Some discussion over the holiday recollected that a year ago Christmas was seventy degrees. Though I don’t recall the specifics, much of that early winter was warm so that hellebores were flowering before the new year. While this season has not been so mild, temperatures have not been particularly cold except a few nights that dropped to eleven and thirteen degrees. Undoubtedly, there will be colder nights to come.
While many hellebores remain buried by piles of fallen leaves, several flower buds are exposed that are beginning to show color (above). If temperatures don’t take a colder turn, hybrids with Christmas rose genetics are likely to flower in the next few weeks. A year ago, hellebores in a range from just beginning, to full flower, were buried by three feet of snow the third week of January. When they emerged from melting snow a few weeks later, blooms were slightly the worse for being buried, but partially opened buds took up where they left off and flowered within days.
With no severe cold in the immediate forecast, it is possible that partially opened buds of camellias (above) could develop into fully opened flowers. Usually, in late December and early January, camellia buds suffer some cold damage during the ten days from bud to flower, so that blooms are marked by brown edges, or worse.
While not unusual, a single flower of a dark leafed violet catches the eye along the path to the rear deck (above). And, while visiting, I noticed small spots of purple on early flowering rhododendrons at my brother’s house, the early winter color a consequence of somewhat mild temperatures following cold. Still, it is not so warm that foliage of spring bulbs will pop up in January, or that early cherries or forsythia should open a few stray blooms.
With very average temperatures, the vernal witch hazel, which typically flowers in this garden in mid January, but sometimes as early as late December, shows no signs of swelling flower buds. The small, ribbon-like, fragrant flowers are not dependent on a warm spell to flower, and often the blooms will persist to overlap with the more conspicuous flowers of hybrid witch hazels in late February. Flower buds swell and open in days, so there is no reason to suspect blooms will be delayed in this, thus far, very average winter.