The Informed Gardener by Sidney Tynan

It’s all very well to get excited over a crocus in February, but why rush spring when there are winter flowers to enjoy?  Perhaps the first to come to mind is the Chinese witch hazel – Hamamelis mollis. Do not count on it to bloom in February or to remain a small neat shrub. They can grow as tall as the more southerly crepe myrtles and look like small trees.

If you don’t have a “winter honeysuckle”, as Sylvan Nurseries calls it (although I much prefer the Latin name: Lonicera fragrantissima, , meaning “the most fragrant”), do get one to plant where you might pass it on a quiet, sunny day. The fragrance of one or two tiny flowers will astonish and delight.  Of course, everything has its price and don’t expect yours to be neat and tidy.  It throws its long vine-like branches around in no particular pattern and, in a word, is rather untidy. In doing a little research into the Honeysuckle family I was surprised to find there are so many species.  Sylvan lists 6 among those growing locally and Newcombs’ Wildflower Guide lists 10, including two introduced, invasive and perhaps most easily recognized examples: Lonicera japonica,  (the vine with the creamy sweet flowers) and L.tartarica, (the bush with the red fruits beloved by birds).

Then consider Christmas roses, Hellebore. These require considerable patience while you wait and wait for them to bloom, and I’m talking about years, not months. Try and find a south-facing spot in front of a wall, either stone or wood. Year-old seedlings will be for sale at the Sogkonate Garden Club’s Blossoms and Sweets sale on the Commons in May.

Enjoy these early blossoms.  Next time, I’ll write about Jasminum nudiflorum, hardy cyclamen, pussy willows and snowdrops.





April 1st, 2013

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