Monday, February 11, 2013

Don't Cut Back Yet!

After the hard freeze last month, there aren't many monarch butterflies around this winter. With our unusual warmth last year, we saw high numbers of this beloved favorite, but this winter's record string of cold days limited their winter survival. But, as usual, we'll still see occasional survivors here and there. In late January a few monarchs eclosed from eggs laid in early December and I still have four monarch chrysalides from a female monarch that dumped eggs on Laura's milkweed. (Glad I still had some milkweed to respond to her S.O.S. when she realized she had over 15 small larvae!)

We're approaching our last frost date, but we aren't there yet. Loved the weather report by Rob Carlmark of 12News posting this morning about the chance of rain today and cold night ahead: "If you have any plants might want them covered Monday night." Looking around after the Great Freeze of 2013, some plants made it and more didn't. Hopefully, many will come back, but wait until you see fresh new growth before you begin pruning. The frost bitten branches will protect the new growth from any late freezes. Easy to say, much harder to do when your yard is draped in dead leaves and crispy brown branches.

While visiting the Desert Botanical Garden last week, I talked to Starr Urbatsch, Senior Horticulturist, while walking through the Center for Desert Living. Starr said the length of the cold spell in January caught everyone by surprise and there was only so much anyone could do to save frost-sensitive plants. Even hardy natives took a hit. Frost cloth helped, but it needed to envelope bushes totally to the ground to be most effective. We all   had to be selective about what to save and won't know until late March or April how the plants will rebound. "It was definitely a learning experience."

On warm, sunny days since the freeze we are already seeing a few butterflies fluttering around. A couple of Queen butterflies as well as a few Southern Dogface and Sleepy Orange made an appearance. Where are they finding nectar?

A few verbenas are in bloom here and there. 

Rosemary survived the freeze well and butterflies and other polinators love it.

Starr identified this as Teucrium, a new cultivar from Mountain State Nursery. She said there are several varieties available, but this is the one still in bloom after the hard freeze.

Baja Fairy Duster is frost-bitten, but still has a few flowers to attract butterflies and hummingbirds.

Pockets of Calendulas, Europs Bush Daisies and even a few Tropical Milkweed or Bloodflower may have survived and are in bloom here and there as well.

Keep an eye out for new growth at the base of frost damaged plants. I can already see the surge of new leaves on my tree tithonia. Here's hoping for a warm (not hot!) Spring - and no more freezes!