This mild autumn has been abruptly interrupted by an inconvenient freeze. While not unexpected, and hardly unusual, the harsh result of temperatures in the low twenties after an early autumn with so many mild days is disappointing to the gardener. Flowers and lush foliage have melted overnight in the cold.
A day ago, with only a light frost or two, hydrangeas and reblooming azaleas were at their autumn peak. But now, the gardener must make do with frost resistant, but fleeting flowers of long blooming daphnes (Daphne × transatlantica ‘Blafra’, ‘Eternal Fragrance’, below), and camellias that are only beginning their autumn flowering cycle.
Flower buds of hybrid mahonias (Mahonia x media ‘Charity’, below) swell to show first signs of yellow that will persist through December, and often into early January. Colorful leaves of native witch hazels (Hamamelis virginiana and H. vernalis) are dropping, exposing buds that will open into small, ribbon-like flowers in the weeks ahead.
Leaves of the forest that borders the garden have fallen, exposing neighboring homes that have not been seen for months. Deep piles of leaves must be shredded in coming weeks or early flowers of hellebores will be buried, and a large branch of a maple that crashed down the forest’s edge must be removed, so there is plenty to occupy the gardener as the garden turns to winter.