Three nights, three freezes

The first freeze did nothing, or nearly so, and even flowers of tender annuals made it through with minimal damage. The next night was a degree colder. Annuals drooped, but they weren’t goners until the third night, after the third freeze (below).

A few lower. protected flowers survived the three nights when temperatures fell below freezing.
Foliage of toad lilies has turned for the the worse, but flowers and buds keep going. With milder temperatures that followed the freezes these could continue flowering for a few more weeks.

Several nights falling below freezing should not seem unusual for October, but recent years have changed our thinking. Now, I expect toad lilies (Tricyrtis, above) to flower into November, an occasional autumn flowering Encore azalea (below) to flower into early December, though with a half hearted disclaimer that weather patterns could possibly return to the good old days. If I dare tell the story of starting my outdoor work day forty some years ago in eighteen below cold , the inevitable response refers to dinosaurs.

The coming winter might not drop below ten degrees for a fourth consecutive year, and I can’t say I miss the cold while acknowledging the ill effects of the change in climate. In recent years I’ve planted several shrubs that are too tender by a zone or two, and while I was first prepared to insulate these prior to a spell of cold, last winter I hardly gave it a thought.

‘Spider Web’ fatsia has proven to be more tolerant of cold than expected, but I don’t expect it would be happy if temperatures dropped near zero degrees (Fahrenheit). Not only does fatsia survive the cold, but it begins flowering in October after the first frosts. If cold below ten degrees is expected I will cover it with a basket of leaves.
Grevillea ‘Murray Valley Queen’ is a winter flowering shrub with gray-green leaves that might not tolerate the cold of a typical zone 7 winter. In three years it has grown vigorously and set multiple flower buds, but the flowers open reluctantly so it doesn’t make much of a show in the winter months.
While the more cold hardy Schefflera delavayi overwinters outdoors, this variegated schefflera will soon be dug and brought indoors.

While local forests of maples and poplars turn varying shades of yellow, the foliage colors in the garden turn quickly following our early frosts. Today, there are rich reds and glowing yellows to accompany the late season blooms.

Leaves of ‘Scarlet Fire’ dogwood turn to red at the first cold.
While a few ginkgos that are more shaded are late to turn, ones in sunnier spots turn to yellow before leaves drop suddenly within a day.
The Linearlobum Japanese maple that overhangs the small pond below our deck turns a brilliant red.
This witch hazel will flower in late winter, but its foliage color in late October is splendid.

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