With overnight temperatures in the twenties, the leaves of paperbushes (Edgeworthia chrysantha, below) began to fade, but after a few nights at fifteen degrees the foliage wilted, and now it’s dropping. This is not unusual, and the sudden freeze should not result in any harm.
While young shrubs suffered only a little in the severe cold last winter, larger paperbushes required drastic pruning to remove dead wood. Shrubs ten feet across were cut back to three, but now these have doubled in size, so there are no concerns about their survival.
As is typical, branch tips of the paperbushes display a single, and occasionally a second flower bud. After failing to bloom in late winter when buds and branches were injured, there should be no reason for another failure except for a repeat of the unusually cold temperatures, which is unlikely despite whatever it is that the almanac predicts.
By late December the watch begins for the first glimpse of color (below) as the buds grow fatter. I recall a bit of yellow peaking from the white buds of the paperbushes as early as late December when temperatures were inordinately warm, but typically buds do not begin to break until late January. Fully opened flowers are rare prior to late in February. Still, with few other winter blooms, I monitor their progress regularly.
The evergreen magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora) killed by cold last winter have not yet been removed, and now in early December it’s not likely they’ll be cut down and hauled away prior to winter. Then, my outdoor work schedule becomes dependent on the weather, and even in a stretch of warm days I too often find it difficult to be very motivated. Through late November I’ve made one quick pass to clear the drive and front walk of fallen leaves, but the garden’s beds are piled high, so there will be mounds of leaves to shred before winter gets too far along.
The two dead magnolias are mostly visible only from within the garden, so I feel no rush to chop them out. The largest of the magnolias is eighteen or twenty feet tall and nearly as wide, I guess. This tree would have been another ten feet taller if the central trunk had not snapped in ice in snow in consecutive years a few winters ago. After that damage it recovered nicely and grew to be a wide mound with a slight peak. Though it is not completely dead now, one live branch near the base of a tree twenty feet tall is hardly reason enough to give it another opportunity. I have no good excuse why the two magnolias were not removed months ago, but this project will be second on the list after cleaning up the fallen leaves.
As for the most immediate task, even if many leaves are allowed to remain unshredded, the accumulations are much too deep around hellebores so that late winter flowers will not be visible, and other perennials must not be too deeply buried or early spring growth will be affected. So, there are hours of labor ahead, and this will be easier if leaves are shredded before they become damp and matted from snow and repeated rains. I pledge not to dally, but I’ve procrastinated too long, too many times, so there’s reason for doubt.