True blue, rare in flowers, is easily obtainable in bog sage

Jimmy Williams

Here we are ensconced into the month of March, known for St. Patrick and Julius Caesar, the late. His assassination occurred on the 15th of that month in 44 B.C. The Romans also set March 15, the Ides date, as a day for people who owed debts to pay them off. I don’t know what the penalty was for late payment, but it was probably beheading or death on the rack. 

As we speak, we’re now five days from the Ides, and the Paris Pessimist Club has issued a special warning for everyone to stay in and have as little to do as possible with the outside world. You know, the same thing we’ve been doing for more than a year now. People are starting, at last, to stir a bit, but most of them are looking over their shoulder for the sword of Damocles to fall at any moment. 

March is known, also, as one of the grungiest months of the year, with not much color about in the outdoors. Left-over poinsettias on the kitchen table are poor relations for real garden color. 

But wait. The best is yet to come, even in the few weeks of the grungy month left. In fact, I will go back now, to the first of the month, on a Monday as it happened: 

March 1 fell on the tail end of a rainy spell, which came on the tail end of a ferocious snowy spell, with one night flirting with out and out zero, one lonesome degree above on our place. There was, and is, talk of some damage to things that are particularly susceptible to that kind of cold, say bigleaf hydrangeas and the like. We’ll see. 

But back on the first, as I was perusing our grounds between showers, there were out several miniature daffodils, ‘Tete tete’ to wit, one of the best daffs going. Right there with them there were some 1,000 or so crocuses, the all-star of them all, Crocus tommasinianus, a species, not a hybrid, as the italics would indicate. The little flowers are pinky-purple and very prolific. Some clumps have perhaps 20 flowers on them. 

A little further along were scattered bright yellow flowers of the winter aconites, which have reproduced a little wanly for me. Even a few, however, are gladdening.

Looking closely (it takes close looking) I found a single spring snowflake in flower, just an inch above the ground. Snowflakes, not to be confused with snowdrops, a few of which have been out since late December, are generally taller. 

I have two strains, this early one, with white flowers tipped with yellow, and a later kind, but still early in the year, with white flowers tipped with green, and much more prolific. 

Soon there will be hundreds, or thousands, in our woodland. 

But the grandest show(s) of all are two woody plants that were out then, and yet enhance our landscape as we speak. 

A witch hazel, ‘Arnold Promise,’ has been teasing us for a month with a bit of yellow showing, but by the first of this month was in full blow, the 20-foot tree slathered with brilliant yellow bloom. It is yet hanging on. 

Then there is the Chinese rice paper plant, edgeworthia. This superb creation of an Intelligent Being, has been loaded with white buds all winter. 

They are visible for a long distance, but now are opening, and perfuming their environs for yards around with the sweetest aroma that contests any gardenia. The edgeworthia is capable of growing to 8 or 10 feet wide and nearly that tall. It has longitudinal deciduous leaves that have a yellow fall color. 

Alas, the edgeworthia is marginally hardy here. I have never lost mine to freeze in at least 10 years, but buds have been damaged a few times.

So, let us not blubber on about the miseries of March, and take its blessings as they come.


JIMMY WILLIAMS is the garden writer for The Post-Intelligencer, where he can be contacted on Monday mornings at 642-1162.

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