Signs of Spring



My snowdrops have been buried under a sheet of ice for nearly two months, but they still look as sprightly as when they first popped up. In fact, they look as if that maltreatment may have actually invigorated them.

We took a brief jaunt to California last week, where we were almost too late for the daffodils, and too early for the roses. I didn’t really care, because daytime temperatures were in the 60s, Euphorbia and Hellebores were blooming everywhere, and 12-foot tall jasmine plants were covered with blooms. A little taste of things to come in zone 5B.

I was surprised to return home to daffodils pushing their way out of the ground. On the east side of the house, where the foundation is above ground, we have a microclimate fueled by the foundation, large flagstones beneath a small seating area, large boulders, and a gravel path. All reflect and absorb so much heat from the sun that the plants there can be three to four weeks earlier than the rest of the garden. The daffodils here already have flower buds, while they are barely two inches above ground everywhere else.

Other harbingers of spring are Star-of-Bethlehem and several varieties of Hellebore. This year, the Christmas Rose formed its flowers at the appropriate time, but they haven’t yet unfurled (that sheet of ice again). The Lenten Rose is just getting started. But the real surprise was Hellebore Brandywine. My three one-year-old plants managed a single greenish bloom among them last season – but that flower lasted all season, right up until snow, never looking the worse for wear. Now I see that all three are opening out their flowers stalks, even faster than the Christmas Rose. Since the flowers of Brandywine are supposed to be multi-colored and produce a variety of flower forms, I’m looking forward to seeing what else I’ve got. This is a relatively new strain, but some of the mail order companies do offer it.

Lastly, the tall bearded irises are beginning to puff up. Last year, I was able to get some named specimens from Stan Gray’s final iris sale and I gave them pride of place in one of the front beds. Not all of the rhizomes look large enough to flower this year, but we gardeners are eternal optimists. Especially in the spring.

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