What We Lost In The Freeze, Part 1

RIP Cat's Whiskers

I feel pretty safe in saying that spring has arrived on my corner of Katy and in predicting that temperatures in the low 30s are now behind us. So it's time to get on with the chore of removing the plants that have met their demise at the icy fingers of winter. I've been assessing the damage over the past few weeks, making notes and hoping that I'd be proven wrong in my fears for some of my favorites. There may yet be hope for some of them but the clock is ticking and I see no signs of new growth yet. Here's some of what I've discovered thus far.

Multiple varieties of Hamelias are scattered around the front gardens and all of them took a serious hit. I've cut most of them back to a few inches above the ground: the wood that's left is a sickly rusty brown color and the bark is peeling away. There's a tinge of green to the trunks just under the soil line but I can't call it a healthy shade of green. I suspect the freeze damage is continuing to descend and that many, if not all, will have to be removed.

The Angel Wing Jasmine, once known as Big Mama, became Little Mama thanks to the depredations of Hurricane Ike. 14 months later, she had recovered so well that she had earned the title of Pretty Mama. Then came winter. She can only be described now as one sad mama. There are signs of life at the base of the plant so I expect her to return eventually.

The Durantas also froze to the ground and until today, I could see no signs of remaining life on most of them. I'm about 95% certain that the dwarf variety Cuban Golds will not recover and have yanked all but one of them. The larger varieties do have some new growth at the base under the mulch line. It will be a bit tricky to remove what's left of the dead trunks without harming that new growth so I'll probably just whack them back and not worry about it overmuch. They grow so quickly here and are so widely available that I don't mind taking the chance.

Thryallis thoroughly surprised me with its response to the cold. The foliage turned a lovely ruby red and held on throughout the winter. I went ahead and de-leafed the plant, then pruned it very lightly. I'd already limbed it up to make it a small tree and I'm watching to see where the new growth appears so I can maintain that form. Based on its performance in the last year, I will be on the lookout for more Thryallis in nurseries!

The Turk's Caps (Malvaviscus spp) all froze back to the ground. There's already new growth on them, though. I'm almost disappointed that more of them didn't succumb to the cold. The native Turk's Caps (M. drummondii) reseed so vigorously and need so much maintenance where I have them planted that it would help me out to lose some! I'll be reducing their numbers significantly over the next few months.

The Barbados Cherries (Malpighia glabra) had serious foliar damage, which was so appallingly ugly that I took the pruners to them before we were out of freeze danger, and cut them back to the ground. Happily, they are vigorously sprouting new growth and will be running rampant before summer arrives.

I'm seriously bummed about the Coral Woody Pentas (Rondeletia). If they're planning on coming back from the roots, they deserve an Oscar for their convincing portrayal of plants who have shuffled off this mortal coil.

My disappointment over the Rondeletias pales in comparison to the angst I feel about my Bauhinias, particularly the B. galpinii known on MCOK as Tina Turner. She has been reduced to a 15 inch tall stump but I don't have the heart to remove the oak leaf mulch from around her trunk to see what's there. I'm all but certain there's no hope of her returning from the roots. One local nursery, Caldwell's out in Rosenberg, says on their website that if you can get the plant through the first three years, it should be root hardy. I can't remember when I planted Tina in that spot but I think it's been less than 3 years. I did save seeds from this and the other B. galpinii (which is also looking almost still alive) but it will take a good long while for any seedlings to fill the void left by Tina's demise.

Damn, now I'm depressed. I believe it behooves me to stop before I change into all black; start playing "Funeral for a Friend"; and lay a wreath at Tina's trunk. I'll post later with observations about how other plants here at Wit's End fared this winter.


I'm so sorry about "Tina Turner," what a huge disappointment. It's always the weedy crap that survives the best.
May you be pleasantly surprised as the weather warms. What a bunch of gamblers we are.
Anonymous said…
Oh, sad post. So sorry to hear about Tina. However, I took cuttings from my Cat's Whisker and rooted them over the winter - it's a very easy plant to root, just stick a cutting in the soil. So if mine doesn't return that is still in the ground, then I'll have some new babies to start. Would you like me to start one for you once they get growing? It's an extremely cute plant, isn't it?
Gail said…
I have to agree with MMD~Nothing will kill Bush Honeysuckle or the Vincas...but, the pretties are hard hit. gail
Cindy, MCOK said…
MMD, it's hard to look at that huge bare spot. I'll be watching the nurseries for a replacement.

Leslie, I hope all my surprises are happy ones! You are so right, we are gamblers indeed!

GG, I'd love some Cat's Whiskers, thank you! I've stuck cuttings before but I didn't think to do any before the Big Chill.

Gail, and the weeds don't even flinch!