Frozen hair

When I was in school there were always kids in the winter who came to the bus stop with wet hair. When it was cold enough, there'd always be somebody who said something like "your hair will break off if it freezes". I personally doubt this will actually occur, but I'm pretty sure I know who started this rumor (if it in fact is untrue).


It was a gardener, somebody who loved growing tropicals and annuals in cold climates, in a surly winter mood. Once the first freeze hits these plants suffer greatly, losing all of their "hair" (okay, leaves) and go from the lush wonders that we relish through the warm months to crispy or mushy, brown or black reminders of the long winters ahead.

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The bananas (pictured above) certainly do. As do the cannas:


The flowering vines:


The castor beans:


The salvias, which always seem to keep some lower growth alive until surprisingly late in the season:


I guess that's why the salvia is always a prime candidate for producing frost flowers.

The purple fountain grass, which doesn't look too bad until you notice the "grey" look of the leaf blades, showing that they've frozen and are now dead:


Finally, the elephant ears:



I've got so many elephant ear tubers to dig up, it's not funny. Well, I guess it is a bit funny. Here's a small sampling of them after digging and trimming:


I'll store them in the garage (which stays around 40ºF/4ºC all winter), but will also keep a few small plants of the "special" varieties alive inside over the winter as a backup.

Besides the elephant ears, I also dug up cannas for the first time ever (since I've never grown them before):



I love plants that are really colorful underground. They're always such a nice surprise when dug or pulled up.

I trimmed the leaves from the bananas and ensete too:


The pseudostems will spend the winter in the garage, from the huge, amazingly heavy ones to the small potted specimens. I may keep one or two in their pots, but I'm hoping to reduce the number of potted plants in my garage this winter. I'd rather find shelf space for a large tuber or pseudostem than floor space for a large pot.

In any case, a lot of the plants in my yard are finished for the year, and cleanup is under way.

Thankfully the weather is cooperating this year, with lots of warm, sunny days after that first freeze. It's made this sad task of winterizing the tropicals much nicer.

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Christine @ the Gardening Blog  – (November 18, 2011 at 7:57 AM)  

I really admire the work you put in to over wintering your plants. A mammoth task I'm sure - and then having to bring them out again in spring. I don't envy you this.

The Cannas do indeed look great underground. Wonderful photos!

Chad B  – (November 18, 2011 at 6:10 PM)  

I was one of those kids that showed up to the bus stop with wet hair! I don't remember it ever breaking, but I do remembering hearing and feeling it snap when I bent it. Looking back now, I can't believe my mom would let me leave the house with wet hair in the winter. Shame on her!

Gerhard Bock  – (November 18, 2011 at 6:21 PM)  

Alan, wow, you have a LOT of tubers and rhizomes. Elephant ears and cannas multiply like crazy, don't they?

It's sad to see the ravages of the first frost, but if things were pretty and green all year round we probably wouldn't appreciate it as much.

Still waiting for our first frost here...

Alan @ It's not work, It's gardening!  – (November 18, 2011 at 9:19 PM)  

Gerhard: I have about 4 times the number of elephant ear tubers that are shown in that photo. It's out of hand.

Andrea  – (November 19, 2011 at 4:49 AM)  

It is so sad, depressing to see plants in their splendor suddenly suffering through death. I wonder why we people keep on growing plants which are not really suited to our climates, that includes you and I. Since I am from the tropics our plants don't suffer that much, but for the taro we dig them also during the dry season when they don't have leaves and plant again when rain comes. However, bananas are always on the ground the whole year, so i pity yours while they are forced to be dormant in the garage! haha

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