A mild forecast

I am guilty of occasionally looking ahead, no matter that this inevitably gets hopes up that are likely to be disappointed. With a mild start to winter, I cannot help but glance at the thirty day winter forecast that remarkably predicts only a few nights falling into the teens (Fahrenheit), and none colder. Consecutive years without temperatures nearing zero hardly seems possible, though I would not be surprised if a few frigid nights creep in to upset this mild forecast.

Camellias that began flowering in November continue to bloom into the new year. Fully opened flowers are damaged with temperatures in the low twenties, but there are more buds that quickly follow into bloom. In years when temperatures regularly neared zero degrees and sometimes fell a few degrees below, flower buds were often damaged before opening. Spring flowering Camellias japonica rarely flowered. But, in recent years flowering has been delightful from late autumn into January, and spring bloomers are equally outstanding.

Certainly, I’m happy with every mild winter afternoon when I can putter about the garden, doing a little digging or weeding, or usually nothing but enjoying the winter blooms. But, with handfuls of marginally cold hardy evergreens in the garden I must be aware a day or two before extreme cold arrives so these can be protected.

Autumn flowering mahonias have only a few remaining flowers, but the late winter leatherleaf mahonia (Mahonia bealei) is nearing its peak very early. Flowers close for protection on cold nights but open fully on sunny afternoons.

A year ago, fatsias and anise shrubs (Illicium) were unprotected with only a single night falling to twelve degrees. I watched and waited, expecting cold that never arrived. Wire cages were left in the shed, and leaves that would fill cages were left in place to decay by late spring. The process to cover everything takes no more than an hour, but of course I’d rather not do it at all, and no doubt the evergreens are happier in the winter sunlight as long as it’s not frigid winter sunlight.

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