The long, drooping stems of Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum, below) cascade over boulders at the pond’s edge, and if February days are sunny the warm stones encourage early blooms. This year there have been only a scattered few until the past few days, but now the bright yellow flowers are abundant.
Winter jasmine will root wherever its stems touch damp soil, and the coarse textured shrub will spread so far as space allows. It is easily kept under control by pruning stems back as far as you please every few years, but I allow it to tumble in every direction. The blooms have no scent, and if it were not for the early flowers there would be little reason to include it in the garden, but blooms in late winter are always welcome.
The tubular blooms of Sweetbox (Sarcococca hookeriana var. humilis, above) are not showy, but visitors to the garden with a keener sense of smell tell me that they are quite fragrant. The glossy foliage of the low, slowly spreading evergreens fills the space between larger shrubs in the shady garden, and though it takes forever and a day, the wait is worthwhile.
Cultivars of Japanese pieris (Pieris japonica, above and below) have gained a larger presence in gardens with their resistance to deer. Pieris is best suited to well drained soils, and partial shade, but it will tolerate more sun so long as it is provided adequate moisture (though not poor drainage). In my garden the earliest varieties begin to show color in early March, but peak bloom is nearer the end of the month.
A few more of the hellebores (below) have begun blooming this week, all with flowers that nod downward so that you must prop them up to enjoy. To photograph them I use a small, forked stick to support the bloom. More recent introductions have blooms that face upwards, and for most gardeners these will be more appreciated since they are easier to view. Still, the older, nodding types flower earlier in this garden, so I’m happy to have them, even if my knees and elbows are soiled from kneeling to see them.
The snowdrops (Galanthus, below) are now fully in bloom, though they are likely to have faded by this time in warmer area gardens. No matter that I complain that they are late every year planted in shade by the front door (and often buried beneath snow and ice it seems), I have neglected to plant them in a sunnier spot where they would blooms weeks earlier.
While other bloomers were slightly delayed by a covering of snow through the middle of February, ‘Arnold Promise’ witch hazel (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’, below) dependably begins to show color by the third week , and the fragrant yellow, ribbony blooms will persist for several weeks so long as temperatures are not too warm. At their peak the flowers are very fragrant, so that even I can enjoy the aroma.