Final fall foliage as winter’s icy breath freezes Austin


Austin plummeted from a high of 80 F (26.6 C) yesterday afternoon to 26 F (-3.3 C) this morning, and today the Japanese maple is clinging shiveringly to far fewer leaves than yesterday, when I took this photo. That’s Texas winter weather for you.


In preparation for the coming Arctic blast, I sweated yesterday for an hour in short sleeves moving tender succulents into the garage and covering with sheets any that are too big to move.


A blue norther (a strong cold front blowing in from the north) swirled into Austin around 8 pm last night, in the midst of holiday party hopping. The wind lasted through the night, and I fear it blew off some of the plant-protecting sheets, but it’s cold enough that the sheets might not have helped anyway. I hope the variegated flax lily (in the foreground) will be OK. I never cover it — I have too much — but it doesn’t like sustained subfreezing weather.


Of course the native and adapted plants, like river fern and Japanese maple (and most of my plants), will be perfectly fine and don’t need any special protection. The native ferns will die back to the ground and the maple will drop its leaves until spring returns in a couple of months.


Other fall-colorful plants, like chile pequin, will shrivel and go dormant too.


Moonlight-yellow flower spikes on the forsythia sage (Salvia madrensis) yesterday — farewell!


Pink abutilon blooming yesterday. It likes cool weather, but a few hard freezes may shrivel it too.


In the pond, dwarf papyrus has surprisingly wonderful fall color. I photographed it yesterday before dropping the pot to the bottom of my raised container pond to give it some protection from the cold.


I’ll pull it back up to the surface on Wednesday, when temps return to normal — i.e., comfortably above freezing at night — but the beautiful flowerheads will be limp and brown. No worries! They’ll be back next year.


Here’s hoping the hard freeze zaps a lot of mosquitoes and other pests. We didn’t get a hard freeze last winter, and our summer gardens were jungly and the bugs were fierce. We needed this.

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23 Responses

  1. That tall planter with the feathery foliage is pretty. It is almost as cheerful as your big plant with ornaments. I hope all survives for you.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      The big plants will. I will probably lose some of my smaller, more tender succulents, but they’re much more easily replaced. I’m actually enjoying this taste of winter — as long as it doesn’t get any colder! —Pam

  2. Kris P says:

    I love how the red ornaments on the agave echo the color of the Japanese maple, Pam! You have a very positive outlook on your first frost of the season. Your precipitous temperature drop was even featured in one of the national news reports I heard this morning.

  3. Heidi says:

    Enjoyed the pretty pics, especially the chile pequin. The chartreuse foliage and fiery red pepper look great against the cobalt planter. We could use a hard freeze too, but we only made it to 33. Merry Christmas!

  4. Carol says:

    I feel for you. We are going through the same kind of up and down thing in Georgia…Dragging plants in, dragging plants out…At least we are finally getting some rain. Enjoyed the decorated Agave.

  5. gina Harlow says:

    Pam, so glad to see the Japanese Maple is so happy and beautiful! I plan to plant one in our new home.

  6. rickii says:

    Good point about the bug-killing properties of a good freeze. Guess there’s good to be found in everything if we look hard enough.

  7. I saw your decorated agave on FB or Twitter, Pam, and loved it. I shared the picture with some of my friends here in the cold NE. Hope you are keeping warm in the arctic blast. P. x

  8. Diana Studer says:

    Our dwarf papyrus doesn’t turn that glowing gold, that I’ve noticed. But then we don’t get the required frosty temeperatures.

  9. Love the last photo that shows off those contrasting containers and plants. We are slowly coming out of our subzero temps, but I agree that last winter’s warm temps did not kill the bugs that we count on dying. But that is quite a temperature change in a short time. We more typically see those jumps in tornado season.

  10. hb says:

    The fall color on your Acer is so beautiful! We don’t get enough cold here for that kind of brilliant color. Loved seeing yours.

    Hope the cold killed off the bugs!

  11. Dallasyogi says:

    Pam,
    Your pix are beautiful! How has “everyone” survived the cold blasts in TX so far?

    I didn’t realize we were going to have the last cold blast before Christmas (and we were away) and came home to a lot of soggy and bent over “catci” – I’m so upset and sad! I had been taking such good care of them – many for almost 4 years!

    I’m glad I found your post from last year…it reminded me to be patient and not to cut or pull. But UGH, I’m heartbroken – there are so many that were effected this year! Happy 2017! :(

    • Pam/Digging says:

      I’m sorry to hear about your melted cacti after the hard freezes we had in December. It’s so upsetting to lose special plants. All we can do is keep planting! I hope the New Year brings you a happy year in your garden. —Pam

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