Many of the earliest flowers are beginning the parade of bloom for 2008 at Powell Gardens. Here Purple Vernal Witchhazel (Hamamelis vernalis 'Purpurea,' a selection of our native Ozark witchhazel) is backlit in the winter sun. Because of last year's Easter freeze we do not have any hybrid witchhazels with full bloom this spring (they spent all year recovering and didn't set flower buds for this spring). Yes, we have to wait until 1:48 a.m. in our sleep on Thursday, March 20, to usher in the Vernal Equinox and thus spring for 2008. The first flowers of spring are actually late winter flowers and are easily two weeks behind "normal" this year.
The tiny purple flowers of the "Tommy" Crocus (Crocus tommasinianus) are one of the early, species type crocus to bloom. We like them because they are our only "squirrel proof" crocus. You need a planting of at least 100 to look like anything! In fact only on the Island Garden can we safely grow other crocuses, otherwise the squirrels are quick to run off with them!
Winter Aconite (Eranthis hyemalis) is also one of our earliest flowers and it has begun to self sow in the Rock & Waterfall Garden. I photographed this one in bud but the flowers do open up to the sunshine and look somewhat like buttercups. We have thousands of winter aconite in the Rock & Waterfall Garden.
It has been a long winter with more clouds and precipitation than normal. So much that our greenhouse plants are even behind schedule! These first blooms outdoors for the 2008 season are especially welcome this year. We are thankful for all the moisture!
I just saw the first hatchling butterfly of the year but it was too quick for me to identify -- a little hairstreak or elfin. The robins are back on the lawns out here and Killdeer back at their stations on the dam of our lake. Eastern Phoebes came back yesterday -- a true insect eating bird so you know spring cannot be far off now. Come out and enjoy the splendors of late winter at Powell Gardens, a sight for sore eyes this season.
Photographs taken by Alan Branhagen in the Rock & Waterfall Garden at Powell Gardens.