I returned from six weeks in Virginia in time to have one day to prepare for two nights and one day of unusual cold in the lowcountry.
So... I'd already surrounded the base of my citrus before I left for Virginia - so a satsuma in the ground and a satsuma, mandarin orange, lemon and kumquat in large (heavy) pots - with bales of wheat straw. Several layers of tarps, plastic and old blankets went on the top. No strings of lights (not a convenient location - without several extension cords) or any other heat source. My winter vegetable garden (collards, brocolli, swiss chard, tuscan kale, beats, lettuces, mustard greens, radicchio) were covered in one large sheet of clear plastic - with the edges 'sealed' with more wheat straw. All of my potted plants (a tropical ginger, cinnamon ginger, jade, etc) were dragged into a small shed with (thankfully) electricity so I could keep a small space heater on.
The expected news: all of the camellia flowers that were fully open (or starting to open) turned a lovely shade of brown. I was happy to see that many of my camellias still have tight flower buds - so they pop out over the next few weeks.
The good news: my vegetable garden fared pretty damn well. I knew the collards would be fine - although the swiss chard had some damage, it wasn't as bad as I had expected, and so today I cut off most of the damaged leaves and I think they'll bounce back fine (especially after the warm rain today). Some of the lettuce was damaged, but not horribly so... and the radicchio looks great as does the mustard greens. Yay! I was really glad to see that my winter garden survived.
More good news: all of my potted plants in the shed survived surprisingly well.
The bad news: My gorgeous clump of Farfugium giganteum bit the dust. I was bummed. They had survived a 20 degree night before, but not an 18 degree night followed by a day that barely reached 34 (with 20-25 mph winds) and another night at around 20 degrees. I planted three small plants in the summer of 2007 and they had slowly grown into a rather lovely (and large) clump (part of which can be seen here from last November). In fact, I was thinking about dividing them this spring. Now, I don't think it has died altogether - but after it warms up in a month or so, I'll have to cut off the dead above grown portion and cross my fingers that new leaves start emerging in the spring. They should.
Last night was our coldest night of the season - and in the 'cold pocket' of my garden, the side where the vegetable beds and perennial border are, there was a light frost and freeze. The peppers and tomatoes and eggplants are now gone. The citrus trees (a satsuma, lemon, kumquat and mandarin orange) were packed with straw around their pots and covered in a tarp, and they are fine (I harvested five satsumas a few days ago, and just ate the last one this evening). Fortunately most of the perennial border is covered by tree branches - either live oaks or river birch or bald cypress or sweet gum - so the fall-blooming salvia and milkweed and mexican sunflower etc are fine. The lettuces, tuscan kale, swiss chard and other fall crops recovered quickly from the cold during the 60 degree afternoon. Temperatures will be in the mid-70s this weekend.