After a flush of growth in autumn, the hellebores (Helleborus) are plump and now heavily budded. I have not yet removed the foliage so that the nodding flowers will be more evident when these begin to bloom in several weeks. Certainly, I’ll get around to this, at least by the time the first color begins to show.
Before this, I must remove the damp, matted leaves that have blown into the garden from neighbors’ sycamores that threaten to smother several large clumps. In fact, there is little room to complain since huge leaves from the Bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrocphylla) cover other clumps, though the magnolia is highly prized while the sycamores are only big. While the cutting back of the hellebores and raking of leaves have been put off for too long, there should be no ill effect.
In a few recent years hellebores flowered early into January, but that was with unusually warm early winter temperatures, and the current winter is only average, I think. Though my wife complains, there has been little severe cold, and I suspect there will be none of the cold damage experienced a year ago.
No doubt, hellebores will not flower early, nor will witch hazels (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Diane’ and ‘Jelena’) or paperbushes (Edgeworthia chrysantha), also harbingers of an early spring. I suspect that the catkins of the variegated pussy willows (Salix gracilistyla ‘Variegata’) will not be showing yet, though I have not had the gumption to slog through the swamp at the far back corner of the garden to see them. I do not wait on the pussy willows with the same anticipation as witch hazels and hellebores. I’m quite pleased that a few snowdrops have flowered already, and I expect most winter flowers will arrive on their typical schedule, or only a bit late.
Several small hellebores planted last spring have shown remarkable growth, and perhaps these will display a flower or two, though there are no signs of buds at the moment. It’s possible that flower buds are obscured by leaf litter, so I hold out hope. With dozens of hellebores in the garden there is no need to whine when a few fail to flower, but some are new varieties, so I’m anxious to see them.
I notice that many hellebore seedlings have reached a suitable size to transplant in the spring. These will be too small to flower, but they appear sturdy enough to survive the inevitable neglect that follows moving them. So long as I’m careful to dig and replant when there is sufficient dampness, all should fare well. While open garden space is always limited, hellebores require little space and they can be planted just about anywhere. I don’t suppose a garden can ever have too many, though that’s what I’ve said about hostas and toad lilies and too many others.