Not warm

On advice from my wife who is never warm in winter, I refer to winter temperatures as mild rather than warm. Today is mild, at least above our winter average so that ice is melting on the garden’s ponds and perhaps it will be gone before the next spell of cold comes around.

Two periods are most dangerous in the garden, both early and late freezes. In this garden, the early freeze is rarely a problem though this autumn the first freeze came before any frost. Cool nights in late September become colder a month later, so there is no tender growth that is more often an issue in states to our south. The April freeze, or the May frost is most likely to damage or kill, but this recent late December cold posed little threat to most of the garden.

Before, above, and after two days later.

As expected, leaves of not quite cold hardy plants for our zone have recovered fully after overnight temperatures of six and seven degrees (Fahrenheit), and three days that did not rise above freezing. While references vary, I was quite confident that all could survive to the ten degrees forecast, though I was unaware of the revised, colder forecast. Still, my decision not to protect schefflera, fatsia (above), and others (Illicium, below) has been rewarded with greater confidence in their winter hardiness.

Before and after.

A loquat residing on the patio was moved to the greenhouse in the afternoon as temperatures dropped quickly through the teens. The tall evergreen easily tolerated upper teen temperatures outdoors, but in a pot it would surely be damaged by this cold. It seems content in the unheated greenhouse, though a bit of damage was inflicted wrestling the heavy pot from the patio.

After a chilly week, there are only a few scattered buds of camellias showing color. With several mild days still expected, I anticipate swelling buds and perhaps a bit more color will progress (above) as long as temperatures drop no lower than the mid-twenties.

Today, I see the first slight crack of color from buds of Vernal witch hazels (Hamamelis vernalis), on schedule to begin flowering the first week of the new year. With early winter flowering mahonias (above) fading quickly, this witch hazel and the few early flowering hellebores will be the lone bloomers until late in January when they’re joined by dozens of later hellebores and the first snowdrops.

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