Too cold for cacti and tortoises? Let’s roll out the frost cloth!

My usual ebullience hasn’t exactly flat-lined, but it’s on standby. Not exactly Bah Humbug, but I do feel a little emotionally drained. I know I’m not alone.


I’m very good at distracting myself. I love to spend time in nurseries and garden centers, dreaming about how to make the outdoors more beautiful. Spending time in natural settings is the perfect way to shift my attention to a pleasurable pursuit.  A Southern California December is relatively mild.

Roger's Gardens Collage

Laguna Nursery Collage

Succulents, Bromeliads, Orchids and Cyclamen are both colorful and plentiful. Taking in both sights and fragrance boosts my endorphin level!

I have managed to spend no more than one hour in a mall this season. I did most of my shopping on-line and I avoid crowds as much as possible. But I can spend hours in a beautiful nursery.

I didn’t bring much home. Not that it wasn’t very tempting to add to what we already have, but gardens require a lot of work. This isn’t the easiest time of year for me to engage in even more maintenance. Because we don’t have a snow cover, everything continues to grow throughout the winter–including weeds. And plants continue to grow, slowly, yes, but still requiring staking, pruning and watering.

Occasionally we get a cold snap with plummeting temperatures and the promise of a freeze. And when that happens we go into proactive mode.

The San Gabriel Country Club is the oldest private golf club and 18-hole course in Southern California dating back to 1904. Our home is adjacent one end of the course, and this lovely green belt is one of the reasons we have frequent wildlife visitations.

Golff Course

This lovely expanse of well-watered green also contributes to interesting micro-climates. Under particular weather conditions we can be socked in with fog when I leave for work in the morning, and within two blocks from home the sun will be shining. And when regional temperatures fall, we can have a night of hard frost.

The expected low is 34 degrees–I know that doesn’t sound that cold for winter, but our gardens aren’t equipped to handle a freeze. If our micro-climate conditions push us just a little lower, there will be frost damage! And even light frost can do a lot of damage to my many succulents and cacti. Damage to cacti and succulents usually occurs on the growing tips first, so we rolled out our sheets of frost cloth.

Covering Succulents

There’s more than one way to have a White Christmas, don’t you agree? We covered as much of the area as possible with a breathable fabric that retains warmer temperatures underneath and provides insulation between the plants and the outdoor air.

Backyard Freeze

The activity provided an opportunity to give Sophia and Karina a little science lesson. And gives me a little peace of mind that we have done what we could to prevent too much damage. And did you see Darwin? He’s also insulated. He remains as close to his little nest of Timothy Hay as possible. He hasn’t left his home in the greenhouse for a few days now. The spotlight and under-belly heat pad are his protection against the cold.

And the weather forecast hints at the possibility of rain for Christmas! I just might get to have a fire in the fireplace after all! What’s the song say?

Baby it’s cold outside! 

59 thoughts on “Too cold for cacti and tortoises? Let’s roll out the frost cloth!

  1. Your garden is beautiful Debra.
    Your reference to a white Christmas reminded me of my only white Christmas spent in Boston 4 years ago. It was so very beautiful. I’ll try to post a picture on my blog before Christmas,or maybe on Christmas Day downunder.
    I so pleased you have your two precious helpers.
    Take care

    • I hope you will indeed post your photos of your Boston Christmas, Tricia. That would be fun to see! My little helpers are growing up so quickly! I am enjoying a little more time with them right now because school is out! 🙂 I am always so glad to have you stop by!

  2. It looks like you’ve done a great job of protecting your garden from frost. We have rain predicted for our Christmas Day too and it’s not going to be that warm. Quite disappointing really. It just doesn’t seem like Christmas unless it’s as hot as blazes and you go around in a puce sweat all day xx

    • I just had to laugh at your comment that it doesn’t seem like Christmas unless it’s as hot as blazes…I suppose that singing “Im dreaming of a white Christmas” doesn’t hold much meaning, does it? I think our global climates are all upset, don’t you?

  3. I love the photos from Roger’s Gardens! I hadn’t thought about them in years. Kurt used to love to go there to see their holiday decorations and lighting. I always appreciate it when your blog reminds me of beautiful/special places from my past, like this one. Thanks for the memories!

    • I’m glad I could share a few photos of Roger’s Gardens with you, Lori. They were in full holiday mode when we arrived. I do love that place. We hardly ever buy anything, but I do get ideas and come home eager to spruce up the place! 🙂 They do know how to merchandise well!

  4. Well, well, well … such an interesting post on the day the midwest is getting hammered. 😉 … As for us, we’ll experience big change and a cold blast with maybe some snow. Nonetheless, just a little care a few times goes a long way – so cheers to your dedication to your green friends! …. oh … and Darwin too.

