Friday, February 20, 2009

Just how cold was it?

I got an email from a friend who read my last blog entry about the cold weather in January calling me thin-skinned and saying "Come on…how cold does it really get in Florida?" Well the answer is pretty damn cold. We had temperatures in the 20s with wind chills in the teens and no one here has any clue how to deal with this kind of weather. Our tv shows are interrupted with our excited weatherguy issuing freeze warnings, frost warnings, wind chill warnings and repeatedly reminding us to bring in our pets, cover our plants and put jackets on our children.

While driving my son to school in January I snapped some photos of the vigilant Floridians who covered all of their tropical plants and trees with sheets - unlike me. I know these are not great photos, but you see the lengths to which people go around here.

Here's a home with over 20 sheets wrapped around things in their backyard. You can't appreciate the photo until you view it larger. It's funny seeing who's got flowered sheets and who's still hanging onto some mustard and pea-green paisley numbers from the 1970s.

Here's the backyard of another home near some sheds with more sheets than I can count wrapped around some low-lying ground plants.

Can you imagine the laundry these people dealt with after the cold snaps? They obviously don't have small children because if they did, they'd let their plants freeze rather than add that many sheets into the laundry mix.

The weirdest thing for me was seeing frozen palm trees. I will admit not knowing that palm trees actually froze. I've lived in Florida about 27 years and had never seen a frozen palm tree - icicles sure, but never a fully frozen palm tree. Here is a photo of a house near us with frozen palm trees. They're like that all around here now. You're supposed to trim off all the brown leaves, spray them with a copper fungicide and fertilize the bejezus out of them with palm tree fertilizer. I read that it can take four to six months well into the summer before they'll come back. (Since taking this photo, all the brown leaves have been cut off and they're just palm tree trunks now).

The saddest thing for me was seeing all the dead banana trees. Newsflash: banana trees are apparently more thin-skinned than I am. Every single banana tree in our neighborhood is a dead slump of brown leaves now. Some of them were 15 feet tall before and are about 3 feet tall lumps now. If any of the banana trees in our neighborhood come back, I'll be surprised. Here's a pic of one of our neighbors banana trees that used to be a good 10-15 feet tall.

So yeah, that's what we dealt with. We don't know how to dress in cold weather, we cancel outdoor playdates when it dips into the 50s (so with temps in the 30s forget it), and all of our tropical plants turn to dust.

It's no wonder that a new gardener like me was so easily defeated...

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