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december 2015’s extra-early bloomers

dec 2015 niger and orientalisTHE FIRST DOSE of winter 2015-16 arrived overnight on December 28. It layered an inch of sleety snow onto plants that seemed to think it was more like March (or maybe even May, since Christmas Eve had reached 70 degrees F). We are all confused, but trying to be brave.

jelena hamamelisAppearances were already being made by three species of hellebores, at least a month ahead of my prior earliest-ever showings for those perennials. Some hybrid witch-hazels, especially orange-flowered ‘Jelena’ (above), are already in full bloom, too.

dec2515 foetidusFor the record, then, I’m just noting it all—Helleborus foetidus (above), Helleborus niger (my first-ever with the so-called “Christmas rose” in bloom at Christmas; top left), and even a few of the orientalis hybrids (top right)—and trying not to panic, or make any predictions about what it means for spring. All bets are off, I figure.

What freakish happenings are you seeing in your garden?

  1. Elizabeth Gall says:

    Unfortunately, I’ve got a new “winter annual” weed: Cardemine hirsuta. I guess it’s been too cold for it in Northwest Connecticut till now, but in this warm winter, it’s flowering and setting seed in December. I understand it’s a prolific self-seeder and will grow back from bits of tap root left in the ground. I hope I got it all in a major eradication effort in the early part of the month, but I doubt it.

    Oh well….

    1. Tibs says:

      Is that what that thrice cursed weed is called. Have loads of it and did not get out in this warm weather to attack it. Gonna regret that lack of action this spring.

  2. Joyce says:

    I’ve had daylilies pushing buds all thru December. The deer have gotten most of them before they opened, but they just keep trying.

  3. William says:

    Here in southern Georgia we haven’t had a freeze so nasturtiums are still blooming. Also, impatiens, Amistad salvia and petunias. A few coneflowers are starting to bloom again along with tassel flower.

  4. Shelley says:

    I have primrose and tangerine geum blooming in my gardens! Not at all worried about losing a few of these promiscuous plants though! I must admit though, i was worried about seeing some daffodil and crocus leaves poking up… i love my early spring bloom festival!

  5. Sandy Lentz says:

    We (Oak Park, IL zone 5)finally got winter this past Monday; sleet & slush ( now both frozen) with this morning’s snow dusted on top. But the day before, visiting in Washington, DC, I saw a Japanese apricot tree in full bloom.

  6. sfs says:

    In New Jersey, where I’m visiting family, I’ve seen forsythia and Yoshino cherries in bloom. At a friend’s in Chester Co, PA, spring bulbs are poking up. Back home in SWMo, where it’s now flooding, my rhododendron and lilac were flowering, and daffodils, emerging, plus my peach trees were beginning to break bud, before I left in mid-December.

  7. Qberry Farm says:

    Here in Western Washington I still have calendulas blooming. They are supposed to die back so that the blu bells and daffodils can come up. It is supposed to get colder next week so maybe that will happen.

  8. shiner says:

    Here in Asheville, NC my Daphne is in full bloom, my daffodils are about 8 inches high, the rhododendron and forsythia have started to bloom, a quince is in full bloom and many things which would have normally died back long ago are continuing to prosper.

  9. Rose Kruvand says:

    In zone 7, North Alabama, I have the expected Hellebores, Daphne, and Mahonia, but I also have African daisies, oxeye daisies, angelonia, iris, and azaleas in bloom. Many shrubs that went dormant in the fall have leafed out and are sure to get frozen next week when it’s 20 degrees. My blueberries are in bloom; I guess I won’t get any berries this year.

  10. Terri Wright says:

    My primroses were in full bloom on Dec. 28 until the ice and snow storm on Tuesday covered them up. (Northwest Connecticut).

  11. R W says:

    In Zone 5 in the Virginia mountains, we have quince, cilantro coming up, violas and forsythia beginning. Also loads of winter honeysuckle, lonicera fragrantissima

    1. margaret says:

      I need to go check my winter honeysuckle and see if it is awake, RW, but now the weather has dipped here. Brrrr….

