Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The First Killing Frost

This morning on the way to work the car thermometer read 32 degrees. As I drove by the big garden I slowed down and tried to see if I could find any signs of frost damage. I thought that the dahlia foliage looked a little bit darker than normal but with such a quick glance I couldn't be sure. After work I walked down to the garden. Sure enough, the season is officially over! As you can see, all of the dahlia foliage was blackened by the freezing temperature. All of the new growth had turned to mush too but the main stem on each plant was still alive. It didn't get cold enough for a complete kill on the thick stemmed dahlias.

Tonight it is suppose to get even colder. Since I have had this much damage already, I am hoping that tonight's cold delivers the final knock-out punch! It was interesting to see what was damaged and what few plants survived.

My two beautiful rows of "Persian Carpet" zinnias were killed as were the other two varieties of zinnias. My row of mixed marigolds however, survived just fine. My theory is the heat from the earth kept the air temperature from freezing from a height of about 12" high to the ground. Since the marigolds are all just about 6" tall, they all made it ok through the night.

I was very thankful that the marigolds didn't freeze. I planted 3 varieties in the Gem series; "Lemon Gem", "Tangerine Gem" and Red Gem". One of my "Red Gem" plants appears to be a sport. Instead of the solid red petals tipped in orange that the other plants displayed, this plant had many blooms with orange petals overlaid with two red stripes. You can see some examples of this in the picture below. So, I decided to save some seed from this plant and see what I get next year. Perhaps this was a one-off, and will stabilize next year. Or perhaps I have the seed for a neat variation in the "Gem" series. Stay tuned!

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