Even while hellebores and snowdrops remain buried beneath an icy blanket of snow, flowers of mahonias and witch hazels offer a daily dose of comfort to soothe the gardener, anxious in a continuing freeze that spring seems so far off. While I occasionally join others who scour nursery and seed catalogs, my relief is found in the garden, with brightly colored blooms, but also by regular monitoring of flower buds that are swelling too slowly in our January chill.
As snow in the shaded front garden slowly diminishes, due in large part to increasing ice, snowdrops continue their push (above), though the progression into bloom is stunted by days that do not rise above freezing. A warming weather forecast (though not warm) gives hope that flowering might soon resume, and that flowers of hellebores flattened by the snow will perk up.
With February around the corner, an increasing number of flowers are expected each week, so the gardener is more encouraged even if the weather does not cooperate with his wish for a balmy late winter. Spells of mild weather often accompany this last month of the gardener’s winter, accelerating flowering and further encouraging the gardener.
This is not a consciously winter garden, but I am increasingly attracted through the year to plant winter bloomers that are mixed through the garden. The collection of witch hazels has grown to a dozen or more, with more scheduled for early spring planting, and I must remain disciplined not to plant every hellebore that catches my eye.