An unapologetic plant geek shares advice and opinions on gardening, the contrived and the natural landscape, as well as occasional topics from the other side of the gate.

December 7, 2009

Delayed Expectations and Pleasant Surprises

This past Saturday we finally got our first taste of overdue winter weather, however it was only a light appetizer and not a filling entree. The day was cold, miserable and rainy - not conducive to shopping or stringing lights through shrubbery, so we spent the day inside getting a little housework done and the Christmas tree decorated. During a break in the domesticity and the rain, I was able to spend a little time in the back yard. I was surprised to find that the Climbing Hydrangea foliage had taken on a pleasant yellow color, when in most years it simply falls off unnoticed. The leaf color is good match to the blooms of Winter Sun Mahonia.

Rain drop on Confederate Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides)

Trachelospermum jasminoides

Fatsia japonica blossom encircled by the Jasmine

Fatsia japonica

The Climbing Hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris)

Backyard Early Dec. 2009 1

Mahonia x 'Winter Sun'

Mahonia x 'Winter Sun' 2

When I woke the next morning and checked the thermometer, it said that we had finally kissed the 32 degree mark for the first time this season - about two to three weeks later than usual. There was little apparent sign in the garden of this brush with winter, but later when I got home from work I noticed that the exhausted Impatiens and the Coleus had definitively been hit. Monday morning frost had to be scraped from the windshield. I realize that many people out there have had far worse and though I am not happy about it, I expect that it should be time for winter.


  1. It is amazing that we haven't had the winter weather until what we had on Saturday....what a wet and miserable day. Looking forward to family coming in this weekend from the midwest....though they are due to get 18 inches of snow tonight! I will take the frost intstead.
    Your climbing hydrangea looks nice with its yellow foliage.

  2. Hi Les, yes it is time. What fabulous captures! The mahonia is a wildling here, escaped from plantings around the neighborhood. It pops up in the oddest places, but those winter flowers are so welcome. I love your combination of it with the climber. Hope things are back to normal after the flooding rains.


  3. As always, Les, beautiful images. I guess winter is here and we need to just accept it, right? H.

  4. 'Kiss' the mark. Love it. Better than 'hit'.
    Finally found a way to bypass your pictures by the yard. So I can still visit and read to get a flavour.
    BTW,You weren't supposed to read that post. Can't a girl hide anything anymore these days?

  5. We still have not had a frost/freeze along the lowcountry coastline - and this past weekend, I bought a beautiful bow for a wreath on my front gate, but then realized how silly a Christmas wreath would look OVER a mass of still-blooming perennial morning glories! I did't have the heart to cut the Ipomea back yet - so there is still no wreath. I hear rumors of colder weather moving in soon (this morning it is in the upper 60s already and we're under a tornado watch!).

    Your images are beautiful!

  6. Les, Good morning~I thought that image was barbed wire at first~~either way it is fabulous~~I must go have coffee, but I did want to say hello. I love the mahonia vignette. gail

  7. Les, Your Mahonia is gorgeous! All your photos here are stunning ... really beautiful.

  8. Les, I am not sure if it was you or How it Grows that posted about an evergreen groundcover. It's about 4" high and has scales similar to a cedar tree. It grows exclusively under cedar trees. Was it you who posted it on one of your field trips? Or are you familiar with it? I am researching it too but would like to know what it is. Thanks. Could you email me back at

  9. Janet,
    I hope your family made it in without incident. My thermometer made it down to 28 last night, and many plants are good evidence of that.

    I have noticed Mahonia coming up wild in the fringes of the property around the garden center. I was also pleasantly surprised to see a variety of it growing in the Rockies.

    Accept it or be miserable, I guess.

    In the digital age, once you press "enter" you can not take it back, but no one here took offense, and I continue to look forward to your comments.

    I believe we shared a similar tornado watch. It was 72 here on Wednesday and 28 last night.

    The Jasemine is behaving like barbwire in the yard, thankfully it does not have thorns.

    Thanks for the comments. I love Mahonia, but when I suggest it to customers, the prickles on the leaves scare them. They just make the flowers that much nicer.

    I am glad the info I sent you was useful.


  10. It's amazing to me to see so much greenery at this time of year. I agree that wet-cold weather is the worst. You feel it more in the damp.

    We had a mild start to December too, but now it is really winter. It's not even making it UP to freezing today in Maine.

    Happy Hanukkah and an early Merry Christmas to you and your family!

  11. Ah, that was so restful and beautiful. All of our foliage is no longer green. Most has completely fallen to the ground.~~Dee

  12. Sarah,
    Thank you for the holiday wishes. I wish the same for you.

    While we still have a lot of green, there is a little less of it now that we have had some good freezes.