Already, I count the days until spring, or at least the time when multitudes of hellebores and snowdrops paint the garden. There is small consolation that the earliest hellebores have begun flowering. One is visible through the front window as I descend the steps from our bedroom (below), and soon others will be coloring the garden.
A few spidery flowers remain on the latest of the common witch hazels (Hamamelis virginiana, below), with one or the other of the handful flowering since early October. Often, the large vernal witch hazel (Hamemelis vernalis) will show some color by late December, but recent cold has delayed this, I suspect. Flowers by the second week of January are dependable, with blooms persisting until the various hybrids begin to flower in early February.
While hellebores, witch hazels, and mahonias (below) help fend against the winter doldrums, I will closely monitor paperbushes (Edgeworthia chrysantha) for their first color, and watch as snowdrops (Galanthus) and winter aconites (Eranthus hyemalis) break ground and slowly rise. The earliest daffodils, ‘February Gold’ and others will come later, with color rarely showing in February but glorious by the first weeks of March.
With recent nights well below freezing, the autumn flowering camellias are showing only slight color from buds that are partially opened. Half opened flowers are browned at the tips, but if the new year takes a turn to more mild temperatures there might be many more blooms. By early February the spring flowering camellias (below) might show color in a period of winter mildness.
Deep piles of leaves remain on much of the garden. While stone paths have been cleared and leaves will be removed so that flowers of hellebores are visible, most leaves will remain to decay through the spring. Spring bulbs might be slightly insulated and a bit tardy to rise through the leaves, but perennials arrive on schedule to sooth my anxiousness.