Blooming, in November?

A blast of sub-freezing temperatures late last week ruined the flowers of toad lilies, Encore Fall blooming azaleas, and roses. The azaleas and roses have numerous unopened buds that were tightly wrapped, and thus insulated from the freeze. If the weather stays mild, if nighttime lows don’t drop too far into the low-thirties, then we’ll have more blooms. I’m betting we will. Camellia Chansonette

Not all flowers in the garden were injured. The ‘Chansonette’ Autumn blooming camellia (Camellia sasanqua ‘Chansonette’, above) escaped injury, and the hybrid ‘Winter Star’ (below) has multiple blooms, which will continue weeks longer. Deer have nibbled my camellias into feeble form in recent Winters, but since I’ve begun to spray a repellent regularly I expect them to revive. Camellia Winter Star

I prefer the Autumn blooming Sasanquas and hybrids from the National Arboretum introductions. The buds of Winter flowering types are often injured by freezing temperatures, regardless of the hardiness of the plant, and the April flowering varieties compete with so many other Spring flowers.

How can you resist a lush, dark green evergreen shrub loaded with flowers in northern Virginia in the middle of November? You can’t and you shouldn’t, and now that we have concluded that you must add a camellia or three to your garden in April, we’ll move on to other parts of the garden.Winter Sun mahonia

While deer might terrorize the camellias, I can say with certainty that they will steer clear of Mahonia ‘Winter Sun’ (above). The spiny leaf margins will draw blood if you’re not careful, but there are many reasons to include this November blooming evergreen in your garden.

Winter Sun grows more compactly than other shrub forms of mahonia, and is happy in full sun or shade, though it will grow more vigorously in sun. I make a point to visit the handful of mahonias I have scattered through the garden to see the colorful and unusual growth buds unfurl, and the bright yellow blooms often persist well into December.      Beautyberry in November

The common Beautyberry (Callicarpa americana and Callicarpa dichotoma) blooms modestly in mid Summer, followed by masses of delightful purple berries, or drupes, late Summer into December. Beautyberry is a coarse textured shrub not worthy of much attention until it flowers, then is one of the star attractions of the late season garden. My garden has the white berried variety (above), which is no better than the purple, but equally showy.  

In recent weeks we’ve featured the Autumn leaf colors of trees in the garden, but none are more attractive than Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia, below). The huge, faded flowering pannicles remain, but the deep purple-red leaves persist weeks after the leaves of trees have fallen.Oakleaf hydrangea in November

Today, the remnants of this late season hurricane are passing, so I’ll allow the fallen leaves that cover the garden to dry for a few days, sooner if the sun comes out tomorrow. There is plenty to do, raking and shredding leaves, hauling to the compost pile, but with a forecast of above average temperatures I’ll be watching for new blooms.

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