A year ago today, plant lovers were trying to figure out what died, what might survive and what to do next in their landscapes and gardens after an unusual four-day hard freeze hit Tucson.
Recently, we asked gardeners around town to weigh in on the big gardening lessons from the freeze of 2011.
Here are some of their comments:
Know your plant. Understand what plants will survive in the areas, called microclimates, around your home.
"Considering whether plants can be protected with hardscaping or are more exposed and may require more drastic measures to protect plants is valuable," says Peter Warren, county extension director for Pima County Cooperative Extension.
If you don't have an ideal location, put the plant in a pot to move to a safe location. "Moving plants indoors is sure protection and worth the extra effort," says Michael Chamberland, director of horticulture for Tucson Botanical Gardens.
Use natives, which survived the freeze better than nonnatives, or go with plants that are cold-hardy.
Do what it takes. "If I love it ... it is worth the time to cover, warm and take in the specimens that can't take the cold," says Darlene Buhrow, director of marketing and communications at the Tucson Botanical Gardens.
Gardens horticulture curator Emily Rockey echoes that sentiment. "If you don't have the time or inclination to cover or move them, only grow cold-hardy selections."
Accept the surprising. Landscape designer Diana Turner lost cacti that commonly survive Tucson winters. Chamberland says most of the popular Mexican columnar cacti didn't fare well, but a few exotic succulents that don't survive regular winters made it.
Why? He doesn't know.
Be patient. "We learned not to give up on plants we thought were dead," says gardener Linda Herrick, an adjunct instructor with Pima Community College.
Gardener Ann Stables, owner of StablesInc Communications, couldn't pull out a seemingly dead aloe. "Bam," she adds, "I got grow-back."
Master gardener Laura Walton says she saw "several folks who tore out landscaping, then wondered if they should have when they saw neighbors' plants coming back."
Pima County Cooperative Extension suggests taking care of these gardening tasks in February:
• Plant potatoes and bare-root fruit trees.
• Start summer vegetable seeds in trays or small pots.
• Mix organic matter into vegetable and flower beds.
• Fertilize deciduous fruit trees.
What Happened Last Year
An arctic cold blast with wind gusts up to 35 miles an hour hit Tucson in early February 2011, according to National Weather Service records for Tucson International Airport.
Overnight low temperatures Feb. 2-5 last year were below freezing and 32 degrees Feb. 6. A tie for the second-lowest February temperature on record - 18 degrees - was logged on Feb. 3 and 4.
The high Feb. 3 was 38 degrees, making it the second-coldest February high temp.
The cold wind blew off plant covers and dried out plants. The prolonged cold damaged or destroyed specimens.
"The longer the plant is in that cold, the deeper it's going to penetrate, and more cells are going to start dying," says Michael Chamberland, Tucson Botanical Gardens' director of horticulture.
Contact local freelance writer Elena Acoba at email@example.com