Make the best of it

The gardener must muddle through the worst, always looking for a reason to smile. Regular bouts of heat, drought, and flood can be painful, though severe cold could be the worst. Fortunately, no matter the season, there is some bloom, bud, or bark to bring joy.

While this hellebore is the earliest to flower, dozens more will join soon after the snow melts.
Purple tips are seen on several flowers of stinking hellebore seedlings. The non-smelly flowers are not showy, but the finely dissected foliage stands tall, until covered by ten inches of snow.

Today’s blanket of snow is lovely (at least until the first boot prints mar the image) and an insulator against an overnight freeze, but the cover hides the marvels that help make the long, gray winter months more tolerable. The first days of the new year were brightened by early flowers of snowdrops (below) and hellebores (above), but these were hidden as snow accumulated through the morning.

Snowdrops

With mild temperatures the last week of December, the garden’s camellias were at a peak. The variegated sansanqua, ‘Royal Flush’ only began to flower a week ago, joining the heaviest burst of blooms from late autumn flowering hybrids (above) since they began flowering in October. In the early days of the garden the flower buds of spring flowering camellias (Camellia japonica, below) were often damaged by cold, but no more, and in recent years early spring bloomers often overlap with late autumn bloomers.

Today, all camellia flowers will have browned, even under the protective layer of snow, with temperatures dropping into the low teens (Fahrenheit) overnight. Flowers of snowdrops, hellebores, witch hazels, and mahonias will tolerate this cold, but continued flowering of camellias will depend on the return of mild temperatures. When this thick layer of snow finally melts, hellebores and snowdrops should appear unscathed.

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