I KEPT PANICKING to hurry up and get my chores done, because the scenery outside looked like late April, or at least it did before one Monday night’s 22ish-degree siege, which took lots of prisoners. Before it got any farther out of control here—or erased, if that’s what nature had in mind instead—I took a look in late March 2012 at what had bloomed so far in the earliest spring I’d ever seen (following the winter I never saw at all).
Quick note: The green text links will take you to full profiles of most of the plants mentioned, if any of them sound like something you’d like to add to your extra-early garden, whatever month it happens to happen in from year to year.
WE ALREADY TALKED in January 2012 about the witchhazels, or Hamamelis x intermedia, that began flowering about January 20, and continued all through February until halfway through March.
Helleborus foetidus, above, the stinking hellebore, has been at it that long, too—and shows no signs of stopping. Apparently no winter is what this plant, which sows itself around the garden and is far less robust most years in my Zone 5B, prefers.
Helleborus niger, the Christmas rose, began its show in the second half of February 2012 and all of March. In most years, it opens around mid-March—so I’d say in February we were almost a month advanced.
Around the same time, snowdrops (Galanthus, Feb. 15 start), always the first bulb to open for me, and quick on their heels the winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis, Feb. 23 start) did their thing. In a “normal” year, the winter aconites would just be peaking now—but they’re all long gone.
the march report
IN MID-MARCH the few Crocus I have got going, as did super-fragrant, purple-flowered Daphne mezereum, above. By then, all my honeysuckles, or Lonicera, were already leafed out, which seemed to me to be a very daring act of faith on their parts.
Moths (including the one I held to snap a shot of, below, on March 13) and mosquitoes were in full force; the ticks have never stopped all “winter.” I’ve had two bites and picked off many others not yet embedded in the last two weeks.
- Cornus mas, the Cornelian cherry, started opening March 10;
- Corylopsis spicata, the spike winterhazel (whose dangling yellow blooms didn’t like Monday’s hard freeze), began just after;
- The native spicebush, Lindera benzoin (top photo with house seen through its flowers), a great wildlife plant, joined in, too.
And yes, the local crop of Forsythia was also going strong, and still is, for those who like a less-subtle start to spring’s super-gleaming golden days that lie just ahead–or at least I think that’s what’s coming next.
Joining the picture was Spiraea thunbergii ‘Ogon’—a gold-leaf shrub with tiny white flowers that usually starts the April goings-on here but just couldn’t wait.
The magnolia called ‘Elizabeth’ started opening a week ago; bad timing. (She’s supposed to be yellow, as above on Monday, but by Tuesday morning was orange, below, and then brown, as the frozen flowers melted and then oxidized.) I will be sad not to see any of my magnolias’ cucumber-like seedpods come fall as a result.
I was also disappointed that the orientalis hybrid hellebores (like the bicolor one below) were starting to expand when a mid-March heatwave began, because their usually long and delightful show has been on fast-forward. By the 29th, I noted they’d peaked already—typically when they would just be getting started.
April’s classic bulb, the Narcissus, was also well into its display, and so was Pulmonaria rubra, below, a little red-flowered groundcover I’m particularly partial to—and that some years even when there is a winter defies everything and starts super-early, anyhow. That’s about the only one I wasn’t really surprised to see so soon.
WHAT’S NEXT? I’d be happy for cooler, more seasonal weather to slow things down and perhaps even normalize the pace, but then again—I’m not in charge. Inconvenient, perhaps, but true. By the end of March it looked like Viburnum carlesii planned to bloom any time now (what?!?!), as did the espaliered Asian pear on the back of the house. We shall see was all I could say.
Good news: It rained near the end of the month, something we haven’t seen in ages here, and so for now I’ll act like I would in any other late March: I’ll plant my peas today in the slightly moist soil, and some spinach, too. If the heavens aren’t enforcing any sense of normalcy, I guess I would, anyhow–or at least that tiniest bit, one seed at a time.