As I dive into my monthly Project Bloom post, I’m feeling a little guilty, which is not an emotion that much bothers me during an Oregon winter – our usual wet, sunless, gloom tends to keep guilt under wraps quite effectively. But for whatever reason -maybe La Nina, maybe global warming- we’ve not had a usual winter here. Instead of the normal constant rainy, cloudy, and frequently frosty conditions, we’ve been experiencing a long period of sun and strangely dry and warm weather. The ‘guilt’ comes from the fact that the rest of the country has been having one of the worst winters in record, and as we speak, a huge storm is working its way across the mid-west dropping record amounts of snow in places that already have had more snow than usual – Very weird!
But don’t worry for me, friends – I’ve spent my life practicing how to most effectively shed guilt, and frankly, I’m quite good at it by now. No, I’ve shifted my concern to those plants and trees that are the subject of my monthly Project Bloom, primarily because an abnormal winter experienced by those plants and trees will cause them serious problems, In the world of nature, a miserably cold and wet winter is absolutely needed by the native plants and trees of this region – and anything that interrupts the expectations of those plants and trees will affect their health in the next season.
And so it was with much interest and anticipation that I ventured forth with my little camera (if this project is teaching me anything -and it certainly is- it is teaching me how to better use this camera! Yeah, there’s still a lot to learn!) to capture nature’s seasonal changes for yet another month. At the inception of this little project, back in late fall, I was sure that by this time in the winter, I’d find very little in the way of blooms, or even any growth activity of any kind. However, that was not the case, as we shall soon see – was this the result of our abnormal seasonal weather? Or maybe I just never looked before – maybe it’s always this way at this time of year.
Well, whatever – let’s get started on our monthly adventure.
I found this single little flower growing close to the ground, and most difficult to photograph – it is what we call an English Daisy, and in these parts is considered to be a lawn pest – but I’ve always thought them rather cheerful – especially in the dead of winter.
Now if we were using a strict definition of ‘flowers’ only, we would have scant few blooms to show this month, but of course I’m bending our rules to include buds and emerging growth as well – and since what I find is occurring in our ‘dead of winter’, it is significant to our project purposes – and thus, we can and should include the following.
Of all our deciduous trees, this Thundercloud Ornamental Plum is always the first to bloom – and this is the first evidence I’ve seen it’s ready again. I don’t remember it being quite this early before, but then, I never kept notes, and my memory ain’t good either.
These are from the same tree, but these are ‘leaf buds’, not blossoms – the leaves are purple and the blossoms open as pink flowers – quite striking together!
Almost no other rosemary bush had blooms on them -only this one- and weirdly, these are two almost perfect blooms sitting right next to each other – Why? – One of nature’s strange secrets.
This is my all time favorite yard plant – and it’s a native. Unlike many native plants, this one is a true beauty, and its blooms and berries are a bonus. I have several others growing as well, but this is the only one I’ve ever seen with winter blooms on it – even including the ones growing out in the woods! I just last week went out into the woods and dug up 20 new baby ones, and placed them in the shady same area as this one. They are beautiful but difficult to transplant – seems like every year I’m trying, and to date I have only three successful takes – my fingers are crossed.
As I walked past the Calendula, I glanced at the plants and thought, ‘Gosh, those plants look more lush than they did last month – they must think it’s spring already.’ But I didn’t see any blooms – and then, just as I was about to walk away, I saw it, … one single and slightly scraggly bud, getting ready to spring forth at the slightest encouragement. This is one hearty plant! And here’s another:
Do you remember this hanging-potted Dianthus? Even though it’s listed as an annual for my region, it seems intent on gaining status as a perennial. These are also known as Pinks or Sweet William, and I do remember how those in my garden forcefully burst back to life in the spring – and I think these babies are about to do just that!
Let’s look at some more swelling buds – I don’t know of any more encouraging sign for those of us with Cottage Fever than swelling buds.
I’d love to have shown you some swelling apple, plum, and cherry buds, but sadly, none of them were swelling yet – I think they must wait until later in the spring – and maybe, for a fruit tree, that’s a wise thing to do – I fear for these above that winter shall soon return with a vengeance.
And these are the buds of the English Laurel, a huge hedgerow planting at the back of our yard – each spring, the aroma of the English Laurel flowers is one of the first clues that winter is losing its grip. I know people who hate this shrub, and its smell too. But I love everything about it.
A few years ago, someone gave me several violets and I planted them in a difficult area -a dry but shady spot- it gets plenty of rain in the winter months, but each summer, whatever we have planted there have trouble unless we give them plenty of extra water – I think some of these violets are traumatized by the lack of summer moisture, and when the winter rains come, they respond as if it was spring! Who knows? Another of nature’s secrets.
In this same ‘difficult’ area are our Encore Fall Blooming Azaleas – there are only a few blooms on this shrub, but they seem to be quite insistent on keeping a steady bloom cycle going. It’ll be interesting to see if it blooms this spring and summer too.
Also in this same area, and providing the shade for all other plants growing here, are two myrtlewood trees – these are very interesting trees, related to the shrub that provides bay leaves for cooking – and both are members of the Laurel family – this tree is unique to Northern California and Southwestern Oregon, and one other place on earth – Israel. The myrtle is famous as a tree of the bible. These blooms are right on time!
I’ll end my Project Bloom adventure with this delightful find – and Yes, I consider a mushroom poking above ground as a ‘bloom’. And this one is a particularly attractive one – I have some other mushrooms that come and go in my yard, but I wouldn’t bore you with those – but this is a cutie, isn’t it? And it too appeared in the area under the myrtle trees – in the world of mushrooms, that means that scarlet waxy caps have an affinity, or relationship, with myrtle trees. I can also tell you that they don’t last very long before they begin to deteriorate – I know this because just two days before I took these shots, I saw several more beautiful ones here, but alas, when I came back with the camera, they had disappeared into something that looked like this:
What has our monthly Project Bloom inventory revealed to us? For one, I think it’s shown us the subtle clues of an emerging spring – even as a not-so-alert observer of seasonal changes in my region, I’ve been aware that an Oregon spring begins early and slowly, and continues slowly as well, until at last sometime in mid June, it at last begins to really feel like the effects of winter are finally done – and then, with rare exception, it’s sun every day until October rolls around again. But, although we’ve just lived through what many call our ‘dormant’ season, obviously, nature knows knows no dormant season, for there is never a time when there isn’t something happening to each and every plant out there – even when they look dead, or are not even visible above ground.
Nature is our amazing partner in this life adventure – and regardless of the season, it invites us to come and see its beauty and its life cycles. It’s great fun – hope you enjoyed.