I hear no objections to the mild temperatures this winter, and in fact most everyone seems quite pleased by the absence of snow and extreme cold. Equally mild winters in recent years have enjoyed a similar reception. With less chill, there have been many more flowers in the garden through February, partly due to the weather, but also due to increased planting of winter flowering bulbs, perennials, and shrubs in recent years. A steady planting of handfuls of hellebores each year, and the addition of dozens of snowdrops (Galanthus), winter aconites (Eranthis hyemalis), and crocuses, and several witch hazels (Hamamelis x intermedia) have added hundreds of flowers to the winter garden.
A winter daphne has finally perished (actually removed, though not fully deceased), probably due to the somewhat finicky nature of daphnes in general and nothing I did wrong (this time), so a few fragrant blooms have been lost. This daphne is marginally cold hardy for the area, but I suspect a different culprit caused its demise. In the absence of the daphne’s blooms, ‘Winter Sun’ (above) and ‘Charity’ mahonias (Mahonia x media) have flowered since late November. The last blooms are now fading at the end of February, a month longer than I’ve seen in the past, and again overlapping with the late winter flowering leatherleaf mahonia (Mahonia bealei).
Surprisingly, a few hellebores (above and below) have not opened their first flower, while dozens more have flowered for weeks, certainly the most blooms ever in February. Unless temperatures jump into the seventies, flowers are unlikely to fade for several weeks, so there will be at least six weeks of bloom and several weeks more for many. Not included in this period of bloom is the extended time when the flower fades into April, as often hellebores are cited for flowering ten to twelve weeks, though blooms are worthy ornaments only half of this period.