Winter just refuses to let go. I should have dug out the Christmas lights and strung them around the peach and apricot trees until I remembered they were mostly LED lights that produce little heat.
Winter just refuses to let go. I should have dug out the Christmas lights and strung them around the peach and apricot trees until I remembered they were mostly LED lights that produce little heat. The four peach trees were out in full bloom the night of April 7th when the temperatures plummeted to 24 degrees, with an encore the next night of below freezing temperatures. I suspect it pretty well canned the crop. The snow fall was amazing and such a surprise. At my house a persistent light snow fell through the morning, preventing any warm up. The peaches looked lovely with a layer of snow that lined all their branches and covered every dead flower. When the flurries thickened, one could hardly distinguish the flowers from the snowflakes.
If the temps had briefly dropped below freezing then gone back up, the peaches would probably have survived. The snow would have acted as an insulator. Nope. The freeze continued for hours, beginning well before the snow, adding insult to injury. No doubt the water inside the cells of each peach froze, the cells were ruptured and this year’s peach harvest is just a figment of the imagination. Too late now, but there are ways to thwart the effect of freezing temperatures on peaches before spring.
Plant the fruit tree where it does not get direct winter sun or on a north-facing hill. It will not heat up as fast nor bloom as soon. Redhaven and Norman peaches flower later or seem to handle frost better. Work in nitrogen fertilizer around the tree after harvest. Trees that need nitrogen will flower earlier and cope miserably with temperature swings. Keep mulch around the base of the tree, always a good idea, but this will prevent rapid heat-ups and cool-downs of the soil. If you have more foresight than I did, aerially spray the buds with water if the temps are above 45 degrees. This delays flower bloom. Last but not least, wrap your trees in warm blankets or floating row covers, throw in some incandescent lights (no LEDs please), chicken brooders, lava lamps or Easy Bake ovens (they all use incandescent bulbs as a heat source) flip the electric switch to on and cross your fingers until the sun shines.
Nevertheless, I have hope perhaps some of the baby peaches survived. I don’t know why I say this, because the raccoon or birds usually harvest the fruit at the exact time it is at its ripest and tastiest. The only evidence a peach was actually growing on the tree is the spotlessly clean pit lying below on the ground.
What about those hummingbird feeders? My two feeders turned into slushies. Before our cold snap, hummers had been sighted as far north as Yukon (April 5th), but no one in this area has yet to report hummingbirds. The male birds will usually show up between the 10th to the 20th of April. Last year a few scouts came through in April, but no birds came to my feeders until the end of June. We had been in a sustained drought until then.
The frozen hummingbird feeders were taken down, washed, refilled and hung back up with the thought there could be a starving, cold hummingbird out there somewhere wondering what in the world was going on.
The redbud blossoms overnight went from a brilliant reddish-purple to a dull, washed out purple. They fell from the trees like purple rain and covered the walkways. The Pineapple sage and Evening Primrose leaves became mottled with purple blotches, but they live. The purple Jackmanii Clematis vine on the south side of the porch acted as if nothing happened, but the pink and white striped Clematis on the east side must have been more exposed or delicate and suffered freeze damage.
The greenhouse is a source of refuge for the special plants. The Kolanchoe plants (the confused succulent whose name is pronounced four different ways) are covered in orangish-red floral heads reaching to the sun from long stems, the poinsettias waited until March and April to turn red and the Tropical Hibiscus consistently produces large scarlet red blooms with thick yellow staminate stalks in the center of each flower. Pity that nothing is ever attracted to this outstanding non-native other than aphids. From the sale bench where I found this hibiscus, it periodically launches a new set of flowers unless I forget the water. The plant drinks copious amounts of water every day, summer or winter.
Darren Eminian of Hollywood, California discovered a hummingbird nest in his ‘Valentines’ Day’ Tropical Hibiscus January 31st. Apparently, they do not have winter in that part of California. His hibiscus is planted in real soil in a bed, not potting soil in a plastic container. I will say his hibiscus had lush deep green foliage whereas my plant is more conservative with lighter green leaves. The mother looked to be a Rufous hummingbird. She constructed her little fiber web nest not over 2 inches in size, laid 2 pinkish eggs, each about ½ inch, and in 2 weeks the babies were born. Three weeks later they fledged. Darren took so many pictures the birds became used to him and his camera poking into the hibiscus.
Last year at Nature Conservancy’s Pontotoc Ridge Preserve, a hummingbird nest the size of a small walnut was found on the ground. Strong storms roared through that week and the miniscule nest detached and away it flew. The OKC Audubon Society reports our Ruby-throats will build nests on the ends of tree branches 10 to 30 feet in the air, using mosses and lichens to camouflage them. No wonder I have never seen a hummingbird nest in a tree.
Who knows, maybe this spring, after I move the hibiscus out of the greenhouse, a Ruby-throated hummer might find the tropical the perfect place to build a nest….a very small nest I will probably never find.