Thursday, February 25, 2010

What's blooming now?

So far I've been pretty pleased with the show. Beginning in January I had Galanthus, which may be my favorite early bloom. Their delicate white and green blooms would be lost in the biomass of any other season. But in winter they bravely push their heads up, sometimes through the snow, while there are no other flowers to be seen. They are extremely hardy and will slowly colonize if happy. They are a little finicky in that they like to be planted “in the green.” So, don’t waste your money on bulbs, but find a nursery or a gracious friend with snowdrops to spare and plant them while they are up and growing. Galanthophiles are not uncommon-check out this article from a British newspaper. You may have one right next door!

A new favorite January-February bloomer is Hacquetia epipactis; this dainty plant sports what appear to be five petalled flowers with yellow stamens. In fact, the five green “petals” are bracts and the “stamens” are the actual acid yellow flowers, extremely tiny and profuse. This plant may be classified as a ground cover, but in my garden it spreads very s l o w l y. It does seed itself, but only in the gravel of the path, not in the rich and loamy soil of the bed. I had three seedlings last year.

Eranthis, Iris reticulata, the spare but fragrant Viburnum bodnantense, and faithful  Hellebores all bloom in January and into February. Then the early bulbs spring up, crocus along with miniature narcissus and deep blue Scilla. Pink Chionodoxa burst open, looking like pale pink shooting stars against the dark mulch; the more common blue Chionodoxa is still hiding.  Corylopsis pauciflora is blooming, the pale yellow blossoms lovely against the evergreen background. Ipheion, pulmonaria and primroses are starting to flower. But as March rolls around, most of the earliest to bloom are done and the big spring show hasn't started. I'm on the hunt for more plants that bloom in March and April.

I do have two interesting rhododendrons that have early blossoms.  Rhododendron mucronulatum, or Korean rhododendron,  usually blooms in early March on bare wood. This year it bloomed in February, for about 3 weeks.  Once it matures, it will make a statement at this season, but right now it is quite small.

The other interesting rhodie is the evergreen Rhododendron racemosum 'Rock Rose.' This one is an early, fragrant bloomer whose red stems add winter interest and is happy in full sun here in the Pacific Northwest. The species is quite variable in size; the smaller forms may top out at 1 foot and the largest may be a rangy 12 feet. There is a medium sized specimen in one of the display gardens at Emery’s Garden nursery in Lynnwood, WA. I find that the new stems have the brightest color, so I keep mine dense and colorful with selective pruning every year right after it finishes blooming.

Don’t settle for a flowerless winter while you are waiting for spring to arrive! Check out the naturalizing bulbs and early blooming woodies that can brighten your garden. They provide a lot of pleasure in small packages.

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