Ruth Rea Howell Horticultural Interpreter Charles Day looks for small signs of spring.
I love observing the changes as one season pivots into the next, and late February is one of these special moments. Certainly, winter is not yet over, the snow has barely melted and there’s still ice on the Aquatic Garden pond some mornings, but there are plenty small signs that spring is already starting—if you know where to look.
In the Alpine House, tiny fritillaries (like the Fritillaria stenanthera pictured above) and mounded wood-sorrels (Oxalis spp.,pictured at right) bloom happily on sunny days and the many tiny flowers of the Bolivian nasturtium (Tropaeolum tricolor) and its Chilean cousin (Tropaeolum hookerianum) will soon be on display.
Outside, snowdrops, crocuses and winter aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) pattern the Wild Garden with white, mauve and shades of yellow. Snowdrops (Galanthus spp.) pose prettily on the left, Crocus tommasinianus on the right.
Some trees also flower at this very early time. Witch-hazel (Hamamelis) ‘Orange Beauty’ has been true to its name for several weeks and ‘Arnold Promise’ is just beginning to show up bright yellow between the Parking Lot and the Entrance Lawn. Shown here is Hamamelis ×intermedia ‘Orange Beauty’, followed by Hamamelis ×intermedia ‘Arnold Promise’.
Nearby is the closely related Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica, below). It is to the left of the pedestrian path, just as you enter onto the Entrance Lawn. Closely examine the numerous plump buds that are scattered throughout this tree and you will be surprised to discover that they coddle clusters of bright crimson flowers.
Over the next few weeks many more crocuses will emerge as will the buttercup-yellow adonis plants in both the Wild Garden and Shade Border but perhaps most anticipated of all is the glory-of-the-snow (Chionodoxa sardensis) that will cover large swaths of Wave Hill with a blue carpet in March and early April:
A lot can happen in a week, in fact there are new surprises every day. Perhaps the best way to keep up is to just stand still and watch.