I just returned from a visit to the east coast and now I want to kneel down and kiss the ground here. First of all, our gardens are green with grass and OK, maybe weeds too, but still green is everywhere—Doug Fir, pines, spruce, hemlock, Japanese incense cedar, eucalyptus, evergreen viburnums, daphne, sweet box, boxwood, box honeysuckle, Senecio greyii, Phlomis fruticosa. The lawns on the east coast are brown, and yes, there are evergreens, but nowhere near the variety that we can grow.
Hellebores are blooming here and we take them for granted every winter, along with snowdrops, lungwort (Pulmonaria), early daffodils, witch hazel (Hamamelis), winter hazel (Corylopsis) and winter aconites (Eranthis). We can actually design a garden with winter as the backbone, an easy way to guarantee happiness in the quiet season. Make sure to include a witch hazel or ‘Dawn’ viburnum for flowers and scent; sweet box (Sarcococca) for fragrant evergreen understory in the shade; Mahonia x Charity for yellow flowers that draw the earliest hummingbirds; and winter cyclamen for a splash of hot pink flowers and marbled leaves.
It may hail and snow in March, but the robins are still out there singing their hearts out and searching for worms. Rose canes are breaking new growth and every day I go out and prune a few of the dozens and dozens that wait patiently for their annual haircut. This is the time to spot the early weedy grasses and dig them out while the ground is soft, to find the baby cresses and yank them before they bloom and go to seed, to detect the buttercups sneaking in between the irises and geraniums and trowel them out. So don’t be a sissy. Throw on some hooded fleece and get out in the garden. Sooner is better to get going on the spring garden and greet your plant friends as they emerge from winter dormancy.