Baby, it’s cold outside!

Our friends in Alaska have given us a belated Christmas present: an enormous artic cold front. And it’s the gift that keeps on giving because it isn’t in a hurry to move on. This morning’s top weather story on Yahoo! called it an “epic cold snap” and talked about the citrus growers in San Diego County, 500 miles south of here, bringing out giant fans to keep the air circulating through their orchards. And the San Diego zoo has cranked up the heat—literally—for its tropical birds and chimpanzees.

While I wouldn’t call this cold spell “epic,” it’s still amazingly tenacious. Usually we get 5 or 6 nights below freezing in a typical winter, but this week, we’re having 5 or 6 nights below freezing in a row.

This morning, the view from upstairs was decidedly chilly.


According to my weather station, the low in the backyard, which is somewhat protected, was 29°F. In front of the house it was probably a couple of degrees colder.



A few days ago I got all our frost blankets out of storage and began to install them. We still had Christmas lights draped over the succulent bed by the front door, and the extra boost in warmth, however small, no doubt helped.



We also draped frost cloth over the lime tree at the foot of the driveway but it’s proved to be too small to cover the whole tree. Luckily, the large C9 Christmas lights, which produce quite a bit of heat, provided extra protection.



The shadows on the frost cloths are quite beautiful.




While frost cloth made from a spun non-woven material like polyester is best…



…I had to resort to other means to protect additional plants. Old sheets work in a pinch…


…but even better are fuzzy lightweight blankets like the orange one on the right…


…and this one.


Want to see what’s under the blankie? A tower of jewels (Echium wildpretii). Looks like it survived the night just fine (the soil was only very slightly frozen under the blanket).


In the backyard I also used old sheets to protect the aeoniums.


Quite a few plants are right up against the house (there’s a roof above the front door and porch) and don’t get extra protection.


The soil in these pots wasn’t frozen so temperatures had stayed above 32°F.


A few other plants that normally live outside got moved into the garage for the night. They’ll be stuck there, in the dark, until this cold snap has moved on.


The current weather report forecasts a low of 28°F for tonight, which would be the coldest night yet, followed by three nights of 30°F. While these aren’t extreme temperatures for gardeners in most parts of the country, we simply aren’t used to prolonged periods of frost. Personally, I hate the cold and would much rather be in Hawaii or Southern Mexico right now.


  1. Holy cow Batman! I am going to cover up some more stuff! My aloe camaronii took a hit!

  2. My thermometer currently reads 27, I am not happy about this. I brought a couple of things in to the basement and I have the heater on in the shade pav greenhouse, we shall see! Hope your efforts pay off!

  3. You have to do what you have to do to protect plants, even if you need to use sheets! Christmas lights do give out gentle heat without making noticeable dents on your electricity bills, we use them here too and have helped some of our plants sail through winter.

  4. I suppose this isn't the right time to mention that our lows overnight were in the 50'sF.

    Hope everything fares well, and that the cold air soon moves on. I do love the shadows on the green frost cloth!

  5. Low early this morning was 12*! If it weren't for that blanket of snow, would probably loose some plants. Luckily all the bamboo is snug in its white beds!

  6. You are taking good care of your tenders, devoted plant-daddy! Mine are on their own, though it's hovered above 36F far. What is most irksome is the cold is so dry. Want rain!

    The shadows on that frost cloth are really wonderful.

  7. Eww! I agree, I hate the cold too! Good on ya for the protection. I hauled plants into the garage and put lights in my pindo palm. Here's to warmer days!!!


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