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Annie in Austin
Welcome! As "Annie in Austin" I blog about gardening in Austin, TX with occasional looks back at our former gardens in Illinois. My husband Philo & I also make videos - some use garden images as background for my original songs, some capture Austin events & sometimes we share videos of birds in our garden. Come talk about gardens, movies, music, genealogy and Austin at the Transplantable Rose and listen to my original songs on YouTube. For an overview read Three Gardens, Twenty Years. Unless noted, these words and photos are my copyrighted work.
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Friday, January 19, 2007

Molded by the Ice

When I went out with my camera yesterday, the ice still held my plants hostage - this relative of papyrus hadn't thawed a bit at 4 in the afternoon.

The cut -off stems of Hedychium coronarium/Hawaiian White Ginger bore an odd resemblance to the Cat tails that grew in Illinois swamps.

Over in the triangle garden, the 'Little Gem' magnolia leaves were gradually emerging, dropping clear replicas of themselves on the grass.

The Loquat leaves were still encased too, with most of the branches still bent. I experimented, holding a leaf and trying to slide off the ice, but it held on tight, so I left it to melt on its own.

But this turned out to be quite unlike my previous experiences with ice storms in the North. Many times ice would arrive just ahead of a thermal drop, so the ice would last longer, and the temperatures would be very, very harsh. I don't think we went below 28ºF here, and the unfreezing process was amazing to me.

This afternoon - ta da! My darling Loquat is rebounding I think, although one limb is now completely horizontal, blocking the patio exit at eye level instead of arching 8 feet overhead as it did a week ago. Ki has advised me that props may be necessary, and if we're going to use the patio, at least this branch will need support.

The ground is littered with browned and frozen loquats; the tiny fruits had just begun developing. A few remain on the tree, but winter isn't over, so my dreams of actually eating any this spring may stay dreams.

Today the 'Little Gem' magnolia [a small tree, shorter than I am] is standing straighter, but the center is more open, with the branches fanned out. The boxwoods look better, but have a new shape, too.

It's one in the afternoon, and we haven't thawed out as quickly here as Pam/Digging and MSS/Zanthan have reported - ice remains floating in birdbaths and in the pots.

I wonder if there will be permanent effects from the bending? From our decades of visiting the Chicago Botanical Gardens, I remember watching as trees were gradually forced into appropriate shapes for their Japanese gardens, with weights tied onto ropes, then suspended from branches. It took years in order to make them grow horizontally, but I may have a head start on that tortured, lateral look.

Is it time to start shopping for stone lanterns?


  1. Glad to hear you're thawing out. You a bit higher up on the Edwards plateau...or is Town Lake and the buildings downtown that kept us a few degrees warmer?

    I went out and shook the ice out of the bushes as soon as it began melting. I have some photos of loquat leafprints in ice I mean to post. I think my oleanders might have to be pruned and staked. They haven't regained their originall shape yet.

    I didn't mind being out yesterday. The ice magic still worked its wonders on me. Today is just gray and unpleasant. Somehow it feels colder even though it's warmer than it was during the storm.

  2. I hate the spelling errors I make when I type faster than I think. I guess it's just as bad to be careless as stupid.

  3. I had to prop up two 8' tall yaupon hollies. I improvised, using a heavy clay pot to prop one and a toy chest under the other. I just worry that the propping will cause the hollies to depend on the prop.

    I had some trouble accessing your site. Perhaps it's just a glitch on my server. I'll try again later to doublecheck.

  4. All the ice pictures are very interesting. It is rare for us to see ice like that in Indiana, so thick and clear. Generally, we just get snow or cold.

    Your post sounds much more positive today. If life hands you Japanese looking plants, buy stone lanterns. Good idea!

  5. It kind of reminds me of the live oaks down on Rockport that are all leaning sideways. I think propping may bedefinately in order. I hope we don't have any more of these arctic blasts this rear, though thankfully my garden was spared. No ice here in zone 9a.

  6. Hard to think that Austin has the same blanket of ice covering everything as we do in Maine. However, my flower beds have all been 'beded' down for the long winter. I love your site - I'm a northern gardening lover myself.

  7. Amazing pictures, Annie. I thought cattails too! Aren't plants resilient? The after effects of the ice storm are fascinating, imagine magnolia "ice leaves" dropping on the ground. Thanks for posting these photos, most interesting.

    I think you should shop for a stone lantern regardless!

  8. We didn't get any ice in Michigan. Isn't this crazy weather?

    I don't think your plants will stay in their ice formed shapes. Mine always spring right back by summer.

  9. Annie,
    I remember our first ice storm in Memphis. After we came out of it, we built a new house with natural gas fireplace and grill and a built in generator. The snapping sound of the electric lines still haunts me...Now we see the genius in the design behind the Northern evergreens, with it's branches that hang toward the ground! No breaking under the weight of snow and ice!!

