Booglify: Felder verb; to become mushy after freeze and thaw. “My canna’s leaves booglified into slimy cell goo.”
Far as I know, there ain’t a formal word for what happens when, come Autumn’s first freeze, summer plants melt into a putrid glob. But it’s nasty.
Want technical? Me neither – studied plant physiology in college, and can make your eyes cross with esoterica. Short version, with apologies to Professor Price, is that in general plants are organisms made of living, multiplying cells with fairly rigid walls filled with gooey protoplasm made of tiny functional bits suspended in water. Water between the cells holds soluble nutrients, proteins, enzymes, salts, and other stuff which normally moves in and out of cells to keep things running smoothly.
In cold-climate plants, some of the substances act like antifreeze and some plants can shift them around to reduce cells’ drying out or bursting; some plants don’t.
I do understand the horror. When cells of tender plants are exposed to freezing temperatures, the relatively pure water between cells turns to ice so it can’t move in and out of cells, so the plants lose their “structural integrity” and parts of them wilt. But really cold temps freeze the water inside the cells, which expands and ruptures the rigid cell walls, so when thawing occurs the cell goo leaks out, and plants simply melt.
Though the tender-looking new foliage of my daffodils, painted Arum, Hellebores, Alstroemeria, Violas, and kale, which all have more of the antifreeze bits in and between their cells, hold up perfectly well, with Autumn’s first freeze my peppers, basil, castor bean, zinnias, and the above-ground portions of my perennial elephant ears, Canna, Lantana, and purple heart get wiped out. Messily.
One day they’re fine, the next they are wilted and brown with split stems – or worse, completely flaccid and splayed flat in a dark green mush over the mulch or hanging listlessly over the edges of pots. Within a couple of days, some began wafting a faintly fetid aroma.
With me so far? It’s been compared to how that baby Alien burst out of the astronaut in the movie.
And like I said, there isn’t a unique term to describe it completely. “They froze” doesn’t address the dripping slimy cell goo. However, my college roommate, linguistic scholar Clayton Allen, said we could just make up a term for freezing and thawing plants. He suggested “booglify” which I’ve used ever since.
Oh, I could eke out a few more weeks of Indian Summer respite for my besties by covering them with pots or tents, though I found out the hard way with clear plastic that when the sun comes back out it can quickly steam plants to death.
But in general I accept the annual inevitable, that come November or December a lot of garden favorites will be transitioned into compostable wiltings. I’ll have to stop shrugging my shoulders and heave to the nasty job of cleaning up the booglified stuff before it starts stinking.