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Posts Tagged ‘plants’

We’re having our first actual bout of Winter here in the swamp this week. The front came through late Sunday night/early Monday morning, and it got down close to or just below freezing last night. I’m expecting a freeze warning tonight again. Actual frosts are very rare here, and snow is even more rare, so even the native plants can take damage from a particularly long cold snap.

The sun is bright today, which is part of why it’s cold. The air is drier than usual, so there’s not a cloud cover to keep the warmth up next to the Earth. Later this week, when the usual coastal moisture comes back, it’s going to warm back up.

Dealing with frost down here in Zone 9a is a tricky thing. We have drop cloths and old sheets in a bin in the garage that get dragged out and spread over all the delicate things that live here. I keep a small citrus tree in my yard that’s particularly susceptible to frost, and things like a dieffenbachia (dumbcane), a pencil cactus, and a plumeria have to get moved into the sun porch and sheltered well against cold. This can be challenging, especially because the plumeria is nearly as big as I am.

I also have a large hibiscus – by large I mean it’s taller than the garage doors – that I don’t think I’ll be able to really cover well this year. It didn’t die back last year, so it’s gotten enormous. I really hope it doesn’t end up frostbitten!

We have lots of areas in the yard for small critters to shelter, like our woodpile and in the shrubs next to the house, but I always worry a little about the toads and lizards. We frequently find them trying to stowaway into the house, which is a dangerous place, as I have cats!  This is a good place to live, if you’re a cold blooded animal, but these periodic cold nights have to be tough.

People who live here tend to get grief about not knowing what to do when it’s cold, and to some extent that’s true. Not even the native things that live here are really designed to deal with the cold. I grew up in a northeastern state, where the squirrels are fat and furry and have enormous tails. Squirrels around here are skinny, with skinny tails that you can almost see through. They’re not accustomed to the cold because they really don’t need to be.

Which is why I’m wearing my warm things without shame.

It’s chilly, but it won’t last long.

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Fall is slowly creeping in here, with the leaves on some of the trees turning and falling. Many of the trees here are Live Oaks though, so they’ll keep their leaves until spring, when the new leaves will push the old ones off the trees. Our yard has mainly a southern variety of weeping Ash trees and a Poplar tree (plus palm trees of various types), so we’ll be dealing with fallen leaves for a bit longer. The grass is mostly dormant at this point, so we’re only mowing once every 2-3 weeks. Things are looking pretty dry, so I’m hoping we get some rain soon.

The monarch butterflies are pretty much gone by now as well – they pass through here on their southerly migrations, so we get a good number of them. They’re one of the reasons I really love my butterfly garden in the fall. Sadly my salvias don’t seem to be doing well – I will try giving the garden a good watering, but they just don’t seem to be making it right now. Which is sad, as they were huge and gorgeous.

We also had a cold front this week, so some of the less hardy potted plants are coming inside. We need to build a drape frame for our lime tree as well, since it’s now too big to keep in a pot, and will need to be sheltered if it actually gets cold. Our lows this week are in the lower 40F range, so some of the tropicals definitely need to join the dumcane inside the porch. This will be interesting with the plumeria, which has gotten so large that we’ve put it’s pot on a wheeled platter. I’m not sure it will fit through the porch door, but I guess we’ll find out!

The lizards know where the warms are and have been attempting at cost to life and limb to get inside the house or screen porch. Unfortunately the cats think they’re both fun and tasty, so we’ve found a few corpses and made a few rescues so far. That will likely continue through the winter.

It’s probably time to get the bird feeders up as well. (Or the squirrel feeders, really) There won’t be any more hummingbirds this year for sure; we only saw two all summer, which was sad. Usually there are tons. I wonder if the climate is affecting their migration, or maybe we didn’t have the feeders up soon enough or something. I love having birds in the yard, especially when it’s cold – we’ve had breeding pairs of cardinals and bluejays for a few years now. The wrens usually make a nest in the yard (or in the wreath on my door), but I’ve yet to find a seed they’ll eat. I think they’re more interested in the bugs living in my potted plants.

I’m not planting a winter garden this year, mostly because things were too crazy when I would have needed to get it planted. Instead, we’ll compost the garden plot with leaves and kitchen compost over the winter. It could stand to rest for a little bit anyway, especially since we planted corn this summer. I don’t think I’ll grow corn again, just because it takes up a lot of space for not a lot of produce in the end. Maybe one more try now that I’ve done it before, but I’m not sold on corn as a backyard crop.

The days are approaching their shortest now, and the sun has already set when I get home from work at 5:30. The sun is about 15 minutes shy of rising when I get to work at 6:30am.  Having it be dark when I leave and dark when I get home is hard, but at least I still get some afternoon sun on my commute home.

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