    • Aren’t the temperature swings crazy, Nancy! We occasionally get these Arctic blasts from Alaska, and they really upset the norm. I don’t have clothing for the cold, and my poor garden isn’t prepared either. And Darwin hasn’t basically moved in days!

  5. Your garden center collage almost made me miss having a yard, Debra. Almost.

    I’m glad you’re able to cover everything and keep it safe through a cold snap. It’s in the 70’s here today. In fact, I’ve been walking to meetings downtown because it’s been so nice. Not exactly Christmas-y, though, and I’ve felt a little bah humbug myself.

    On a different note, MTM and I are going to see Les Mis on December 26. I can’t wait to compare notes with you on what you thought of it. If it’s all right with you, I’m going to email you so we can discuss. 🙂 I wish we could see it together, because MTM really, REALLY doesn’t want to go.

  6. I could spend hours in that nursery as well, Debra. Just seeing all that growth and the fragrance of flowers and peat and . . . here, a blizzard is coming our way. Don’t tell anyone, but, I’m looking forward to it. We need the snow cover and the moisture here in the midwest, having broken records for 290 days without snow and the drought of this summer. Stay tuned . . .

    PS The girls look cute. I’ve been known to put sheets and blankets on plants in spring to protect them from a late frost. Good for you, Debra, protecting your investments and all that they give.

    • A blizzard! My goodness! I don’t know what I’d do, but you have me smiling at your enthusiasm, Penny! I suppose that will really give you the White Christmas experience. I hope you keep warm and safe indoors, and have a wonderful few days leading up to Christmas. I finally started wrapping gifts! I have never been this late in preparation, but it will all get done! 🙂

  7. I’m with you on that, Debra – I’d rather be in a nursery, a garden, the woods or a tea room than spend time in a mall! I love how you turned all that garden protection into a White Christmas! 😀

    • I thought it was time that I showed a little bit of how we cope with winter! I sometimes leave you on the east coast with the impression that we don’t even get cold. It isn’t like snow, but once in a while when the temperatures dip suddenly we are caught off guard and can have substantial damage to the plants in the garden. Our nights have been hovering at just above 32 degrees, so we may have been alright without the frost cloth, but I wasn’t going to take any chances!

    • We do try to keep Darwin comfortable, and I’m sure he’s fine, but it does cause me some concern when he just stays in one warm spot and won’t move! Sulcata’s don’t hibernate, but they do slow down! Thank you for the compliment on the garden. I hope our frost cloth keeps everything warm! 🙂

    • We are not accustomed to Darwin being so reclusive! Sulcata’s do not hibernate, but they absolutely require heat, so the poor thing doesn’t move beyond his hot spot! I actually hope we keep the colder climate for a little while, Kate. It’s just as likely we won’t, however! 🙂

  8. Gosh, I hope it worked, Debra. All those beautiful plants deserve to be protected and your little helpers did a grand job. However much you enjoy visiting the nursery, you don’t want to have to replace your carefully-tended treasures. I’m with you on shopping online this year. I’ve hardly been near a real shop for gifts.

    Take care and I hope you find your Christmas spirit soon.

    • Thank you, Perpetua. My Christmas spirit is growing every day! This was a very difficult week following the tragedy in Connecticut (I am presuming this is one news story that traveled), and as the week comes to a close I am letting go of some of that community grief. And then the focus is shifting to making sure this is a wonderful Christmas for my family. I finally started wrapping gifts tonight and that was fun. And isn’t shopping on-line a wonderful way to go! I hope you have a wonderful Christmas with your family, my friend. Thank you for being such a thoughtful and encouraging friend. Debra

  9. I don’t know, Debra. Frost in Southern California? I think this was all a clever ruse to get more time with your Darlings, your Granddaughters. “Frost cloth”, “breathable fabric”, “provides insulation.” Gee. When you tell a fib you go all out! I must admit, though, your plan is pure genius. I imagine you’re going to “need help” removing the (supposed) frost cloths and who will that be?
    Genius I tell you! 🙂

    • When I get into a project I really get into a project, John. After purchasing a couple of yards of the frost cloth at a local nursery and paying a small fortune for it, I researched and found a manufacturer and had a whole bolt shipped from the midwest and now I hope I have enough to last the rest of my life! LOL! I couldn’t see my way to install smudge pots–that’s what they use at the Huntington Library Gardens. Fortunately temperatures don’t dip this low very often. I admit I was feeling pretty proud of myself for managing to get everything draped before nightfall!

      And thank you so much for the Christmas wishes. I certainly hope that you, too, have a wonderful time with family and friends. And a very happy 2013. I hope you’ll have some time with Zia!

  10. I can spend forever in a nursery as well. I find the mall a non-shopping experience usually because I find most of the shops are geared for the teenage crowd. Somehow looking at plants can be very relaxing. Sometimes when it is really cold outside in the winter will go to a nursery jsut to see something green and growing! Take Care, Thea

    • There really is something nice about the way most nurseries merchandise with beautiful art objects mixed in with the plants. With some beautiful water features and soft music I would be willing to move in! 🙂 Thank you for stopping by, Thea!

