Friday, April 15, 2011


Ahhhhhh.....the freeze of 2011 will go down in the history books as being one of the coldest in Tucson. Life is full of surprises and hope is not lost.  Most plants are coming back  from their deep winter sleep. The most shocking surprise was that our native plants took some of the worst hits. Saguaros native to the desert landscape have taken the biggest hit in our region.  People always wonder why the Saguaros grow to a certain point on a mountain slope and then stop.....almost as if there was an imaginary line created that said, "Saguaros, do not pass this point."  The answer is simple.  Snow drops to a certain point on our mountains and if it happens enough, the enviroment becomes inhospitable for a Saguaro to survive those extremely random yet extreme cold temps.  An occassional snow event is fine, but when it happens several times and the freeze duration lasts for a long time period, Saguaros will die.
This Cereus is fried.  There is green at the base which indicates that perhaps several "pups" will form at the base.

So what were my losses?  Again, the answers depend on what your idea of loss is....mine may be different than yours, but I'll share what I know.  Let's begin with the citrus trees.  Orange trees survived as did grapefruit.  This is why we see mature orange and grapefruit trees in town.....they are hardiest of the cold freeze. I did cover them, but damage still occurred.  Our Moro Orange and Valencia Orange tree survived as did the Tangelo, Ruby Red, and Kumquat varieties. I love the fruit off of these trees so I am happy that they survived, but Tucsonans are still sad.  Their precious lemon trees have completely died or have died back to below the graft.  Our Ultra Dwarf Lisbon Lemon has snapped back, but below the graft!!  This tree will no longer produce Lisbon lemons and unfortuneatly will have to be pulled. "But it's a healthy green plant!!!", you may think.  However, the purpose of this citrus was to provide lemons for homeowners.  It will produce whatever sour citrus stock it was grafted onto and not the lemon.  But remember my write on Plan B several weeks ago?  I have a Meyer's Lemon that survived in a pot that will take its place. The Meyers Lemon, in general, performed better in town and seems to be making a comeback above the graft. I will keep the Lisbon Lemon and put it in the "hospital" for the time period and see what happens.  It has barely been in the ground for one year so it will be easy to dig up.   Another casualty is our Bearss Lime which has green branches but no growth whatsoever.  If new growth appears below the graft(the roundish node), the lime tree will face the same fate.  Many lemon and lime tree owners were devastated by the news because people love their lemons and limes here. Read my write on the Citrus series and you'll understand better why Grapefruit and Oranges are seen as commonplace while Lemon, Lime, and several other varieties are viewed by locals as precious gems.:)
Never coming back.  Of Tucson's plants, the San Pedro and other nightblooming  Cereus took the largest hit.

The Cacti and Euphorbs.  I lost most of my Euphorbs on the property.  I almost lost my blog's headlining San Pedro Cactus that I worship.  Its' offspring were completely killed except the for one random sibling. Most prickly pear were frozen back to the base.  I have trimmed what I can and the rest I have pulled from the ground.  We went up to Phoenix for a new supply of cacti to replace the soldiers lost. Whiskey Barrel project has to be redone:(
This palmling is dead.  Older palms should show signs of green in the center.  However, specialists report that it may take up to a full year to find out whether your palm will recover. Be patient with the older palms and remove the young palmlings:) If you see green in the center, it's alive.

Palm trees.  This is a sad story to report.  There are 4 main types of palms that I'll be writing about here in Tucson for my latter part of the garden journal series. Tucson is FULL of palm trees....California Palms, Date Palms, Mexican Fan Palms, and Canary Palms, etc.  For those of you who don't know the specifics, I'll just describe the physical features. The Date Palm and the long skinny palm(Mexican Fan Palm) have taken huge casualties here especially in the outlying areas of Tucson in the areas of Oracle, Catalina, San Manuel, and Oro Valley.  Canary Palms took severe frost damage, but most will recover.  A homeowner was on the news and devastated by his beautiful Canary Palm which is now dead.  The survivors of this story are the hardy California Palms(the fat and thick palm).  Ours came out on top, but I unfortuneatly lost a lot of the little palms I planted around the property.  Of the 4 palmlings planted, only one survived.  So I am back to the drawing board again:(
Sorry about the pic.  For some reason, it does this every now and again.  Note the Bird of Paradise.  Don't be hasty and remove this plant.  There is new growth at the center.

All tropicals were lost.  That shouldn't be a surprise as tropicals really don't belong here.  But we can grow them:)  Pot these plants so that you can move them indoors.  Bird of Paradise, Philodendron, Spider Plants, Ficus, and Scheflerra all gone.  When a freeze hits them, everything about the plant shuts down and dies.  Once a Ficus is dead; it's dead. However, interesting note......the Birds of Paradise, in the ground, still have a green core to them and I am leaving them alone as many of them have new growth. 
The Lime branches.  Still leaves yet.

Finally, like the San Pedro Cactus, my sacred Jacaranda trees that took a beating are slowly coming back to life.  There was a lot of branch damage which I will trim once I know that the branches are indeed dead.  The good news is that this 3 year old tree appears to be alive.  The other 2 first year Jacarandas are completely dead. There you have it.  Extreme temps for an extreme place.  Lantana was hit or miss....some of it is coming back. Bouganvillea is mostly coming back at around 80% survival.  Several did not make it. This is the challenge of desert gardening, but I also find it a fascinating art. 

Unfortuneatly, this Lisbon lemon has new growth, but it's below the graft.  This tree will no longer produce Lisbon Lemons.  I am going to save it however and see what will happen.  It's going into the plant hospital.

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