I must admit to being a little surprised at today’s walk-through of the yard for this month’s Project Bloom – I actually thought I’d be done rather quickly -this is the dead of our winter- but it took me well over an hour and more than 120 shots to capture all of what was out there – Simply surprising!
Now, it’s not so surprising that there’s green things out there – this is a ‘moderate’ climate, and we have many plants and trees that are ‘evergreen’. But it’s still surprising to find some that insist on either continuing to bloom, or to begin an early bud burst during this, supposedly deep season of dormancy in the world of plants. However, we also have had a relatively mild winter to date – only a few nights where the temp dipped below 30F – but much more rain than normal for even this usually rainy season. Some plants literally drown, while others thrive on it.
OK, let’s get to it – today is unusual in that it’s a sunny day, so sunny in fact, that I had trouble getting some shots – but just so you know, the camera and I are not friends, and it is generally unwilling to help me with my many difficulties – however, I take the blame for obvious bad shots. Only as a last resort do I consult the camera manual, which I think was written by camera engineers and designers, not by an instructor type person. I don’t much like the idea of having to learn all the complex steps of a specific procedure simply to learn how to turn off that feature! My computer and my TV have ‘undo’ buttons, why not the camera?
Yeah, there’s no secret – I take 120 shots so I can maybe get a dozen decent ones to post! If you’re OK with that, so am I.
I’m just going to take you on a walk, just as I did yesterday, finding stuff along the way. As I walk down my deck stairs, there is Mock Orange (genus, Philadelphus – don’t know the species) this one is an evergreen, which is an uncommon Mock Orange – it’s also highly fragrant each spring, which is why it’s here! I’ve noticed that it’s the evergreens that tend to have buds and flowers out of season – I guess that’s not too difficult to understand.
And right next to the Mock Orange is my over aggressive Desert King Fig – it’s not my favorite fig, but it’s the one variety that’ll grow well in this area – So, … Figs are really interesting trees – they can get huge, this one really wants to be about 40 feet tall, but I have to prune her to 12′ or so each fall. Did you know that the fig fruit is actually the flower of the plant? At the bottom of each fig is a tiny opening where pollinating insects gain entrance – I know the figs are ripe when I see a drip of juice collecting at the bottom of the fig, but then, so do the ants and the bees, which I often have to fight to pick the figs. Interestingly, the new crop of figs begins to form in the fall of the year, and then they sit there for the winter – these seem to be unusually big for this time of year, probably due to our recent mild temps – the real question is what might happen to the figs if we get some really frigid weather? Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.
And here’s that courageous and hardy volunteer calendula – this is especially significant because all I read indicates that calendula is an annual and is supposed to die back at the first frost – either this is a unique member of the family, or they’re just wrong. Anyone want to bet that it won’t be here next month?
And these are the buds/flowers of Gai Lan, an Asian green with proven ability to take a good deal of cold – I expect to see this one right on through spring, when I expect it will burst into new production.
Here is a pink camellia, which in our area often flowers in February, and therefore one of the earliest of the spring flowers – camellia is a member of the ‘tea’ family, and therefore has origin in Asia. I find it interesting that it is thought of here in the U.S. as a flower of the old South, and therefore sub-tropical – but it takes quite a bit of winter cold as well, easily surviving temps as low as minus 18F with little damage. These buds are swelling quite large now, and this one may even bloom in late January – we’ll keep a lookout for them.
Another evergreen that does extremely well here in the Pacific Northwest is the rhododendron – in fact, it’s not unusual to find them growing wild in the forest – and surprisingly, there are even wild varieties that are wonderfully aromatic! Unfortunately, I have none of those in my yard – yet. I don’t remember this particular rhodie being an early bloomer, but these buds do look almost ready.
And here’s a good indicator of just how mild our winter to date has been – this is a newly planted apple tree, all wrapped up in deer protective netting, and it still has a lot of last season’s leaves, even if a bit raggedy – my mature apple trees have long ago lost their leaves, so why should this brand new tree have this characteristic? It’s a horticulture puzzlement.
I’m happy to see my favorite wild native shrub trying so very hard to bring on an early spring – this is the pretty little evergreen huckleberry putting out a few unseasonal blooms – that reminds me that I need to get out to the woods and dig up a few more of these cuties for my yard.
I couldn’t pass up including these ‘swelling’ buds – I think it must have been their rather Gothic look – don’t they look a little like a bunch of gargoyles? Well, I think they do! I’m not sure how soon these will bloom (they are Asian Pear buds), but it looks to me as if it won’t be too long now.
This is pieris japonica, Mountain Fire, soon to burst forth in blazing red new leaves, and a wave of white flowers, which this bract represents in early form – we won’t really see the spring beauty of this shrub until March or so – but its winter development is attractive as well.
I almost stepped on and crushed this solitary little violet bloom – I was amazed by its beauty and perfection, a character often missing from out-of-season blooms – but not this courageous soldier. I just hope he doesn’t die from loneliness. (He was so beautiful that I used another shot of him for our opening pic)
The little violet was probably easy to miss because it was growing right next to this ‘Encore fall blooming azalea’ – I think I told you that this one was developed for the climate of the lower South, and such plants get ‘confused’ when asked to grow elsewhere – I think instead of having one nice fall bloom season, it just kinda keeps blooming all the time – the blooms are beautiful, but few and far between.
I think this month’s award for persistent effort in the face of adversity has to go to the brave potted dianthus – it not only is just as green and full as it was last summer, but it’s still putting out blooms – I’ve always seen and heard that dianthus is an annual, but my own experience here in Zone 8b is that if in the ground, it simply dies back and returns aggressively in early spring. But in a hanging pot? Whatever! This baby has guts, and I’d be quite surprised if he’s not back next month too.
OK gang – I think that’s enough to prove a point – point being that even with winter hard upon us, nature hasn’t given up on giving us some new flowers – I guess if one doesn’t look, one doesn’t find!
Nature is both surprising and delightful. See y’all back here next month.