Tuesday, January 13, 2015

Musings on a Microclimate

Bougainvillea, winter damage
The first real cold snap in the little garden is over, and the results are encouraging.  As you can see, temperatures dropped a little below freezing.  They crisped not only the flowers, but also the leaves and branches on the bougainvillea bush that grows against the west side of the house.  (Not to worry, it is fairly sure to come back strongly from the roots.)  Other than the wall, the location offers little protection either in winter or in summer.
bougainvillea, winter damage
The garden itself is on the east side of the patio.  The patio roof shields it from the west, the house wall gives it a little shelter from the north, and a slope allows colder air to drop away more quickly.  That, at least, was the idea when I chose the location.  My experiment with microclimate seems to be working thus far, with tender plants sustaining little or no damage from the frost.

I was rather concerned about the succulents, in particular Senecio "Blue Fingers" in the newly planted corner at the bottom of the garden.  Perhaps a few marks from the cold, but nothing to cry about.  It is looking very vigourous, and the broken-off section that I poked in next to the main plant is settling in well.  I covered both with a bit of hay - the only thing I could get hold of in a hurry - when temperatures dropped low, but no other protection was needed.  I'm not even sure it needed the hay.  Perfectly pleased with itself!
Senecio "Blue Fingers", Garden succulent
A plant that I had questions about trying at all is the Russelia.  Native to Guatemala and Mexico, it is definitely frost-tender though it is said to come back well from the roots if cut down by a little too much cold.  I positioned it right up next to the patio as I thought the concrete would hold some warmth for it.  I did not so much as cover it with hay, but it has breezed through the cold snap lush and green, as if unaware of anything unusual.  It has, however, held its many buds closed for weeks longer than I expected.  That may have been due to the cold.  Just a few are open.
Russelia equisetiformis, Coral Fountain, Firecracker Plant
The newly-planted Penstemon parryi received a little protection.  It is an Arizona native and fully hardy, but I thought it might be damaged simply because it was so freshly planted.  It seemed to feel a bit suffocated under the hay and is much happier now that its stalk is out in the open.
Penstemon parryi
And throughout the garden the flower buds are unscathed.  The rosebuds, predictably, had no objections to a mild freeze.
"Sterling Silver" rose, rosebud, winter-blooming, hybrid tea rose
Rose "Sterling Silver", hybrid tea rose, winter-blooming
The Tetraneuris, in the new corner with the Senecio, is smiling.
Tetraneuris, winter-blooming
And the buds on the young Eremophila "Valentine" are still plentiful.
Eremophila "Valentine", winter-blooming

Pardon me for gloating a little.  The results from the first microclimate test are very satisfactory!
Eremophila "Valentine"


  1. Every reason to feel pleased.. it's good to see precious plants coming through the cold. It amazes me every year when they do.. a microclimate really can make all the difference.

    1. Even though I was calculating on it, I'm still surprised at how effective it was! Yes, it's encouraging to see them pull through without a bit of trouble. Being able to grow frost-tender plants will increase my options quite a bit in terms of (non-thorny!) varieties.

  2. εχει αρχισει ο κηπος σου Amy, και ανατελει δειλα δειλα, με εντονες χρωματικες πινελιες!!!!!!
    παρα την παγωνια, η αντοχη τους σε αυτην, αποδεικνυει πως δε θα σε εγκατα λειψουν.η μητερα μου ελεγε πως τα λουλουδια νοιωθουν την φροντιδα και την αγαπη μας και ανταποδιδουν.( αγαπουσε πολυ τα λουλουδια! )
    σου ευχομαι μια ομορφη μερα!! αγγελικη.

  3. So kind of you, Angela :) I also think that plants respond happily to our pleasure in them - although I don't think it would keep some of these alive in the event of a hard freeze! In any case, who would not love such beautiful things?? They carry their charm with them!

  4. I'm glad you made it through the freeze relatively unscathed, Amy. A close friend and my brother, both of whom live in an inland valley, 50 miles north of me, got hit rather hard by their recent frost. Succulents do so well here that I forget they can be susceptible to cold.

    1. Thanks, Kris! It's easy to forget with the succulents because they are so well adapted otherwise. But like many of the inland areas, we have to be prepared for a little frost so I'm very pleased to have escaped damage.