Signs of life

Finally, signs that this long winter is fading. Today there was barely a chill in the air, and warmer temperatures are forecast for the next week. The snow on my neighbors’ lawns has melted, and parts of my garden are reappearing, though the sliver of mature maples and poplars that lines the southern edge of the property shades the sun and the snow remains nearly a foot deep in spots.

Nearest the house to the southeast, usually the dankest, darkest area of the garden shaded by overhanging maples and a large black gum, the snow melted first by some mysterious circumstance, and behold the helleborus emerged with plump buds ready to open with the first warmth. Weeks earlier I wondered what would become of these treasures, would they bloom weeks later, or at all? My answer, the first flower (below), looking none the worse for the delay, arrived in a few days, and though the foliage is flattened and haggard, that is not so unusual and the helleborus often require some tidying up in early March.Helleborus

Azaleas and leucothoe, mahonia (the yellowing buds of Mahonia beali below), nandina, and aucuba that were bent to a ghastly angle beneath the thick snowy blanket have sprung back  to a vague approximation of their former shape. There are a few broken branches which will require a bit of labor to prune and clean up, and the tall, narrow Sky Pencil hollies will likely need to be pruned to half their height to have any chance of standing straight and upright again.

I have not been at home this week before sunset, so I had not seen until today the deep ruts left by a snowplow that ventured more than twenty feet into the small front lawn. No matter, the poor fellow could not distinguish road from lawn through the drifting snow, and the damage is quite minor. As with many other tasks, this one will wait for another day.

Days prior to the snow melt I could see hints of the yellow ribbon-like flowers of the witch hazel Arnold’s Promise in the distant lower garden, and today the blooms are unfolding (above) and shortly will be in their full fragrant splendor.  This ten foot tall, vase shaped shrub stood well above the snow, so was delayed in blooming for a short time only by the cooler than average temperatures of February.

A few steps further towards the back of the garden the ground is saturated from the melting snow, and often boggy during other wet seasons, but an ideal setting for the variegated leaf pussy willow (above). The variegation of the leaves is not distinctive. and the wide spreading, unruly manner of the shrub is inappropriate for more civilized parts of the garden, but here at the garden’s back edge, in a swamp, for a week or two, it is delightful.

There is much work to be done to repair the havoc left by the winter’s storms, but today there are flowers, and a more hopeful attitude that spring is nearly upon us.

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