Instead of leaves I see houses in the distance, the last of the blazing orange Japanese maples were stripped in the wind and rain earlier in the week. Wet leaves are ankle-deep in the garden, and I bemoan the drab winter ahead with the red berries of hollies (below) and nandinas the only bright colors.
This has been a good year, wet seasons in spring and autumn sandwiching a dry late summer have provided ideal conditions for growth and blooming. A sub-freezing night ten days past ended the late flowering of toad lilies, windflowers, and sunflowers, and killed the above ground growth on most of the perennials.
The Encore azaleas had weathered repeated frosts through late October and early November at peak bloom, but below thirty degrees the flowers melted. Without extreme nighttime lows since, the numerous remaining buds have begun to open, and though the azaleas will bloom only sporadically, their color is welcomed.
The Encore variety Autumn Amethyst (above) withstood the cold better than others, but Autumn Princess and Autumn Rouge have scattered blooms and buds that will continue to open until the next hard freeze. With the next cold spell their flowering will end until late April in this northern Virginia garden.
The fall blooming Camellias weren’t bothered at all by the cold, and Snow Flurry (the white double flower below), Chansonette (above), and Winter Star (below) will flower into December. Winter’s Interlude will not begin to bloom for several weeks, but then buds will open intermittently in warmer periods through the winter.
I have learned my lesson with camellias (after twenty years), and have prepared to spray a winter formulation of deer repellent to protect their evergreen foliage. Perhaps the taller shrubs will regain leaves lower than four feet next spring. The leaves don’t appear to be very tasty, and deer don’t bother them, or the arborvitae, hollies, cypress, and azaleas, until the more choice and succulent hostas and hydrangeas have died back for the season.
The sharp spines of mahonias protect its glossy evergreen leaves from deer, and now Winter Sun (below) is approaching full bloom. Of the handful of mahonias I grow, this has become a favorite for its neat, compact habit and bright yellow, late fall flowers. On occasion the flowers will be followed by small grape-like fruits, but the fruits are either not so numerous as the spring blooming Mahonia beali, or the birds grab them before I have the opportunity to see them.
The Knockout roses, pink and red (below), continue to bloom, though the flowers are more ragged than in warmer times. The edges of each bloom are injured and misshapen, but from a distance, even from a few paces away, the damage is not evident. The yellow Knockout quit blooming weeks ago. I don’t know if this variety will be early to quit in autumn, or if the lack of blooms is due to its relatively new planting.
So, there will be more color than just berries to enjoy for several weeks longer.