The dreaded 27 degrees


Cold, coming soon to this garden and others in the neighborhood. Several recent nights have dropped below freezing, and possibly into the upper twenties. While toad lilies (Tricyrtis, below) and other autumn flowering perennials tolerate mild frosts, and possibly a night or two when temperatures drop below the freezing mark, twenty seven degrees is a different story. Flowers and foliage collapse overnight. Today flowers, tomorrow, shriveled remains. Now, the turn for the worse is evident, but by the week’s end many flowers will be gone.

Woody plants, camellias, daphnes, and reblooming azaleas, are more tolerant of cold, with some continuing to flower until temperatures regularly drop into the lower twenties. Daphnes are the first to stop, then azaleas, but camellias will continue as long as there are buds to open and daytime temperatures rise into the forties. One shaded camellia rarely begins flowering until December, and often buds will open in a spell of several mild days in January and February. The flowers don’t last long since the next eighteen degree night is not far off, and then the flowers are quickly ruined.

A Winter’s Star camellia with slightly more sun exposure flowers from late October into December, while another twenty feet away gets less sun and it rarely begins flowering until its sunnier neighbor is finished for the season.

Despite the arrival of winter cold, mahonias (Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’, at bottom) will soon begin flowering, with yellow blooms brightening the garden into December, and often into the new year when the various witch hazels (Hamamelis) will begin to flower. I don’t welcome the first twenty seven degree night, but the garden doesn’t come to a halt because of it.

Flowers on Eternal Fragrance and other hybrid daphnes are becoming more scattered as temperatures turn cooler, but I expect a few more weeks of blooms until they disappear. Flowers will be back in mid to late March, continuing until this time next year.
Reblooming Encore azaleas have been late to flower this autumn, but Embers has more flowers than I’ve seen in prior years. You can see some lacebug damage to leaves of Embers, but most other Encore azaleas are less susceptible to insect damage. Flowers of several Encore azaleas have been damaged by freezing temperatures, while others that are more protected will not be harmed until low twenty degree temperatures later this week.
Winter Sun mahonia is beginning to show color, but buds will not open for another week or two. Flowers will persist into December and often into January.