After the freeze

The first of several nights forecast to drop several degrees below freezing did surprisingly little damage to the garden. Unsurprisingly, annual coleus and pelargonium are nearly gone, and a few fading azalea blooms faded more quickly, but otherwise the slow descent of the garden into winter dormancy was not accelerated as expected. Toad lily (Tricyrtis) flowers and foliage that typically melt in the first cold, did not, though after a few more nights I anticipate this will change.

Moving tender tropicals into the basement and the greenhouse went as smoothly as possible, though I’m certain my back surgeon would cringe to see me carrying large pots from halfway down the rear garden up to the house. No doubt, he would issue stern warnings, but I’ve pushed this limit many times in recent years, acknowledging age more than problems with my partially fused spine. I have a cart that can haul heavy items, but it’s a bumpy path and carrying by hand is much quicker with limited daylight and the cold moving in. So far no frogs, and thankfully no snakes were brought in with the pots. Once the tropicals are brought into the relative warmth of the basement, whatever beasts that have burrowed into the soil usually come out to play within a few days, but none so far.

Two newly planted, orange flowered osmanthus (Osmanthus fragrans aurantiacus) were potted and brought indoors. Both are questionably cold hardy, and newly planted shrubs are always more susceptible to winter injury. One of the two has a few flowers, and it will flower with fragrant blooms occasionally through the winter. I can’t smell other fragrant osmanthus flowers outdoors, but possibly with the still air of the basement this will be different.

The tall, deciduous azaleas are a spring favorite, and in autumn every year I’m surprised by their glorious foliage colors (above). I am continually amazed that the azaleas, with brightly colored, fragrant flowers, are not more popular in garden centers. Anyone seeing them in this garden in spring would be convinced.

Several Japanese maples have not begun their autumn foliage display, and I suspect that this week’s freezing temperatures might result in falling leaves and little color. Holly berries have ripened, with heavy displays on most, and finally there are berries on several Winterberry hollies (above) in deep shade beneath the Bigleaf magnolia. A male holly was planted early in the spring, and this has done the trick.

I don’t think ‘Dixie Star’ holly ever was introduced in the marketplace. This sample, planted years ago, has struggled along under the dense canopy of a Jane magnolia. In recent years it has begun to berry, adding a bit of ornament along the driveway.
Other evergreen hollies, here Robin holly (Ilex ‘Conin’) berry dependably in autumn.
The leaves of Bottlebrush buckeye turn a brilliant yellow before falling in just a few hours.
The leaves of the summersweet, Ruby Spice clethra turn to a buttery yellow in late October.
While the foliage of most sweetshrubs (Calycanthus) turn to yellow in autumn, ‘Burgundy Spice’ is a dark leafed shrub that darkens more in October.

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Valerie says:

    After reading your blog, I bought 6 Hellebores yesterday, and I will plant them today. Thank you for your information about Hellebores. I’m still looking for a toad lily. Question: do you have any spice bushes in your garden that have berries? In the spring, I planted 4 spice bushes, hoping that at least one would develop berries, but none have. The garden center told me that the spice bushes they buy are not marked male or female, so I’m wondering, how many spice bushes do I have to buy in order to achieve a mix of male and female? I will buy two more, and hopefully one will have berries next year.

    1. Dave says:

      I am uncertain if spicebush (Lindera) is grown from seed or cloned from rooted cuttings. Most shrubs are grown from cuttings, so from a source of cutting grown spicebushes where one is male it is likely all would be males. If grown from seed, lindera is known for the predominance of males, but some percentage would be female.

      The forest that borders my garden has many spicebush, and so there are many females that have already been striped of berries. In this shade the berries are not abundant, but I’ve seen natives with heavy berries in part shade.

  2. Valerie says:

    Ok thanks for the info.

  3. tonytomeo says:

    The weather must change suddenly there. I realize that frost comes earlier in other climates, but it seems as if the weather was quite pleasant in most regions not too long ago, and for a while it was even warmer there than here.

    1. Dave says:

      Even in a very mild October nighttime temperatures regularly dropped into the low forties, with a few upper thirties. So, the change is still gradual, though this drop was more abrupt than is typical.

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