Yes, I'd say the temperature did indeed drop to and stay below freezing last night. This is the fountain in the courtyard mid-morning. When I finally ventured beyond the courtyard to check on the garden, I took paper and a pen so I could make notes of how different plants handled this departure from the norm. I was surprised to see the Acanthus mollis, Bear's Breeches, looking like cooked spinach: they had grown so big and healthy since the summer heat had abated, I thought of them as cold tolerant. There goes that assumption. Even more distressing, the jagged silver leaves of the artichoke plant were lying limply upon the ground, in mute reproach of my failure to cover it. It remains uncovered although I might yet run outside and throw some towels over it. What keeps me from braving the cold is the suspicion that any attempt to protect it would be futile at this point.
There are a number of crispy critters out there but I could see green wood on some stems and trunks so all is not lost. Red Bauhinia Tina Turner is not her usual glamorous self but I believe she's root hardy and will rebound in spring. She was in need of a serious haircut anyway, so this will give me reason to prune her properly. Durantas and Hamelias will need to be cut back to the ground and allowed to regrow. The Hydrangea quercifolia, Oakleaf Hydrangea, looks sadly ragged. Can those of you in more northerly climes tell me what to expect this woody shrub to do and how I should prune it? It's been in the ground for several years but this is the first hard freeze it's experienced.
Not only plants but pipes were affected by the freezing temperatures. I found a minor leak in the connector of two long pieces of PVC pipe that run along the south wall of the house. We shut the water off on that wall and I went on with my inspection. Later in the day a neighbor stopped and rang the doorbell to let us know that we had a break on the front of the house: another length of PVC had snapped. Both of these are close to 20 years old and installed to give us hose bibs in more convenient locations. Perhaps 30 minutes after we'd shut off the water on that front bib, another neighbor called to ask if we knew we had a pipe leaking. I assumed she meant the one we'd just shut off and told her yes ... thankfully, I walked outside to get the mail and discovered that something had blown on the sprinkler system and water was spewing forth from the above ground pipes. Oh, joy, a third pipe to fix! The Executive Producer found the shut-off valve and disaster was averted. I'm afraid to say anything optimistic regarding the pipes INSIDE the house!
We've got another night, possibly two, of temperatures in the mid to high 20s before the weather warms up. So this will be at least a three part saga. Check back Sunday night for the report on Day 3!
Good luck to you and to all our southern gardens!
As for the Oakleaf Hydrangea, my advice is just to leave it until it starts to make new growth.
Linda, I think the fountain will be all right. Replacing the pump is a pain because the parts of the fountain are so danged heavy.
MMD, it's been a most surprising winter! Thanks for the advice on the Hydrangea. That sounds doable. "Always look on the bright side of death ..."
MT, I hope your garden comes through this winter OK. I think there's still more to come. I can't shake the feeling there's an ice storm in our future.
Robin, it was the backflow valve on the sprinkler system that burst, I think. If it happened to yours, you'd know it: mine sent a fountain of water forth into the air! I think the Bear's Breeches are going to be OK: they have some limp leaves but the crowns are intact. I may have some seedlings out front and will dig one for you if I do.