The promise of spring


Snow on mahoniaDespite bouts with ice, snow, and several nights when temperatures dipped far into the teens, ‘Winter Sun’ mahonia (Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’, above) continues to flower into late December. In recent years the blooms have persisted into January, and there’s no reason to expect anything different this year.Leatherleaf mahonia

On close inspection a hint of yellow can be detected on the late winter flowering leatherleaf mahonia (Mahonia bealei, above), and this is what keeps the gardener going through the dark days of winter. It will be at least another month before leatherleaf mahonia should be expected to flower, but that won’t stop me from eyeballing it expectantly whenever I roam through the garden in January.

In the odd winter without any significant cold a few years ago, both ‘Winter Sun’ and leatherleaf bloomed in January, joined by an occasional camellia, and then snowdrops and witch hazels. I expect that there will be something flowering every day through the winter, but in a more typical year there will be fewer blooms and they will be more scattered.Vernal witch hazel in January

I’ve begun to watch the witch hazels, and certainly the first in line to flower will be the Vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis, above), with fragrant, but dull yellow to rust colored blooms in mid-January. The flowers of vernalis are small, but not insignificant to the gardener anxious for winter to be over. The hybrid witch hazels (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’, below, ‘Diane’, and ‘Jelena’) flower a few weeks later, and once they are in full bloom I’m certain that spring is only a few weeks off.  witch_hazel_january28

Meanwhile, I’ll keep a close eye on the slowly expanding flower buds of Winter daphne (Daphne odora, below), hellebores, and paperbush (Edgeworthia chrysantha) to occupy the chilly days until spring.Variegated winter daphne in late January