In the mild early winter a year ago, hellebores and snowdrops began flowering in December, with witch hazels and winter jasmine following in early January until all were buried under thirty two inches of snow the third week of the month. This winter has not been so warm, probably closer to average, but still with few bouts of severe cold. In this more typical winter, flowers are on a more predictable schedule, a rarity in recent years.
A single surprise is the autumn flowering mahonias (Mahonia x media, above and below), that began flowering in November and usually fade in late December, sometimes early January. Mild temperatures accelerate the passing of flowers, but without extreme cold or warmth through mid January, there is only slight fading of blooms.
The Vernal witch hazel (Hamamelis vernalis, below) rarely varies from beginning to flower the second week of January, and true to form, its small, ribbon like flowers unfurled a week ago. In a brief spell of cold a week ago the flowers curled tightly, but they have opened again in milder temperatures. The blooms of this witch hazel are small, and not as visible as larger flowers of hybrid witch hazels (Hamamelis x intermedia) that will flower in the next few weeks.
The first, scattered few snowdrops (Galanthus) have begun to flower, and many more are expected in the next few weeks from early flowering varieties that were recently uncovered from under deep piles of leaves. Hellebores were also uncovered from mounded leaves, and hybrids with Christmas rose genetics (Helleborus niger) should begin flowering shortly.