This winter in central Pennsylvania has been like no other that I can remember. I have enjoyed the beauty of blossoming flowers in my garden every day this winter – truly an unexpected blessing for a Syracuse native who has experienced more than her fair share of frigid temperatures and snow. Since last March, when the first pansies of the season found their way into pots on my deck, I have not been without at least one bloom in my garden to brighten my day.
The flowers of last spring, summer, and fall came as no surprise. They appeared as expected and disappeared as expected, too. But those late season mums I planted in pots with Vinca vine and Switch grass never stopped blooming until late November. Unfortunately, I didn’t save the tags to know which variety I bought. They blossomed a rusty-yellow color and performed exceptionally. In fact, many leaves of the mums stayed evergreen throughout the winter, looking good even now.
By the time the mums started to fade, the giant snowdrops along the sidewalk by my front door had taken over. (Galanthus elwesii – a bulb) Snowdrops budding in early December? They stayed in bud for weeks, as the colder temperatures slowed their normal life-cycle. These snowdrops are placed perfectly in my garden. They receive a warm southern exposure, which pushes their early season development, but they are protected from wind and harsh conditions. They welcome visitors to our home and surprise many who are not expecting to see blooming flowers so early in the season. The white dangling flowers, so elegantly painted with green, need to be seen up close to be appreciated. And best of all, I can see them from inside my house every time I walk through the foyer. The snowdrops burst into full bloom in mid-January, and are still going strong. Beautiful!
Meanwhile, while Christmas shopping in Lemoyne in mid-December, I parked a block off main street and found three cherry trees dressed in sporadic pale pink flower – perhaps 50-100 blossoms on each. This will make for a slightly less showy bloom this spring, but what a sight in December!
Also making a surprise appearance in my garden at home in December was a cheerful white spring primrose with bright yellow center. (Primula x polyantha) One white blossom at a time opened close to the ground in a protected area, under the Saucer magnolia and at the feet of Japanese holly. The pink and yellow primroses located in the same place showed no sign of budding, but the white one was fearless and ready to get on with the show. When I finally took time to photograph it, I found it chewed even closer to the ground by one of my resident rabbits. He must have been happy to find this mid-winter snack.
Locally, I had seen sporadic yellow flowers on Forsythia, as well, this winter. But I was shocked to see several fully-flowering forsythias along the southern wall of a home when I was in Lewisberry the first weekend in February!
By mid-February, the clump of bright yellow winter aconites were making their shining appearance in my garden, and they are now fully in flower. (Eranthis hyemalis – a bulb) I love these harbingers of spring. They continue to naturalize a little each year and the sunny, cup-shaped flowers are perfection for the eye.
On February 22nd, while I was out photographing the blooming aconites, I rummaged around in the foliage of the nearby Lenten Rose. (Helleborus) Could they possibly be blooming yet? Sure enough, they didn’t let me down. The large deep purple-maroon
flowers with intricate interiors on 6” tall stems greeted me from within. Some of the flowers are in full bloom, some in swollen bud. It’s time to prune off some of the scruffy older leaves so the flowers are exposed.
Now that it is almost March, there is no turning back. While winter may return for a day here and there, spring is well on its way. Just listen to the birds singing their first mating songs of the year. We can look forward to flowers for many months. Look carefully, low to the ground in front yard gardens as you travel past homes now, and you will see the first color of early spring flowers. Cherish the early gift and look forward to the coming gardening season!