I suspect that few gardeners are out today, stomping through ten inches of snow, except to rescue arching branches of evergreens from permanent disfigurement. Today is not ideal for surveying flowers in the garden, though the sun pokes through occasionally and the day feels warmer than the thirty-five degrees (Fahrenheit) that the thermometer indicates.
Blooms of hellebores are showing just a bit of color in this garden, but now they are buried under inches of wet snow that will further delay opening of flowers if melting lingers more than a few days. Quite uncommon a decade ago, hellebores have become a standard for winter flowers, even if many do not bloom until very late in the season.
Shrubs stand above the deepest snowfalls in this area, and several are dependable for winter flowers. Until a few days ago, I was prepared for disappointment that flowering of the Vernal witch hazels (Hamamelis vernalis, above) was delayed, and concerned that saturated soils could have damaged flower buds that seemed small and stunted. But, here they are, flowering on a typical schedule that seems to vary only in the mildest winters when blooms are occasionally seen late in December.
Probably, flowers are more scattered than usual for mid-January, but then it is likely that flowering will extend longer into the winter. The earliest of hybrid witch hazels in the garden, ‘Arnold Promise’ (Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’, above) began showing a sliver of yellow through plump buds a week ago, but it is doubtful that flowers will fully open until late in the month, and possibly not until mid-February.
In every season there are oddities, unusually early or late blooms that sometimes mystify the gardener, and I am at a loss to explain the tardiness of typically autumn flowering mahonias (Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’, above). Flowers that usually open in November showed little color until early in the new year, and with colder temperatures forecast these are likely to persist for several weeks longer than is typical.
Late autumn flowering camellias (above) continued to flower through recent weeks of mild temperatures, and though most blooms are ruined by twenty degree and colder nights, a few pink flowers persist. These, I expect, will not survive next week’s cold that will drop into the low teens.