Before the freeze

Today is the dreaded day when tropicals must be brought indoors, into the dark basement for most, or for ones slightly more cold hardy, into the small greenhouse. Both areas have limited space, and with a few additions this year I’m hopeful that all will fit. I’ve added sheets of greenhouse plastic to the roof of the garden’s shed, so this should be sufficient light and at least a bit of cold protection for plants that will tolerate the cold, but need to get out of the worst of it.

The freeze has snuck up on me, much like most years when a mad dash is required to get everything inside before dark. At least the time hasn’t changed yet, so there’s an extra hour of daylight. Typically, there’s at least a frost or two before the first freeze, but not this year, at least not where I am. Many of the tropicals will tolerate light frosts, and a few might even get through temperatures in the upper twenties without damage, but a degree or two colder and they’ll turn to mush.

I haven’t thought too much about this before seeing this week’s forecast, but I think that several mangaves (above) and maybe a few other plants that I won’t recall until I see them must be dug and potted, The digging is usually pretty simple, and there’s no need for neatness in the potting since this is temporary, but it is more time consuming than just carrying the large pots into the basement.

There is often some additional drama involved with bringing the pots indoors. For years, these were scattered through the living areas, but my wife grew tired of the dirt and water stains on hardwood floors, so all were banished to the basement. An area of tile was installed, and overwintering plants must not take a step outside this boundary. Often, no matter the precautions, some wildlife is brought indoors, and hopefully this is only small frogs and not snakes that are occasionally buried into the potting soil.

The freeze will bring dramatic and accelerated changes to the garden. A number of flowers will wither overnight, though this cold will not be nearly enough to cause problems for autumn flowering camellias (above) and mahonias that are just beginning their flowering cycle. The reblooming azaleas (below) were late reaching their peak this year, and it seems a shame but most flowers will be lost overnight.

The Encore azalea ‘Autumn Carnation’ is the most floriferous of the reblooming azaleas in my garden. This is far from my favorite color, but the abundance and long duration of autumn flowers earns its place.
Both flowers and foliage of toad lilies (Tricyrtis) fade at the first freeze, often even with a heavy frost with temperatures above freezing.
Flowers of Canyon Creek abelia are likely to tolerate the freeze to continue flowering for another week or two. While Canyon Creek is not short and compact like most recent abelia introductions, it flowers over a long period and the flowers are more prominent than others. Its yellow foliage is not bright yellow

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