A week to savor

After the recent stretch of severe, though not unusual cold for early February, this is a week to savor with temperatures in the fifties and sixties, and a day when some spots peaked in the low seventies (Fahrenheit). More typical colder weather is on the way, but it’s winter and it should be cooler than today. And, there’s nothing extreme, at least in the immediate forecast. Average will not be so bad for the three weeks until the beginning of March, which in short sleeves today feels much closer today than it did a week ago.

As expected, there’s been a stark change in the garden with a seventy degree change from last week’s frigid temperatures. While flowers of mahonias faded in the cold, the early snowdrops (Galanthus, above) rebounded into full bloom, and flowers of witch hazels (Hamamelis x intermedia) that curled tightly in the cold unfurled by the second mild afternoon.

Predictably, foliage of hellebores (above) browned in the low temperatures, increasing the probability that I will be out in the next few days (in the cold) chopping leaves off. Flower buds are swelling quickly in the mild temperatures, so piles of maple and tulip poplar leaves must be removed. The hellebores’ browned leaves will be lifted and cut as closely as possible while trying not to chop off too many buds, though it is unavoidable that some are lost since the task is tedious and repetitious, and performed with haste to get it over with as quickly as possible.

I notice that leaves of Gordlinia (x Gordlinia grandiflora) have browned, as is typical for winters that drop below ten degrees, and after a few years when I fretted over their survival, I’m now assured that damaged leaves will be pushed out by spring’s growth, with no worries. I do see a bit more of lean to branches after two wet snows, but with multiple trunks this will not be noticeable to anyone but me.

There appears to be no damage to stems and developing flower buds of variegated Winter daphnes (Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’, above), that often are damaged when temperatures drop near zero. From my best recollection, damage to stems and foliage is immediately evident, so as I spend longer periods outdoors in this pleasant week, I am more encouraged that spring is near and that the garden will escape with little cold injury.

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. Bonnie C. says:

    My Snowdrops here are just starting to bud, so guess I’ll have blooms in the next couple of days.

    Here’s a question for you Dave: Our steep, winding driveway is in desperate need of rehabilitation, & the guy doing it will be grading the crown & pulling in the high sides, etc., etc. Unfortunately, there are daffodils lining one side of the drive that were planted almost 30 years ago by the original owners of our home, & that are just starting to poke up. I hate to see these raked out & destroyed by the driveway equipment & would like to move as many as possible asap. Obviously I know that this is not optimum time for moving Spring bulbs, but any ideas on how I might possibly save at least a few?

    1. Dave says:

      I am guessing, not having done this before, but I expect that with only a short length of foliage there is a good chance for a successful transplant. The ground is very soft for digging, and if bulbs are quickly replanted there should be minimal disturbance. Bulbs are typically buried six to eight inches, so digging a wide area with a shovel or spade would be preferable, and then excess soil peeled away.

      1. Bonnie C. says:

        Thanks so much!

        We were already thinking that doing our best to take the bulbs up in large chunks with as much soil attached as possible would be our best bet. They’re just starting to pop up a couple of inches. I don’t care if they don’t bloom this year, but would just like to save them since they’ve been there for nearly 30 years now.

        Still wanted to confer with an expert. Again – thanks!

  2. gimesis says:

    The snowdrop … beautiful, seemingly fragile flower but who announce with temerity the spring.

    1. Dave says:

      Here, snowdrops were beginning to flower in freezing, but relatively mild temperatures before ten inches of snow fell. When the snow melted, snowdrops were in full bloom, and continued through a night with temperatures below zero. A very tough flower.

  3. tonytomeo says:

    Daphne is tougher than I give it credit for. I did not like it much when I grew it in the 1990s. It really dislikes nursery production. It does well in warm climates, and takes quite a bit of heat if partly shaded. I seriously think it is happier in the Los Angeles region than it is here in the Santa Cruz Mountains.

    1. Dave says:

      A new introduction, ‘Perfume Princess’ claims to grow well in containers. All that I’ve seen are field grown, so I’ll be interested to see if this works. Too often, rootballs of potted field grown daphnes fall apart when removed from the container.

      1. tonytomeo says:

        All of ours are canned. They dislike it so. Yet, our clients really like the stock, and insist that it does well when released into a new landscape. When I grew citrus, I felt the same way about the Mexican limes. I hated growing them because they were so ugly; but clients bought all of the ugly thorny and diminutive plants faster than they could mature, and insisted that they were great.

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