Rising from the Dead in Spring

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!


About Mary Strong-Spaid

You can find me any time wandering around in my own mind gathering thoughts.
This entry was posted in photography, Spring, weather, Winter and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

17 Responses to Rising from the Dead in Spring

  1. Timothy Price says:

    Happy you’re back. Wonderful photos.


    • Thanks! Apparently I have been gone too long though, because WordPress has changed things again and I am struggling. Apparently, they took away the old Classic Editor and replaced it with a block thing…which is leaving way more space than I want. I don’t know how to fix it. I wish….I wish….they would stop changing things that work really well. I did see that they are offering a plug in to bring back the classic editor, but I could only have that if I upgrade. I really don’t need to upgrade. Auuuuugh.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Timothy Price says:

        You have to pay $300/year for the upgrade. The blockhead editor is a pain. Spacing is difficult, centering doesn’t work for me on photo captions, and it now takes twice as long as it used to for me to put a post together. It’s extremely annoying.

        Liked by 2 people

        • So….it is all about the money? Why doesn’t that surprise me.
          Blockhead is a great name for it. Yes it took twice as long for me too and it is extremely annoying.
          I just went back into the editing mode and chased ’empty space’ around for about 3 hours. Everything keeps jumping around.
          I think that I finally won the battle, at least this time.
          Maybe they want to chase people away? Wasting time chasing space certainly puts a damper on creativity.
          Whatever happened to the wisdom of “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

          Liked by 1 person

          • Timothy Price says:

            1) They want you to upgrade $$$. 2) They have programmers on the payroll who have to show they are doing something, so they thry to create a desktop publisher in PHP. 3) It doesn’t work that way, but they don’t care. They have to show management how productive they are, at the expense of frustrating users. 4) do they really care? No! there is not a good alternative to WordPress and they know it.

            Liked by 1 person

  2. Steven says:

    Utterly symbolic of Resurrection on an eternal scale. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

  3. katelon says:

    So glad that you at least had some hours of heat during the day and your plants made it through the winter.

    I agree about WP. I have to choose the classic “block” but then each time I finish a paragraph and then add a photo and attempt to start writing again, sometimes it continues fine and other times it is a new block. And often when I preview it some paragraphs have one or two space lines between them, others have more and I can’t seem to fix it. Sigh 😦

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Barb Oksanen says:

    Fantastic, I was wondering if the freeze effected you, it’s wonderful that your plants are coming back to life. If my Skip and I move out west I may ask you questions on plants, you are becoming very knowledgeable.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. It was a really rough winter. I am so glad the Callistemon made it!! This post made my heart glad. Your yard is lovely!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Birdie says:

    Oh Ms. Mary!!! What a beautiful sight and, yes, hope! Thank you for sharing your stories and beautiful pictures. Through all continue to be “consistent,” always maintain “persistence,” and above all we shall share in “patience” as “great things always begin with small ones” and proof positive is through the Callistemon and the bamboo :o) I am blessed to share with you and, as always, much love!!


  7. Graham Brown says:

    Hello Mary – what a lovely blog, super to read about all your plants and how they (mostly) survived. Here in Orkney we don’t usually get much snow but this year we had heavy falls in both February and April. Some of our plants and bushes looked as if they might not survive but eventually pretty much everything came back for a delayed spring. Very best wishes to you, Graham

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes! It was really sad for a while. and it definitely looked like some of plants would not come back. Oh me of little faith!
      Glad that most of your plants decided to come back to life too. The weather has been rather strange, just like everything else that is going on in the world these days.


  8. David says:

    I’m glad your garden was not a total loss, especially those who traveled all the way from Australia and prefer the heat. Getting your plants covered made a difference despite how cold it became your way. My in-laws live in the SA area too. My wife was very concerned about her dad since he lives alone. He didn’t lose much since he plants bedding plants and a vegetable garden.


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