The last leaves of Japanese maples cover the front walk. All other trees are bare, curiously with the exception of a Korean Sweetheart tree (Euscaphis japonica) that also held its leaves into December a year ago. I was concerned then, but less so now, though the tree struggled a bit in spring. Since the Sweetheart tree is rarely planted, I have no clue if this is typical, but after two years I’m thinking it is.
With witch hazels (above, with buds that will open in mid-winter) and mahonias flowering through the winter, and the earliest of the hellebores ready to flower (with most flowering in late January into February, below), the dreariness of winter is lessened. Still, it is nearly four months until the garden awakens in late March. Today, this seems a long way off, and of course this is the reason to plant winter bloomers along with a variety of bulbs that will flower by mid-winter.
Flower buds are carefully watched in the winter months for the first signs of color, but fat buds of rhododendrons (‘Silver Edge’ above and ‘Goldflimmer’ below) promise color that will not arrive until May. Variegated foliage stands out in the winter garden, and it is likely there is more here than many would deem acceptable.
Paperbushes (Edgeworthia chrysantha, below) flower earlier, sometimes in late January if temperatures are unusually mild, but most often flowers will show first color by mid February with peak bloom two weeks later. Buds seem unusually large this year, though this is likely to be imagined. Flower buds of paperbushes can be damaged by temperatures nearing zero (Fahrenheit), so while I know that the warming of the planet must be stopped, still I hope to avoid typical winter low temperatures.
Autumn flowering camellias continue to bloom through recent freezes, though fully opened flowers were damaged at twenty degrees earlier this week, and several will continue flowering into the new year with mild temperatures. Spring bloomers (Camellia japonica, below) are heavily budded, and there was a time when few buds turned to flowers with extreme winter temperatures, but not in recent years.
Colorful buds of leucothoe (Leucothoe fontanesiana ‘Rainbow’) and pieris (Pieris japonica) add ornament to the evergreens.
Fuzzy flower buds of early flowering magnolias protect against freeze damage, but early March blooms often suffer in late winter cold. Foliage of magnolias seemed more colorful this year, though leaves dropped overnight after these photos were taken.