Blasted! That Camellia’s Not Going to BloomJanuary 13, 2011
Winter Bloomers are a salvation this time of year when everything else seems to be some shade of dreary gray. In addition to injecting color back into our worlds, they attract colorful birds and bees and quite often pack a powerfully fragrant punch. So when they don’t, well winter’s just that much more of a bummer. Wondering why your winter bloomers are failing to please this year or looking for ways to remedy future problems?
A common problem — that is easily remedied — is incorrect timing. Winter bloomers are quite often pruned late in the growing season by those who don’t know any better. And when your shears hit those shrubs in summer or fall or early winter, the blossom buds have already formed. Your cuts remove the flowering potential. So, correct your pruning practices and do your blooming right after they finish flowering in late winter/early spring, and be done with it.
Another problem – poor bud set. Last winter I was really bummed when I got all of one bloom on my Garrya elliptica. I know the problem wasn’t pruning, and the plant had flowered well in past years. My best guess is that the unseasonably hot weather in 2009 accompanied by my policy of tough love watering stressed the plant. It didn’t put on my green growth or flowers. This year, it’s covered in blooms following a relatively cool, wet summer. Note to self: Give Garrya water in hot summer weather!
A common challenge this year – bud blast. In late fall, before all the trees had lost their leaves and when we were without any insulating snow cover, a hard freeze hit the Seattle area. Winter bloomers, like fall/winter blooming Camellia sasanqua, which is rated zone 7-9, had begun loosening up outer coverings on flower buds, readying them to open. The process of readying themselves to open left these buds even more susceptible to an early freeze. The result: many simply turned brown and fell from the plants. In my garden, our ‘Yuletide’ Camellia has lost the majority of its buds to blast.
Fortunately, our fragrant Sarcococca and intrepid Hamamelis are filling the garden with color and fragrance. The former has defoliated a bit from the freeze and the later continues to hold its brown leaves from last season. Each, as well as the Garrya, are attracting and feeding local hummingbirds, which also adds to the winter garden beauty. Altogether these winter garden troopers are helping me get over those other blasted! losses.
How are your winter bloomers doing this season? And, what are your favorites? By now, some perennial Hellebores are blooming; others are just beginning to send up flower buds from the soil. Have a Stachyurus or a Winter Hazel? Those should be getting ready to show their stuff soon. Same for Daphnes and even Cornus mas flower buds are beginning to loosen their outer casings.
The worst of the winter is behind us — now that something is finally blooming again. Even if we did lose a few flowers to that blasted early freeze!