Monday, February 20, 2012

Hocus Crocus

I recently returned from a vacation in Southern California where flowers are always in bloom. Late winter through early spring is Camellia season. From Balboa Park in San Diego to Hearst Castle perched high above the ocean in San Simeon the bushes were awash in blossoms.

I have always had a great fondness for camellias and envy our southern neighbors. Although breeding has done much to improve the shrub's hardiness, I have yet to find a cultivar that can survive our New England winters. I am beginning to wonder, however, if that is about to change. Imagine my surprise when, in what is normally the depths of winter, I returned home to find this lovely cluster of crocuses blooming outside my front door.

I did not plant these gems. Along with some old-fashioned daffodils they were a welcome surprise my first spring in Seekonk. They are growing in what is now part of my hot colored garden and though their amethyst petals doesn't suit my palette, I've coddled them ever since. This, however, is the first time that they have bloomed before mid-March. Oddly, the winter here has been so warm that the ground has never truly frozen. In fact the other day I was cutting back the plants around my farm pond and found that the Ermine cannas, which I had neglected to dig and store in the fall, seem to have wintered over.

I am beginning to wonder if I could have left all of my tender bulbs in the ground last fall. I admit that as much as I've been enjoying the weather, there is something unsettling about the unseasonable temperatures. It has also been an unusually dry winter and at this point a blast of frigid cold would devastate many of the swelling buds. Nevertheless, I'm taking advantage of the warmth. I've finished many of my spring chores and hope to have all my beds cleaned and edged by the end of the month, a task that I've never completed before April first. I've even pruned my roses and many other shrubs. If this weather proves to be more than a fluke, I'll soon be growing camellias beside the crocuses outside my door.

In addition to the crocuses I returned home and found the April addition of Fine Gardening Magazine in a stack of unopened mail. Some of you may recall that Fine Gardening's editor/photographer visited my home twice last year and subsequently asked me to write an article to accompany her photographs. I'm quite pleased with the results and hope you'll pick up a copy if you have a chance.