibility and promise greet me each day as I walk out into my garden. My vigor is renewed when I breathe in the earthiness and feel the dirt between my fingers. My garden is a peaceful spot to refresh my soul." Meems

Welcome to my Central Florida Garden Blog where we garden combining Florida natives, Florida-Friendly plants, and tropicals.

Friday, January 23, 2009

The Stillness of the Night

Tuesday it was extremely windy all day long. It was cold, too. Gusts and gusts of wind ushered in the northern arctic air blast that was dipping all way down into south Florida even further than south than here. As the day turned into night the wind continued and that wind became the blessing that kept the temperatures just above freezing during the night and it also kept the frost off of the plants.
Wednesday it was even colder. At least by Florida standards. As nightfall approached the winds got quiet and the sky cleared of all cloud cover.
The Oak tree canopy in the front yard has always been a big help in creating a natural shelter for the underplantings during the hot summer as well as during the winter when frost threatens. I'm not a panicky sort of girl but when the forecast was consistent in predicting frost and below freezing temps we had to determine which plants to cover.

Staking poles in the ground to act as supports for fabric of every imaginable size was how I spent my Wednesday. Even though I hope we never have to use them, I keep three boxes of old blankets, tablecloths, sheets, drop cloths, and towels in the garage just for these rare times.
Like so many odd shaped ghosts dotting the landscape we covered the most tender of tender plants.

No sense in covering these but I did take the time to snap shots of my favorite winter coleus that have been so delightfully colorful this autumn and winter.

They were left out from under the shelter of blankets...too many of them and not enough covers. I resigned myself to the fact that they, along with so many other varieties, wouldn't make it through the night.

The Stillness of the Night Creates the Perfect Scenario for Frost

On my Thursday morning walk through the garden I was fully anticipating, in my positive thinking sort of way, not to see much damage. When the bird baths were iced over I knew things had gotten a bit worse than I expected.

The biggest challenge I had was how to cover the 7 foot tall tomato plants. They are loaded with tomatoes not yet ripe. I used 8 foot stakes and nailed canvas drop cloths to them to make a wall behind them and used it as an anchor to then drape sheets over the tops, fastening the fabrics together with clothes pins.I left the pole beans, green beans, radishes, and carrots, which have given us great food all winter, out to fend for themselves. They really had no defense against the ice that covered their pretty green leaves.The angel wing begonias located all over Hoe and Shovel in containers and in the ground didn't stand much of a chance. They weren't as lovely as they had been but were all still bravely hanging on until spring's rejuvenation. Well, as of Wednesday anyway. If you've been here before you've heard me speak of this one (above) living so gigantic at the corner of the pool patio. Wednesday was to be its last healthy photo op for a while.
It was a frozen mess the next morning. She will be reduced to normal size and start her spring days cut back to the top of the pot. And can you see the giant split leaf philodendron just behind it outside the screen? Its enormous stalks and leaves bent over under the weight of the cold. I haven't seen that in years.
Last week plants and flowers that were waist high to the three year old (a regular traveler of these pathways) and that provided us with loads of color for all our wintery days ...

... and gave us places to run through the pathways and hide and play...
... are a melted down mushy mess today.

Please hear me when I say I'm not reporting these events in hope of pity or sympathy. Really. The gardens north of me deal with this kind of thing all the time. There are much worse things that could happen. This garden will carry on and we will keep growing. Our spring comes early and after all gardening is a risk we take against so many elements.

I record these events more for a journal of the good and the bad and everything in between.

There are Florida farmers who depend on growing for their living who were hit with this weather and effected badly. I am praying for them and hoping for the best for them. The pink firespike that photographed so perky and happy in the first frame of this post did not appreciate those cold nights one single bit. I bet the amaryllis that border her are glad to be seen now that the firspike is not draping over them and blocking their sunshine. They might even have a chance now to bloom in the next few weeks.
We will stick to our gardening plans and keep working on our new beds trying to hold off on pruning all this deadness. HA... I'll let you know how that works out for me. I've already snipped back some of the impatiens and topped out the tomato plants. I'll be pulling up all the beans and planting some new seed in the next couple of weeks. I've got dirt to haul and dirt to spread.

