Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Winter into Spring

Helleborus x hybridus 'Mardi Gras Black Shades'
Just in time for its namesake festival, a lovely dark perennial bloomed in my front yard.  Helleborus x hybridus 'Mardi Gras Black Shades' is a rare treat in February:  a robust, shade-tolerant perennial showing off its peak bloom when days are just beginning to lengthen.

Like most hellbores, this stunner requires little care in our coastal climate. Its soil and water requirements are modest here (high-organic matter helps hold moisture). 3" blossoms held nodding above shiny broad leaves look almost surreal: silky, dusky purple so deeply colored they verge on black.

A staged planting of spring daffodils provides a backdrop for the hellebore along with a permanent planting of early-blooming primroses, and the whole arrangement happily flanks a mature Japanese maple. Moving into spring and summer, the bulbs fade and are trimmed down, leaving room for a collection of summer flowers including Japanese anemone. 

So just as we were preparing for spring planting in the vegetable garden, after a week of sunny weather encouraged turning the soil and cleaning up over-wintered plants... March reminded us it's still early.

A remarkable 24 hours of winter/spring weather arrived yesterday and didn't let up until this afternoon. First we received high winds, then an amazing downpour of water, followed by an evening of snowfall. Waking up to more than 2 inches of snow on the ground, the finale included lightning and thunder and touch of hail.  

Where last week I had marveled at the arrival of pollinating bees, today we were pruning damaged branches from the Asian pears and hoping the now-blooming peach tree would get some pollinators' attention.

Spring on the Oregon coast has arrived.

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