Monday, January 4, 2010

Fingers Crossed

Old Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia species)

Now that it's gotten nice and cold, it's time to start tree trimming down here. This old crape myrtle is in need of some rejuvenation, having survived a major landscape makeover and who knows what else before we moved in five years ago. I do know for a fact that someone tried to commit "crape murder" on it some time ago. That is evidenced by the big old knots the tree has on each trunk at about the same height. For those who haven't heard of "crape murder", it's when one tops the trunks. It destroys the natural beauty of the tree trunks and I think it could be a plot by landscape contractors who need more work in the winter! Here you can see the beauty of a stem next to the ugly mess left by years of topping.

Old knot caused by topping

One thing I've noticed in the last few years is a decline in the number of healthy looking bloom ends. Whether it's due to trauma or just old age, I'll never know. But yesterday my muscle (my husband) helped me take some drastic steps in trying to help it out. We took out many big trunks, especially those that were criss-crossing up top.

Hopefully you can see how it's opened up in these before and after shots.

So fingers crossed, the old crape myrtle will bounce back this summer.

We're bracing for a very cold week here, probably the coldest we've had since we moved here. I have my doubts as to whether my Agave desmentiata will survive in its stock tank. Here you can see some of the cold damage it already has (yellow spots).

Agave desmentiata

So today (while it was snowing no less!), I added some pine straw around the agave. Fingers crossed it'll make it past the week!

Agave desmentiata, Bamboo muhly stalks, and Aeonium arboreum v. atropurpureum ‘Zwartzkopf’

And then there's my portable greenhouse. I've never tried heating it before. I've just always hoped the temps wouldn't stay below freezing for long. And for the most part it's worked. But since the predictions are for temperatures to stay below freezing for at least 24 hours and in the mid-teens for several nights in a row, I went ahead and purchased a heater.

Don't try this at home!

This is NOT a heater one should purchase for a greenhouse. But since I couldn't find one specifically made for more wet conditions, I'm taking the risk. It won't have to work for long and I'll be very careful. Fingers crossed it'll work like a charm, the plants will survive, and nothing will burn down!

This post was written by Jean McWeeney for my blog Dig, Grow, Compost, Blog. Copyright 2009. Please contact me for permission to copy, reproduce, scrape, etc.


  1. You need an outlet with a ground fault protector, is what you need.

    This abnormally cold protracted spell is about to do us all in.

    I hope all your plants survive.

  2. The crepe myrtle looks much better. The thought of losing plants to the cold has been lurking in my mind but I can't even pinpoint what plants might be vulnerable. I guess I will hope for the best.

  3. Jean, a thought for your greenhouse: if you have any plastic gallon milk jugs, fill them with hot water and put them in the greenhouse. It will help to keep the temperatures a little warmer. I do this all the time with my portable mini greenhouses on the deck in the early spring. For me, the sun warms up the water during the day, then keeps it a bit warmer at night. Kathy

  4. Yur tree looks much better. My city just passed an ordinance so that people could not commit tree murder. I even saw a city tree trimming truck today with 6' high letters saying Don't Top Your Trees! Hope it helps.

  5. This has certainly been a strange year for weather! I've just come from Cindy's in Katy, Texas, and she is also worrying about the freezing temps there. I hope all your plants survive and the heater does the trick--without any accidents.

    Looks like you did a great job of pruning the crape myrtle. I wish I had taken some photos this fall of some neighborhood trees. They had obviously been pruned by the power company to keep out of the power lines--what an ugly mess they made!

  6. I don't think I've ver seen a crape myrtle, but I can tell that topping is wrong and that your tree looks a lot more open now. I know that helps lilacs, so it should help crapes!

  7. Gosh, that is just scary, Jean! It is quite cold here too, for an extended period. It will be interesting to see if there are any unexpected deaths. The zone does get pushed with a few plants, but really nothing like that has been added since the bad freeze of 2007. Your Crepe looks so much better, surely it will bloom nicely for you. Maybe a shot of fertilizer? We have used rose food with good results when we lived in Texas. :-)

  8. Nell Jean - thanks for that info. We should probably replace all of the outside ones with that!

    Kathy - I've tried black buckets of water before but felt it didn't make much difference in temperature. Maybe a degree only. I would much prefer to do it the solar way but hopefully what we're experiencing is just a rare abnormality.

    Frances - yes, I think some fertilizer for the old gal is something I should try this spring.

    All - we're battening down the hatches. The agave has already given up the ghost from the last two nights of hard freezes. I'm now starting to worry about the stuff in the ground - it's not used to this kind of weather!

  9. It's been in the 20s many mornings this month, here in Wimberley. I've covered and uncovered and hauled things in. I'm afraid I've lost quite a few things, though.
    I hope this one doesn't finish off the rest. But, that's gardening, I guess.
    Good luck with that heater.

  10. Oh it looks so much better. I love that plant but cannot grow it here so I will just enjoy is muscled trunk and look forward to its' blooms when you post the picture of them next year.

  11. I hope the cold weather doesn't bring too much damage to your garden. I think your A, desmettiana should do OK if covered. Mine survived outside when a piled leaves on top of them. Alas this year we were gone when the first frost came and they had no protection. The big ones down the side of my house are surely for the "chop" I am curious about your CMs Mine are no longer looking their best. They only made small leaves this year and few blooms. I am wondering if maybe they are girdled. I have never pruned them and some of their trunks are very close together. maybe it would be a good time to do a little thinning.
    I have a greenhouse heater which is called a milk shed heater. I bought it from the greenhouse store and it is what they recommend. Someone mentioned a GFI. I imagine if you are running off an outside socket it will already be protected by a GFI. Good luck tonight and tomorrow.

  12. Jean, you did a lovely job of pruning that crape myrtle! I hope your Agaves AND mine survive this bitter cold.

  13. Great pruning job Jean! I am sure it will be happy in the long run for this care. Good luck with all your vulnerable plants! Yikes and luck too with the heater! Luck and patience is all it takes, by the way to get any photos of birds I do.

  14. It looks wonderful after the Muscle pruned it! I sure do hate to see those beauties topped~~Hope your holiday was wonderful! gail

  15. I just don't understand the thinking behind tree topping. It looks terrible. Your Crepe Myrtle looks great now. Stay warm!


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