We have had the coldest recorded temperatures since I've worked here (2002) and reputedly the coldest winter for more than a decade. Temperatures have plummeted to -7 on the night of January 7th with a -2 last night, 2nd February.
Prior to the cold snap I took the decision to fleece wrap some of the more tender plants within the garden. In hindsight this may have proved a life saver. Usually, especially in Cornwall, we do not go through the motions of winter protection for plants simply because we don't need to. We have Dicksonia antartica (New Zealnd tree ferns) fast approaching a century old that quite happily fend for themselves each and every winter. Some of the newer plantings I have protected. These include my plant of the year 2008 our Schefflera macrophylla, Metrosideros excelsa (new Zealand Christmas tree) and our two species of Banana the Japanese Musa Basjoo and the Chinese Musa lasiocarpa. With the latter I am really only looking to protect the trunk as this years leaves will be scorched by the cold.
Amongst all of this cold and snow (its snowing as I write) Camellia x williamsii ‘St Ewe' and ‘November Pink' are looking stunning in full bloom.
Magnolia campbellii subsp.mollicomata (a seedling of our champion on main lawn) usually flowers between January 10th nad 21st but so far no sign of the flower wanting to leave its furry little jacket.