Recent mild temperatures have encouraged flowering of several spring flowering camellias along with prolonging blooms of a single azalea that occasionally flowers into early December. The formula of cold nights followed by mild daylight hours that spurs early, spring-like flowering is imprecise, and in the case of camellias December flowers are quickly damaged in twenty degree nights. This will detract from spring flowering, so while out of season flowers are of mild interest, my preference is that flowering be delayed until the proper season. However, my preference in this matter is of no consequence.
Casual gardeners are prone to panic in January when foliage of spring bulbs, usually daffodils, makes an early appearance, and on more rare occasions there will be a few flowers weeks early. This is rarely widespread, and less often a problem for flowers of bulbs that are acclimated to flowering in the cold. Here, spring bulbs are mostly insulated, from mild temperatures or extreme cold, by deep piles of leaves, and so they are out of sight until late in winter.
Autumn flowering camellias continue to show color in this third week of December, both newly opened blooms and browned, freeze damaged flowers (below), and two shaded camellias that rarely flower until January have buds that show a glimpse of pink. Buds of spring flowering camellias with more sun exposure are swollen, and perhaps susceptible to damage in a period of prolonged cold. Close beside them, but with more shade are camellias with buds considerably smaller, so spring flowering is more assured even if some are damaged.
The ‘Autumn Amethyst’ Encore azalea (below) continues with scattered flowers into mid-December. Blooms are damaged with temperatures in the low twenties (Fahrenheit), but chillier daytime highs are necessary to bring flowering to a halt. ‘Amethyst’ is rarely a heavy bloomer in any season, but is notable for early winter and early spring flowers when it is too cold for other azaleas.
I see that the variegated leaf osmanthus ‘Goshiki’ (Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Goshiki’, below) is flowering, and while I have not noticed this in the past, the timing is not far out of season. Another osmanthus in more sun, ‘Sasaba’ (Osmanthus heterophyllus ‘Sasaba’) flowered in early November, with scattered blooms in early December.