The freeze was an unprecedented event in many ways. Its effects on landscaping in Houston were significant and we are still realizing the full scope. We have seen so many types of shrubs, plants and trees not come back after the freeze which has created quite a backlog of replacements that we are working through, day by day. All of this damage has led to quite a backlog of work for our enhancement teams. The backlog is both a symptom of the amount of landscaping that needs to be replaced as well as a lack of availability of material needed. The freeze affected growers and suppliers as well as all the commercial properties in the area. We have reached far outside of our normal geographic location to be able to source plant material for replacements to meet the needs of our commercial landscaping clients. We’ve also seen a difference in what is available to installation. The strain on the growers means material that is less mature when it becomes available to us.
From the commercial property owner standpoint, the loss of investment is definitely one of the negative impacts experienced from the freeze. The landscaping of any commercial property is the first thing seen by tenants and patrons of any property so losing long established landscaping is a loss to the value of the property and must be replaced which can be an unforeseen expense. There are instances, with some types of plant material, where they are coming back very slowly. After months of thinking there was no hope, we have seen plants like Bottle Brush started to flush back out after five months of looking pretty much dead. Many commercial landscapes cannot wait this long for the landscape to return.
We are seeing one of the more serious impacts with large palm trees. Some of these fronds can weigh in excess of 500 lbs. All palms within the freeze zone had many dead fronds after the snow and ice melted. Now, those fronds that weren’t removed are beginning to fall. When a frond of that size lets go 30-40 feet in the air, it can be seriously dangerous for vehicles, buildings and people below. The urgency of this issue has added to the workload for our tree care teams to get as many as these palm trees down as quickly as possible.
We’ve also seen an unprecedented increase in weed growth in the area. When a weed seed experiences the extreme stress put on it during a freeze event like that, it goes into survival mode which makes it push out all it’s resources to try to survive. This is what is creating the increase in weeds that we are all experiencing right now.
On the positive side, there were many antiquated landscapes in the area that were originally installed in the late 70s or 80s with plant material that has become very susceptible to insects or diseases. In a way, the freeze created an opportunity to upgrade these properties with new plant material that are better suited for both the Houston climate and the age of the property. It is a forced refresh, if you will, that will add to the value of the property and the curb appeal.
The freeze of 2021 was one for the books. As we continue to navigate through recovering the landscape of Houston, we work hard to restore each commercial landscape to its pre-freeze, or better, condition as quickly as possible with the factors at hand. Prioritizing work with safety in mind first, we are looking forward to the beauty each of these properties will offer come next Spring.