A winter gift

This mild, late December afternoon has lured bees from their shelters to sup from mahonia (Mahonia x media ‘Winter Sun’, below) blooms at their winter peak. The buzz is heard from several paces down the path, and bees are hardly bothered as I poke my nose close.

Mahonia ‘Winter Sun’
‘Phantasm’ witch hazel

Tomorrow, bees will be gone until the next mild days when mahonias might be past their peak, but other winter flowers will provide some sustenance. The last of the common witch hazels, ‘Phantasm’ (Hamamelis viginiana ‘Phantasm’, above) is fading as the tall Vernal witch hazel (H. vernalis, below) begins its flowering cycle. Already, there is a glimpse of yellow from the next in line, ‘Arnold Promise’, that will ornament the garden through February.

Vernal witch hazel

Autumn flowering camellias (below) continue their cycle of bloom with many buds still to open as winter temperatures allow. Yes, newly opened flowers are unlikely to last more than a few days until they are browned by the next hard freeze, but this flowering can continue for weeks, occasionally to be met by the earliest of the spring flowering camellias.

Camellia ‘Winter’s Star’
Camellia ‘Royal Flush’

A year ago, many hellebores (below) flowered in December, even early in the month, but in the last days of the month there are only scattered half opened blooms, with the first substantial show of color still to come just after the new year. Again, I have not cut back leathery leaves that often obscure flowers. This task is not required, only helpful for best viewing, and with many dozens of hellebores I prefer that green foliage remain to minimize the garden’s winter bareness.

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