My home garden is in Monroe, Ohio. Officially in USDA hardiness zone 6a, we still, however briefly, have hit zone 5a lows in winters not to distantly past. The soil in my immediate vicinity is Eden silty clay. In many local developments, the good stuff has been scraped away and sold off as topsoil to some other poor schmuck who also had THEIR upper soil horizons scraped away. Whatever we had upon our arrival has been amended with horse manure, coir, and compost. There is no bed in my yard that couldn’t have been amended some more.

12 March 2017

Cold reality

Every year is strange in its own way. This year, thus far, has been unseasonably warm. When I say thus far, I'm actually being somewhat generous, as temperatures returned to March normal on Friday. Unfortunately, certain plants had already developed to the point where their cold-susceptible flowers were already open. Magnolia x loebneri 'Leonard Messel' is one of those.

Magnolia x loebneri 'Leonard Messel' on 10 March, 2017

Grown here in a partly shady location, more flowers can be expected in a sunnier spot.
In the past, I have observed 'Leonard Messel' locally flowering around the second week of April, and in 2016 mine was in full bloom by the 18th of March. And while it's still possible for frosts to occur through April and early May, the chances of it happening are typically lower. Overall, my 'Leonard Messel' has fared well when it was in bloom.

In addition to being so beautiful, the flowers can smell great (more so on a warm day).

The low for Saturday the 11th was 21°F.

By Saturday afternoon, the overall plant didn't look too different, but closer inspection revealed the tender nature of the flowers:

Magnolias that tend flower early in the season (M. kobus, M. stellata, M. x soulangeana, etc.) will always be at risk of getting damaged by cold snaps, but in the years when they flower unscathed, they can be fabulous. Even though there will be occasional years that disappoint, in the long run you will appreciate having taken the risk of growing one.

There's always next year.

03 March 2017

Early is a gamble

Jasminum nudiflorum is among the earliest flowering of the shrubby plants. Aptly called winter jasmine, it may start blooming at the slightest hint of warmth in late winter. This year, at the Cincinnati Zoo and Botanical Garden, a significant portion of the flowers were open by mid-February:
By February 22nd, it was nearly in full bloom:

Descriptions of its habit may be quite subjective. As I photographed the plant at left, one passerby described it as flopping. Now, it's possible that their glass is only half full. I didn't think to ask, but I did point out that they could, instead, think of the delicate green (all winter!) stems as arching, or gracefully cascading down the slope atop which it had been planted.

In my opinion, it seemed to me to be a particularly effective use for the plant, as it has a tendency to layer (root where branches touch the ground), thereby reducing erosion. Form and function combined!

It has been elsewhere described as vining. That might be the case in richer soils, or shadier situations. Although winter jasmine will tolerate a great deal of shade, such conditions will result in the formation of fewer flower buds.

Relatively inconspicuous during initial expansion (perhaps because they are too small and widely distributed to attract attention), partially developed red-tipped buds will open into the bright yellow, 6-petalled flowers.
In spite of numerous flowers, little or no seed development seems to occur. However, as I alluded to above, it may slowly spread by layering (as raspberries do, only at a more reasonable pace).
Aside from the tendency to lose flower buds in harsher winters, the only shortcoming, at least around here, is the unseemly lack of fragrance in a species of Jasminum. All in all, I find that winter jasmine is worth the gamble.