A mild, dry winter and February seems more like March, or even April. Masses of snowdrops in flower, and also early lavender flowers of Crocus tomasinianus and the golden buttercup-like flowers of winter aconites. Hellebores, first of the perennials to bloom in my woods, from the clustered apple-green cups of bear's foot hellebore, Helleborus foetidus to the larger soft green flowers of green hellebore, H. viride. Lenten rose, H. X orientalis, displays a range of colors - soft white to rose to deep pink. The darkest flowers are provided by hellebores in the Early Purple Group, a deep somber plum color enlivened with a fringe of ivory stamens. And of course the christmas rose, H. niger. Though never so early as late December, the large white flowers are welcome at BelleWood whenever they chose to bloom.
The variable weather - from mild and sunny to cloudy, warm days and some still-wintry nights - suggest it is prudent to wait to dig and delve and plant. However there are sufficient autumn leaves and fallen branches to keep me well occupied. Leaves are raked up and stuffed into those ever-useful 15-gallon black plastic plant tubs I salvaged years ago from a nursery's discard bin. Stacked three high on a hand truck, I can wheel them to the compost heaps at the very back of the property. With a dusting of dried blood (any other nitrogen fertilizer such as cottonseed meal or urea would serve as well) to hasten decomposition, the resultant leaf mold is an excellent soil ammendment when I'm planting new perennials.
Branches blown down in winter storms are woven along the drainage creek's banks where I need to slow erosion. I doubt that this year will present such storms, as the last 5 months have provided only 50% of the usual precipitation. Still, such tidying up is prudent, and gives me a useful method of dealing with the debris. The branches, some longer than I am tall, are woven together with their tips upstream. Smaller branches are stuck under and over longer ones. Wet leaves raked out of the drainage channel are stuffed by big handfuls into any hollow where they'll fit. It isn't often that the water tears at the banks in a muddy brown torrent. When it does, this protective barricade will help.
As the month of February ends my garden is waking up. It seems that from one day to the next more little bulbs pop up and come into flower: the pale skim-milk bells of Scilla mitschenkoana (and I do wish the taxonomists had left well enough alone with its old name of S. tubergeniana which was both easier to spell and to pronounce!) and spring snowflakes, Leucojum vernum, with little green-tipped bells of flowers, like stiffly starched petticoats. A promising time of year, and one which coaxes me into the garden again and again each day, "Just for a quick look." that turns into a slow saunter.
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