Winding down


My walk through the garden on Sunday afternoon was brief, too brief. And, my treks out into the garden are becoming more infrequent. There’s just not much to see.

With several nights over the past few weeks that have dropped into the mid-twenties most of the garden has gone dormant. The toad lilies and autumn flowering Encore azaleas were stopped in their tracks, the blooms turned to mush overnight by freezing temperatures. It’s not always like this. Last year there were hydrangeas, roses, and azaleas flowering through November, with a few straying into December. Not this year, with more typical mid-autumn weather.

Still, there are flowers. The hybrid camellias are blooming right on schedule, itself an oddity in this garden, though a few that are more heavily shaded have not flowered at all. ‘Winter’s Star’ and ‘Winter’s Interlude’ have been blooming for a month, and are likely to continue for at least another several weeks, or until temperatures regularly drop into the teens overnight. ‘Winter Snowman’ is more shaded, with buds that look to be ready to burst open any day, but I know that camellias will fool you and it could be weeks or months before they flower. Mildly freezing temperatures don’t bother these camellias, but colder weather will delay the blooms, and sometimes they are paused long enough that extreme cold damages the buds and there are no flowers at all.

Cold doesn’t bother the bright yellow blooms of ‘Winter Sun’ mahonia (Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’, above), and if temperatures remain moderately cold the flowers will extend into early January. If temperatures are extreme in either direction (warm or cold) the blooms will be shorter lived. Last year the flowers of Winter Sun’ persisted for a few weeks into January, and the late winter blooming leatherleaf mahonia flowered six weeks early so that there were mahonia blooms throughout the winter.

Since I’m not particularly motivated to get out into the garden, I’ve also not been encouraged to get outside to work. It doesn’t take much to convince me to be lazy, and I’m satisfied that my autumn clean up is somewhat on schedule, so there’s no reason to rush. Of course, there’s much to be done, and I’m truly never on schedule until it’s nearly too late, and then I labor dawn to dusk to catch up. But, that deadline is months away, so I can relax for now and fool myself that I can take the weekend off.

Some time or another I’ll have to get out to take care of the trees damaged by the summer’s derecho and the more minor limbs knocked down by the hurricane. There are large limbs scattered at the forest’s edge, and particularly in one area where my wife occasionally roams I must cut these into pieces small enough to move. The project will take no more than a few hours, but I’m having a difficult time getting started. It’s not at all that I’m too busy with other things. I suppose that one day in the weeks to come I’ll wake up, the sun will be shining, and I’ll get the itch to get outside to do something. There will be leaves to clean up, trees limbs to cut up and stack out of the way, and something must be done with the winter weeds before they get out of hand like they did last year. Certainly that day will come, but not this week.

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