There’s a lot to prune at San Antonio Botanical Garden following severe winter freeze

Volunteers needed to help clean up garden

By Spring, staff at the San Antonio Botanical Garden said they’re confident things will once again bloom, but working hands and green thumbs are needed now more than ever.

SAN ANTONIO – The pickup and restoration process continues across many parts of San Antonio following last week’s freezing temperatures. Some of the most visibly affected areas include the San Antonio Botanical Garden, where plants, flowers and even trees suffered tremendously due to the cold.

Employees like Scott Litchke, associate director of grounds and conservatory, have been working around the clock, some even sleeping at the garden during the freeze, to make sure life once again blooms.

“Everybody said it was coming,” Litchke said. “We didn’t realize how it was going to impact us until it actually hit.”

Lush landscapes turned white and froze what was underneath.

“Some of the cactuses, like the agave and more succulent plants, took a hard hit,” Litchke said. “We’ve never lost agave, and we’ve never lost prickly pear. This is the first year that that’s happened.”

Litchke has worked with the garden for nearly 30 years.

“I’ve seen a lot of freezes, but no, nothing to this extent,” he said.

Litchke along with his team did everything they could to save the plant life that brings joy and peace to visitors throughout the year.

“Our greenhouses, our conservatories all have to keep at an optimum temperature for some of these plants (to survive),” Litchke said. “Some of us actually had to spend the night here to make sure we didn’t have any power outages.”

As the snow finally began to melt, they discovered busted water pipes and the growth of plants, trees and flowers now limp and even distorted.

“This prickly pear is mushy and needs to be cut to the ground,” Litchke said.

Mushy plants should be cut down to the base to allow for new growth. (Copyright 2021 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

Litchke said if you look a little closer, you’ll notice there’s still hope and life for many plants.

“If you would just do a slight scrape with your clipper or knife, you’re going to see that green there. That is a perfect plant there.”

Experts advise to perform a scrape test on branches with a clipper or knife to determine if it's still healthy. If the color is green, it means the plant is alive. (Copyright 2021 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

Popular ornamental grass for landscapes still stand a second chance, according to Litchke.

“You want to cut (the ornamental grass) back to shape,” Litchke said. “So, (the ornamental grass) ends up being a round ball with a flat top on the top.”

By Spring, staff at the San Antonio Botanical Garden said they’re confident things will once again bloom, but working hands and green thumbs are now needed more than ever.

“We sure could use some hands here to help us clean up all the things we’re cutting back,” Litchke said. “We’re going to be mulching again, getting ready for the springtime. Becoming a member is very helpful. Your membership fees go to the garden and that’ll help us a lot.”

Employees at the San Antonio Botanical Gardene work endlessly to save plant life that brings joy and peace to visitors throughout the year. (Copyright 2021 by KSAT - All rights reserved.)

Those interested must first submit an application online before signing up for volunteer opportunities.

To learn more about volunteer opportunities with the San Antonio Botanical Garden click here.


About the Authors:

Alicia Barrera is a KSAT 12 News reporter and anchor. She is also a co-host of the streaming show KSAT News Now. Alicia is a first-generation Mexican-American, fluent in both Spanish and English with a bachelor's degree from Our Lady of the Lake University. She enjoys reading books, traveling solo across Mexico and spending time with family.