Mild, then not so

This winter that started so mild, encouraging blooms from several hellebores by mid December, has turned chilly, not cold, but the progression of blooms has been slowed. The Vernal witch hazels (Hamamelis vernalis, below), typically dependable bloomers by mid January, have not quite reached their peak in early February. Hybrid witch hazels (Hamamelis x intermedia) that often show a glimpse of color by now are still tight in bud.

While daily high temperatures have been a bit below average in recent weeks, thankfully there have been no extreme lows, a blessing for fatsias and paperbushes (Edgeworthia chrysantha) that are damaged as temperatures near zero (Fahrenheit). While a celebrity groundhog nonsensically predicts another six weeks of winter, the lack of color or even swelling of paperbush flower buds is most discouraging.

Today, recent plantings and transplanted hellebores are covered by a blanket of snow, but with the calendar turning to February I will soon discover what havoc has been created. Inches tall daffodils buried by mounds of leaves were stomped while digging last week, though after uncovering I believe that little damage was done. I am hopeful that not many of the new plantings conflict with others, as so often they do when remnants of perennials cannot be seen. Several native gingers unearthed were set back, also without harm, I hope.

While the blanket of snow promotes a sense of calm, I will be increasingly anxious through this month. I will be thrilled if mild temperatures return to get the garden to an early start, but I expect that flowers of winter jasmines, witch hazels, and paperbushes will be delayed, as will many hellebores (above) and snowdrops that show a glimpse of color but have not progressed in recent weeks.

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