IT'S ALWAYS wonderful to find things sprouting and green in the worst of winters.
A plant I am fond of is the boddleia generally called B. crispa farreri , which was grayish leaves and not especially large or showy spikes of lavender flowers in summer.
It is a plant that looks right, however, and that has stopped before it became gaudy and absurd.
In November I put three or four handfuls of dry grass around it -- the plant is only about a foot high at present -- which I hoped would temper the bitter wind and cold, yet light come through.
At the end of January I am pleased to see its leaves look as good as they did in August.
Another wonderful sight is the emerging foliage of two spuria irises. As you probably know, spurias are a group of irises that bloom toward midseason or later in the general garden-iris season of May. The spurias make sheaves of tall sword-like leaves, handsomer than ordinary tall bearded irises, and send up stalks with several flowers that look like Dutch irises or narrow Japanese irises.
Fewer gardeners grow the various spuria species now, preferring the advanced-generation garden hybrids, but I dislike hybrids, partly because I could never make any of them bloom except an old one called 'Azure Dawn,' which was not much to see.
Anyway, I have always admired the speices called Iris ochraleuca , which is white with yellow touches.
Almost the same is I. ochraurea , a supposed cross between this and I. aurea , another spuria.
I went to some trouble to acquire these two irises. It used to be you could get them at lots of places, but not so easily now.
Anyway, I have had them two years and they haven't bloomed yet. So I was all the more pleased to see their tough spiky brave leaves up about three inches at the end of January.
The cold has been so bitter this year that the leaves of the blue star-flower, Brodiaea uniflora (or milla or tritelia or Ipheion uniflora , since the name is not very well settled) have frozen to mush.
This means a setback, of course, to the strength of the little bulbs but is not (surely not?) fatal to them.
In the same way, the parsley has turned to mush.
In decent winters, the parsley stays green and pick-able.
This year I did not put any leaves over the little creeping fig, that wonderful vine that holds so tight to masonry, but which you rarely see in outdoor gardens much north of the coastal Carolinas.
It look utterly dead. I should not have forgot to give it a little protection. It doesn't need a great deal, but I suspect it must have some. It will be interesting to see if it sprouts from the roots in April. It has been outdoors, facing east and growing up the side of a raised water lily pool for three years.
Gardners do not complain too much at normal winter temperatures. But I think we do mutter at temperatures well below normal, especially if they persist day after day so that both ground and water freeze deeper and deeper without a thaw.
I am afraid several fish are dead in the lily pool.
They ought not to be, in water 24 inches deep.
The hybrid (Chinese and Japanese) witch hazel tried to flower a bit in December, the soft fuzzy tiny knobs along the bare branches showing a tiny wine-colored center. But it has been too cold. During January they did not even think of opening. But in the last week of the month, with a couple of days near 50 degrees, they thawed out and are now ready to try again. They are not very showy, but one of the exciting shrubs of the year.
No crocuses yet, with me. Some winters the lavender C. seiberi flowers before mid-January, and several crocuses (c. chrysanthus and ancyrensis among them) usually bloom before the first of February.
Every winter there are anxieties; every winter there are small pleasures. However rare.