Maria von BrinckenSpring delights

We’re in the middle of heatwave here in New England in March. It’s lovely but also very strange. On March 20, our official beginning of spring, we were 20 degrees F above normal and today will hit 80 degrees F. This spring heatwave is breaking records going back to, I thought at first the late 1940s, and now I hear it’s even earlier than that – 1921 in fact. Normal temperatures at this time of year are in the high 40s (degrees F). I wonder whether the people who saw those other heatwaves in 1941, 1921 and 1945 saw the same things happening in their gardens that I’m seeing now – things blooming in New England that shouldn’t be doing so at the beginning of spring, in late March.

Boston Flower Show garden with Lenten hellebore (left)

Wandering the Boston Flower and Garden Show last Saturday (because I was speaking on ‘Colour and texture making awesome perennials’), random people asked me repeatedly about one particular plant. Maybe it’s because I was wearing my Speaker’s Badge and looked official. Which plant you ask? The hellebore. It seems to be the year of the hellebore for me, as they were in almost every exhibit at the show and also featuring in my front and back gardens.

Helleborus ‘Pink Frost’ at the Boston Flower Show

It’s the perennial flowering to the left of the moss covered rock water feature in the first photo and in the right corner of the second photo. That tag says it’s a Lenten variety, Helleborus ‘Pink Frost’.

In our New England gardens we appreciate evergreen leaves. That’s an especially nice feature in this last snow-less winter. In the third photo you can see the hellebore emerging in my front garden. I’ve placed this single plant near the witch hazel so they might bloom in tandem some years.

I was testing the location to see how well the plant grew as I hadn’t grown them successfully before. In my former garden where I’d placed them in a part shade situation they didn’t thrive, and I realise now it may have been because of the competition from tree roots. But they’re are thriving in my current garden. I thought it was the stinky hellebore but I won’t be sure until it flowers. It’s been budded since Christmas but as the last few years we’ve had high snow fall in December, I don’t know if that’s normal. I suspect this is a Lenten variety, but I don’t remember and will have to find the tag or match the flowers when they open. It’s next to a variegated plant a friend gave me which I still haven’t found out the correct name for. I’ve been very happy with the hellebore here, so happy that I plan to add another 4 or 6 to make a drift that will be a fabulous knock-out display in spring and create an evergreen back drop for the budded multi-stemmed Witch Hazel (Hamamelis ‘Arnold Promise’) all winter. However unfortunately the witch hazel has finished much earlier than normal because of the heat!

Hellebore, witch hazel and, as yet, unnamed variegated perennial in my front entry garden

It all forms part of my entry garden where I like to have things that make different features at all different times of the year, including flowers that will bloom both early and late, so as I go in and out of doors, or have visitors, or even for the neighbours on the street – everyone gets to feel the joy of seeing something flowering.

When I walked around yesterday, I noticed that many other plants were also coming into bloom – the Pulmonaria, some small bulbs, the daffs are looking like they’ll flower anytime, the smaller daphne is already flowering, and some of the earlier-flowering azalea rhododendrons shrubs are also coming out. It’s a little eerie, even though it’s wonderful but I’ve decided to just to enjoy it as a gift of ‘summer’ – in the beginning of spring! I’ll try and resist the impulse to think that’s it’s not as it should be and just accept it as it is.

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Maria von Brincken

About Maria von Brincken

Award-winning landscape designer, garden journalist and lecturer, certified practising designer with the Association of Professional Landscape Designers (APLD), former contributing editor to Landshapes magazine. Sudbury, Massachusetts. Read Maria's full blog at A Garden Maker's Notes

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