The downhill side of winter


At the start of February we’re on the downhill side of winter, but I’m anxious for the season to move along faster to be rid of this cold. A few unusually warm days tease that spring is drawing nearer, but the mood is spoiled a day later with a chill and gusty winds. Even on warmer days I’ve not yet gotten the motivation to begin with early season garden chores, but I suppose that will come.

Many gardeners, it seems, prefer to undertake these tasks in bits and pieces through the winter, and each has their personal threshold for working in the cold. I’m willing to work regardless of the temperature, as long as the need is urgent. I would prefer a few more sixty degree days and fewer highs in the thirties, but I’ve experienced enough spring clean ups to know that I can accomplish what’s necessary while sitting out most of the winter.Hellebore in February

There are grasses and perennials to be cut, and winter weeds to be pulled before they go to seed. This is where I’ve habitually been most negligent so that many thousands of seeds are dispersed before I get around to this labor. If the weeds are removed while small and before seeding the task is quite simple, but a delay into March inevitably results in many more weeds next winter. Cutting the dead tops of grasses and perennials can wait, but if I’m able to gather the strength to get around to anything, pulling the winter weeds will be at the top of the list.Winter jasmine in late winter

Most often, a warm day in early February is spent enjoying the Vernal witch hazel, winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum, above), and hellebores, and checking on the progress of the snowdrops (Galanthus, below) that have broken ground with flowers that are evident but seem reluctant to open further in the cold. This seems more important today rather than crawling about in the mud to root out chickweed.Snowdrops blooming in late January

The buds of hybrid witch hazels, winter daphne, and paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha, below) grow fatter each day, with a bit of color peeking out that promises blooms by mid month. I will get to the chickweeds and henbit soon enough, and to chopping off the withered foliage of daylilies and hostas that must be removed before growth starts in mid March. There are piles of leathery leaves of hellebores that were cut off to better show the flowers that must be gathered and dumped into the compost, and still piles of maple and poplar leaves that must be shredded and spread about the garden. I will get around to each task, but with several weeks of winter remaining, there is no rush.Edgeworthia in February

3 Comments Add yours

  1. Ahhh. ….snowdrops! My front garden in Massachusetts came alive with them every May! So pretty!

  2. Dave says:

    Thankfully, in Virginia usually pop up in early February, and with warmer winters they will often show some color by late January.

    1. Eric says:

      Great post, thanks. Interesting what you say about hosta and daylily foliage. Here in Boston they seem to simply melt away by mid winter. Hellebores are another matter…
      May seems very late for Galanthus, even for Mass. Around Boston it’s more like March. Where did you live?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s