Texas weather, freeze susceptibility, sand plunge

Cynthia Mueller cynthiasbulbs@hotmail.com
Mon, 27 Jan 2014 04:35:27 PST
Monica...could you tell us more details of your "sand plunge"? And how do you ensure that water doesn't collect at the bottom, rather than drain through the surrounding soil? -Cynthia Mueller

Sent from my iPhone

> On Jan 26, 2014, at 11:28 PM, "Monica Swartz" <eciton@alumni.utexas.net> wrote:
> Cynthia asked about how winter-growing bulbs respond to the 
> temperature turmoil in Texas. I live in Austin (zone 8b) though the 
> microclimate at my house on the edge of the escarpment is 
> significantly more extreme than in the city. I grow hundreds of 
> winter-growing species from S. Africa, California, and the 
> Mediterranean, most with little to no weather protection and I've 
> been planting loads of winter-growing bulbs into the ground to see 
> what works.
> This winter has provided several events with 80 degree F temperature 
> swings in 24-48 hours and one rainfall event of over 15 inches in a 
> few hours. The plants grow when the weather is good, and pause when 
> it is not. The wild swings in temperature make no difference in when 
> they flower or go dormant. In my experience, most winter-growers are 
> far more freeze-hardy than you might expect.
> The real killer this year was the first freeze in mid November. I 
> lost several species and had lots of damage even though it was barely 
> below freezing. It simply hadn't been cold up to that day and I 
> believe that the plants need the trigger of some cool nights to make 
> the heat-shock proteins that protect them. A mild freeze out of the 
> blue was far more deadly than the recent 15 degree ice storm.
> I have only been growing in Texas for a few years and I still have a 
> lot to learn. This November's lesson was a hard one. On a brighter 
> note, I've also learned how fantastic a sand plunge is!!! I built a 
> small plunge in full sun for winter-growing Brunsvigia, Haemanthus, 
> Boophane, and Gethyllis and all are growing and flowering happily 
> without the freeze damage shown by the same species on shelves just a 
> foot away. I think they could go below 10 degrees F before the first 
> leaf burn on the edges. Even more surprising is that I left the pots 
> in the plunge all year and let them get summer rain without cover. 
> They loved it, lots of flowers (the Brunsvigia seed I sent to the BX 
> came from this plunge) and one Gethyllis split into three. Our rain 
> is infrequent but heavy (35 inches a year on average). Those of you 
> in drier climates should have little to fear. I have read about sand 
> plunges on this forum for years and now I'm more than convinced, I've 
> started building my second one.
> monica expecting more snow tomorrow after 75 F today
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