Monday, January 30, 2017


Having just returned from 2 months away there is much work to do in the garden. Harsh freezing weather has wreaked havoc among the agaves which have melted into rotten masses. This will not be a pretty post but will serve to show that not everything goes well in the garden and you just can't let these kinds of happenings get you down.

Although there are a few agaves that are hardy down to 10º I have many that will shrivel when the temperatures get below 25º My neighbor tells me one night it sank to 16º Hence the carnage.
I have had this Aloe 'David Verity' for over 7 years. It won't be flowering this year.

And these Agave colorata, are supposed to be hardy to 18º Maybe they are not totally lost. I'll give them a chance.

It was simply a matter of taking a saw to the leaves and cutting through them and putting them in the garbage. And lots of leaves were showing this kind of damage. They were sawn off. I still have tens of Agave weberii  to deal with but they will have to wait. I have more pressing things to tackle.

Then it was the turn of the grasses. It is no surprise that the lemon grass, Cymbopogon, didn't make it, not even under the protection of all those dead leaves. Fortunately I took some shoots in the fall and they are safely in the greenhouse. This was how it looked in September.

And today before I removed the whole clump.

Look how tidy the area is now.

I can walk down the path. I will replant in the same spot as soon as any risk of frost is gone. There is no irrigation there so I find it amazing how well it does.
With summer-like temperatures this week I knew the next job was to cut back the grasses before they start growing. The ruby crystal grass, Melinis nerviglumis, gets the hedgehog cut. Starting the top center with a good pair of scissors and working around to create a round shape.

If there is less dead tissue I let it be. If the center is really dead and the plant a couple years old then I pull it out. The roots are extremely fibrous, as you can see below, so sometimes it is impossible to pull the whole plant out. Then I pull a small section at a time leaving behind the roots. There are always plenty of seedlings to take its place.

Next I will tackle the inland sea oats, Chasmathium latifolium,  although I think they have probably already dropped their seed heads. The good news in that corner of the garden is that the Mahonia, Mahonia aquifolium, is about to flower. This is the first year as the plant was moved two years ago from a too sunny spot where most of its leaves fried. So much happier here.

It like a breath of spring to see flowers. By the end of the week I think there will be more.
At the end this day I feel as though I have accomplished quite a lot. My wrists and hands are weary and sore. That comes of not always wearing gloves. And there is dinner to make!


  1. Ouch! It's sad to see the carnage but you're right that turning the page and getting on with the clean-up is the most reasonable response to the situation. I've started cutting back my grasses too as the Santa Ana winds have returned and it's downright balmy outside!

  2. danger garden has left a new comment on your post "SCISSORS, PRUNERS, SHEARS AND SAWS":

    Oh Jenni! Those poor gooey Agaves. I am sorry. I was just looking closely at mine this afternoon, noticing more damage that's starting to show.

  3. I have been away from my house in the Hill Country for a month. I'm sure I'll arrive to find my garden in the same state as yours. Rather dreading it.

  4. I didn't realize San Antonio got so cold. Thank you for sharing the damage. I like your attitude!!!
    We were down at 21 degrees but it was the 7 hours at 23 and then the whole 2 days under 32 that really hurt us here in Houston. It has been so many years since we had this much damage. We have been clearing things slowly. It was hard to watch the death march that took weeks to show the actual damage. That seems to be done and some of the plants are sending up little shoots and leaves : ) That makes me happy. Many of my succulents and tropicals that were protected and wrapped up on the porch still suffered damage. Even though I am a landscape designer my own garden is a cottage/test/I have to try that plant garden. Thankfully I have a good foundation of evergreen and deciduous plants that actually seemed to like the cold. And my crazy bromeliads that are hardy in the ground are blooming!

  5. I have a lot of the same here.
    Agaves turned to mush and frozen plants to cut back or out.
    It's a challenge...

  6. "not everything goes well in the garden and you just can't let these kinds of happenings get you down."

    Absolutely. There's been a lot of feeling sorry for ourselves in the PNW with this damaging winter, myself included. But we can't let the setbacks get us down. I've already got a huge list of projects to tackle as the weather warms. So sorry for your agaves. I have to do the same thing with my Carex comans as you do with your Melinis nerviglumis. Pardon, but your Mahonia looks more like an x media or japonica, not aquifolium.

    1. I think you may be right. Just did a little research and find there are even more Mahonias than I realized. Will strike out the species name. Thanks.

  7. Having lost some major trees and shrubs in the last few years, you are right. Nothing to do but accept it and move on.

  8. Are many of your succulents natives? If so, I'd think they'd be able to shrug off the cold damage. If not, perhaps this is a good chance to add more natives to the garden? Just a thought :)

  9. I was just cutting back some ruby crystal grass yesterday too, and have also been cutting back some agave leaves that haven't liked all this rain. So sorry your beautiful agaves have taken a hit and hope some can be salvaged.