Terrible freeze damage

salicaceae(z8b FL)February 19, 2013

Like clockwork, our extremely warm winter (lowest temp. was 25 F (-4 C) in December) has led to early growth on most plants. As expected, we had 2 nights of subfreezing temps (21 F (-6.1 C) yesterday morning). I could smell the death in the morning. I am having trouble finding plants that weren't damaged. Entire peach crop is lost as are lots of things. What's interesting is that despite having significant tender new growth (some oaks, hickories, elms, hackberries, with 6-8" of new growth) the native trees were mostly unharmed. It got me thinking, have our native tree genotypes evolved to deal with these huge swings in temps in unique ways. I know many of the same species, taken from northern ecotypes would likely be toast after such conditions. These extreme swings in temps are unusual during the growing season in most places, but here plants are very frequently tempted to grow up to 2 MONTHS before they should. It is depressing that after a mild winter overall, any gains I might have hoped for in terms of getting less hardy stuff established were wiped out in one night. Now it will be back to warm weather and I get to look at dead/damaged plants - many of which are extremely rare or I worked hard to propagate. This is definitely proof that natives are better for most landscapes. The problem is i am a collector and enjoy trying to grow lots of things (native and not).

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pineresin

Sad to hear :-(

Some plants will resprout from older wood, others may not.

Resin

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 1:08PM
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krnuttle

I don't quite see the temperature problem. You said it was below Freezing in December 25F. For the last two nights in February the temperature was 21F destroying your plants.

Did you have warm temperatures (much higher than 32F) in January?

If this is the problem you are probably pressing the plant requirements for your area. The plants you use should be native to your area, as they have hundreds of years to get use to the temperature swings.

You can not rely 100% on the artificial agricultural zones created by the government. To assets the actual zone you live in, take a walk in the woods and natural parks near you. Look at the old farm houses or places where old houses were and see what is growing. These plants have successfully with stood the temperature cycles for many years. The plants and flowers you find in those areas area the ones that will be successful in your yard

This post was edited by knuttle on Tue, Feb 19, 13 at 13:14

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 1:10PM
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j0nd03

I have seen hints of your collection over on the conifer forum. A fine collection, indeed! I feel for you ya! We are in a valley and get late frosts that ruin our spring flower show more often than not AND we appear to be shaping up for a good ice storm tomorrow night into Thursday.

But hey, you knew going in that you would probably lose some of them anyway, right? That probably doesn't help much, now though. If I remember correctly, you work for a university and I'm sure those connections that helped you procure your rarities are still intact. Time to start over :( Gardening is a tale of perseverance after all!

John

ps - maybe move yourself (or your garden) closer to the coast?

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 2:18PM
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salicaceae(z8b FL)

Knuttle,

Not sure you read my post. Yes, we had many days with highs in the 70s and 80s in January and Feb (in fact less than a week before the freeze), followed the freeze. This is similar to late spring freezes up north in very continental-type climates - except it happens earlier (often sporadically through the winter) here. I didn't say anything about USDA hardiness zones. They are useless for my purposes. I know what grows naturally here, but I am a collector and my focus is on growing a wide variety of woody plants - most of these have not been tested here. Thus, I am o.k. with experimenting. Sometimes I am pleasantly surprised. Had this freeze not happened, i might have gotten certain species big enough to endure future freeze events etc. I am not a casual gardener upset by a freeze.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 2:20PM
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salicaceae(z8b FL)

John - You are right, but I can't move. Do i expect to lose them anyway? No. In fact I don't think I will lose any conifers from this cold (some disappointing damage to new growth on some, like Pinus chiapensis). Again, I'm not here to complain or look for sympathy. I just find it interesting how well native plants tolerate it. I know when I lived in MN, when a late freeze happened the damage to native vegetation was much worse. Apparently these fluctuations over the eons have led to plants with new/tender growth that can withstand temps well below freezing.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 2:24PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

i need to read more carefully.. all you said ... when i have time..

but on most stuff.. i like to sum it up this way:

with the first hit.. they have some sense of humor ...

with the second hit.. they get seriously p.o.'d ...

and quite frankly ... they die on the third hit ...

there is enough stored energy.. and dormant buds to overcome a one time deal ... even some left after a second time... but man ... there wont be much left by the third time ...

as to crop trees.. it only really affects the flower.. the crop ... most trees dont die outright ... at least the first two hits.. but who wants to look at the trees all season.. when there is no money hanging on the branches ....

potted stuff.. is a whole other deal.. as to whether the media froze the roots ... then you will have real problems with zone type hardiness issues ...

i feel for ya man ...

ken

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 3:20PM
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j0nd03

"Now it will be back to warm weather and I get to look at dead/damaged plants"

So the rare conifers you have will be OK? Dead plants that are easily replaced are surely not that big of a deal in the grand scheme. I hope you are right about your conifers. You may have the mecca of southern conifer collections some day if you can get them past the early less hardy years it sound like.

On your hardiness issue... I have a northern sourced sycamore that has much different leaf shape than the natives and also breaks bud 3-4 weeks after the natives, totally avoiding any late frosts but also missing several good opportunities at collecting some spring rain while the leaves are out. It hits full stride just in time for hot dry summer but has still grown 3' every year since I planted it as a bareroot whip in spring of 2010.

