New life emerges
rising from the dead in spring
surrounded by warmth.
In February 2021, Texas experienced the historic winter storm ‘URI.’
Most homes in San Antonio are not insulated for extremely cold weather, because it rarely drops below freezing in this area. This is why 6 days of sub-freezing temperatures with several periods of snow and ice had such a devastating effect. The local electric companies could not generate enough energy for the surge in heating demands during the storm, so they decided to implement “rolling blackouts.” This decision threw us all into the dark literally and figuratively–as the frigid cold descended. Frightening!
Luckily, in our subdivision, the power went out at night and came back for about 5 hours during the day. At least that gave us some time to reheat the house before the power vanished again. We found out, after the storm was over, that other areas around San Antonio had been left without power for 3 or 4 days in a row. With no way to heat their homes, pipes began freezing and breaking within walls, leaving distraught homeowners without clean water on top of everything else.
Many plants around the San Antonio area were also adversely affected by the abnormally cold weather. On the day before the arctic blast began, I placed frost covers over my most vulnerable plants even though frost covers only add 6 degrees of heat (a lesson in futility). I already knew that some of the plants could not withstand weather below 20 degrees (F) for an extended length of time.
Below are several photos that I took of the rare wintry scene in our backyard:
Whales Tongue Agave
I wasn’t too concerned about the 3 Whales Tongue Agaves, because they are wicked tough and can easily survive down to zero.
Dwarf Little John Bottlebrush bushes (Callistemon)
While the storm was raging, I didn’t know what was happening underneath the sagging frost covers in the raised bed, but I knew it wasn’t good. The leaves of the Callistemon bushes are damaged at 32 degrees (F) and the plants usually will not survive sub-freezing temps. They are native to Australia and prefer hot sunny weather, not icicles!
The rest of the backyard is filled with various agaves, yuccas, and cactus—and 2 sago palms. The native Texas plants seemed to take the cold weather in stride, but the sagos were collapsing under the weight of the snow-laden frost covers. Maybe it would have been better if they had not been covered? I don’t know.
After about 6 days, the unusual cold came to an end and the weather shifted away from sub-freezing temps and climbed back up to 70 degrees (F). Welcome to Mother Nature’s roller coaster ride!
When it was time to finally remove the frost covers, I cringed. I honestly did not expect the sago palms to survive with any ‘green’ of life still intact, but they did. A nice surprise!
Unfortunately, I did lose one Medio-Picta Alba Agave because the water inside froze and completely destroyed it. A sorry sight to behold! After a few days in the sun, the rotting agave began to smell like the inside of a gym locker, so I carefully cut the sharp points off the edges, dug it out of the ground and threw it in the trash. There was nothing I could do to save it.
My favorite plants in the backyard have always been the 12 Dwarf Little John Bottlebrush (Callistemon) bushes from ‘down under.’ The hummingbirds, honeybees, and butterflies absolutely love their beautiful red flowers and so do I! So I was heartbroken when I saw that their soft green leaves were brittle brown dead. Sections of bark had broken away from their trunks, which is a bad sign. I searched but could not find a hint of green left anywhere. Sigh. With a lopper in hand, it took me quite a few days to remove all the dead branches. When I was finished cutting, there was only about 6 inches of trunk left on all of them.
I felt like the ‘grim reaper’—so depressing!
I already knew Callistemon bushes will not grow back from the roots, so I decided to plant flowers around the lifeless trunks to make the sad situation look a little ‘happier’—at least until I could hire a landscaper to remove the remaining trunks/roots from the ground. I did not have the strength to do it myself.
It turns out it was a good thing that I was too weak to finish the job. About 4 weeks later, a small green leaf grew out of the side of one of the trunks, followed by several more. Oh my! Can it be? Are these plants still alive? Sure enough, even though bark was split open and the wood inside was dark brown, new life began rising from the ‘dead.’ I was amazed.
After I finished planting flowers and removing dead branches, I also cut the brown leaves away from the 2 Sago palms to create space for new growth. With palm fertilizer and a layer of Starbuck’s espresso coffee grounds as mulch, the palms began to grow too. Halleluiah!
Now, 3 months later, the damaged trunks of my favorite Callistemon bushes are completely covered with leaves. Spring has conquered winter; life has conquered death.
I am surrounded by hope!
With the most intense yardwork completed, I am pleased to announce that my supervisor (an anole lizard) has just given me his unique sign of approval. The job is complete!
This means I will now have enough free time to start writing on my blog again. But first, I am going to sit down on some hot rocks, relax, and enjoy the inherent beauty of spring!
Blessings to all!