- It is planted up against a heat-retaining brick wall.
- It is located just a few hundred feet from the Charleston Harbor where the heat retained by the water warms the air a bit. The entire penninsula of Charleston is warmer than surrounding areas because the two rivers that flank it provide a slight warming to the air.
- It is located in downtown Charleston which is warmer due to the effects of the urban heat island.
Thursday, December 18, 2008
Thursday, December 11, 2008
Saturday, December 6, 2008
Charleston straddles USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Ho-Hum (or 8b), with minimum temperatures of 15-20 degrees, and USDA Plant Hardiness Zone Ooh-La-La (or 9a), with minimum temperatures of 20-25 degrees. What grows in Zone Ooh-La-La? Think tropical hibiscus, some bromeliads, an expanded range of palms, tropical ferns. I want that! So I keep shoving more marginal plants under the protective canopy of my live oak.
A live oak can help gain those few precious degrees that mean a tropical that would normally die is instead root-hardy (hopefully the case with the monstera) or that a tropical that normally would only be root-hardy is evergreen (for example, the Persian Shield). On a cold night, the closed canopy of the live oak acts like a cozy down blanket by trapping the warmer air radiated up from the ground. That same "blanket" also prevents plant cell damaging frost from settling on leaves and stems.
How much of a difference does it make? Seeing is believing. In a downtown Charleston park, this Persian Shield, lying just a few feet outside the dripline of a Live Oak, was top-killed by freezing temps a few days ago:
Same story with this groundcover which is also outside the dripline of the Live Oak:
If these plants all thrive this winter, my azaleas and holly ferns had better watch out... Zone Ooh-La-La will be moving on in!
Friday, December 5, 2008
While we winter weather wimpy Charlestonians were turning our thermostats up and complaining about a few hours of freezing temperatures, this garden poinsettia maintained its focus and was thus able to pull off a few blooms just in time for the holiday season. Now as anyone knows who has ever mistreated their brand-new florist poinsettia, they don't like the cold, much less a freeze. But this poinsettia was protected from the freeze by the top-secret frost protection gizmo of....
very, very deep eaves that kept white frost from settling on the leaves. Lots of tropical plants in Charleston that were unlucky enough to not have such protection were knocked back by freezing temps a couple of weeks before this picture was taken. The old Navy base where we found this plant has been closed for years so it is pretty safe to say this plant has been neglected.
We both remember when there were several poinsettias in the ground in downtown Charleston which for the most part, modern landscaping has eliminated (the plants, that is...not Charleston). And that is quite a shame as poinsettias are part of Charleston history. Their discover, Joel Poinsett, was born right here. He served in a number of political roles including being our first minister to Mexico (that was an early form of ambassador and yeah, I had to go googling for that detail) which is what he was doing when he found this member of euphorbia family growing in southern Mexico.
I think the moral of this story is to experiment with planting some marginally hardy plants under hard shade in the form of an overhang, an evergreen tree like a live oak, or even an evergreen shrub. I'm obsessed with the topic of frost protection right now so stay-tuned...more to follow.
Wednesday, December 3, 2008
The park is a beautiful slice of the Carolina low country with abandoned rice fields that are now fresh water marshes filled with alligators and birds or swamps now dark with trees and dwarf palmettos.
The tea grows on the higher, drier areas, sometimes just a single plant but other times as a hedge running through the woods. Flowering occurs in October and November on plants that are 4 to 5 feet tall. The forest above them is composed of oaks and spruce pines and allows a moderate amount of light to penetrate.
Caw Caw is a beautiful park developed as a nature reserve for walking among the diverse habitats that can occur in a small area. It is easily accessible and a true joy to walk.