  11. Your photos are really lovely. I’d give you 10 out of 10 for the collages – how did you get that sweet picture of your grand daughters in the middle? I think they’d make great framed prints – you should offer to sell them to the nurseries.
    I’m with you – I too could spend hours in garden nurseries – and as for the mall, well I can’t remember the last time I went to a mall!
    Very interesting to read about the micro-climate of your home, and the frost sheets.

  12. That does seem cold for your neck of the woods! Glad you had fun with the girls getting everything protected and warm. Have a very Merry Christmas Debra. Here’s to several days of an extended exhale, the love of family and the joy of togetherness. Cheers!

  13. Thank you so much for dropping by my blog so often, I feel you are becoming a blogger friend, which is so great. Seeing the beautiful collages in this post, I’m reminded I need to learn how to make one. We had a little bit of snow/hail mix that stuck to the ground when we lived in Pasadena. I never forget the high-stepping my So. Cal. cat did in the snow. Like, what in the world is this? And please get me out of here.

    • I am glad that Dee introduced us, Inger. I, too, really feel that we have a lot of common interests, and that is a very nice way to enjoy a blogging friendship. In case I don’t get the chance to say this later, I do wish you a Merry Christmas, and in the new year, peace and good health! oxo

  14. I enjoyed the range of photos you shared… Darwin looks happy and your garden beautiful… The sign says it all. I had a good laugh at that one… Happy Holidays!

  15. BTW, are you still not getting my posts? I never stopped posting and WP staffers suggested that people let them know which blogs they are not receiving… They didn’t see any problems with my subscriptions. Just thought I’d mention it.

    • I’m so sorry it took me a couple of days to get back to you regarding your question about posting. I have been out of town for a couple of days! I have a lot of trouble with my reader. I have noticed that some of the longer posts don’t show up in the reader, but then, on another time when I’m scrolling through the posts one will appear that wasn’t there the day before! I have no idea why that is. On the other hand, I do subscribe by email and see them there! This doesn’t make any sense to me, but I do seem to get caught up sooner or later!

      I’m way behind right now…so let’s see what I find when I go to my reader and begin to scroll! 🙂

  16. The picture that made me smile is the one with your two precious granddaughters. I have a soft spot for children and I enjoy seeing happy children like Sophia and Karina. The garden is gorgeous by the way!

    • Thank you so much, Marie, for being so sweet about the photos of my granddaughters. I will admit they completely brighten my life! In case I don’t have the opportunity to check in again in the next couple of days, I want to wish you a very happy Christmas, Marie. I hope, too, that the new year brings peace and much contentment. 🙂

  17. I wish I had read your post last week.. I was definitely in need of suggestions to reclaim the spirit of Christmas I had lost.. I could have sought out some sort of garden center, at the very least. How interesting that a golf course location can create a micro-climate, it makes perfect sense now that you’ve explained it to us. Your poor little Darwin, I was certain he had a little clear frost-raincoat (sort of like a shower cap) wrapped around his shell to stay warm. Is there a little heating pad in his area? Or is that your reference to his own body heat from his belly? It’s very interesting how creatures like Darwin can adapt. Well, I may not see you before the “Big Day”, but thank you for this wander past some lovely gardens and the beautiful smiles of your babies:D Have a very Merry Christmas, Deb!! xxx Smidge

  18. Pingback: Caring For Your Garden In The Winter • The Greenhouse Garden

  19. Pingback: Weekend in review: Meeting a blogging friend and taking care of Darwin, a very cold tortoise. | breathelighter

  20. Last year while in Melbourne our son took us to a beautiful nursery like this close to where he lives. Unfortunately I have no pictures of it. I like your pictures very much. Thanks for sharing!

    • I’m not sure that the proprietors of the nurseries I went in were all that thrilled with me taking photos. I tend to whip out my phone and snap them quickly before I’m observed. But I’m now in the habit of thinking I need a photo of everything I do. I probably compeltely overdo it and I don’t think my family is always thrilled with me holding up activity while I document it! 🙂

      • Hi, Debra, I have similar problems with picture taking. Peter always thinks I overdo it. He constantly warns me not to shoot people who happen to stroll into my way,. urging me to wait till the people have passed. I like to take photos of many, many things. I don’t have a phone. My camera is rather small. I do regret when I am prevented from documenting family events properly..

        • I am not sure when it became so important for us all to have bigger and “better” cameras! My mom and dad have been going through my grandparents’ photos and they are just small, very old, black and whites, yet we love looking at each one! They still tell a story. I think we just need to take as many as we can and some of us, including me, need to remember we are not professional photographers! LOL! I’m sure you are good at documenting your family events, Uta!

I always enjoy hearing from you!

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