February Blooms

Prunus mume ‘Peggy Clarke’

Even before January’s temperatures began to ease out of the deep freeze, the early bloomers in my yard were making tentative moves toward bud opening. As is always the case, the ornamental flowering apricots (Prunus mume) were the first to plump up their buds with color. By mid-January, all three trees were scenting winter air with the perfume of precocious flowers. My neighbor’s honeybees visit these blooms on any non-windy day that reaches 55-60 degrees. It makes my heart happy to see them eagerly gathering pollen.

Prunus mume ‘Pinky’

The first apricot cultivar to bloom has lovely pale pink flowers and a sweet, gentle scent. I have forgotten its name, so I call it Pinky. Most of Pinky’s flowers were fully open by mid-January. A deep freeze turned those flowers brown, but a few dozen buds had not yet unfurled; they are doing so now.

Hamamelis vernalis ‘Amethyst’

The native witch hazel cultivar I grow has been pushing out occasional flowers since mid-January, but the recent warm spell has encouraged it to go for broke. Lovely magenta strappy petals dangle from bare branches. On warmer days, their clean fragrance is perceptible from several feet away. Eventually, this small tree/large shrub should attain a height of 10-12 feet and become almost as wide. I am so ready for that!

I am eager for my witch hazel Amethyst to reach its mature size. Imagine such a shrub covered in blooms like these.

I also grow a hybrid witch hazel that is just beginning to push out its eye-catching flowers. Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Aurora’ flowers glow like a favorite sunset. When it attains its mature size, I expect to be able to see its blooms from across the yard.

Hamamelis x intermedia ‘Aurora’

A few years ago, we added two Cornelian Cherry Dogwoods (Cornus mas). These non-native small trees have just begun their typical early blooming period. Flowers adorn every branch in multiple places, and when they are all open, the small trees are visible from quite a distance. Their common name comes from the red fruits they produce, which are beloved by wildlife, and the main reason I added them. However, mine have not yet produced any fruit. Fingers crossed that this is the year it happens.

Cornus mas ‘Spring Glow’

I grow Persian Ironwood (Parrotia persica) for its spectacular bark and breath-taking fall color. This non-native member of the witch hazel family blooms copiously but inconspicuously this time of year. Its small maroon flowers are just beginning to emerge from their buds.

Just-emerging flowers of Parrotia persica

Abundant clusters of daffodils are popping up everywhere, their buds visible, but none is showing color yet. The Lenten roses, however, are full of fat, very pink buds, and deserve a February nod.

Hellebore, cultivar long forgotten

Finally, I can’t close this piece on early February blooms without acknowledging the abundant tiny flowers that decorate what passes for a lawn in our yard. I saw a few blooming violets earlier, but didn’t see any today. However, the “winter weeds” called Speedwell and Henbit did pose for me. They are pretty and hold the soil; that’s good enough reason for me to let them bloom in peace.

Winter will almost certainly make its presence felt a few more times before spring wins out, but these blooms, along with the faint scarlet hue of maple flowers in the canopy and the freshly risen spring greens seedlings in my greenhouse are sure signs of a an imminent new growing season. Oh happy day!


  1. #1 by tonytomeo on February 3, 2019 - 11:06 pm

    Hamamelis is a crop that we tried to grow back in the 1990s, but discontinued because they sold so slowly. They are popular in the Pacific Northwest. I think that many people are not aware that they do just as well in our mild winters. They really do not need much chill. Flowering apricot is so rare that they only two that I can think of are old trees in the Municipal Rose Garden of San Jose. There are a few flowering cherries and too many purple leaf plums here, but again, I think that people believe that such trees are for climates with cooler winters.

    • #2 by piedmontgardener on February 4, 2019 - 5:44 am

      Hi, Tony!

      Flowering apricots were popularized here a few decades ago by the late J.C. Raulston, who ran the arboretum on the campus of NC State University in Raleigh. After his untimely death, the arboretum was re-named after him. He was quite the plantsman, tirelessly traveling the globe looking for well-adapted plants with landscaping potential. It was after listening to him wax poetic over Prunus mume that I felt compelled to acquire some.

      There is no question that our growing climates are vastly different. The US is a big country blessed with an astounding diversity of growing environments.

      Thanks for stopping by!

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