Our honeymoon of tropical winters without freezing weather ended last weekend. Actually, it had ended a couple of weeks before that when temperatures tippy-toed slightly to the freezing mark and a degree or two below, but this time the old mercury in the thermometer sank like a stone right through that barrier and went straight on down to the low 20s. It was territory that my garden had not visited in a few years. It left its mark.
The Cape honeysuckle was still in full bloom and feeding the passing hummingbirds and butterflies when the low temperatures hit. Now its bright orange blossoms are frostbit and turning brown along with the leaves. And the bright little Sulphur butterflies that sipped from them all day long will have to find other sustenance.
The clumps of lemon grass were just about to bloom, but the cold put the kibosh on that. Last year, these clumps grew right through winter, never slowing down, but this year I'll be cutting them back and letting them grow afresh from the roots.
The Hamelia patens (hummingbird bush) succumbed to our first bit of cold weather a few weeks ago and now there is nothing left but brown stems and blackening leaves.
The big old split-leaf philodendron that lives by my back porch can tolerate some pretty cold weather, but two consecutive nights of temperatures in the low 20s were too much for it. There's nothing left but a pile of mushy leaves.
Well, I could go on with these sad pictures, but I don't want to depress you too much. A walk around the garden these days is enough to dishearten the staunchest gardener, except...
Every dead plant is an opportunity!
And, in fact, all of these plants that I've showed you are not dead. They are in retreat at the moment, resting and storing their energy to burst forth and reclaim their rightful places in the spring. But there will be a few plants in the garden that will not be returning and that will have to be replaced. Moreover, there are a handful of others that I've grown bored with over the years and I've decided to either rid myself of them or to reduce the space they are given in my garden.
Now comes the opportunity. In spite of the difficult times ahead when I'll be pruning and digging and moving plants and, in some cases, removing plants, I will now have a chance to try new plants, especially new perennials. Perennials are the backbone of my garden and new and improved ones are being introduced every year. There are several that I've been longing to try but didn't have room for. Now I will!
In addition, there are all those bright and beautiful annuals that can create wonderful focal points in the garden. Maybe I can tuck some of them in this year, too.
My frozen plants, then, are not the disaster that they look. They are merely a temporary setback. This is my chance to make my garden better than ever. To try new and improved perennials and brighter and better annuals. It is my chance to make my garden great again!
As the seed catalogs continue to pile up day by day, I will have plenty of tools to get me started.
There is joy in the garden, even in planning the garden, and even in the darkest days.