Also, the native redbuds deal with late frosts much better than the cultivars I have which may be more of a black mark on the cultivars than kudos to the natives.

I planted 'Royal Star' magnolia last spring that is supposed to be a late flowering cultivar and it still got zapped by our last freeze. I think it had started to wake up at the nursery which is in a heat island in the city and was ahead of where it would have been had I planted it a month or two earlier. I hope this spring it has a little more patience...

John

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 4:48PM
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wisconsitom

Sorry to hear of this, Sal. Now that I've become so enamored of the vegetation of FL, albeit my inspiration came a bit further south than where you are, I can say that I've spent some time pondering the considerable challenges of the many, many plants being grown down there. Especially in S. FL, there are so many full-on tropical species being grown in what is, in actuality, a subtropical location. From talking to that County Hort. agent I befriended down in Fort Myers, I learned that microclimates are a huge factor there too. So yeah, I can see where it can be tough.

BTW, off-topic as can be, but next time I go down that way, I fully plan to visit the Corkscrew Swamp and its associated areas. Having hiked through some nice second-growth cypress stands, I look forward to seeing some old-growth stuff. Even the second-growth stands were extremely impressive. Of course, now I'm talking about natives!

+oM

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 6:05PM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

The natives are no doubt better equipped for your local climate.

Think of the 1% greater survival rate they have in any given year spread out over 5,000 years (trying to guess inter glacial periods).

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 6:23PM
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salicaceae(z8b FL)

Here are some photos from the freeze damage. I had 25 and 21 over the weekend, after weeks of very warm weather...

I spent the afternoon cleaning up and cutting down dead stuff. Actually, most of the damage is superficial. Driving home from work I saw brown trees everywhere. All the new growth was killed on many native sugaberries, laurel oaks and some sweetgums and elms. So, I thought at first the natives were unscathed, but this must have been too much for them also..

Mexican petunias and lantanas (were blooming before the freeze):
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

new growth on azaleas fried..
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Michelia 'Magnolia Blush' - flowers fried and leaves bronzed..
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Magnolia 'Jane' new growth fried..
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

azaleas..
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013 From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

melted blue ginger..
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

ferns.. From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Michelia figo new growth.. From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Tetrapanax papyrifera..
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Araucaria heterophylla (survived 19 F last year) :(
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

azaleas lost 100% of blooms and probably most unopened flower buds From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Callicarpa longissima
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013 From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Acanthus cultivar From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Almondina (should be fine)
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Acer fabri (buds are fine)
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Fig From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Bauhinia furfurcata (probably dead to ground line)
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Manfreda x Macho Mocha From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Pinus chiapensis
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Populus guzmanantlensis
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Populus alba var. subintegerrima
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Mexican petunias..
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Clematis armandii
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Bush daisies
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Ficus pseudocarica - I was so happy it didn't die back this winter and actually fruited, then it froze to the ground.
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Tell-tale sign of frozen cambium - they bleed like this..
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Taxodium mucronatum - some new growth is o.k.
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Peach crop shot - except a few last flowers are opening.
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Everbearing mulberry - now everdead.
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Araucaria cunninghamii
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Sabal bermudana
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Sabal causiarum
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

Osmanthus fragrans - all new growth brown.
From Freeze Injury to Garden Plants February 19, 2013

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 9:19PM
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salicaceae(z8b FL)
    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 9:21PM
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poaky1

My visits to Florida have me trying hardy palms and Live oaks, it is beautiful down south, Cannas etc. A friend in Florida (around Tampa) said they were by the pool tanning about a month ago. If I had no family here I would be tempted to move, but I have so much here that's good. I know I'm off topic mostly, but mentioning being poolside in January. After being there a while I miss our northern landscapes though. When I get rich I'll winter in Florida!

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 9:53PM
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whaas_5a(5A SE WI)

Looks like my yard last April, just different plants.

In March we set records left and right in the 70s and 80s so many many plants leafed out. In April we had 10+ days below freezing. Every single deciduous plant had damage.

To my surprise all plants, native and non-native, bounced back. The dormant buds didn't kick in until later in May. The only deaths where smaller 1 gallon plants and then major damage only occured on Acer palmatum and Larix.

Pinus has the only genus I didn't have damage to as the candles didn't begin to elongate until May. I wasn't growing anything but zone 5 or lower plants.

This year I'm experimenting with Abies procera, Abies pinsapo and Cedrus.

