The Florida Freeze

A New Year - Resolutions and a Slow Start

DATELINE: Miami, FL

My New Year plan is two part. Part one, delete a few more bonsai trees from my collection and make the remaining ones even better. Part two, continue creating and growing the BonsaiMary.com website.

The year began in an orderly fashion. I refined my bonsai and they were ready for a winter rest. I took down the Christmas decorations the day after New Years as planned. I started working on the website. Suddenly things changed. Much of Christmas is still sitting in the living room. The laundry is piling up and dusting? Forget it. What happened? Weather!

These early days of 2010 have been … well, crazy!

I get no sympathy from my northern friends, but freeze and frost warnings are serious in South Florida (especially if you have 100 tropical bonsai in your back yard.) Yes, that’s all I have left.

Some of my trees are small, so I probably shouldn’t count them individually. Up to 10 can fit in a ‘carry tray’ ... which is great when you start hauling them indoors.

The first night of the arctic blast weather forecast we were warned of “potential frost”.

Lightweight 'plant blankets' (the same as what farmers use for crops)and even the shade house will protect plants from a light frost. Nevertheless, my rule of thumb is – if you really love it and would hate to see it die, bring it in!

I have folding tables in the shed for just such a purpose. (Usually they only come out under threats of hurricane).

A friend once called this venture the “dance of the tropicals”. It’s not a fun dance. My daughter Angela and I brought almost everything in the house that first night.

Three plants are too large. Those three were covered with the plant blankets. Then they were wrapped in plastic. Each day, as the sun comes up, the plastic must be removed to keep them from 'cooking'.

The first night everything was safe and it warmed up a bit, the plants went back outdoors.

That was not the end. Then came freeze warnings. Needless to say, the dance resumed. As I danced, I must have looked like a Green Bay Packers fan the way I was dressed – headgear, hoodie, jacket and gloves. Oh yes, and two pair of pants. Did I mention I hate the cold!

This time rather than bring everything in again, I built a little house out of concrete block, with a hurricane shutters roof. (I knew there must be another use for those things!) I put down some nursery ground cloth and placed the trees inside. Plastic side panels kept the wind out.

About 20 really small and/or fragile plants still came indoors.

The lowest temperature in my yard was 31 degrees F. and the wind chill 24!

I spent a lot of time looking at the thermometer, listening to weather reports and just peeking out the window – not sure what I expected to see. Some here in the southwest area of Miami saw snow flurries! This has only happened three times since record keeping began in the 1800s.

As with all frosts and freezes here, we won't know the true damage outcome for a few days. I'm sure there will be leaf loss but no serious damage is anticipated in my yard. I have great concern for the farmers though.

This morning it's 40 and the weekend forecast is:

“Saturday high near 80 degrees F”.

That’s the good part about South Florida, none of the bad weather lasts very long.

I can't help but think, if I had listened to our late mentor Joe Samuels, I would have only twelve trees to "dance" with each year. Maybe next time.


What’s New on the BonsaiMary site?

Speaking of Joe Samuels, I just added ‘The Ficus nerifolia as Bonsai’ story to the Articles section.


All the best to you (and your bonsai) for 2010!

Comments? Ideas? Feedback? I’d love to hear from you. Just ‘reply’ to this e-zine and tell me what you think.

See you next month.

Mary