The gardener rejoices with the first snowdrop (Galanthus spp., below) in January, and when foliage of daffodils first breaks through the soil. This is the hope for spring’s arrival, that winter’s end could be near.
Though expected, flowers of the Vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis, below) and Winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflora) are viewed joyfully, the gardener desperate for more color than the browns and grays of winter. The hybrid crosses of Japanese and Chinese witch hazels (Hamamelis x intermedia) typically flower in mid February, but buds are closely monitored for any glimpse of color two weeks earlier.
In typical winter temperatures the paperbushes (Edgeworthia chrysantha, below) might show a bit of color alongside ‘Arnold Promise’ and ‘Jelena’, but in a colder winter there will be no blooms before early March. In recent years there were no flowers at all. All were frozen, with branch tips killed by a foot or more, reducing large, vigorous shrubs by half.
This progression, from a few scattered flowers to spring’s bouquet, is tortuous to the gardener who is anxious to be started planting. Though the hours of daylight become noticeably longer, the winter crawls along.
But, not in this January, when hellebores (Helleborus x hybridus, above) and witch hazels flowered in December, and foliage of daffodils and alliums stands a foot tall. The winter jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) is in full bloom, and a spell of several mild days could bring the daphnes (Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’, below) into bloom. Already, there are pink tips poking from the buds.
Fortunately, the early flowering magnolias, ‘Royal Star’ and ‘Dr. Merill’, show no signs of swelling buds. Their flowers are readily damaged in any March freeze, no matter how slight, and it is a certainty that there will be many nights below freezing in this winter, even if daytime temperatures remain mild.