My timber: Alive, useless or in-between? Evaluating vegetation 2 months after Texas freeze

April 12, 2021

Getting nearer to a state of acceptance

It’s been two months for the reason that Massive Freeze of mid-February, and my backyard, which fortunately has many thrivers, continues to be revealing struggling survivors and dead-as-doornails. Throughout these two months, temperatures have ranged from a low of 5 F to an unseasonable excessive of 92 F a number of days in the past — an 87-degree temperature swing. Poor vegetation! However some have actually confirmed their mettle.

Dwell oaks had been hit laborious however have recovered

Nonetheless, I’m stunned it takes so lengthy for some vegetation to indicate what they considered that Arctic go to. I imply, I do know what I considered it. Then once more, they spent that week outside. They’ve been surprised! A lot too depends upon microclimates: whether or not the snow was deep sufficient to insulate, whether or not succulents had super-sharp drainage to assist them survive per week of snow and ice, whether or not they obtained lined by frost fabric or a sheet, whether or not timber overhead or a sunny wall gave them slightly further shelter, and so forth.

Additionally, the freeze occurred in mid-February, when our gardens in Central Texas are waking up for spring, so vegetation weren’t dormant however actively rising and even budding. All of which is to say that this was a extremely uncommon occasion, and even longtime gardeners don’t essentially understand how sure species will reply, a lot much less particular person vegetation in various situations.

Evergreen sumac, a small native tree, continues to be brown and struggling to return again

As I started cleansing up all of the brown, I turned for recommendation to horticulturists at native nurseries and public gardens and different Texas plant consultants, which primarily boiled all the way down to “WAIT.” Towards the tip of March, some consultants started calling it, like creator Neil Sperry, who suggested that if a plant (primarily shrubs, I feel) wasn’t exhibiting indicators of life by then, it was time to exchange it when you hoped to get a alternative earlier than nurseries ran out of inventory. Some readers nonetheless held out hope once I shared that recommendation, and so they had been proved proper when a few of my vegetation began exhibiting indicators of life after that time. However whether or not these vegetation will get better sufficient to turn into enticing seen shrubs/decorative timber once more in a yr’s time is absolutely the query Sperry was chatting with. He acknowledged that the common house owner isn’t prepared to attend a number of years whereas their basis shrubs regrow from the roots. Die-hard gardeners or these on a finances is likely to be. As for myself, I’ve changed sure vegetation I don’t need to be with out, am ready on others, and have rethought sections of my backyard since Mom Nature gave me a chance to take away a number of vegetation I’d been ambivalent about.

Should you dwell in Texas and develop a number of the similar vegetation I do, you may like to check notes. Should you dwell elsewhere and know my backyard by way of this weblog, maybe you’re curious for an replace. So let’s doc all of it for science! In a collection of posts this week, I’m sharing my post-freeze notes on every plant on my plant listing (which may all the time be discovered underneath Get Rising within the menu). Vegetation that had been stunted, maimed, or killed by the freeze are in daring, for simpler looking out. Asterisks point out vegetation native to Texas.

However first, within the curiosity of retaining it actual, particularly for brand spanking new gardeners, these images taken yesterday signify two months of just about nonstop cleanup. Spring is all the time a busy time, once I in the reduction of perennials and grasses, prune and form shrubs and small timber, rake up dwell oak leaves, and add a number of vegetation. However with all of the foliage killed again by the freeze, the cleanup workload has been tripled. So sure, there’s a whole lot of greenery within the footage, and that’s partly as a result of I lower and eliminated a LOT of brown foliage and have replanted about 60% of the pots left exterior through the freeze. Individuals don’t all the time discuss upkeep, however gardens don’t magically neaten themselves up. Alas.

Fortunately, this can be a lovely time of yr for gardening, and it’s wholesome, earth-connecting work. Even when you’re sobbing as you pull out once-beloved, brown vegetation.

Partially brown Texas mountain laurel (middle) in opposition to the fence and brown evergreen sumac at proper. An invisible pomegranate (simply naked, useless branches) sits within the hole at left of the TX mountain laurel.

Let’s begin with the timber.


  • Acer palmatum – Japanese maple : In excellent well being! No discernable harm or delay in leafing out. Neighbors have been commenting on how fairly it seems.
  • Bauhinia lunarioides – Anacacho orchid tree*: It defoliated however releafed a few month later with none lack of branches.
  • Bauhinia mexicana – Mexican orchid tree: Killed. Prolonged laborious freezes usually kill this plant to the roots. However this freeze was simply too chilly for too lengthy.
  • Cercis canadensis var. mexicana – Mexican redbud*: A bit sluggish to leaf out however appears regular now.
  • Cercis canadensis var. texensis – Texas redbud*: Bloomed and leafed out usually.
  • Cercis canadensis var. texensis ‘Traveller’ – Weeping redbud*: Bloomed and leafed out usually.
  • Cupressus arizonica var. glabra ‘Blue Ice’ – Arizona cypress: Was closely weighed down by ice and snow, however didn’t undergo any damaged branches. Seems wholesome and regular.
  • Diospyros texana – Texas persimmon*: Misplaced its leaves early (it usually drops leaves in mid-March, like a dwell oak) however quickly releafed and appears wholesome.
  • Ilex decidua – Possumhaw holly*: Leafed out usually and appears wholesome.
  • Ilex vomitoria ‘Satisfaction of Houston’ – Yaupon holly*: What freeze?
  • Ilex vomitoria ‘Will Fleming’ – Yaupon holly ‘Will Fleming’*: Completely unfazed.
  • Lagerstroemia sp. – Crepe myrtle: Very sluggish to releaf, and I frightened I’d lose it. But it surely put out new leaves a few week in the past, though one part of its crown is slightly skinny.
  • Leucaena retusa – Goldenball leadtree*: Leafed out usually and appears wholesome.
  • Prunus mexicana – Mexican plum*: Bloomed quickly after the freeze, then leafed out usually and appears wholesome.
  • Punica granatum ‘Fantastic’ – Pomegranate: Killed to the bottom. Not one of the branches or trunks on this 15-year-old tree have releafed. However new progress is slowly developing from the roots. In all probability the trunks needs to be pruned to the bottom, however I haven’t finished that but.
  • Quercus fusiformis – Escarpment dwell oak*: The leaves on each dwell oak turned brown instantly after the freeze and shortly dropped. After a few weeks they releafed once more. Dwell oaks usually drop their leaves and shortly releaf round mid-March, so this was an early drop and a sluggish releaf. Pollen manufacturing appears low this yr, not that I’m complaining, however the variety of caterpillars, which dangle and drop from the timber on strands of silk, has been epic.
  • Rhus virens – Evergreen sumac*: The leaves turned brown and didn’t drop. I believed it is likely to be useless, however this week a number of sprigs of inexperienced appeared alongside the trunks and on the base of the tree. The primary cover could also be misplaced although. I’m nonetheless watching this one and never pruning again.
  • Sophora affinis – Eve’s necklace*: Leafed out usually and is blooming.
  • Sophora secundiflora – Texas mountain laurel*: One tree obtained smashed by falling dwell oak limbs however stayed inexperienced. The opposite, larger tree wilted after which the evergreen leaves turned brown, and about 2/3 of them dropped. After a few weeks, it started to releaf, however solely on the branches that dropped their leaves. The branches nonetheless hanging onto brown leaves look like useless. No blooms this yr after all.

Up subsequent are Shrubs, Sub-Shrubs, & Woody Perennials.

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