NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The historic arctic blast just before Christmas dealt a huge blow to some of the foliage around Middle Tennessee. News 2 took a trip to Cheekwood to see how its plants are doing a month after the winter storm, as well as get some gardening tips.

For Peter Grimaldi, vice president of gardens and facilities at Cheekwood, these plants in the botanical garden are like his babies, so he was a little anxious when the temperature plummeted last month.

“I need to check the camellias and the osmanthus and the Japanese garden,” said Grimaldi, reflecting back on the storm. “Primarily concerned with broad-leaf evergreens.”

Grimaldi said that many of Cheekwood’s plants can handle colder temperatures, but not the flash freeze that took place on Dec. 22-23, 2022, with the temperature dropping about 52 degrees in a matter of hours.

“What is literally happening inside of the plant is ice crystals are forming, rupturing cell membranes, cell walls, and that tissue dies,” Grimaldi explained. “And, as I said, you’re not coming back from that.”

Evergreens, the cherry family, and laurels were some of the hardest hit.

“At Cheekwood right now, I think we’re still in the dozens, and that may escalate into the hundreds here in the next couple months as we find out more,” Grimaldi added.

If you’re wondering if your plant is dead, there’s a simple two-part test:

  • First, the “spring test,” which means gently pulling on a few branches; if it springs back, it shows there’s sign of life.
  • Second, the “scratch test,” which essentially involves scratching a branch with your thumb; if it reveals a green color, it’s healthy, but if it reveals a brown color, it’s dead.

No matter the results you get, Grimaldi urges you not to pull the plant out just yet. First, wait a few months.

“April, May, perhaps even later, to let the plants kind of break their dormancy, and tell us where they’re going to recover, and start pushing new stems and leaf growth,” he recommended.

After all, according to Grimaldi, that plant you thought was killed by the cold snap might show new life in spring.

Meanwhile, if you’re concerned about the gorgeous, colorful tulips that Cheekwood is famous for, Grimaldi said not to worry because those bulbs in the ground will be just fine come spring.