Winter flowers

Though the season does not begin for another month, unquestionably winter temperatures have set in. The garden has turned following several nights that dropped into the low twenties, from scattered flowers to only a few. These will persist for weeks until witch hazels (Hamamelis), then hellebores (Helleborus) and snowdrops (Galanthus) continue flowering into early spring.

A freeze damaged camellia flower alongside one newly opened.

Flowers of camellias (above) were damaged in recent freezes, but half opened buds were not, and these will flower into December as long as temperatures don’t drop too far below freezing. Typically, two shaded camellias have not yet started to flower, and the two often begin flowering during mild spells in January, though sometimes not at all if the weather doesn’t cooperate.

The late autumn flowering mahonias have been teasing for a few weeks, with buds that preview the yellow flowers. The buds should open soon, and flowers are not damaged unless temperatures drop into the mid-teens. There are several cultivars of the autumn flowering mahonias in the garden. Several ‘Winter Sun’ (Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’, above) were planted long before the others, then ‘Charity’, ‘Underway’, and ‘Marvel’ were added.

Charity mahonia is very similar to Winter Sun.

Differences are not obvious, with the exception of ‘Marvel’ (below), that is distinguished by its lack of all but the terminal spine. It is the most recently planted, and in deep shade it appears to be weeks from flowering.

Flower buds on the shaded Marvel mahonia are weeks behind Winter Sun and other mahonias that will flower the third week of November.