  10. We had an ice storm a year ago and our young river birches really took a beating. Tall cypress do, too. But it looks like your garden will thrive! Your photos are great...the first one looks like a work of art. Although damaging, ice is so photogenic :)

  11. Wow! Great ice. We're okay so far - down to 35 or so - we've got so many things that are too far along for mid-January - a serious cold snap would be really damaging. It's amazing to see the ice and then you're garden by the afternoon - and I love the concept of stone lanterns. Hmmm...it gives me a few ideas! Hope you're a bit warmer now!

  12. I'm here from Kerri's to see your "ice"...very unusual for TX isn't it...I lived in Temple from 1990 to 1995 and saw only one time that the ice got bad...every one was slip sliding everywhere...now I live in Ohio where they clean the roads really well, and people are more seasoned about driving...

  13. I'm glad to see your loquat rebounded so well. Too bad about the fruit loss tho. Amazing that nature can do in one day that it takes us years to do. ...'trees were gradually forced into appropriate shapes for their Japanese gardens, with weights tied onto ropes, then suspended from branches.'

  14. Gee...you Northern Hemispherean gardeners sure know how to talk it up that there's nothing to do in the winter - what amazing pictures!!!

    Very impressive Annie but I feel your pain...

  15. I love the image of the magnolia ice leaves dropping to the ground. I hope your plants make it through this weather.

  16. Great photos Annie! Love all that ice. Our enemy No. 1 at the moment is snow, lots and lots of snow! While it's good for the perennials it crushes or 'opens up' some of the shrubs in a way I'm not fond of. We've had around 7 inches yesterday and another 7 or 8 today. About 2 ft. in the last 10 days! My husband and son do the plowing and are about crazy at this point!
    Have some photos posted at dirtdivasgardening blog and some more comming on line.
    Hang in there! This too shall pass and your garden will have survived! Plants are the best!
    Sally, Dirt Diva One, Dirt Divas Gardening

  17. Thank you for all the comments!

    MSS, my loquat ice photos were not very good, and I'd love to see yours.

    Pam,our yaupon is very large - don't think it's bendy any more - good luck with the props.

    Carol, having comments from everyone really did cheer me up!

    Gary, I hope you stay icefree in Houston - although it can be a photo-opportunity.

    Welcome 21 CharlesStreet - we don't really tuck the plants as in the North, since in a normal year the ground never freezes. We have to water the evergreens year round. Odd, huh?

    LostRoses, I'm glad you saw the same resemblance to Cattails that I did.

    Zoey, you are right. Most, but not all, of the branches have gradually regained their shape.

    Sissy, we have a gas grill that uses propane tanks, but everything else in our house is electric - no natural gas. There's one big difference from IL - the utilities are underground!

    Thank you, Mary. Maybe it's like the saying about news stories, "If it bleeds, it leads". "Photos gain from freezing rain"?

    Pam, since I wrote that last line, thoughts of a stone lantern won't leave my head!

    Welcome, Tammy from Ohio - maybe the sliding around is not all our fault? I've read that some of it results from different kinds of road surfaces.

    Ki, there are a few fruits hanging on - but another cold front is aimed at us. We ate ONE loquat last year, which was pretty small when cut in half to share!

    Stuart, every winter here so far has brought surprises good and bad. Sometimes I can be quite calm about the losses, but I'm extremely attached to this particular Loquat tree.

    Salix Tree, the 'ice leaves' amazed me, too - we didn't have evergreen magnolias in Illinois, and I'd never imagined such a thing.

    Hello to the other Divas, the Dirt Divas one & two from Alaska... your weather sounds like the kind Illinois had in 1999 - 20" of snow in two days. It's so beautiful, if only we did not have to drive anywhere!

  18. 'We ate ONE loquat last year, which was pretty small when cut in half to share!' I know the feeling, our new apple tree produced only one apple last year which we cut in half minus the worm holes and ate but an apple is pretty substantial compared to a loquat. I just saw some kumquats at the grocery store. I've grown to like them as the skin is sweet and the pulp sour. I wonder if you can grow them?

  19. I'm glad to hear most of your plants are regaining their shapes. I do hope your loquat will stand up again and not have to be supported. Too bad about the fruit. I used to pick those off a tree along our road in Australia, when I was walking to school. Loved them!
    The ice sure makes for pretty pictures!

  20. Ice, ice, what's ice?

    Sorry, I couldn't resist saying that! Actually I do remember those ice storms in Dallas. Best wishes for a speedy recovery.

  21. Actually I think kumquats are more tender for frost than loquats... not sure.

    Kerri and LaGringa, there were a bunch of bloggers who said things like Ice, Ice Baby, so maybe I should note that the title of that previous post had nothing to do with any rappers.

    When we have an especially frosty morning, those words appear and march across the little screen on the combination Thermometer & compass display when I first start my car.



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