Random thoughts

A mild winter, so far, has allowed minimal protection of less cold hardy fatsia and anise shrubs. On chilly nights, leaves of the variegated anise shrubs (Illicium floridanum ‘Pink Frost’, below) droop, a reminder of their tenderness, though rhododendrons that are much cold hardier also droop on cold nights.

Pink Frost anise shrub

Instead of baskets of leaves, I’ll be prepared to cover tender shrubs with evergreen branches from the tall Alaskan cedar that was recently chopped out. The cedar was not dead, but was declining in increasing shade. Rather than fighting the forest trees that overhang this part of the garden, a short term solution at best, I agreed with my ever helpful wife’s suggestion that the cedar be removed. Her idea, not a terrible one on second thought, was to increase the view into the garden.

Spider’s Web fatsia must be protected below ten degrees.

In any case, now it’s done, and for some short period I’m back in good graces. I’ve piled short sections of cedar branches off to the side, though neatness counts for little in the winter months. If temperatures are forecast to drop much below ten degrees, I’ll spring into action to protect the marginally cold hardy shrubs.

Removal of the Alaskan cedar (another resides happily in the sun beside the koi pond) will bring somewhat more sunlight into this shaded part of the garden. I figure this will be beneficial, as the loss of branches and whole forest trees in storms has also been, and I don’t expect the change to be drastic, but we’ll see. I have made plans, undisclosed to my wife so far, to fill the void with a small Wheel tree (Trochodendron aralioides) that should be slow growing enough not to alarm her.

I notice that the lower part of the garden is covered by branches shed by the Japanese cedars (Cryptomeria japonica). These are far too prickly to gather for winter protection, but some that fall onto the small section of lawn are moved to cover the few areas of bare soil not already covered. The cedars are easily forty feet tall, but still I’m surprised that branches that are shed annually can drift so far on the wind.

The needled evergreens are much slower to decay than deciduous leaves, so perhaps weeds will be discouraged in this part of the garden that has been reworked following multiple losses from flooding rains a year ago.

A clump of snowdrops is flowering (above), with a second clump showing some color though it is hidden within a grouping of ‘Evergold’ carex. (Whoever planted these should be severely disciplined.) Certainly, this is early, even for most early snowdrops, and these more typically flower several weeks later. I’m happy with the earlier blooms, and a glance at the two week forecast hints that this could be the rare winter with few spells of frigid temperatures, and when flowers arrive weeks earlier than expected.

A shaded ‘Winter’s Interlude’ camellia typically flowers weeks later than other camellias in sunnier locations, if it blooms at all. Browned edges are evidence of a recent twenty degree night.

Sometime in the previous decade, I forget the precise year, but there were only a few days below ten degrees (Fahrenheit) and many that were mild for the season. Flowers were early and abundant, and winter was a joy. Despite the near forecast, there are too many weeks remaining in winter, so I’m not betting on it. But, one can hope.