Freeze damage assessment

– Posted in: Weather

I went back to the old garden today to dig up some plants, and noticed freeze damage on many plants. It is surprising what gets knocked back and what doesn’t. Most of the lilies looked fine, but the asparagus that was about the length of my finger last week was mush this week. My Camassia leichtlinii ‘Electra’ was also reduced to a sorry brown mess:

camassia freeze damage

This camassia was too far along in growth to sustain a hard freeze without damage.

Normally this bulb blooms near the end of May and looks like this.
camassia electra well grown

Here's what this camassia usually looks like at the end of May.

Who knows what will happen this year? I see a tiny bit of green at the bottom of the ruined foliage. Perhaps it will still send forth a misshapen stem.

I was also surprised to see how badly some daylilies were taking it. I know, daylilies? But look at this ‘Hyperion’ foliage.

Hyperion daylilies flattened by a freeze

These Hyperion daylilies were knocked back by a hard freeze.

Instead of erect, perky foliage, the leaves are almost prostrate, and the typical bright green of new growth is instead a muted olive green. Not what you usually see in daylily foliage at this time of year. This is a well-established clump of ‘Hyperion’ so I expect it to recover fully, and of all the daylilies in this garden, it probably looked the worse. It is planted in what I consider a warm microclimate, so perhaps it was further along than many of the others, and thus suffered more in the freeze.

Many of the daffodils are done blooming, but I had one variety passed along to me which must have been in full bud at the time of the freeze. They are all blasted and won’t be blooming this year at all. (Blasted means the bud is there, but is papery or mushy and won’t open and bloom.) Then there is another type, Narcissus x medioluteus, that must have not been that far along, as its buds are fine and beginning to open.

This miniature bearded iris had also started to bloom last week:

miniature iris from a gardening friend

This passalong iris was blooming last week.

This week, nothing but blasted buds.

It got down to 23F on two successive nights during the past week, and I have to assume it got at least that cold, if not colder, at the old garden. Even if I had been there to cover plants, I’m not sure I would have covered the plants that really needed it. The best thing to do when faced with such damage is to learn all you can from it. Which plants got damaged, and why? Was it because of their location, how far along in growth they were, or are they just not able to sustain hard freezes at all? Does it happen frequently, such as with the cynanchum, or rarely, as with the daylilies? And if it happens frequently, is it a plant I really want to keep?

Our MOO MiniCard giveaway is still in progress. Stop by and comment for a chance to win!

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

Now, the digging and dividing of perennials, the general autumn cleanup and the planting of spring bulbs are all an act of faith. One carries on before the altar of delayed gratification, until the ground freezes and you can’t do any more other than refill the bird feeder and gaze through the window, waiting for the snow. . . . Meanwhile, it helps to think of yourself as a pear tree or a tulip. You will blossom spectacularly in the spring, but only after the required period of chilling.

~Adrian Higgins in The Washington Post, November 6, 2013

Comments on this entry are closed.

elizabeth May 5, 2012, 12:26 am

I live in Wise River and my camassia are just starting to come up. I want to move some of them this year, when is the best time to transplant, when they are blooming?

Kathy Purdy May 5, 2012, 9:58 am

I have divided my camassia successfully before. I did it after they bloomed, as the leaves were going dormant. I would think it would also work to move them as they are just emerging, but if you have a hard freeze like I did, it might set them back so far that they die. So I prefer to move them as they are approaching dormancy, and the weather is more settled.

elizabeth May 10, 2012, 12:24 am

Thank you. I’ve been transplanting them as they come up and they are happy in their new spot.

elizabeth May 10, 2012, 12:29 am

Any recommendations of plants to plant with camassia, in the same bed?

Kathy Purdy May 10, 2012, 10:02 am

I have a lemon yellow globeflower booming nearby. Anything that likes moisture would be good: ferns, astilbe, meadowsweet (Filipendula), thalictrum, foxgloves, etc

Mr. McGregor's Daughter May 4, 2012, 4:38 pm

It is interesting in a clinic sense. What gets me is that the damage doesn’t always show up right away, so it’s too late to do anything about it this year. Ah, well, live & learn.

DJ from Meander Mountain May 4, 2012, 10:36 am

Transplanting things from one garden to another is a challenge under the best of circumstances … different soil, light, and so forth. I know it was discouraging to find the freeze damage on things you wanted to move, but I’m hoping everything will revive in your new garden. I used to live in Rochester, so I know a bit of what you’re going through, although things in the southeast have been very strange too!

Kathy Purdy May 4, 2012, 1:28 pm

I will leave those freeze-damaged plants in the old garden until I think all danger of frost is passed, so that when I do move them, the move will be the only thing disturbing their growth.

Deborah Banks May 4, 2012, 8:30 am

Some plants in my garden were hit hard this week too. Almost all the lilacs have had the leaves frozen; they were in full leave with big panicles of bud forming already. Oddly the buds look ok, but the plants are going to have to push a complete new set of leaves out.

joene at joene's garden May 4, 2012, 7:34 am

You and I think alike, Kathy. When faced with garden adversity, such as freezes to early growth, learn what you can and go with it. You provide valuable information for all northern gardeners. I’m passing your post along to others.