||There is no doubt about it, spring is in us and around us and the urgency of life cannot be denied in man and beast, in bud and blossom. I never cease to be amazed at the sunny yellow blossoms of the winter aconite, which opens its buttercup-like petals at the slightest touch of the warming sun, following it faithfully during the day, to close up tightly against the late January cold at night. The earliest harbinger of spring, it is succeeded by snowdrop and crocus, and then by the first daffodils and hyacinths.|
In the meantime, all through fall and mild days in winter, the odd little primrose has been blooming boldly here and there, much to my delight and admiration for their spunk. Defying all convention, its seems that some bloom when they please, following their own inclination rather than primrose convention. The only way to grow them, as far as I am concerned, is in great glorious gobs of bunched colours, here, there and everywhere, to take joyful advantage of their inclination to bloom whenever they please, on top of their spring riot of massed colour.
This low-growing, undemanding evergreen is an asset to any garden at any season. Ideally suited to our climate, they require no care that I am aware of; in fact, the ones growing in our lawn get mowed with the grass all summer long and don't seem to mind one bit. There is a bunch of the incomparable primrose-yellow ones under our cherry tree which have decided to bloom with the cherry tree - in exquisite, breath-taking harmony of colour.
The little Christmas rose, Helleborus niger, unfolds its sweetly fragrant blossoms in white, tinged with green, from December to March. It prefers a definite winter chill to bloom well, likes to be left alone in a situation favourable to rhododendrons, in acid soil rich in organic content. It resents being moved about and should only be transplanted after its blooming period, when new growth starts.
Among the shrubs cherished for their cheerful winter blossoms, the Chinese witch hazel, Hamamelis mollis, and the winter jasmine, Jasmine nudiflorum, are solid favourites. Both are deciduous and display their yellow blossoms from January to March on bare branches. The Chinese witch hazel carries its fragrant blossoms on curiously angular branches in clustered profusion, making cut branches in blossom an extremely effective addition to flower arrangements. It is a slow-growing shrub, which explains the cost of a fair-sized specimen at the nursery. Mature hazels are usually seen at eight to 10 feet tall. However, eventually it may grow into a 30-foot tree, which is something to behold.
The winter jasmine is a vine-like shrub with slender, willowy branches. It grows vigorously to a height of 15 feet, and may trail over bank or wall if not tied up. Unlike other jasmines, the flowers of this one are not fragrant. It prefers a sunny position, average soil and water, and a bit of pinching and pruning to keep it in shape.
Highly valuable for cut branches, for indoor forcing in January, are the flowering quince, Chaenomeles, and forsythia. Again, both are deciduous and display their blossoms on bare branches in February and March. The flowering quince has an exquisite angular branching pattern which the Japanese expose by pruning to stunning advantage. An almost indestructible shrub, it is totally unaffected by severe conditions and neglect, yet keeps on blooming in the most charming manner in colours from white through all shades of pink to deep red. Most of them are thorny, range in size from three to 12 feet, and make good hedges.
The golden spray of the undemanding forsythia is a well known feature of our riot of spring colour, and needs no further recommendations here. We would not want to be without one, ever.
And then there is the broad-leaf evergreen Laurustinus, Viburnum tinus, a stately, dense and deep green shrub with copper-red shiny new leaves, to 12 feet high, half as wide, with large umbels of tiny white and quietly fragrant blossoms, apt to bloom anytime from November to spring. A wonderful dense evergreen shrub for long hedges, and the longer the better, particularly for the cheering quiet fragrance it suffuses into the air. Accent these with a few Prunus subhirtella, Aautumnalis, a flowering cherry which blossoms white and pink at the slightest provocation, December through March, and you have a constant delight in winter.
There is enough colour and variety here to cheer mind and spirit through our wet winters and to lead us into the glorious riot of spring, unequalled anywhere in this country. Next, we'll start our hardy vegetables.
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