Friday, February 18, 2011

Plan B

A planter fixed up with amended soil and plants that were in pots and protected from our hard freeze
What happens when you suffer a devastating freeze and all your heavy pots with plants in them die?  This was the big question that had to be answered after our severe freeze several weeks ago.  I had a tropical theme going in two large planters for 3 years and they looked wonderful until Jack Frost killed them all.  Thankfully, I had a Plan B.  My focus for this blog, and tomorrows, is on pots and their purposes.  Tragedy hit all places at the El Presidio Garden which included the cactus garden that is contained in the newly installed whisky barrel project.  A lot of cacti were lost in the city and it is a terribly sad sight to see.  Cacti pads are solid and full of water.  Several nights of freezing weather will make them into cacti popsicles.  They become too heavy and just collapse all over the ground creating a mess.  I couldn't even replant the pads that fell off because once the pads unthawed, they were all dead from inside.  Thankfully, I had Plan B.  The citrus fried up causing the green stems to freeze and turn brown which means that the frost killed the plant.  Leaves shrivel up on citrus but as long as the stems are green, the tree/bush will be okay.  Not this time.  Jack Frost blew his evil breathe upon these trees and killed them.  I even had all the plants covered with blankets.  Didn't matter.  All dead.  But thankfully, I had Plan B.
All dead.  The day after shows that perhaps some of it will live, but by day 2, the planter is a total loss.  All leaves and roots have turned black and soft. Nothing at this point is salvageable. Or is it?

Plan B utilizes pots that are specifically grown for emergencies like our hard frost. These pots are filled with the transplants from the primary planters and heavy pots around the property that cannot be lifted.  The pots that carry these transplants must be movable and able to be transported to a shed or place where they will not freeze. To continue a plant species, one needs to save its' clones or transplants.  I had all of them in different pots around the property so that when the freeze came, I could put their clones into our shed.  This past weekend was brutal as I cleaned out the two large planters and reworked them both over again.  It actually looks better now than it had when I put them together for the first time.  However the planters were lush and full of beautiful tropical plants that made it through some tough winters, but unfortuneatly, this winter was too much for them and the entire colonies collapsed. 
Back to the basics as I create a mini jungle of effects....caladiams were also placed in the planter to add contrast in spring.  Featured in this planter is a datura, spider plant, philodendron, grecian urn plant, and caladiam bulbs with red coloring.

My Plan B utilizes a system that keeps an active colony of common plants around the property like cactus, spider plants, schefflera, philodendron, ice plants, citrus, succulents and fatsia plants.  These plants are currently being transferred to their new homes where they'll be able to grow even larger.  Should I be doing this now?  Probably not, but I can't stand looking at empty planters that have feral cats using them for the bathroom.  I also have this feeling that our severe frosts are over for this year. We have some cold nights coming, but they won't be like it was several weeks ago.  The benefit of Plan B is that you don't have to spend a whole lot of money to replace a huge amount of plants that were killed off.  Instead, you have a reserve of clones waiting to replace the original mother plant.  I have several citrus in pots and a cactus garden that I will be waiting to transplant until March.  However, I have started with the tropicals in our courtyard planters and I can't wait to see the "Thriller, Filler, Spiller" idea come to life in Spring.  More on that idea tomorrow. 
I also put Mondo grass in this planter....more on this surprisingly tough plant coming up in the next several days.....

It's always a great idea to invest in pots.  When you have extra plants, like for example from the spider plant, you should take the "babies" off the mother plants and place them in pots or around your property.  I have also done this with the agave pups and cacti segments.  While this freeze was devastating for a lot of us, I was prepared for it.  The only part that I wasn't ready for was the Jacaranda attack. I didn't have any clones of that tree and so to this day, I still worry about that situation as they aren't cheap to replace. 
Fatsia.  An example of an emergency pot.
The Dancy Tangerine may replace a lemon tree gone sour.
Spider, caladiam, and scheflerra make a perfect tropical combination.
Stay tuned for "Thriller, Filler, Spiller" Part 2 of pots and their purposes.


  1. You are a great planner!! Your Plan B has saved you a lot of $$$ and lots of empty pots on your property.

  2. Your plan B sounds nice, assuming you have the room to store all those back-up plants.

    How about a plan C? Where tender plants are used in only 2-3 places, and the vast balance of other plants are hardy natives / adapteds, proven to take your Sunset Z 12 climate, and the occasional but expected hard freeze?

  3. I probably should mention that I only have the frost tender plants in a couple spots around the property where people will see them just for a little "pop" around the garden. You definitely need the room for them. Tucsonans generally have this set up with their homes....front yard is cacti/agave/succulents while their backyards usually have a patio area for pots and then a backyard for their fruit trees/grass lawns(although not as popular here as it is in Phoenix. I should also mention that with the pots where I had been growing my transplants, I'll move them back into the shed until I get more clones or in some cases, experiment with a new plant that has come out at one of the garden centers. Because it's a large property, I have 3 things always on hand...a nursery/plant hospital, empty pots, and a bag of soil on hand. Money is tight with the HOA so I try to work within the budget.

  4. Oh oh oh!!!! I forgot one other thing. This hard freeze killed a lot of our native cacti around here that are part of our zone....a saguaro collapsed in a neighbor's yard....very very sad. Someone might ask where I have my cacti transplants. I have those outside by my window all group together. Wherever I have space, I'll clump the pots together...but again thank goodness I have the little cacti for the 10 barrels outside. The opuntia(prickly pear) really took the largest hit. My cacti friend and I are thinking about going up to Phoenix for "clippings" next month and start replacing the colonies of cacti lost....too many older cacti were killed and they had been around the property for over 30 years!!


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