Cummer Museum's gardens survive cold

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The cold weather is in the past, but the remnants of the freeze are visible in many areas of northeast Florida.

Some people were able to keep their cold-sensitive plants alive, but others weren't so lucky.

At the Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens, most of the plants were able to make it through the cold without too much damage, but some of the plants were killed when temperatures dropped below freezing on back-to-back nights.

Over the next few days, curators will be working hard to make sure visitors can hardly tell anything was damaged.

"There probably are some things that won't make it back, but they may have been on their way out to begin with," chief curator Holly Keris said. "We will continue to monitor it and make adjustments as needed."

The freeze didn't stop people from visiting the gardens early this week, but people weren't outside for very long. They only took enough time to look at the icicles hanging from the fountain and check out the St. Johns River on one of the coldest days in recent memory.

Now that the cold has passed, workers will move quickly to replace what died in one of their most popular exhibits.

"I don't know that people have lingered as long in the gardens as they normally would have, but certainly attendance is high," Keris said. "Things look pretty good right now. We are hoping that over the next few days as things warm up, things will continue to improve.

Around the area, many people also had similar problems with their plants. From dead banana trees to other tropical plants that just couldn't handle the temperatures in the 20s, a quick drive around most neighborhoods shows what the cold snap left behind.

Now, according to plant experts, it's time to get those coverings off the plants, especially the plastic coverings.

"That will cause a rapid heat-up of the plants," said Nick Zimmer, of Trad's Garden Center. "That will shock the plants and cause more damage. With the cloth blankets, you can leave them on for a little while, but you want to get them off and let the plants start to rebound before it heats up this weekend."

For plants that look a little brown or yellowish and possibly dead, residents may want to wait to dig them up. Experts say to give them a few weeks to try to recover and see if they made it.

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