Thursday, January 6, 2011

Taking a look at the carnage...

I realise that the last couple of posts on this blog have been a little gloomy for anyone interested in growing exotics, but after the coldest December Britain has seen for over 100 years, the cold has been making it's presence felt somewhat!

Take a look at this article from the bbc for more weather stats about the cold snap.

This week, however, we are back to the good old westerly airflow, bringing warm and wet weather with it from the Atlantic. Now that the snow and ice have gone, it is time to take a look at the carnage. Many plants will not show damage for some time, months even. For others, the effect of the cold is clear to see. So here goes with the photos:

****Warning - for those with a love of plants, these images may cause distress!****

This first shot shows the bottom of a mature Cordyline australis. The plant is well over 25 feet in height with numerous heads (take a look at the thickness of that trunk behind). Last winter, a number of these heads were killed by the frost, although most remained fine. Come the spring, the Cordyline responded by sprouting a number of new growth points from the close to the ground. Now, all the new growth has been hit hard, likely killing the new central growing points. The youngest leaves are most vulnerable to the cold as they never had time to harden up before the onset of the winter. Fortunately, such damage will not kill C. australis, but it will set it back a bit.

I snapped these Cycas revoluta in some council plantings in Exmouth this week. A sad sight really, as with some overhead protection the fronds would likely be fine. Although a real show stopper in the summer, such plants rarely get proper attention over the winter months in public council gardens, and often look bad as a result. The leaves are scorched yellow and will not recover. Hopefully a new flush of fronds will grow in the summer, but seeing as growth in cycads is sporadic to say the least, it may be a couple of years before these ones look there best again.

Next up is a lovely Butia capitata, also in council plantings in Exmouth. Apart from some browning on the older leaves, it looks ok at first glance. On closer inspection the newly emerging spear in the centre is a tell-tale sickly yellow. I wouldn't be surprised if this palm spear-pulls in the spring. A real shame. Early treatment with hydrogen peroxide and fungicide would help reduce any damage.

The leaves on this Agave americana 'marginata' have taken on a mushy feel. This particular plant was planted only a hundred or so metres from the sea and would rarely see frost in an average winter in Exmouth, let alone snow.

Lastly, a shot of Tetrapanex papyrifer caught out in the process of flowering! Although the foliage here is obviously dead, the plant will either shoot again from the stem or send up suckers from the ground. Possibly both!

No doubt we will have more cold before the winter is out but hopefully nothing as extreme as we got in December. Although things can be a little depressing at this time of year, it is not all doom and gloom - there are already signs of life, with new bulbs starting to show through the soil. Lets see what 2011 brings in the garden!

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