We collect greens for Christmas to enhance the holiday decorations at home and remind us that while it is Winter, Spring is around the corner. Clippings from holly bushes; ivy vines; spruce, cedar and pine trees adorn our mantles providing a nest for candles, glass ornaments and other seasonal tchotchkes. They, the rhododendrons, azaleas, bayberry and others proffer the rare bit of color this season.
Typically, the only plant that seems out of place is the Christmas fern, which keeps its green throughout the winter unlike its brethren that shrivel with the the cold. We have many planted around the house and on the adjacent hill next to some miniature spruces that keep color alive year round.
This year extra greens are coming from bushes and trees that can sense only temperature and not the calendar. This first sign of this indiscretion has been the continuance of the foxgloves, which seem to be getting bigger every day, as well as the spinach and Swiss chard in my garden. In early fall we had a few days of mid-20s in the morning but otherwise Indian Summer has remained with us for months.
The local Danbury paper a few weeks ago had pictures of cherry blossoms along Main Street. And a front-page article in the Christmas issue of the New York Times reviewed how the NY Botanical Garden is breaking out all over with unusual blossoms and buds.
The same can be said of my garden where the Montauk daisies have budded out after shriveling away. A few daffodils that are not planted deeply have poked their shoots through the leaf litter. Next to them the buds of the beautyberry bushes have broken with tiny light green leaves emerging.
The same is true of a variegated hydrangea, which has not flowered for three years. I suspect that 2016 will be the fourth. Our quince bush delivers large, red flowers on its stems in mid spring but has now budded out ready to bloom. The freezing rain will surely kill off the buds and any hope for flowers next year.
There are many plants that are not fooled by this seasonal aberration: oaks, maples, viburnum and blueberries. Their buds remain tight and deep asleep. They need more signs and consistency to break their slumber unlike their impatient counterparts. With sleet expected tonight, many of these upstarts will be put back to sleep for the season. We’ll see how well they do when they awake again.