Spring has sprung

Our backyard in spring.Bryce’s arrival in early October was perfect timing. Gone were the cold nights and frosty mornings – we were opening up the windows and bi-folds to enjoy the warmer temperatures and cool breezes. So was our garden.

This winter was, by all accounts, an unusually cold winter. Our neighbour counted 21 frosty mornings this year (at one point 5 consecutive days!), compared to 6 the year prior. While cozy when sitting by the fire, it’s not ideal for the garden. But with that said, our plants did surprisingly well considering the requirements for a tropical garden. The casualties can be counted on just one hand.

To preface this landscape postmortem, we planted our garden last year between late January and March, halfway through the initial growing season. Things got cold quickly – we had our first subzero night in early May. It was a cold snap that lasted almost an entire week that took both us and the garden by surprise. After all, the week before it was a balmy 25c. And without further ado, a list of plants that did not survive the cold weather.

Backyard1. Mango tree - No real surprise here. We planted a variety of different plants in various areas of the garden to see what might do better than others, to give us an idea of what we should be planting this spring. Sadly, our hopes were shattered when our Mango tree succumb to the cold quite quickly. Admittedly, I don’t think it liked the clay heavy soil we have here in Western Sydney, so it didn’t do much growing even when it was warm outside.

2. Frangipani - Our much loved frangipani, which we had for a few years growing in a pot, did not make it. Frost burnt and perhaps a bit of root rot brought this plant to it’s knees. We had high hopes for the frangipani, as they’re know to be quite resilient, but we don’t see this one pulling through. It’s worth noting though, that our evergreen frangipani (plumeria obtusa) is doing quite well. A dwarf variety, it was planted up against the house and, with the amount of heat bricks radiate during the night hours, it was somewhat sheltered from the cold winter temperatures. It even had a bit of new growth over the winter in areas that were covered in mulch.

3. Hibiscus - We have three hibiscus plants in the backyard. Well, now two. The two up against the back of the house did just fine, however the one in the far corner of the yard didn’t fair as well. Admittedly, it was the final plant to go in last summer/fall, so it didn’t get a whole lot of time to settle in.

4. Kiwi Cordyline – We have (had) three of these planted around a palm (which survived, but barely) towards the far fence in the garden. They took the frost particularly hard, but two of the three are finally starting to show new growth. These are some of my favourite in the garden, so I’m glad they are surviving, at least somewhat.

Outdoor room in spring.

We had a few surprises this year as well! Our ginger just wouldn’t quit, and continued to grow over winter, covering much of the corner of the yard. With the addition of a large pot (to cover access to the storm drain), this area of the yard was somewhat protected, and didn’t appear to have been affected by the frosts nearly as much as areas further from the house.

Remember the canna lilies that were so quick to show damage from the heavy frosts we had? These plants bounced back better than ever. All of our canna lilies died completely back – there was literally nothing but mulch in areas where these plants were planted. But like all plants with a rhyzome root system, they flourished underneath the cover of mulch and, when the soil temperatures broke above 15c, they started to grow. As you can see in the photos above, they quickly grew bigger than they were by the end of last summer. We were even able to divide up the plants and replant cuttings in different areas of the yard.

We’re pretty happy with how the yard held up, considering. We look forward to being able to take advantage of an early season planting, and should have some pretty good results by the end of this summer. Here’s hoping!

About Stefan
Stefan is the regular writer for Megan & Stefan, and hails originally from San Diego, California. A resident of Australia since 2007, he write about his experiences living abroad, his love of photography, and documenting the process of building a house here in this sunburnt country he calls home. Feel free to drop him a line - he's always up for a chat.

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