Surviving the Polar Vortex

Frozen Garden Hose and water pipe connectionMuch of the country experienced an extreme cold spell last week. The weather forecasters called it a polar vortex and depending on where you lived, it swept through with a fury between January 5th and 8th.

I’m sure you’ve heard all the meteorological explanations on the news for yourself, but here’s the way Scientific American recaps it:

“The polar vortex is a prevailing wind pattern that circles the Arctic, flowing from west to east all the way around the Earth. It normally keeps extremely cold air bottled up toward the North Pole. Occasionally, though, the vortex weakens, allowing the cold air to pour down across Canada into the U.S., or down into other regions such Eastern Europe.”

During the vortex, the daily temperatures being reported in Minnesota and the Dakotas were truly mind-boggling – 20 to 30 degrees below zero! Where I live in Atlanta, we had a record low of 6 degrees, combined with an extended freeze where it didn’t go about 32F at all for several days, which is unusual here. Continue reading

Halloween: How to Plant a Succulent-Topped Pumpkin

Today’s Halloween decorating idea comes from the YouTube channel of talented garden photojournalist Debra Lee Baldwin, who is an expert on succulent plants.

Take a look for yourself, and then go out and create an amazingly beautiful Halloween pumpkin for your own front porch!

There’s also a beautifully photographed, step-by-step tutorial on creating such arrangements on the Gossip in the Garden blog, written by garden designer and author Rebecca Sweet — please click through to visit this page!

Ghost Plant is a Solid Presence in Fall Containers

Photo: gilintx, via Flickr

Since Halloween is just around the corner, I thought I’d write about ghost plant today.

I can’t remember exactly when, or from where, I acquired ghost plant, but I’ve had it for many years. And I can never be sure I’m spelling its proper name correctly, so I’m always double-checking myself on it – Graptopetalum paraguayense.

At one point during an impromptu search I performed to check the Latin name, I also turned up the information that ghost plant is only winter hardy in zones 9 and 10 (meaning it survives temperatures no lower than 20 to 25 degrees). Really? Hmmm…I’ve been growing it in containers in Atlanta (zone 7) for over ten years now. And I know we’ve had plenty of clear, cold nights when the mercury has plunged into the low teens during that time, so I think the conventional wisdom about this plant is wrong. Continue reading