So far, aside from one minor aberration in early January, it has been a particularly warm winter in central North Carolina. Temperatures last weekend broke records at 81 degrees, and though there are the token, chilly 50 degree days in between, the coming weekend should is forecast to reach into the high 60’s, and the coming week is supposed to be mild as well.
While there’s always the chance of a snow or ice event in February and March, the current balmy weather has brought an early flower show from some area favorites.
First – winter daphne. I have a variegated daphne odora in a pot near my deck. It’s not the first and it won’t be the last – for anyone not familiar with it, it’s an incredibly fickle plant that needs exactly the right location and drainage and many a gardener has reported theirs just up and dying on them without warning. But oh, is it worth trying to keep! I wait all year for its mid to late February blooms. Not only are its small clusters of creamy light pink flowers pretty, and not only do they last several weeks, but their citrusy scent is absolutely otherworldly, carried across the yard on the slightest breeze. It’s my favorite, favorite, favorite plant. Sadly, it’s just about bloomed out for the year and I will have to wait another 365 days to enjoy it again. Happily, Bath and Body Works sells Energy Orange Ginger body lotion that smells very similar to winter daphne and it gets me through the rest of the year. Did I mention it’s my favorite plant?
I’ve been noticing on my daily walks that flowering quince began to bloom a week or so ago. At least I think that’s what it is. It’s pink. I don’t have experience with this particular shrub but it’s pretty so I thought I’d mention it.
The hellebores have been blooming for a little while now. I’ve gained increasing respect for these plants, despite their pricey cost. A single plant usually runs anywhere from $15 – $20 for a relatively small quart-sized pot. I’m cheap, so I bought just two a few years ago. I think now that the price is worth it, though I’m still cheap and will have to force myself to shell out for more. Hellebores have pretty flowers that begin to bloom in January. Their color is not terribly showy, they have no scent. But they get larger each year, they’re shade plants, they have attractive foliage year-round, and they seem to not give a hoot about lousy soil. Definitely a keeper – just need to take a second job to afford enough of them to properly fill in a garden spot.
Crocus began blooming several weeks ago, and daffodils have shown up next to them. And in the past week, our neighbor’s cherry tree has fully bloomed, and I’ve seen some yellow forsythia in some yards as well. So it’s safe to say spring is …. springing!
Most of these plants are pretty hardy, so I’m not too concerned about the buds being pinched if we do happen to have some bad weather later on. However, I’ve noticed that the hydrangea are starting to leaf, and their blooms will be affected if we get a cold snap, as will other more delicate plants. Covering them in advance of a freeze is recommended.
I can’t say I crave the sight of the first flowers of spring quite like I did living up north. We don’t often have the long, gray, snow-laden winters I grew up with. But I do like this time of year – it’s nice to see the first hints of things starting to bloom en masse, the temperatures are pleasant and there are plenty of bright sunny days to enjoy. Pine pollen season is still a month or more away, and the big heat is still way off in the distance, so it’s very possible to sit outside, begin to wander around the garden and check out what’s starting to come up.
As a final note, it’s not a bad time, at least in the next month or so, to plant some new shrubs, amend soil, fertilize and have mulch delivered. The mulch will suppress spring weeds and the weather is not too hot for the task. I’ll wait on pine straw a bit longer because if we do get any further snow or ice, it will make any new straw look bad pretty quickly. Happy gardening!
Categories: Piedmont Gardener