A Florida yard braces for more leaf-burning cold

I have a Florida yard. A Florida yard is loaded with nice, flowery plants that don’t need a lick of water, attract butterflies and hummingbirds and bees, and look pretty much bountiful all year-round.

EXCEPT … if the temperature dips below 86 degrees. At which point the entire yard packs up and moves to Miami on a Greyhound bus. Or worse, shrivels up and dies, leaving behind a brown, crunchy wasteland. The surface of Mars is not so desolate, barren or sad.

My dune daisies are wrecked. The porter’s weed looks like it has been stricken by a case of vegetative mange. And the bougainvillea — so happy to impale me with its saber-tooth thorns just a couple of weeks ago — has dropped every leaf it could find, ordered more on Amazon, and then dropped them, too.

The aesthetic of my yard right now? Dead sticks in creepy forest.

I tried to save them all. Or as best as I could considering we had several nights of sub-freezing weather, and I can’t really get too motivated with anything involving the word “sub.”

I scoured my shed looking for plant coverings, knowing that most sheets I had stuffed in there were long ago claimed as nut banks and party dens for the backyard squirrels. (If there is one critter you don’t mess with in sub-zero temps, it’s a squirrel at risk of losing a nut bank.)

All I found were some old coffee bean sacks (why I even had these I don’t know), a cloth shower curtain, a tarp leftover from the hurricane and a shirt with some questionable substance that may or may not have been corrosive. (It started smoking when I moved it.) This, along with yard debris cans I placed atop plants, was the state of my yard. It looked like a hobo camp for raccoons.

The second night I got it in my head that with so many plastic yard garbage bags lying around — last year I became a conscientious objector to raking leaves and have never used a one of them — I could cover more of my shivering plants. Suddenly my yard looked like an army of ghosts floating through a hobo camp for raccoons.

Most people neatly tie up blankets around precious plants, but I don’t waste my time. I nonchalantly drape my makeshift rags and tarps over them without any connection to the ground. I found this works well, especially in a light breeze. That way they all blow into your neighbor’s yard, shielding his plants from the damaging cold while yours get torched.

And they sure got torched. Right now, scientists are puzzling over satellite images that show a despicable brown stain upon the otherwise green landscape of Florida. An illegal toxic waste dump, they’ll wonder? A meteor strike? Evidence of an alien spacecraft’s landing? Or maybe just some knucklehead Floridian who can’t tie a tarp down, or take back his cold-weather sheets from a bunch of partying squirrels.

Also published on Medium.

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