An April freeze

The gardener rejoices with warm temperatures, though his enthusiasm must be tempered somewhat by forecasts for occasional frosts and freezes that should be expected into late April, and often into early May. Inconveniently, cold will coincide with the day that a bloom or an emerging leaf is most vulnerable, and some damage is inevitable.

The Fernleaf Japanese maple is one of the first with emerging leaves, but seldom is it bothered by frost.

The Fernleaf Japanese maple is one of the earliest with emerging leaves, but seldom is it bothered by frost.

The recent warmth has pushed Japanese maples (Acer palmatum and A. japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’, above) into leaf weeks early, and the gardener recalls times when fragile leaves were blackened by a freeze. He knows that leaves will not be damaged at twenty six degrees, but lower temperatures will harm even long established trees. Though he is greatly distressed at the time, certain that trees cannot possibly recover, somehow the garden shows few signs of distress a few months afterwards.

Frost damaged flowers of Elizabeth magnolia remain fragrant.

Frost damaged flowers of Elizabeth magnolia remain fragrant.

The pale yellow flowered ‘Elizabeth’ magnolia is flowering, though all blooms were damaged by an ill timed frost that did no recognizable damage elsewhere in the garden. Fortunately, damage was minor, and while flowers will not be perfect, they remain strongly scented. If these were the only flowers in the garden, the loss would be more disappointing.Camellia

Of interest, Japanese camellias (Camellia japonica, above) are flowering in the garden for the first time in recent years, as buds were not damaged by the relatively mild winter. And more unusual, early winter flowering hybrids ‘Winter’s Star’ and ‘Winter’s Interlude’ (below) display more than a few scattered blooms in early April. Each year, there are buds that have not opened by January, and these are typically damaged by cold so that the buds turn brown and finally drop off. But, not this year.

Winter's Interlude camellia flowering in April

Winter’s Interlude camellia flowering in April

Here, it must be noted that camellias benefit from more sun than the gardener typically considers part sun, as is recommended. There are, of course, no precise definitions of part sun or shade, but with more sun camellias will have more flowers, and in less there will be an abundance of healthy foliage, but fewer blooms. As with many plants, camellias benefit by being shaded from the late afternoon summer sun, or by lightly filtered sunlight, such as under a tall canopy of scattered trees.

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