The predictions came true, and an arctic blast hit the state this past week. Records were broken all across the state. In Little Rock, we broke a low temperature record at 20 degrees Tuesday night. Prior to that, the record low was 22 in 1911! Fayetteville was 9 degrees, breaking their 1911 low record of 10 degrees. But that wasn't all. The next night was even colder. 18 degrees was the low at my house and it only got to 34 on Tuesday and 41 on Wednesday. That is cold for Arkansas on any winter day, but we aren't officially into winter yet. Much of our glorious fall color is now brown.
A few plants are retaining their leaves and still have some show, but many are done. Don't be surprised if your Japanese maples retain their foliage until later in the winter. Mine had not formed their abscission layers yet, which is what causes the leaves to shed, and had barely starting turning color before this cold snap hit.
As miserable as the early part of the week was, the last few days have been nice. We made it almost to 60 degrees today (Friday) and it was beautiful and sunny. I went out to do a little clean-up in the yard and assess the damage. As early as it was, and as cold as it was, we do have some damage. All those last lingering summer plants are gone which was expected and normal. I pulled them all up and finished with more plantings of winter annuals.
I have been talking about my love for the giant red mustard this fall, and I have planted quite a bit.
I did not cover any plants to protect them from the cold. It was raining, and I just decided to wing it. It is interesting that with about 10 different plantings, only one had significant damage, but it already is bouncing back.
The Swiss chard took a huge hit, but I do think it will come back, and of course all the lettuce is gone (I did harvest 90% Monday night). My flowering kale and cabbage are totally undamaged,
while some of the edible kale has a few burned leaves.
The pansies and violas came through with flying color,
and another tough performer is the common dusty miller.
Surprisingly, one plant that was damaged was the Soft Caress Mahonia.
It still has flower buds on it,
which I hope will open, but time will tell. The top part of the plant though, is totally brown. The Encore azaleas have frozen flowers and a few burned leaves as well.
Now is the time to clean up the spent summer annuals. Cut back your perennial plants--they should come back fine next spring.
However, if you do see winter damage on permanent plants, let the damage stay put until spring comes back. If you prune off the damage now, you expose even more of the plant. Let this damage serve as a buffer. Of course, what long-term damage on permanent plants won't be known until spring when the plants start growing again, plus we have a lot of winter months to come. Everyone keeps saying we are in for a bad winter, and with this early taste of cold weather, they may be right. Who knows? Maybe we will be lucky and this will be the worst of it.