I finally made it to The Rainforest Garden in daylight, so now I'm able to share some photos of how everything fared to date in this unusual La Nina winter. It actually snowed here a few days ago, and lows have been down to 25F!
First off, just about everything in the ground survived the twenty degree nights of last winter, so I'm not too worried about losing much this year. I also have some other advantages this time around: I used a thick mulch of fallen sycamore leaves around the bases of the more tender plants, such as the heliconia 'costa flores'. Also, I've planted more evergreen shrubs and trees this time around. They not only provide shelter from frost, but also provide greenery when the tropicals are getting freeze dried.
These 'Kiwi" ti plants were hit by frost like the rest of the cordylines, but I've found this variety to be a bit tougher than the other kinds on the market. It bounced back in spring before anything else did! The other ti plants have damaged leaves, but are still pushing out new growth for the time being. Even in a worst case scenario, I know that all my cordyline fruticosa hybrids will return from the roots in a pinch.
This photo's a little blurry, but its still worth sharing! The birdbath was frozen solid at two in the afternoon yesterday, and you can see how hardy the gardenia 'Mystery' and passionflower 'Lady Margaret' are turning out to be!
This peace lily is still pushing out new growth, thanks to the bottlebrush tree above. Last year the peace lily died to the ground and returned, so I'm sure it will do fine this year.
A little shelter from palmettos has helped to protect the philodendron, but the white bird of paradise is looking bad. :(
I happen to like the crumpled shape of agave desmettiana's frozen and papery leaves! The growing point, stem and offset are still firm and green.
Alocasia 'California' is one of my favorite plants in the garden, and it's one of the toughest too. It's still pushing out new leaves, even though its below freezing!
Here you can see the tattered leaves of my false cardamom ginger, but if you were to brush away the crispy leaves you would find undamaged growth up to knee height! The everglades palm to the left is doing great, despite the fact that its habitat is in south Florida swamps. The dry foliage of the 'Willi's Gold' ti plant in the background is golden in the sunlight.
Here you can see some of my protective measures. The big cardboard box is protecting a papaya plant quite effectively; its still putting out new leaves in there! I've weighed it down with tiles over the flaps to keep the box from flying away. I used to pretend that boxes were rockets as a kid, but one gust of wind would really make the cardboard shuttle 'lift off'! The tarp is covering a collection of bromeliads, though the hardy types I grow scarcely need such protection. My dad insists on using the tarps though, and I'm all for taking no chances, especially since he's willing to help out. Thanks, dad!
Overall, a lot of my tropicals still remain alive above the ground, despite the damage to outer leaves and stems. The firespikes and pentas kept blooming during several freezes while they stayed close to the ground, and even the heliconia has new growth under the mulch of leaves. The small Christmas cactus plants that survived last winter's cold are still doing peachy under a light mulch of pine straw.
It might not look like much, but I'm thrilled to know that everything's doing so well! I've been reading various reports of much colder temperatures as far south as Hillsborough county, so I am definitely not complaining, lest it get even colder. Even though I know everything will survive, I really hope this is the worst of it!
Here are some other freeze related posts...
How to Keep Tropical Flair Through Winter
5 Ways to Fight Cold Damage
I Survived the Freezes of '09 and '10!