Last, but not least

I went downtown a week ago, and was not surprised that daffodils of every sort were blooming, while in my garden even the early flowering miniatures were showing no color. I am certain that ‘February Gold’ blooms in February somewhere, but not in my garden, which is shaded from the late winter sun by a heavily wooded border.

By mid-week the miniatures were beginning to open, and after two warm days they have opened fully (above). Another group across the garden is more heavily shaded beneath a large ‘Jane’ magnolia, and will not bloom for another week, at least. The shade is most pronounced with the more southernly path of the winter sun, and by May the sun’s track leads it directly over the garden’s center, and then the only shade is from the dozens of trees that I’ve planted.

Though late winter bloomers in my garden are often a week later than on neighboring properties, the flowers are shielded from early warm days, so they will last longer than those in full sun. At the wood’s edge, beneath large oakleaf hydrangeas, Glory of the Snow (Chionodoxa, above) is just beginning to bloom, and no matter that the days ahead are cool or warm, the flowers last for only a few days. The clump increases annually from seed, and from only a few handfuls of small bulbs there are hundreds of tiny plants covering twenty or thirty square feet.

The snowdrops (above) are on their way out, as are the last of the crocuses (below). In the autumn I feared the crocuses had been uprooted or otherwise disturbed when a dwarf Scotch pine planted twenty one years ago died and was dug out. When the pine was planted it seemed that there was plenty of room between it and the ‘Seriyu’ Japanese maple, but of course this is not the only slight miscalculation I have made through the years. In any case, most or possibly all of the crocus survived the nearby digging. 

Only a few of the hellebores (below) have not bloomed yet, with the holdouts planted close enough to the house that they get only a glimpse of the late winter sun. When the last of the group blooms in the next week I’ll feature them one day, and so enough said except to encourage you to get out to your local garden center to purchase a few. The flowers last for several weeks, often from late February into early April if temperatures are not too warm, and hellebores are well suited to the cold, so there is no danger in planting them now.  

Conditions are now ideal for planting trees and shrubs, and I have planned to do some planting next weekend. I made a substantial dent in my clean up chores on this glorious day, so I’ll allow myself the luxury of planting that I often don’t get around to until well into April.

Somewhere in the next days I’ll squeeze in a bit about the pieris (above), edgeworthia, and mahonias (and anything else I have missed today) that are blooming today, but in parting I’ll leave you with a photo of the variegated pussy willow (below) that is so coarse and unmannerly that I would not recommend to plant one unless you have a swampy area at the rear of the property. This is precisely where mine is located, and with the recent rains I sunk nearly to my ankles to get close enough for the photographs of the pollen laden catkins.

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