Winter, schminter . . . I know we were punched in the nose with the Christmas blast from the North, but
as far as I’m concerned, it’ Spring!
I’ve always defined the start of Spring in one simple way – when we sow the first seeds of the year in Yew Dell’s greenhouses. But admittedly, that’s not really fair. After all, it’s not everyone who gets to garden on 60 acres with 7 different types of greenhouses, each with its own specific environmental conditions and a staff to keep it all running like Geppetto’s cuckoo clock collection.
Next, I moved on to a tree dweeb’s definition of the start of Spring – when the silver maples (Acer saccharinum) first start to boom. But every year when the silver maple in front of our house would
push out its very first, tiny and totally unshowy blooms, I’d run down the stairs exclaiming, “the Acer
saccharinum’s in bloom . . . the Acer saccharinum’s in bloom!” a bit like Steve Martin’s gleeful proclamation about phone book arrival in the movie, The Jerk. My wife would look at me with an expression only available to spouses of the world, and she’d say, “it’s not a real flower . . .”
On to method three . . .
On Tuesday of this past week I took a wander around Yew Dell’s grounds to see what’s out there . . . with real flowers . . . and a few others putting on a foliage display despite the recent cold. So here’s my evidence of Spring’s presence in the garden . . . at least for now . . .
The white blooming Lenten Rose (Helleborus niger) are at their peak right now in the garden. Gleaming, almost porcelain-like flowers poking their heads above the left over brush and dead, dropping holly leaves, are putting on a show. Likewise, the so called Lenten Rose (Helleborus xhybridus) varieties are starting to do their thing with blooms varying from white to pink, deep burgundy and even a few yellow and peach colored forms for good measure.
Yes . . . some daffodils are in bloom. One of the best of the earliest is named February Gold and in past years we’ve even had it in bloom in late November! It is a variety that was bred for a short cold period – for the Gulf Coast where they don’t get proper winter and often have a hard time getting daffodils to thrive. On Tuesday, the February Golds were buzzing with honey bees.
While I do have one in my own garden that has been showing a bit of flower color for the last week, those blooming at Yew Dell Botanical Gardens (Primula Pink Ice) might be considered a little unfair. They’re in full and fabulous bloom right now . . . in our white, poly-covered hoop houses. Still, it’s January, the houses are unheated, and the primroses are in bloom! Smells like Spring to me . . .
The many members of the genus Hamamelis form the backbone of the winter blooming shrub hall of fame. With sweetly fragrant flowers of yellow, orange, red and even burgundy, many are in flower right now. When I checked a few in the arboretum at Yew Dell this week, they were covered with at least three species of bees.
But there are also some plants out there that are putting on more of a foliage show – a trait worth noting after the cold we’ve had already this winter.
xHeucherella Sweet Tea
This hybrid of our native coral bells (Heuchera species) and foam flower (Tiarella species) is certainly not in bloom right now, but its foliage is a fabulous mass of red/orange/burgundy. It seems to be completely untouched by the cold.
And finally . . . the Yuccas. Yuccas the workhorses of the summer landscape, primarily known for their incredibly drought tolerant, spiky foliage mounds with 6’-tall spikes of fragrant, white summer flowers. But several of the gold variegated cultivars are out there right now, providing a much-needed blast of color. Bright Edge and Color Guard are two of the best.
Like I said . . . smells like Spring to me!
This article was originally submitted to the Courier Journal on January 17, 2023.