I’ve had snowdrops in bloom in one garden for a few weeks now. They’ve been in the ground for a good five years. In a garden just around the corner from this one, snowdrops are just starting to stick their foliage up out of the ground. These snowdrops have been in for at least two years.
The slow-to-stick-their-heads-up bulbs are the same variety as the bloomers. Each bed gets only indirect light in the winter months. Both beds are against my office building, so each is getting some heat off the building. So why is one set of bulbs in bloom and the other dilly-dallying? Did we put more mulch down on the tardy bed, which would slow down bulb emergence? I have no idea.
Snowdrops, by the way, are supposed to be in bloom now. A young friend in Clarksburg, who is still a novice gardener, told me she was worried about her bulbs. It was February and they were in bloom already! What would they do in the spring? Fortunately, they were snowdrops, so she could relax and enjoy them.
She has two young daughters that love to pick flowers, but I told her to let them each have just a few blooms, so the bulbs could set seed and throw it about. Snowdrops are good colonizers, and make a stunning number of flowers after years of self-multiplication.
A note from a friend in Charleston told me her yellow flowering witch hazel is in bloom.
It’s the variety ‘Sunburst’ which aptly describes the flowers on a gray winter day. Flowers are thin and ribbon-like, and hang from the plant. I believe this variety’s flowers are fragrant.
She also has a ‘Diane’ witch hazel, with deep bronzy-red flowers that have a faint fragrance. It is not yet in bloom. Neither is my old species Vernal Witch hazel. The flowers are brown and look like dead ribbons hanging from the plant, but the strong vanilla fragrance more than makes up for its lack of colorful bloom. Any day now, the scent will roll off the hillside above our house, down into our delighted nostrils.
While sniffing the air on the next warm day, I’ll be outside trimming last year’s foliage off my hellebore plants. I have a lot of them, so it’s not a particularly fun job to start the garden year off. But I’ve already seen the flower bud stems emerging, and if I cut off the old foliage before the flowers open, I’ll have an unobstructed view of the blooms. Hellebores send up all new leaves in early spring, so it’s good to have the old ones gone when the new emerges.
Hellebore leaves are scratchy and contain toxins, so I always wear a long-sleeved shirt and gardening gloves when cutting off the leaves, no matter how warm the temperature.
I’ll probably also start weeding out the chickweed that emerged in my vegetable garden on those warm, sunny days we had in January. I hate to weed at this time of year, because the soil is so cold, my fingers freeze even with gloves on, but the plants got so large in January that they’re just about ready to bloom and set seed.
I’ll also try picking some parsley and see if it’s any good. It was so cold between Thanksgiving and Christmas that the plant stems turned to mush, and were useless for holiday meals. I left the plants in place though, as you can often get some good late winter sprigs for cooking before the parsley goes to seed in early spring. That’s when I pull it out and put in fresh plants or seed.
Parsley is easy to start from seed in early to mid-spring. Once the soil warms up a little, you can scratch up a bit of dirt and sprinkle some seeds right in your garden. Plants may not emerge immediately if the weather is cold, but as soon as it’s safe to do so, they stick their heads up. You can get a lot of parsley plants from a little bit of seed.
In early March, if the ground isn’t frozen, lettuce seed can go in the ground. It’s fun to try varieties with different colored leaves for beautiful spring salads. Even a patch of ground that will be shaded when the trees leaf out, can grow a beautiful crop of lettuce in early spring, when the sun reaches the area.
Lettuce comes up quickly and is a great plant for impatient children to sow and pick. Be sure to buy leaf lettuce instead of head lettuce when you make your seed rack selections.