Gardening would be so much easier if the complications of everyday life did not intervene. Cold temperatures often come suddenly in autumn. Occasionally, I am surprised by a forecast of frost, and hours are spent one chilly evening lugging dirt covered pots of elephant ears and agaves into the basement.
Not this year. The forecast has been calling for tonight’s cold for several days, and with a sunny but cool Saturday this is as easy as this chore will ever be. But (and this is where life complicates matters), my wife has scheduled the carpet in the basement to be ripped out, to be replaced by new carpet and an area of tile by the double doors that open into the garden. Besides the expense of new flooring, which is more than I care to think about, the trouble is that the pots must be hauled indoors this afternoon, then they must be moved back out by mid week to make room for the tile people. And then, back in again before the next frost. I suppose I will survive, but it will not be without complaint.
More typically, if there is such a thing, frost eases in before temperatures drop below freezing, but this weekend frost and freeze will coincide. I suspect that this will be the end for the toad lilies (Tricyrtis), which still have buds that have not opened, and probably for the autumn crocuses (Colchicum, above), though the white variety has just broken ground. A mild frost would not kill these to the ground, but temperatures in the upper twenties are likely to put a stop to their flowering.
Autumn flowering azaleas, late blooming mophead hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla, above), and ‘Narihira’ mahonia (Mahonia confusa ‘Narihira’, below) are unlikely to be bothered much by the cold, though it will not be surprising if some blooms turn brown after the freeze. If more moderate temperatures return, which is likely, buds will continue to open until flowering is finally called to halt by nights that drop into the low twenties.
I do not mention the autumn flowering camellias yet because the cold hardy hybrids bloom late in this garden. Rarely do any flower before mid November, and today none show signs of swelling buds to make me think they could flower any sooner. The cold will have no effect on the camellias, and even when flowering the blooms will tolerate a mild freeze.