Saturday, November 15, 2014
Garden bloggers bloom day: November 2014
Despite a few evening clouds, it was cold and clear last night in Washington, DC and we finally got our first good freeze of the season. I've had a couple of very light frosts already, when overnight lows were in the 30's, but without any damage to my plants. Last night was the first time it went down to the freezing point, 32 degrees F (0 C), or perhaps slightly lower. When I went out this morning to survey the damage the first thing I noticed was the sickly sweet smell of frostbitten vegetation. That's the part I always forget.
Frozen Zantedeschia 'White Giant' and Seemannia 'Little Red'
Seemannia hybrid, a few flowers lingering despite frost damage
Normally, on Garden Bloggers Bloom Day I would focus on flowers and show off what's blooming but given last night's freeze, I can't really ignore that aspect today! The urban heat island can only do so much. And yet, there are still a few things blooming in my garden. I'm always surprised at how spotty frost damage can be, with one plant looking good with another one right next to it turned to mush. This was especially apparent with the begonias, which are surprisingly cold-tolerant down to freezing, but when they freeze the damage is abrupt and dramatic. Given the nearly random damage this morning, I think the temperature must have been right at the freezing point. I was especially surprised to see very little damage to Begonia formosana; a couple of leaves froze but the rest are pristine. And yes, it still has a few flowers!
Begonias showing freeze damage (or not)
Begonia formosana, still blooming and showing minimal frost damage
I did notice one pattern: begonias that had foliage overhead were almost entirely spared. This included potted begonias on my back steps under a large japanese maple, as well as several of my unnamed hybrids planted directly in the ground under the tree. These are being tested for hardiness; when a hard freeze finally cuts them to the ground, they'll get mulch and then I'll cross my fingers until next spring!
Begonia hybrids, untouched by frost under a japanese maple
Begonia hybrid, still blooming despite last night's freeze
Done for the season are my Seemannia hybrids. This morning, just a few isolated stems here and there were undamaged. Like the begonias, these are pretty good right down to freezing but once it gets there, they're down for the count. I had several planted out, including a few unnamed hybrids, and they've been blooming heavily since late August, right through September and October, and as usual right into November until the first frost cuts them down. I've been trying to spread these plants around and hope to see at least one of my new seemannia hybrids listed commercially next year!
One of the more notable bloomers in the late fall garden is Fatsia japonica. My plants suffered some winter damage but came back nicely this spring; given the damage I didn't expect any flowers this year but they've been blooming for two or three weeks already. Although the flowers are more interesting than showy, it's still nice to see something blooming in November, sometimes even into early December for me. The buds and flowers easily survive freezes, and the immature fruits will stay on the plants all winter, ripening the following spring if we have a fairly warm winter. That didn't happen this year!
Fatsia japonica flowers, unfazed by freezing temperatures
And finally, so close, oh so close! I have a bearded iris (cultivar name long lost) that is supposed to be a remontant or "re-blooming" iris. After several years this is the first time I've gotten a second bloom on it, probably because the hardy banana (Musa basjoo) that usually shades it out all summer stayed much smaller this year. The first flower was on the verge of opening and the ready-to-open bud was surprisingly undamaged by the freeze, despite being smack in the middle of the garden. It made a valiant effort to open today but temperatures stayed quite chilly all day so it just didn't quite make it. Maybe it will survive another night and open tomorrow?
For more Garden Bloggers Bloom Day posts from all around the blogosphere, visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens.