On the mend af­ter the big freeze

Con­tain­ers and win­dow boxes can pro­vide a burst of color while those ten­der trop­i­cal plants are re­cov­er­ing

Houston Chronicle - - STAR - By Kathy Hu­ber

Did Jan­uary’s big chill bolt you back to re­al­ity?

De­spite our trop­i­cal sum­mers, Hous­ton gar­dens lie in Zone 8, with min­i­mum tem­per­a­tures dip­ping into the teens.

Our con­sec­u­tive nights in the 20s freeze-dried many lush green land­scapes into silent brown husks. But there’s no need to panic. Our gar­dens look bad now, but the green is stir­ring. Ev­er­green pears will soon be in full glory, their clouds of white blooms re­as­sur­ing against the bare branches of other trees. Nar­cis­sus have raised their fra­grant heads; snowflakes will soon be up and about.

Easy does it

We have a long grow­ing sea­son ahead of us. While land­scapes have bared their bones, let’s as­sess the freeze dam­age and de­cide if it’s time to make big or small changes.

It’s ob­vi­ous some plants are his­tory. Im­pa­tiens and be­go­nias are a re­duc­tion of soggy stems. An­gelo­nias, pen­tas and ferns also may be toast.

Af­ter the freeze, clean up the mushy, stinky stuff im­me­di­ately, ad­vises the Har­ris County Texas AgriLife Ex­ten­sion Ser­vice. But don’t prune any­thing with bark un­til dan­ger of frost has passed.

Al­though sources vary by a few days, many mark the av­er­age last frost in early March.

Keep an eye on the fore­cast be­fore tak­ing the clip­pers to that dead wood on lan­tana, hibis­cus, es­per­anza, du­ranta, plumbago, ole­an­der and fire­bush.

Give plants time to green up. If the plant is pli­able and you can scratch the sur­face and see green tis­sue, it’s still alive.

Once we’re frost-clear, cut back to live wood. If there’s none above the soil line, re­move the dead top and wait. Older, typ­i­cally gar­den-hardy hibis­cus va­ri­eties stand a bet­ter chance of re­peat per­for­mances than ten­der trop­i­cal types. Large, es­tab­lished ole­an­ders likely will re­turn; dwarf ole­an­ders are iffy.

Once-tow­er­ing an­gel’s trum­pet (Brug­man­sia spp.) may now re­sem­ble a soft-limbed can­de­labra, but they should re­turn from the roots.

Un­pro­tected limes and lemons also suf­fered, but thick-skinned grape­fruit, or­anges and man­darins have proven sur­pris­ingly tol­er­ant.

With some plants, it may be a longer wait-and­see propo­si­tion. Pre­freeze health, type, soil mois­ture, mulch and pro­tec­tion will in­flu­ence their sur­vival.

For frozen palms, if there’s green in the crown, there’s hope. Don’t prune just yet, but spray the crown now with a cop­per­based fungi­cide and then again in 10 days. Ap­ply a palm fer­til­izer with trace el­e­ments ev­ery two months March through Septem­ber.

Time for a change?

With our gar­dens in their barest state, it’s a great time to eval­u­ate.

A “cor­rec­tion” like we’ve had al­lows the plants that re­ally be­long here to per­form.

Em­pha­size plants that do well, and be care­ful about trop­i­cal plants that be­long in Zone 10 — un­less you ac­cept them as an­nu­als. Roses are among the hardi­est sur­vivors.

Now is also a good time to add hard­scapes, such as a per­gola, a sit­ting area or a clus­ter of pot­tery in vibrant col­ors.

Per­haps you want a com­plete theme change, from trop­i­cal to na­tive or cot­tage to Zen.

You also could use the op­por­tu­nity to strengthen your de­sign struc­ture with trees and ev­er­green shrubs.

Box­wood, cephalotaxus, Chi­nese ma­ho­nia, leu­cothoe and nan­d­ina pulled through with lit­tle or no dam­age. Make note of smaller trees and large shrubs that will add sea­sonal in­ter­est and feed and shel­ter birds.

Choose plants based on their ma­ture size. Mix up your plants a lit­tle for a more nat­u­ral look, but don’t plant just one un­less it is in­tended as a fo­cal point or spec­i­men plant­ing.

For an in­stant fix while you con­sider long-term op­tions, plant pots of coolsea­son color.

We’ll need to nur­ture our gar­dens a bit more in the months ahead.

A ver­sion of this story ran in Jan­uary 2010.

Melissa Ward Aguilar / Hous­ton Chron­i­cle

Above: Try a win­dow box to perk up the win­ter scene.

Melissa Ward Aguilar / Hous­ton Chron­i­cle

Far left: While the gar­den may look bleak, con­tain­ers with kale and petu­nias add color.

Getty Im­ages

Left: Masses of tiny flow­ers on alyssum have big im­pact and a sweet fra­grance. The flow­ers are re­li­able an­nu­als for the win­ter gar­den and con­tain­ers.

Me­gan Thomp­son

Pan­sies thrive in the win­ter gar­den.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.