    Bookmark   February 19, 2013 at 11:07PM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

we didnt have winter last year ... a MI winter ...

my saucer mag... historically blooms right around my parents anniversary.. 5/15 to 5/25 ...

last year.. march 18th ...

and with a last frost/freeze date.. historically ... around 6/1 ....

i was.. where you are ...

i hope you are surprised at the resilience of most plants ... but .... well ... good luck

ken

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 7:44AM
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lucky_p

Sal,
Back in 2007, we'd had an inordinately warm March, with long stretches of daytime temps into the 80s, here in KY. Most trees had broken dormancy - some had 6-10 inches of tender new growth, when we had 4 consecutive nights of temperatures into the mid to low teens, beginning on Easter Sunday(8 Apr.).
Oaks, walnuts, pecans, hickories were defoliated
Most of my Carpathian walnuts and heartnuts were killed back to the black walnut rootstock - and some of the rootstocks were killed back to ground level. Many of my grafted persimmons were killed to ground level. Some seedling butternuts and Japanese walnuts were killed outright.
Big mature oaks and hickories had major limbs killed back to the trunk.
Following that Big Freeze Disaster, we fell into a severe drought situation - a single 1" rain event between 10 May and 30 Nov - which sounded a death knell for many of those big native trees, some of which have struggled for the intervening 5-6 years, but are still continuing to die.

    Bookmark   February 20, 2013 at 3:00PM
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jqpublic(7b/8a Wake County NC)

We had a late freeze several years ago and our oaks/hickories had a lot of damage. Many lost all their tender growth and had to re-sprout from auxiliary buds. It was definitely interesting to see.

Great pics by the way. They didn't show up stretched out on my browser (Firefox).

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 12:30AM
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beng(z6 western MD)

Hmm, and I thought Florida had a sissy-climate. :)

No, not really. Maybe someone can address this, but I've read that the orange groves have gradually been pushed southward in FL over the decades by repeated, damaging freezes. I remember huge orange groves in the Orlando area back in the late 70's. Wonder if they're still there.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 10:58AM
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alabamatreehugger(8)

I'm about 45 miles north of Pensacola, and so far I don't think we have dipped below 26F. All of the Red Maples here are blooming now. I have a 'Pink Ruffles' azalea that was In full bloom, then a single night of 28F turned every bloom brown. My pear and mayhaw trees have also already bloomed, but no damage so far.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 7:55PM
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salicaceae(z8b FL)

Yes Beng - citrus used to be grown in North Florida (in the 1880s for example), but colder winters during the 20th century pushed commercial groves further and further south.

    Bookmark   February 21, 2013 at 10:58PM
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hairmetal4ever(Z7 MD)

I think the FL citrus issue was simply one of long-term climate. In the 1800s, they "got lucky" for a while in N. Florida, and then eventually, in 1899, a huge shot of reality hit when Tallahassee hit 2 below on Feb 11.

Even now, you could plant an orange tree in Jacksonville, and it would probably live a decade or so before getting whacked.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 12:12AM
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alabamatreehugger(8)

In the western panhandle there are currently Satsuma groves, but they're considered a safer bet than oranges.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 12:05PM
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poaky1

Sorry, you know the grass is always greener, especially in the winter. Hopefully you get regrowth after the worst of your winter. March is around the corner, I was in Tampa area last year in March and it stayed warm the whole week. Hopefully all will come back from the roots.

    Bookmark   February 22, 2013 at 5:28PM
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j0nd03

How is this weekend looking for you, sal? Looks pretty cold on the wx maps down in FL by the end of the weekend/early next week.

John

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 1:37PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

Heart breaking pictures. Sorry. BUT, as you know, this is simply a fact of life in the world's most continental climate. (in the sense of ridiculous swings. While Siberia and Northern China are cold as can be in winter, they stay cold, and when spring arrives, it arrives for good) I've assumed the facilities that have to contend with it either use sprinklers or tyvek-like row cover/blankets to protect rare plants. We can just get so darn warm in winter. Resin and I had a chat a while ago about where to collect the Cornus florida that would do the best in the UK. He brought up the issue of northernmost collections being used to a winter that stays winter...but even that's not true. Syracuse NY is probably its northernmost range in the interior of the east coast, and even it can get warmer in February than London. Yes, only by a degree celcius, but you're talking about a zn 5 with 100+ inches of snow versus a zone 9 with many subtropical plants like Eucs being quite common. Of course a C. f. from Asheville might still be a better collection for the UK, but the notion even our northlands always stay cold is a false one.
Related to the reason I came here today, apparently the guy who had the largest collection of magnolia hybrids in the SE lost a huge number of them back in 2006 or 2007 when a freeze in SC/NC brought temps to the teens in April after they were fully leafed out. 30' Gresham magnolias died totally...not even able to sprout again from the base. They have the Chinese & Himalayan genes that are used to the far more consistent winters there.

This post was edited by davidrt28 on Tue, Feb 26, 13 at 14:28

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 2:08PM
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salicaceae(z8b FL)

David,

Interesting discussion. I'm amazed at how fast plants are recovering. Our saving grace here is the short duration of most freezes - always less than 12 hours and temps during the day are warm. As for Cornus florida, an argument could be made that forms from here would be good as they weren't really damaged by this freeze. Thus, they have adapted to seeing freezes after being in flower and leaf.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 9:15PM
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davidrt28 (zone 7)

I'm glad they are recovering.
I think Cornus florida from almost anywhere are used to odd spring freezes, since this is a feature of almost any part of its range in eastern North America. Some more than others, but it could happen almost anywhere. More northerly and/or elevated ones are more likely to ripen wood well in the UK, which is probably the overall issue with them there.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2013 at 11:24PM
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