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Cold may wreak havoc on plant life

Tracey Fitzgibbon
Dear readers: With the truly cold weather we’ve had, I’m a whole lot of concerned. Some types of plant life that have been planted here in the metro area might not fare well in these conditions, but we’ll just have to wait and see.

I heard a weather forecaster say that it’s been ten years since we’ve been subjected to low temperatures like this, hence my concern.

If you were here then, you can remember those cold, cold nights and days easily. The aftermath was slow to show but none the less visible.

I always enjoyed the drive on Menaul Boulevard., from Broadway headed east, admiring the plantings of crepe myrtle in the medians when they were in bloom and then as season progressed, the cool green foliage offered all summer long.

Well, that cold weather was the beginning of the end for them. So sad. If you were paying attention you could also see patches of cactus that looked as if they were melting into a pile of gloomy yuck. And they were.

So much plant life can be affected by weather. Cold as well as hot. So we’ll just have to see how things will fare as this spring comes on.

Meanwhile, I will ask that you not prune or trim two plant life types yet, and perhaps be a little slow to prune everything at all.

Both crepe myrtle and oleander will be best left alone, unless you find a branch or stem that is snapped or broken at all – that damage should be removed now – until at the earliest late April.

Both plants would benefit from the continued “wearing” of their old wood until if and when they start to pop out new growth. Crepe myrtle for sure are in their own way “odd.”

By nature, crepe myrtle are one of the last plants to “wake up” in the spring. Call them lazy, or I prefer to say smart, but they rarely show signs of life before the end of April and even into May. Many gardeners believe them dead so they are yanked out of the ground by impatient growers.

But this bout of cold just might be the death of them. You’ll just have to wait and see what has been damaged and what can rebound. So be patient, know the coming weather will moderate and soon spring will come.

Next, I want to bring some much needed information to the forefront for us that should be a continual concern with the future of planting in these parts.

The Albuquerque Journal published an article “Planting for the future” on Dec. 27, 2020, by Theresa Davis. It’s a cautionary tale about the tree life that should be considered when planting trees here, taking into account the environmental changes predicted. The piece is sobering to say the least.

But people have done gobs and gobs of research and due diligence in order to assure that we here in the metro and surrounding areas can have trees to help keep Albuquerque alive and greener.

Remember that it’s proven, statistically, that a community that plants, tends and cares about trees and plant life is far healthier. The article talks about a more diverse “urban forest,” planting the seed to guide us to better tree choices especially since our mayor, Tim Keller, has set a goal of planting 100,000 trees in Albuquerque by the year 2030.

That’s a lot of trees, yet really a drop in the bucket, that will help keep Albuquerque healthier. Davis’ article does offer a website, created by a group of dedicated people aiming to give us plenty of pertinent information when choosing a tree that could perform terrifically here with what’s to come.

So perhaps you have a tree that is “aging out” or are interested in planting anew. Take the time to check out the website by going to for information galore. It’s an amazing site that I guarantee can keep you busy for hours. Especially since we’ll need information aplenty if we’re going to keep “Diggin’ In” and doing it well.

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to