Not everything is dead. Many plants were quite all right. But many plants that have never been affected are badly damaged. It was random and it was in pockets all over the yard. Every thing will come back... eventually.

A couple of interesting notes as I close this out. It is mowing day. I find that ironic in the midst of droopy plants. The grass has grown from all the sunshine in the past few weeks. I have to say it felt good to tidy everything up with the mower and edger.
The butterflies are out and about today. It is sunny and bright and warm and the weekend promises to be typical paradise Florida weather. I'm in shorts and sleeveless working in the garden today. Such is Florida. I'm glad to know the butterflies survived. But they aren't finding their usual fare to sip on today. I guess for a while they'll have to depend on the container plants. The ones that were moveable were saved in the garage and they are the only flowering species left.
Have a wonderful weekend and say a prayer for the farmers of Florida if you think about it.


  1. O yeah girlie, it got down to 19 the other night. My petunias, alyssum, pansies, snapdragons, lambs ear, stock, candytuft and a few others survived quite well while some of the others are so sad looking. All in a season's work for the gardeners. I am so glad I have to red fire spikes in pots growing strong for spring along with seeds and more seeds. Yes, I have been listening about the Florida Farmers crops on the news.

  2. Hi Meems, I know how you feel. Your firespike is how SO many of my plants look now. I haven't ventured out with a camera yet but I'll do so in the next couple of days. It's depressing to go outside and see all those pitiful blackened mushy plants...

  3. Yea,
    When that first big frost hits us it's always depressing. You should see what our garden looks like now. But, it will all be back in the spring.--Randy

  4. How frustrating. We were below freezing here in Tally. I lost some pretty good plants that usually muddle through the winters, but I'm hoping they'll pop right back up come springtime. I hope you didn't have too much damage!

  5. Meems,

    I watched the weather last night and they were saying that parts of Florida were colder than parts of Wyoming. I feared the worst.

    Here's wishing for an early spring everywhere! And, prayers for the farmers who have crops to grow for their livelihood.


  6. Meems...I thought about you and your beautiful garden as I was bringing in potted plants. Fortunately, for us, out plants will bounce back quickly within the coming months. It is hard to see so much turn to mush for one or two cold nights. But as the garden is resilient, so is the gardener and we'll look forward to spending time in our gardens starting this weekend. :-)

  7. As cold as it is here, I like to think that someone in Florida is having warm weather. We don't get frost damage like that at all - the cold comes in over a period of months. Dragon Wing begonias while never achieving your supersize are one of the annuals I can count on almost until November. The only good thing I can pass along is that frozen plants compost faster. Hope things warm up soon! Barbara

  8. Hi Meems, I like your attitude that the garden will grow back despite the losses and set backs. We too worry about the farmers and what the cost of strawberries will be after the destruction. We had way below normal temps too, but nothing was growing and no crops are planted here until spring. Good planning to have all the fabric to cover things too. I hope it all returns quickly for your adorable little guy to run through the jungle again.

  9. Dear meems, Oh dear...I feared as much...there is only so much draping of the plants that we can do when the wind is blowing bad weather our way! You have a good what you can, then accept the losses and go on from there~~I did love that angel's good to know it will perk up this spring.

    Home Depot is selling plankets to protect frost tender old sheets and blankets work well!

    Take care. I hope this is the last of freezing for Florida.


  10. I hate to hear that your garden was so hard hit. I read in the paper today about the farmers trying to save some of their crops.

    Hang in there girl.

  11. Meems, you have a wonderful attitude. As I was surveying my poor little mushballs and wondering if any of them would spring back, I couldn't help but think of the farmers and what they have been through. I will patiently wait a few more weeks to prune. Meanwhile, I will go buy some petunias and companions to drown my sorrow.

  12. One other thing that may be obvious to you all: Garage and yard sales are great places to store up on sheets for weather such as we've had.

