More than colorful leaves

As many leaves have fallen at the start of November, my wife notices the splendid coloring of the Japanese stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia, below) outside the kitchen window. Leaves of several Japanese maples are late to turn, so there are colorful trees, and others that are now completely bare. I am not fooled, however, by the temporary distraction of autumn foliage colors. The gardening year is winding down, though not to an end, and how I could I be happy about this? But never fear, many flowers remain in the garden today, even after several light frosts, with many blooms lasting into December and a few into the new year.

The ‘Jindai’ asters (Aster tataricus ‘Jindai’, below) were nearly lost several years ago as a paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha) spread far beyond expectations, but they were rescued just in time, and again last year as the transplanted clump became too shaded. One larger clump has now become three, and all transplants are doing well. ‘Jindai’ is unremarkable until October, with coarse foliage and tall growth that requires placement at the back, and just now it is reaching its peak bloom.

Usually dependable, several toad lilies (Tricyrtis, below) lagged this autumn, with later and fewer blooms. A few are just now reaching their peak, and if hard freezes are delayed there might be blooms late into November.

The native Common Witch hazel (Hamamelis virginiana, below) flowered early this year, with one dropping all leaves prior to flowering while the other more typically held its leaves to partially hide the small, spidery blooms. Vernal witch hazels will flower in January, with hybrids following in February, so there are likely to be flowers on one witch hazel or the others until spring.

‘Autumn Amethyst’ azalea is the last of the Encores to flower in this garden, with blooms often persisting into early December if there are not repeated freezes. Clusters of blooms open in periods of mild temperatures. Other Encore azaleas feature more abundant flowers, but these will stop with the first freezes.

Last year was exceptional for the autumn flowering, cold hardy, hybrid camellias, and this year looks to be off to an identical start. Several large, pink flowered camellias (‘Winter’s Star’, below) are at their peak, with the whites a week behind but looking good. The camellias’ flowers are not damaged by early freezes, but blooms that linger into December and January are often turned brown when temperatures drop into the low twenties. Still, they are glorious through this late autumn.

The autumn flowering mahonias (Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’, below) are just getting started, with yellow blooms that will often persist into the new year. With last year’s mild winter, flowers stayed around into February. Flowers are rarely damaged by freezes, though leaves can sometimes be injured if temperatures drop below zero (Fahrenheit).

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