Five nights below freezing have started the foliage decline of the garden’s paperbushes (Edgeworthia chrysantha, below). Wilted leaves will be followed closely by yellowing, and then foliage will drop to expose the large flower buds that should begin showing color in early to late February.
Several paperbushes have grown to twenty feet in width, much larger than references state as their mature size, and these threaten less vigorous neighbors. Select branches will be pruned to reduce this size, but not until late March when the late winter flowers fade. Flower buds are damaged by temperatures nearing zero (Fahrenheit), so for the next few months I’ll worry with any forecast of ten degrees and colder.
While many trees in the garden are bare, many of the Japanese maples are now showing extraordinary foliage color. The best of all is the Fernleaf maple (Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’, above and below). Red leafed Japanese maples often fade in our summer heat, but the color deepens with the first freezing temperatures. Looking from our kitchen window there is a delightful mix of shades of red and yellow.
The garden’s stone paths are now covered by fallen leaves. To maintain a minimal standard of neatness these will be vacuumed and shredded along with leaves that clutter winter flowering hellebores. Deep piles of leaves that cover much of the shaded garden will be left in place, but with leaves raked to expose low mounding evergreens to the winter sun.
Evergreen leaves of hellebores, both browned and green, should be removed in December so that short stemmed flowers can be seen. This is rarely accomplished in this garden until flowering is imminent, when snipping must be done more carefully so that flowers are not accidently removed.