  13. Oh, Meems, I'm sorry to see the damage, but I like your attitude. When I first heard about this I started to worry about farmers in Florida, although many of them do have the systems to keep things protected. It's still rough to have to cope with these things.

  14. Perhaps your ghostly drapings will have saved them enough, that most will grow back. You must have a lot of trimming to do, though. I hope the majority recover.
    It's good that the butterflies are still fluttering, even if they will have to search farther for nectar.
    It is a shame about the commercial crops, both for the farmers, and for those of us who love the citrus fruits.

  15. Hi Meems, I thought about you when I heard the national forecast and wondered if your garden would be affected.

    I do feel for the farmers who suffered a lot of losses. Farming is tough enough in normal times. Their losses will likely be harder to deal with in this economy, and we'll all surely be paying more $$ for orange juice.

  16. Garden ghosts -- I love it! I hope you didn't sustain much damage.

  17. Oh, I am not loving this winter a bit. But I've finally been able, for the most part, to look on winter's losses as an opportunity to try something new come spring.

    Today was beautiful! I stood on the deck soaking up the much-missed-lately sunshine. And the 10-day forecast looks good. Hope it keeps UP.

    Have a JESUS-filled day! ^i^

  18. Hi Meems~
    I enjoyed reading about your acceptance of the ways of nature. I guess we do what we can to save our plants, if that doesn't work...we get to go visit our favorite nursery again or start new seeds and beds from scratch :) And you are so right about all of the Florida farmers, I hope they were able to save their crops.

    May the new spaces in the garden bring you hours of enjoyment :)

    That's how I look at it now.


  19. NO! Not the begonias!!! The fire spike too? Ahhhh!

    It painful to take these kinds of pictures, but I have found them helpful on planning for next winter, and it is always fun to look back in June and see how far the garden has come. Guess its time to go out an buy seeds!

  20. dear meems, it is hared to see these beautiful plants so frost bitten. unpredictiable is natures way. i think the hardest part is that is does only take one night of damage to wipe out what has been years of growth. i am so glad you are choosing to look on the brighter side of the garden.

  21. Hi Meems,
    Your post was presented very optimistically, but I just have to say I was saddened to see the demise of that lovely Angel-Wing Begonia:(
    Your little sweetie is adorable and I know all of that lovely impatience and other blooms will be planted again and be just as pretty. You have so much in your gardens to deal with, and you are doing it gracefully. Despite your losses, it is still awesome...and from what I can see, YOU are too;)

  22. according to your 'facts for curious readers' - it may be 'hot & humid, 6 months - paradise, 6 months' but it still only takes 48 hours out of 365 days to remind you that even paradise is not perfect! winter is still a season in our tropicalesque environment, and it can come sneaking in as a plant killer in total surprise to the avid gardener. my heart goes out to you and other landscapers, who have to wonder now is it over for this year, or is there still one or two more strikes to be made?

    don't cut back immediately is my mantra, as that will spurt new growth in the warmth of our normally mild days, and then you will lose that if the frost returns again. better to look awful for a few weeks than to suffer more damage a second time. you really can hardly cover up enough for the damp, icy weather we have when the temps dip below freezing. and it is so much hard work when one has a very large garden as you do. but such is the graph of anyone willing to risk the highs and lows of enjoying their results for the majority of the year. this is the reality of our gardening life! thanks for sharing it with us!

  23. My yard looks a lot like yours today, Meems,but closer examination found lots of green buried under the black. I spent Friday with some University of South Florida students who have little veggie plots at the Botanical Gardens there. These plots aren't part of a class, and for many of these kids, it's their first experience growing, which they did almost totally from seed.
    They were amazingly pragmatic about the fried tomatoes, etc. One of the students said, "It's what it means to be a gardener. You deal with the environment and learn how to grow with the seasons."
    We got some great kids coming up!

  24. Darla, 19 is very cold for anyplace in Florida. Keep those seeds going... spring is right around the corner.

    GreenJeans, On further inspection there are even more plants damaged than the first day revealed. I'm sorry about all your mushy plants, too.

