Who cares about winter flowers?

It’s cold out there. It’s winter, or at least it’s cold like winter. So, who cares about flowers in the garden if it’s too cold to go out there? Well of course, I do.

Unless the weather is unusually nasty, I’m in the garden every evening, and more on weekends. Some days this might be for only a few minutes, and occasionally there’s a little something to do in late autumn (leaf cleanup), but most often I’m just looking, enjoying, even if it’s the rascally rabbits that continue their destructive ways. I suppose they’re cute, but I could do without the regular doses of cuteness as bunnies scurry away from another decapitated young vine.

Multiple freezes, with temperatures falling into the upper twenties, did not damage camellia flowers.
A night falling to twenty-five degrees did the trick, damaging flowers that were fully opened. Half opened buds were not damaged.

Handfuls of reblooming Encore azaleas were flowering until the latest freezing night. Autumn Carnation, the bubblegum pink that I love to hate (though it is the most consistent to flower) is a mess following a freeze as the tissue paper thin flowers turn a horrible brown. This is the most obvious of the azaleas along the driveway, but fortunately there are large white and pink camellias (above and below) in the background to divert my attention.

One night …..
…. the next.

Flowers of the camellias are not damaged until temperatures drop into the mid-twenties (Fahrenheit). I regularly state this as fact, and for better or worse this week will set the record straight as nighttime temperatures range from the upper twenties into the teens. I am certain all camellia flowers will turn to brown at seventeen degrees, but the nights leading up to this will prove or disprove my thinking. I’ve been wrong before, too many times to count, but I am curious to watch and see.

In any case, following what appears to be the inevitable browning of today’s glorious color, there are likely to be more buds that open if there’s any kind of return to milder temperatures. Two shaded camellias often do not begin to flower until January, which gives me something to look forward to as I monitor swelling buds each evening.

Despite the possibility that the peak of the camellia will end in a few days, mahonias (above) and witch hazels will continue to flower through the worst of winter’s cold. And, while I don’t minimize the agonizing wait until early February when most of the hellebores begin to bloom, then March when paperbushes, early daffodils, snowdrops, and other bulbs join in, the flowers keep my interest and there’s always a swelling bud or emerging something to add to the daily watch.

4 Comments Add yours

  1. I totally agree, winter flowers are precious. As a transplanted Connecticut Yankee, it’s one of the great joys I have from gardening in the South. And I’m out in my garden regularly during the winter, tending to cold weather veggies and generally puttering around, tidying up, even still planting. Speaking of pink azaleas, I was thrilled recently to find a source for replacement Coral Bells azaleas, to fill in a gap where one of the original, huge old ones had died. All I could find at most nurseries were Encore azaleas, including at the state farmers’ market.

    1. Dave says:

      Traditional, non-reblooming azaleas are still available, though mostly in the spring when their flowering is superior to rebloomers that vary in density of flowers due to varying conditions. Coral Bell was always one of the standards, but in the nursery I found it to be very brittle to handle.

      1. I was able to get several very healthy, sturdy plants. I’ve planted three and thought I’d grow the two others on in containers as backups. Does that seem realistic to you?

      2. Dave says:

        Yes. The only concern with plants in containers is that they must be protected from prolonged, severe freezes. Root temperatures in pots are significantly colder than in ground, and even with much milder winter temperatures there can be damage if containers are not protected.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s