Three consecutive nights with temperatures below ten degrees (Fahrenheit), with the second freeze falling to two below zero, have destroyed the remaining yellow blooms of late autumn and early winter flowering mahonias (Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’, before and after, below). All of several cultivars were tardy flowering in November, but then also slow to fade in January.
In recent weeks, mahonias were joined in bloom by Vernal witch hazels (Hamamelis vernalis), one large, shrubby tree and two younger, considerably smaller shrubs. Flowers of the large witch hazel are variable year to year, and though blooms are more scattered than usual, all are a brighter yellow than I’ve seen before. To greet the cold, the ribbon-like flowers pull tightly together (before and after, below), and experience tells me that there will be no damage to blooms that typically open in the coldest days of our Virginia winters.
Swelling flower buds of hybrid witch hazels ‘Arnold Promise’, ‘Jelena’, and ‘Diane’ have retreated into a tighter bud, but with warming temperatures forecast these will quickly expand. I expect flowers of the hybrids to soon join the Vernal witch hazels.
On a seventeen degree afternoon, much of the garden has grumpily retreated into some form of protection from the cold. Leaves of camellias and rhododendron are curled, with rhododendron-like leaves of daphniphyllum (Daphniphyllum macropodum, above) curled nearly into a cylinder. Other leaves show varying, but obvious signs of adjustment to the extended cold.
In a few days, with fifty and perhaps sixty degree temperatures, I expect a more lively appearance from all, though I will be monitoring marginally cold hardy flower buds of paperbushes (Edgeworthia chrysantha) that have been damaged in prior years when temperatures approached zero. Today, buds appear undamaged, but tomorrow? Otherwise, the milder days will be welcome relief from this brief spell of cold, for the garden and gardener.