Thursday, December 20, 2012

First frost of the season

Just yesterday I said that we hadn’t had any frost yet this winter (technically it’s still fall but let’s not quibble). The forecast for last night called for 33°F so I wasn’t too concerned about covering sensitive plants. When I got up this morning, however, the roofs in the neighborhood and many of our plants were covered with a thin blanket of white: The first frost of the season had arrived.

The weather station in our backyard revealed that between 1:00 and 7:30 a.m. the temperature had been below 33°F. The lowest reading was 32.2°F at 2:30, 4:30 and 6:00 a.m. However, the thermometer is mounted on a 6-ft. pole, so at ground level the temperature was clearly below 32°F in many spots, judging from the hard crust of soil.

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View of our neighbors’ rooftops (lower right: Bambusa multiplex ‘Alphonse Karr’)

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View of our own frosted roof (top right: Bambusa multiplex ‘Alphonse Karr’;
top left: Bambusa chungii ‘Barbellata’)

Tender plants may not like frost, but I love how it transforms ordinary sights into something special, like the fence top and the leaves in the photos below.

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Fence top

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Frosted leaves on front lawn

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Salvia involucrata

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Salvia canariense

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Salvia canariense

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Verbena bonariensis

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Echium wildpretii × pininana ‘Mr Happy’

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Echium wildpretii × pininana ‘Mr Happy’

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Echium wildpretii

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Lavandula angustifolia ‘Edelweiss’

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Dichondra argentea ‘Silver Falls’—not looking as perky as it did in this post

Bananas have extremely frost-sensitive leaves. Even on hardy species, like the yellow lotus banana in the next photo, the leaves wither when exposed to freezing temperatures.

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Musella lasiocarpa

The banana in the next photo is a Dwarf Cavendish. Marginally hardy here, its leaves are a goner for the winter.

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Musa × paradisiaca ‘Dwarf Cavendish’

It’s ironic that in yesterday’s post I said that I had gotten our frost blankets out of storage so I could cover the aeoniums in the backyard when needed. Convinced that lows would remain above freezing, I did not cover them last night. Needless to say they did get nipped a bit.

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Aeonium decorum ‘Sunburst’

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Aeonium arboreum var. rubrolineatum

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Aeonium arboreum var. rubrolineatum

Fortunately, I don’t think any real damage was done. Check out the same aeonium just a couple of hours later when temperatures had climbed back into the high 30s:

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Aeonium arboreum var. rubrolineatum

Mr Happy also looks much less frosty than he had just an hour before:

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Echium wildpretii × pininana ‘Mr Happy’

To my surprise, one of the most tender plants in the front yard, this Silver Lady fern, showed no signs of frost damage. It is protected by overhanging foliage, and that must have made enough of a difference.

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Blechnum gibbon ‘Silver Lady’

I feel a bit silly making such a fuss about what was essentially a light frost. I guess that’s what happens when you try to grow plants that are not 100% hardy in your climate zone: You fret pretty much constantly.

Luckily, the extended forecast calls for nighttime lows in the high 30s and low 40s. No frost, that’s all I want for Christmas.

4 comments:

  1. I'm so glad your Aeoniums seem to have survived the surprise frost. It sure does add a whole different level of cool to pictures of foliage.

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  2. So how exactly is it that you've had a frost in Davis before we've had one in Portland? That just doesn't make sense! Glad none of your plants were seriously damaged.

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  3. The positive daytime temps certainly does help stave off bad effects of frosts. Your aeoniums are doing better than the ones we keep frost free in the greenhouse :)

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  4. OOOh lucky you! Wonder how you fared last night! Cool photos!

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