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!