By Thanksgiving there is little in flower, but what there is will seem all the more valuable.
Poking about my own 40-foot-wide estate I have welcomed a few late blooms on the small periwinkle, the last flower on the waterlily, 'Pennsylvania'; some late blooms on Clematis paniculata, some rather small and few-petaled but very colorful 'Dasher' zinnias.
To say nothing of a smattering of bloom on the great climber, Polygonum aubertii, which really finished in October, but there are always a few sprigs that fail to get the message; and some roses, evidently the last of the season for such current garden varieties as 'Mr. Lincoln,' 'Alec's Red,' 'Gene Boerner,' 'Pink Favorite' and the like.
The hybrid musk rose, 'Bishop Darlington,' will bloom until Christmas if the frosts are not too severe, and so will such old noisette varieties as 'Blush Noisette' and 'Jaune Desprez.' But then so will virtually all roses of the kind that repeat their bloom after the main flush of May.
Walking the hound down alleys in the neighborhood I have enjoyed seeing a small garden iris of the Intermediate Bearded class, a nice soft yellow. Sometimes fall-blooming bearded irises bloom weeks after the first freeze. It depends -- if they are in a sheltered place they may simply escape the freeze. In any case I have had them often in mid-December in Tennessee; not enough to make any show, but a few stalks useful for cutting and admiring in the house, or for taking to a gathering of iris nuts.
Also beautiful as late as Thanksgiving are various viburnums, especially V. setigerum, which has clusters of rather large oval bright-red soft berries. Soon they will turn to mush or the birds will eat them.
My plant of witch hazel (a cross of the Chinese and Japanese forms, and this hybrid is the one called 'Jelena') is only about waist high and very slow growing, so it makes no great show. Even so, its fat leaves colored orange, rose and yellow, are bright, and as I am easily satisfied with very little (a trait every gardener should develop at the earliest opportunity) I get pleasure even from this small bush.
Sometimes I think we are in precisely the wrong place for those early clematis that bloom by the middle of April, such as C. montana rubens, 'Vedrariensis,' 'Elizabeth' and so on. These are ironclad climbers, flourishing in cold places in Scotland, and far to the north of us in our own country.
All the same, they often fail in our genial climate. The leaves do not drop until December, and our mild open damp falls are probably not good for them. I am more than slightly annoyed to see the leaf buds in the axils of the present leaves are already softening and thinking about sprouting, in my plant of 'Vedrariensis.'
This is possibly the best of the early pink clematis, though barely distinguishable from C. montana rubens. Don't feel crushed if you have another sort, as there is little to choose in point of beauty. It flings great swags of bloom as the first of the Kurume azaleas flower, or as the Chinese wisteria blooms. It is a soft pink, the individual blooms about 2 inches across with just four petals.
It makes an ethereal cloud. I say this since you may never see it, and as far as that goes I may never see it, either. Every year this clematis is severely damaged at my place, freezing almost to the ground. Every year the leaf buds sprout out early in the winter or even the late fall, and are ruined by the ice of January. If we were colder, they would stay put and not emerge until early spring. Probably these very early clematis (and that goes for the lovely C. armandii also) would do better where they get little or no sun after November. Then they would be less likely to come bounding forth at the worst time of the year.
Probably in western China and the Himalayas where they grow wild, the cold settles in firmly and the plants are not lured into premature growth.
Is there anything prettier than plain wild chicory? Surely no flower has sky-blue coloring superior to it. Unlike most plants it blooms off and on from June to Thanksgiving. It is somewhat weedy, of course, but then so are a great many treasured and coddled plants. I often wonder why people don't dig it up from along alleys and vacant fields and plant it in the garden. I did so once, but my wife at some effort dug it up one winter, thinking it a particularly vigorous dandelion.
Just for the record, and without currying sympathy from anyone (for I have now got over the first trauma and no longer run up and down the walk screaming) the great plant of Clematis 'Henryi' has not put up any shoot since my wife's terrier gnawed through its two superb stems, thick as broom handles. A clematis never gets tough enough, never gets stems thick enough, to be safe from sheer vandalism. The damn terrier was already through teething and chewed for idle amusement, not necessity. The lesson, of course, is to protect the stems of all large-flowered clematis, no matter how old and strong the plant is, with some dog-proof, human-proof, devil-proof barrier.