    Randy, It's never a happy day when anything wipes out your garden! Fortunately plants want to grow and they will work hard for us to come back quickly.

    Susie, I lost some plants that usually are not affected by frost, too. It was an unusual couple of hours that took out some of the standard stalwarts. They will come back. I hope yours do, too.

    Cameron, Ususally the arctic air doesn't find its way so far south but when it does, our gardens are the worse for it. We are spoiled and I guess that's what makes it a challenge not to fuss too much about it. :-)

    Susan, You probably got colder than us over there in the middle of the state. Resilient indeed! Right now it looks pretty bleak though.Just about everything will come back and sooner than we think probably.

    Barbara, That is what is so weird. We had warm weather the very next day. Although now that I say that... that isn't so weird for Florida.

    Frances, Thanks. Good thing the wilted plants won't deter the little guy from frolicking about. He was proud to help me pull off all the clothes pins and unveil the damage on Friday. We'll bounce back and gardening goes on...

    Gail, We'll wait a while before we trim back just in case there is another frost in the days ahead. It will be hard to wait on trimming. Our days feel so much like spring they can fool one into thinking there couldn't possibly be anymore troubling weather. I must remember how it can sneak up on us and be patient.

    Lisa, I think most of the orange growers and strawberry growers were okay. Not sure about some of the fish farms. The reports said they would assess the damage by the end of the week... I haven't read anymore since then.

    Gardenerwannabe, Petunias are a good source for cheery up. Put them in pots and instant color. If we frost again you can move them inside.

    Jodi, You are right. The strawberry farmers ran their irrigation all night long. This system creates a thin ice covering that keeps the fruit at 32 degrees and doesn't let it drop any further. Three nights of that must have been nerve racking.

    Northern Shade, Mostly everything I draped was still tinged on the edges. But for the most part they survived fine. There is just no way to drape everything and one walk through the garden reveals quite a bit of damage. Most of it will come back I'm pretty sure.

    Linda, Mr. meems and I made a little day trip down south yesterday. We saw lots of orange groves over in the central part of the state and they were looking quite good. Everything else looked brown and wilty though. I also read that some sugarcane fields that were ready for harvest suffered some damage. Hopefully no big farms suffered too much.

    Nancy, Thanks. We are going to be just fine. Learning more patience here.

    Sophie, the days following the freeze have been glorious. Sunshine and warmth abound. Tomorrow 76 degrees. If only I could cut back all that damage now... my plants could get a good start on coming back. But wisdom tells me to wait.

    Karrita, I am working on those new spaces with lots of excitement. I visited a native plant nursery yesterday doing some investigating for the new beds. Gardening is a risk anytime but we certainly are spoiled for the most part in this beautiful state.

    WG: Yes, I know... not the begonias! I'll have to wait until summer to see her talk stalks again. sigh. She's not lost however and neither is the pink firespike... I'm seeing about a foot of greenery at the base of the plants. Yay!

    Marmee, I decided right from the start that no matter the damage, things could be worse. What really surprises me is how much further south this cold air blew ... lots of damage as far south as Ft. Myers... now that's cold!

    Jan, What a very nice thing to say. Yes, there is lots left that wasn't damaged so recovery will jsut take some time. I admit I am VERY sad about the begonias. I have one in the front garden growing in the ground that was six feet tall. WAS is the key word. LOL

    Senior Gardener: Oh, I am trying to remember your mantra every time I'm in the garden. I already cut back some of the impatiens against all wise counsel. I'm holding off on the shrubs though... at least for another two weeks. You are right about the reality of gardening. Highs and lows, risks and challenges.

    Penny, I'm sorry about your plants. Closer examination has revealed even more damage than I first discovered. But you are right green is at the bottom and that is a good thing. I like those kids' attitude... "you deal with the environment and learn how to grow with the seasons" ... good gardener mottos!


Have a blessed day,

September 2010

Back Garden: October 2010

Louise Philippe: Antique Rose

Tropical Pathway