When the population of a little town swells to more than three times its 364 day head count, there must be a big deal. That one day is February 2. Travelling south from Interstate 80 takes people to Gobbler’s Knob in Panxsutawney, PA. For 127 years Panxsutawney Phil has been a boom for the local economy and now is quite a TV and digital media event. The world waited for Phil’s prediction and he predicts an early spring!
I like to keep a close watch on the ground. Waiting for the early signs of plants breaking ground is all the cue I need. Alas, there won’t be 20,000 people flocking to campus in anticipation of the Hellebores blooming. However, I am happy to announce the hellebores and witchhazels have woken up and are inviting us to put on an extra flannel shirt, go outside and see what’s new in the garden.
Helleborus orientalis, oriental hellebore is a tough and treasured small perennial that is at home in a shady garden. The flowers emerge through last year’s foliage so a quick cutting back of the leaves on a warm January day sets the stage for their arrival. There is a nice planting on the back side of Hall building behind a bench. This locale is a bit warmer than some garden settings in that it receives a bath of warming winter sun and reflected heat off the stone building. Native to Asia, they are in the Buttercup Family and every part of the plant is very poisonous to eat. Combine this with any of the early spring bulbs like snowdrops, crocus, winter aconites and the like.
For those of you who are reading this locally, you can join Arboretum Director, Bill Astifan this Sunday, February 10 at 1:30pm. Bill will lead a walk titled “After the leaves are gone…fine beauty in the winter landscape”. The tour departs from in front of Whitehead Campus Center.