A Killing Frost

Last weekend we here in WNC had the most damaging frost in over five decades. An article in the local paper quotes two local people from the apple-growing business as saying it was the worst frost disaster since 1955.

It was a perfect storm with regard to destroying tender spring growth. Unseasonably warm temperatures broke records and put the people of Asheville into summer gear — shorts and sandals in mid-March. The plants sent out new spring growth and beautiful flowers several weeks early.

It was delightful while it lasted.

The world was green and gold, like summer in mid-March. My lovely college campus — full of truly gorgeous well-planned landscaping featuring natural plants — was in full bloom, with trees and shrubs full of sweet-scented flowers in pink and white. (My compliments to the landscape planners of UNCA, where springtime is positively intoxicating. They didn’t just throw money at some pretty landscaping, but created a beautiful campus world of scent and color — scented camellias, winter daphne, a quad full of flowering trees. Truly a treat to the senses.)

Then last weekend a record cold hit, bringing daytime temps down by fifty degrees. It shocked the whole city with its cruel power, and the tender spring growth, so bright and full of life and color, was blanketed with snow. Muffled and then killed by snow and icy 20-degree cold.

Local berry crops are devastated, and local apple growers are facing a 90% loss of their crops and will have to make do on crop insurance — if they even have it.

In my own garden, the buddleia and hostas are burnt, with their green leaves turned tissue-thin and floppy. But these are hardy plants. Worse off may be the poor Japanese maple, which has had nearly all its leaves killed. Whether or not it will survive the damage, I do not know. I think the white flowering bleeding heart — in full bloom when the frost hit — will suffer from the damage this year but come back next year. This was the first year that they really bloomed. They were so pretty.

I think my peony plants actually might make it — they’re in a spot that’s sunny but not full sun, so their buds were still hard and immature. My neighbor thinks her peonies got zapped, but I think mine might make it. We’ll see.

I was driving around with a friend on this gray and rainy morning, and the whole world was leached of color in the most depressing and awful way. Not only was it a dull gray day, but all the bright colors of spring were made dull themselves, killed by cold. The purple flowers of the azaleas that lined the street were turned a lifeless orange. The white dogwood blooms were shriveled and drooping, and the trees seemed festooned with shreds of dingy kleenex.

Here’s a sad shot of what happened to a local grower’s strawberry crop.

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