November 26, 2011

Bud break before the deep freeze

Every year about this time I start worrying about my perennials and ornamental shrubs. Will they make it through the winter? The buds look like they’re about to break already!

Last year in late November, I posted about Star Magnolias in the neighborhood. They looked pregnant with new life and it was hard to believe they’d survive through the long, cold winter. Of course, they did survive and the blossoms were as spectacular as ever. (One of these days, I must plant Magnolias in my garden!)

Magnolia stellata

This year, some plants and shrubs are showing premature signs of new growth, and it has me worried more than usual. When I look back at my posts about Magnolias from last year, I see that the temperatures were cold enough that I was uncomfortable outside snapping photos. Nothing could be further from the truth this year. Our Thanksgiving and Black Friday were among the mildest on record, with highs approaching 60 degrees.

While I’m not complaining about the mild weather for my own comfort, I’m worried that some plants might have a huge shock when the cold weather hits. They’re probably just fine, but the change will be tough on people and plants alike.

The Scallions and Irises always look like this. Their new growth is evergreen, and they simply take a long nap under the snow.

Allium cepa

Iris germanica

Old growth on the Hollyhocks simply hasn't shriveled up yet.

Alcea rosea

The Daylilies seem to have a little more new growth at the base than usual. Should I be worried?

Hemerocallis fulva

My dear Hellebores seem way too far along for November! I repacked the Oak leaves around them. And learning from last year, I won’t remove the leaf mulch until April! The snow should provide a comfy blanket.

Helleborus orientalis

But the plant that really has me worried is the Hydrangea. This new leaf growth is a goner already. It sure is beautiful, though, in its premature bud break. Hopefully the rest of the shrub will make it through unscathed.

Hydrangea macrophylla

I can’t say these two sources comforted me much, but they do offer great information on plant cold-hardiness:


  1. The weather has been rather warm here too. We are in for a change for tomorrow, though, with another chance of snow. I hope all the plants pull through, they are amazingly resilient. I love your photography, very beautiful.

  2. Yes, our plants are confused as well. I saw some cherry trees blooming and my phlox have started to bloom as well as hellebore. Too early for all of them. Does this mean we will have a mild winter? Fingers crossed!

  3. I checked the hellebores just a few minutes ago to see if the blooms were coming along. They did bud up for Christmas last year and then stayed in suspended animation for quite a while.

  4. @Karen: Thank you! Yes, we're in the 30s and shivering today. I guess it had to happen sometime. I need some hot cocoa. :)

    @Karin: Cherry trees blossoming--wow! Of course your winters are milder than ours, but still the next cold snap will be a shock. I hope you're right about the mild winter!

  5. Since I live in such a warm area, I worry about my plants every year. But they seem to make it through unscathed most of the time. I just try to leave it up to Mother Nature and figure the plants will figure it out. Besides, beside worry, what else can we really do?

  6. Even though it has been mild here, the plants were put to rest when we had the 25 degree weather. Snapped them all so I am not as worried about new growth...I really worry about spring freezes once growth has started...

  7. Blessed with a beautiful November, my life/garden much like yours and have seen buds/garden life swelling :( But I think by Wed we all will be in the norm for the month ... good for the garden :) ... sad for me to say goodbye to this wonderful mild weather :)

  8. I live really far from you, but happening same. Last week I was in Barcelona (Spain) and I thought it was summer: almost 70ยบ, this is crazy!!! but you are doing perfect using mulch, for sure your plants will be safe.

  9. I don't envy you the cold winters and what it does to your gardens. Not sure I could cope with that, I really admire you for the efforts you go to to overwinter and protect your plants!

    PS: Love your photographs!

  10. After seeing so many beautiful naked lady lilies on various blogs, including yours, I ordered a bunch of bulbs. Two have already started growing! I also have a bit of growth on my hydrangea. Weird! Our weather is also really mild right now. I'm hoping for a cold, snowy winter. My garden always looks its best after a wet winter.

  11. We too are having the same plants breaking bud. We have been having rain and temps in the 60's so it kinda makes sense. I noticed the Magnolia at the farm was too far along for this time of year, and like you, took photos in disbelief.

  12. I've been worried, too, that the mild temperatures of November might have confused some of my plants. I spread some pine straw and extra leaves around some of the more tender shrubs and plants yesterday, hoping it will insulate them against the cold somewhat. Winter is definitely settling in--snow is in the forecast for us tonight!

  13. @Holley: Good advice! It's not going to help to worry. I have to keep reminding myself that.

    @Donna: We hit a cold patch here now, too. That will probably put a stop to any more new growth until early spring.

    @Joey: I hope you're enjoying the snow. I can't believe I'm looking forward to it now. :)

  14. @Lula: I guess we all had a mild autumn. Nice! Thanks for the encouragement about the plants!

    @Christine: Thanks! Yeah, the cold winters are hard on people, plants, and animals. Sometimes I think it makes us tough. Other times, I just think it's a drag. ;-)

    @TS: Oh wow, good luck with the Resurrection Lilies! They are fascinating. I can't believe yours are sprouting already! Poor Hydrangeas!

  15. @Donna: Weird, huh? I guess they'll all just be in a holding pattern now with all the cold weather we're all getting!

    @Rose: Thinking about you now--you might be getting snow before us this year! I'm actually looking forward to the white stuff now. Everything's so gray around here.

  16. I've even had some blossom on my magnolia, but it has happened before and it still put on a magnificent show in the Spring. I reckon most plants recover pretty well from all this confusion, as long as there is a cold snap to give them a bit of a break. bet your garden flowers beautifully in the Spring and you will wonder why you worried. I say this because I worry every year too... I am hoping to take my own advice...

  17. @Janet: Thanks for the encouragement. Gosh, Magnolia blossoms in the fall--that would be wild! In this climate, we're not used to so much spring-like activity before winter. It's cold here now and snow is on its way, so that will put the plants to sleep.

  18. I know what you mean even if we aren't experiencing it this year. It's happened in years past tho and it's worried me too. Hopefully everything will come thru just fine. Maybe you'll skip winter this year??!!

  19. @Kathleen: Skipping winter--wow, what a thought! That would be a first for me. I'm not sure I'd want to do that, but a shorter winter would be nice. Since writing this post, the cold weather has set in. Still no snow, though.