Just Relax and Enjoy the Flowers

Helleborus niger 'Praecox'Even though praecox means developing early, ‘Praecox’ Christmas rose hellebore is one of the main season varieties that bloom later in January or February.  Here it is in mid-December.

Like much of the country, southeastern Pennsylvania, US, zone 6 to 7, has had unseasonably warm weather for weeks.  There has been no snow, the ground has not frozen, we have only had 2 or 3 real frosts, not enough to set back the acanthus, and it was 70 degrees F on Christmas Day.  It has also been raining for most of two weeks.  Quite a change from the last two falls when it got cold in October and stayed that way.  In 2013 to 2014, we experienced record snowfalls.  In 2014 to 2015, there was not much snow but record low temperatures.

Nursery News: Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a retail nursery located in Bryn Mawr, PA, specializing in showy, colorful, and unusual plants for shade.  The only plants that we ship are snowdrops and miniature hostas.  For catalogues and announcements of events, please send your full name, location, and phone number (for back up use only) to carolyn@carolynsshadegardens.com.  Click here to get to the home page of our website for catalogues and information about our nursery and to subscribe to our blog.


Camellia x 'Winter's Joy'‘Winter’s Joy’ fall-blooming camellia is not blooming early but instead continuing to bloom beyond when its flowers and buds would usually be frozen and done.  It started in October and is about to enter its fourth month.


Should we be worried?  As Mark Rylance, playing a Soviet espionage agent accused of treason, says in “Bridge of Spies”, would it help?  Lots of attention needs to be paid to the very serious issue of climate change and what the US in particular can or should do in the face of the incontrovertible evidence of evolutionary temperature changes occurring at faster than evolutionary speeds.  But worrying about the plants in our gardens and neighborhoods won’t accomplish much.  We can’t control the weather so just relax and enjoy the early flowers.  My friend John Lonsdale who is originally from England tells me that if we lived there, this would all be completely normal—the weather and the bloom times.  Here is what is early in my garden:


Jasminum nudiflorumWinter jasmine usually sends out a few flowers through out the winter whenever it gets warm.  The whole shrub is in bloom now with not many buds left for later.


Galanthus 'Xmas' elwesiiThe giant snowdrop ‘Xmas’ does open flowers by Christmas, but right now the whole patch is in bloom and starting to go by.  Last year I had flowers through March.


Galanthus 'Standing Tall' elwesiiThe giant snowdrop ‘Standing Tall’ also opens its buds around Christmas.  It was so early this year that its flowers are now completely done.


Pulmonaria rubra 'Redstart'February-blooming ‘Redstart’ pulmonaria or lungwort is in full flower all through my gardens.


Mahonia japonicaThe lovely, evergreen Japanese mahonia is a late winter bloomer but all my shrubs are in flower.


‘Winter’s Song’, whose name has been inexplicably changed to ‘Joker’, is a Christmas rose cross that normally waits until late January or February.


DSCN7294Double hybrid hellebores are generally a little later in my garden but this one looks gorgeous today.


Narcissus 'Rijnveld's Early Sensation'How about this for a surprise?  On Christmas Day, ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ opened two flowers.  It is the earliest daffodil that I know of but that’s usually February.


DSCN7296Highly fragrant winter-flowering honeysuckle (Lonicera fragrantissima) is blooming.  It usually flowers slightly before forsythia.


DSCN7292‘Blue Lady’ hybrid hellebore decided to put on an early show.


DSCN7268My favorite hellebore form with the little ruffles inside (petaloid) didn’t disappoint me.


Geum 'Cooky'Geum ‘Cooky’ has been flowering all fall.


Galanthus 'Fly Fishing'One of my favorite snowdrops ‘Fly Fishing’ has been whipping around in all the rain and wind on its extra long, fishing line pedicel (flower stem).


Edgeworthia chrysanthaNo open flowers yet, but the edgeworthia flower buds are swelling to form elegant silver tassels.


Many people have asked me what will happen in the spring?  Most of the plants that are flowering now are using buds that they formed after they were done flowering last spring.  If every bud opens, they will not form new buds and will not bloom again.  My advice is to enjoy them now!


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Carolyn’s Shade Gardens is a local retail nursery in Bryn Mawr, Pennsylvania, U.S., zone 6b/7a. The only plants that we mail order are snowdrops and miniature hostas and only within the US.

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26 Responses to “Just Relax and Enjoy the Flowers”

  1. Wow, you have so many blooms! Nope, not happening here! We just got a snow/ice storm so all my plants are covered with several inches of snow. So far, though, no subzero weather! It sure would be nice to have a winter free of subzero temps. The “normal” winter weather isn’t really all that bad if it doesn’t last too long. 🙂

  2. James Murphy Says:

    I love ‘Fly Fishing’ Maybe you will offer that one day..

    James >

  3. Just a little correction, if I may. The shrub you call an Abeliophyllum is actually a winter-flowering honeysuckle.

  4. I wouldn’t complain either if that’s what I had in bloom in December! We’ll see what happens in January but my fingers are crossed it will be a short winter and early spring. Things here are mostly laying low, only a few early sprouts, but if winter does come we will surely see something a little worse than what you “southerners” get!

    • Frank, It’s funny you should say that. I have Boston and Portland, Maine , on my weather page and they were routinely warmer than here last winter and the winter before. I have noticed the same trend this year until this latest warm trend. I too would not mind a short winter but will take what nature sends. Some sun would be nice. I really do feel like I live in London. Carolyn

  5. Carolyn, that “favorite” hellebore you featured is adorable. Enjoy your early blooms.

  6. Carolyn, Would it be ok to cut back the hellebores now instead of Jan/Feb so that we can enjoy the blooms?

  7. My goodness. I have a few flowers and a couple of snowdrops but we are getting winter now so the garden is likely sleeping. There may be a few more surprises as I don’t think we will have much snow cover.

  8. I only wish I was on the right side of the Atlantic to order from you Carolyn. ‘Fly Fishing’ is superb …

  9. Amazing to see all those flowers. I love the jasmine. Winter got here with our first plowable snow a few days ago, and high temperatures on Tuesday and Wednesday are only forecast to be in the teens. So, after all those weeks of warm weather, I’m finally getting my internal calendar set to the right season. Happy New Year!

  10. A surprise yes. I hope to be in PA soon. I wanted to get to DC too and see the out of season bloom.

  11. debsgarden Says:

    You do have some lovely blooms! Your hellebores are far ahead of mine. Our weather has been very similar to yours, though I would consider it not unusual in my part of the country. We have had a couple of hard freezes that have slowed some of the blooms down. Unfortunately, all the premature flowers are likely to get zapped by the next hard freeze. It is one of the great frustrations of our yo-yo winter weather here.

  12. Lots of surprises in your garden Carolyn. Relax and enjoy, I like that, mind you the main event is often spoiled. There you go, I am still as grumpy as ever. Enjoy 2016.

  13. William Brandt Says:

    I am in search of Ashton’s Red Sunset And Ashton’s prelude Camellia plants. Do yo have a good answer for me as to where to find. I believe they would do well for me. I have Elaine Lee ,Korean fire, Winters Water Lilly. Thank you William Brandt Central Ks.

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