Frost and freeze


I’m in no rush for winter to arrive, so today I’m quite satisfied that as the second week of November begins there has been only a single frost worth talking about. Another night brought the slightest amount of frost, but this had no effect whatsoever on the garden. The heavier frost nipped the coleus and top growth of dahlias that have been left outdoors. The coleus are intended to perish as annuals are supposed to, but the rhizomes of the dahlias will be dug, dried, and stored for the winter.  Temperatures didn’t dip below freezing, so toad lilies and hydrangeas remain in bloom.Dahlia Bishop of York

A tropical Bird-of-Paradise was left outdoors one night too long, and all foliage promptly turned brown once it was inside. Without a greenhouse (which I’ve planned to construct but never gotten around to, and now the property is too shaded unless the structure would be placed dead center in the lawn) it would a near impossibility to revive the plant, so it will overwinter outdoors. Good luck.

Roses tolerate a freeze or two without a problem, so long as temperatures don’t drop into the mid-twenties. And, it’s not too unusual to have a few blooms through the end of the month while other flowers melt in a hard freeze that is inevitable in the next week or two, I think. Perhaps it’s a little unusual to have had so little cold this late, and every gardener (particularly old ones) can recall more than one frost before the end of September, and freezes not too long into October. And, of course, snow in November, and I think a year or two ago there was a bit in late October while some foliage remained on trees, and it was probably a mess, though I don’t recall any damage in this garden.Empress toad lily in mid October

So, while hoping that the start of winter is delayed for weeks (or months), the gardener is quite pleased to admire toad lilies (Tricyrtis) that have flowered since early September. A few stray blooms remain on ‘Gilt Edge’, that began flowering in early August, but ‘Empress’ (above) and ‘W-Ho-ping Toad’ (below) are nearly in full bloom with more buds still to open if temperatures remain mild. While ‘Gilt Edge’ and ‘Empress’ are exceptional and fairly common, ‘W-Ho-ping Toad’ is unusual, and after a slow start when I was mostly unimpressed, it is growing on me by the day.W-Hop-ing toad lily in early November

Until a year ago, or two, the tall aster ‘Jindai’ (Aster tataricus ‘Jindai’, below) could be readily seen from across the large koi pond, but since a sprawling Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) has grown to cover Japanese irises (Iris ensata) at the pond’s edge and to obscure the aster unless the gardener walks around the pond and pushes through abelias and paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha) for a closer look. Winter damage to the paperbush required substantial pruning, so the path to ‘Jindai’ is more open to enjoy the flowers that will persist until a freeze.Tatarian aster in early November

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