  12. Sherry Williams says:

    On December 24, in central Massachusetts, I went to my garden to gather evergreens to make a centerpiece for a friend’s Christmas dinner table. I thought I’d pick some white hellebore flowers which had come into bloom that week. When I bent down to snip off some stems, I came eye to eye with two honeybees busily gathering nectar from the blossoms!

    Needless to say I let the blossoms remain, figuring the bees needed them more than I did. This was especially unusual because the previous summer, honey bees had only infrequently visited my New England garden.

    1. Cindy says:

      I had 2 honeybees in my hellebores (zone 5, NW of Boston) on Christmas Day. A beautiful sight–let’s hope the honeybees survived the cold this week. Wonder if they found the primrose in bloom, too?

    2. Donna says:

      The honeybees are active when the temps are above 45 degrees. My bees have been coming back to the hive with pollen. So strange to see them out now. I live in northeast CT. Other bee keepers have found their bees bringing millet seed back to the hives. Not sure why they are doing this.

  13. michael says:

    Dandelions are showing their golden manes here in Guilford, CT. and asparagus has even started to emerge which worries me. Cilantro which I thought being from warmer climbs would have succumbed to several killing frosts, but is still looking great and even greener and tastier than in the summer. Johnny Jump Ups are certainly behaving as their namesake implies and have self sown and are blooming here and there in the vegetable gardens. After reading some other posts I am going to check on my Jelena and Primavera tomorrow to see if they are ready to pop too!

  14. Cene says:

    North Ga – Forsythia is in bloom – went ahead & fertilized the roses – they were covered in blooms, daffodils are coming up – actually went to check on the peonies – I was so stunned. Nothing there yet. Daylillies coming up. Endless summer hydrangeas are budding; echinacea has blooms. Cra Cra. I kinna like it. Just worried when the big kibash comes … If it’ll effect this springs’ blooms. Hmmmm

  15. kk says:

    From the excellent plantsman – Matt Mattus @ growingwithplants.com
    “But I am noticing something – all of the plants which re blooming now are not native. They are all imported species either from Asia or Europe. While our native species may be able to handle this climate shifts, most of the damage seems to affect our ornamentals, most of which come from lands where winter behaves differently than in the already variable climate of the North Eastern US.”

  16. Joyce says:

    In Southern PA, my helleborus is blooming in Dec. for the first time since I planted it three years ago. Does this mean that I will not have blooms in March?

    1. margaret says:

      Hi, Joyce. Each plant will have a certain number of dormant flowers to send up this year, so when those are gone, that’s it till next time (after another active growing season), yes. But it may only have sent up a portion of its total number of blooms and have a few more in reserve — can’t tell from here. : )

  17. Mary says:

    A month ago in my Wisconsin garden my pussy willows were in full bloom. Now they are frozen solid. Do not know if they have been killed permanently by the frost.

  18. Shelley Nunn says:

    Here in Chesapeake VA I have strawberry growing, yes they berried. Warmest winter I remember. I also still have sweet peppers.

  19. Kelli Page says:

    Okay, I’m in coastal southern New Jersey and my Hellebores are not blooming, bummer. I keep checking for blooms. But this winter definitely reminds me to try growing spinach and kale through the winter. I planted seeds in October, but I guess the planter does not receive enough sun. Gardening is one big science experiment!

  20. Cynthia Lyons says:

    I picked a bouquet of Hellebores, Pansies and Periwinkle for Thanksgiving. The pansies are still blooming even through the New Year. Our Snow Drops are up and blooming along as well.

  21. Deborah says:

    For New Year’s Day dinner, I picked a centerpiece of Flowering Quince, Alyssum, Pussy Willows, Black Eyed Susans, Dandelions, a yellow primrose and one pink Coneflower-all blooming in my central PA yard. In two pots on my south facing front porch, there are pink begonias, a Mandeville vine, and one pink Petunia still blooming. The hyacinths and daffodil bulbs are up 4 inches and I found two tiny yellow blooms on a Mum that I forgot to trim back. Not good, not good, this is all so not good!

    1. margaret says:

      Not good indeed, Deborah, but what a fancy holiday centerpiece you fashioned. From lemons we make lemonade at the moment, and hope for things to settle back down.

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