Cold enough

Certainly, family in Idaho will be unimpressed by northwestern Virginia’s chilly high of twenty one degrees this afternoon. Today, an inch of snow has fallen, not enough for the neighbor’s kids to ride their sleds on the grassy slope between our houses, but enough so that at least it looks like winter. On a cloudy afternoon with occasional snow squalls, the breeze is sufficient to discourage any more than a brief tour of the garden.

In this spell of cold, there will be several days before temperatures rise above freezing, and leaves of broadleaf rhododendrons and daphniphyllum (Daphniphyllum macropodum, below) curl for protection. At first glance, the gardener suspects these evergreens have succumbed to the cold, but from experience he knows this condition is temporary.

Leaves of Daphniphyllum macropodum curl for cold protection.
Leaves of Daphniphyllum macropodum curl for cold protection.

The current state of the daphniphyllum reminds that there was no good reason for planting the unremarkable shrub, except that it was uncommon. Not unusual, for there is not anything distinctive about it, but uncommon, and probably for good reason. Still, to suit my eye, a shrub was needed to add evergreen mass beside Oakleaf hydrangeas and a variety of low growing perennials that fade from view in winter, and with many other flowers in proximity, nothing was required other than large, evergreen leaves.Cardinal and chickadee

Finally, I was chided into treating sunflower seeds with hot sauce to discourage squirrels from commandeering the feeder. Results have been mixed following an encouraging start. After a few days when squirrels avoided the feeder, now they visit less frequently, and stay for shorter periods, leaving more seed for bluejays, cardinals, wrens, and chickadees. Of five or six squirrels that were regular visitors that could be distinguished by size, or for one, by its relatively skinny tail, only two appear resistant to the hot spiced seed. I debate whether the additional expense and effort is worthwhile.

Winter Sun mahonia flowering under a cover of light snow in early January.
Winter Sun mahonia flowering under a cover of light snow in early January.

One week into January, only ‘Winter Sun’ and ‘Charity’ mahonias (Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’, above) remain in bloom. Flowers decline more quickly with milder temperatures, and though temperatures are forecast to rise next week, I expect the yellow blooms will persist late into January.

Flower buds of the Vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis) are swelling, and the first blooms should be seen in the next week. Similar to leaves of rhododendrons and daphniphyllum, ribbon like flowers of witch hazels curl inward with temperatures in the upper twenties and below, which is just about the cold that discourages the gardener from venturing outdoors.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Jennifer Privee says:

    Dave, we lived in Haymarket, VA and found the squirrels did not care for safflower seeds. They are a bit more expensive than sunflower seeds but worth it in the long run. Squirrels WILL eat them as a last resort. We switched by stopping the sunflower seeds for a few days to get the squirrels to look elsewhere. The birds found the safflower fairly quickly. You but them at Lowes.

    1. Dave says:

      Thanks for the suggestion. This is turning into a research project to gauge feeding habits of squirrels with treated and untreated sunflower seeds, and now with safflower seed. Oh well, something to keep me occupied through the winter.

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