An odd bloom

With several unseasonably warm January days it is not unusual for forsythias to burst into bloom, and occasionally a stray daffodil or two will flower weeks early. There is little danger in the premature flowering, and in most cases the blooms are scattered and don’t take away from the  usual display a month later.

In mid-December there is a bit of an oddity in my garden, but hardly one to write home about. Most azaleas set buds in August that will bloom in the spring, but Encore azaleas begin to set buds soon after flowering. In warm weather states the azaleas bloom off an on from early spring through late autumn, but in my northwestern Virginia garden the azaleas flower in late April into early May, and then set buds that will bloom in late summer and early autumn on an irregular schedule depending on the variety. Several Encore varieties are slower to set buds in late summer so that cold temperatures catch up to them, and there are few flowers and sometimes none at all.

As I have tested Encore azaleas in my garden I’ve abandoned some that have not flowered dependably a second time in late summer or early autumn, but a few flower just enough so that I haven’t given up on them. ‘Autumn Amethyst’ azalea (above) has never made much of a show in September and October, with only a few scattered blooms, but oddly it continues to flower through November and in mid December there are a handful of blooms, and more buds opening every day.

Now, if my garden was in the deep south this wouldn’t be so odd, but nearly every night over the past month has dipped into the twenties, with a day or two into the upper teens. Azaleas shouldn’t be in bloom in December, but clearly ‘Autumn Amethyst’ has an unusual cycle and a tolerance for cold, and I’m not complaining.

The ‘Winter’s Star’ camellias have recently wrapped up their blooms for the season, but another of the cold hardy late autumn flowering camellias (‘Winter’s Charm’, above) has a few flowers, and the buds of the always-tardy-in-my-garden ‘Winter’s Interlude’ are plump and ready to pop if the weather cooperates. Unfortunately, the timing for this camellias has not worked out for several years, and fat buds never seem to open. There’s always hope.

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