Better late than never


A few warm days in February set the heart aflutter with anticipation of spring, and a week ago I heard from a gardener in town who is celebrating the arrival of the first snowdrops and hellebores. In years past I have seen snowdrops poke their heads above an inch or two of fresh snow, but the snow along my shady front walk was hard crusted and icy until a few days ago and has slowed their progression. With the snow melted, the snowdrops are sprouting quickly (below), and I expect blooms within the next week.

The buds of the hellebores continue to fatten (below), and I suspect that the flowers will open just after the snowdrops. A reader who watches these pages to be alerted to what is popping into bloom is likely to be disappointed that they have passed a week earlier in their neighborhood, unless they happen to be reading from their home in Pittsburgh. Everything blooms late in this cold natured garden, but late in the winter is the only time that I am anxious about it, and often flowers will stay around a bit longer in the cool shade. 

This morning I have wandered around the garden a bit, pruned a few small broken branches, but the ground was sloppy and as I slipped and slid about I determined that despite my enthusiasm I was doing more harm than good. I have decided to remove a Snow cypress (Chamaecyparis pisifera ‘Snow) that has grown too large, with long branches that have bent in the heavy snow from this winter and last.

The Snow cypress is purported to grow to two feet in height, or five to six feet, though some references will tell you that it will mature to twenty feet tall. There is considerable confusion regarding cypresses, and I often see reference materials and hear landscape people say that the common gold threadbranch cypress (also a pisifera type) will grow only to four or five feet. I can attest from experience that both Snow and gold threadbranch will grow to fifteen feet and beyond, and today my chainsaw will remedy this error. 

I have kept a watchful eye on the witch hazels for several weeks as the buds began to show a peak of the yellow within, but in the past week I have left and returned from work in the dark, so I did not see that the ribbony blooms had unfurled, though not fully. The yellow ‘Arnold’s Promise’ (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold’s Promise’, above) is more mature and slightly earlier to flower, but ‘Diane’ (below) is only a few days behind. I did not notice the fragrance this morning, and though I have poor sniffer, I’m guessing that the aroma will be enhanced once the blooms open completely.

Through the next week and the weekend I will be occupied with setting up and greeting visitors to a garden show, so I am excited to see the changes as the weather begins to warm and spring arrives in earnest.

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