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BACK IN NOVEMBER my neighbor had some trees trimmed and pruned. The tree trimming company shreds/chops all of the trimmings and offers the chipped wood gratis, so I asked for some and ended up with about four yards of wood chips to spread around the garden. The chips are good mulch material, don’t pack down, conserve on water, and attract worms and other creatures that break down organic material slowly, thereby improving overall soil health. The chips are not especially attractive to everyone (my husband), but I kind of like the bright green of emerging plants atop the earth colored chips. It won’t be long before the chips are barely noticeable. I spread some of the material throughout December and most of the remainder after we returned home last month. Some of the chips went on the paths between the raised beds in the vegetable garden.

Before covering each garden bed with the chips I spread compost and broadcast a mixture of alfalfa, bone, and kelp meals, all slow release fertilizers. So, everything in the garden should grow happily throughout the coming year.

The compost bins

Since our January weather has been so mild and warm, many bulbs are showing more than a month early like these Early Harvest tulips. Planted in the fall of 2008 they bloomed in mid-March of last year. This year they were beginning to bloom the first week of February.

The camelia ‘Freedom Bell’ began blooming in mid-January, also about a month early. This is a small camelia,  a slow grower up to 6-7 feet in 10 years. We planted this one about 12 years ago and so far about 6 feet tall.

There are some things that I just look forward to seeing every year. Each little thing is a herald of its season and what will unfold as the season rolls along. I love the little catkins that dangle from the twisted, curly limbs of Corylus avellana ‘Contorta’ also known as Harry Lauder’s walking stick or corkscrew hazel. The actual flowers are the tiniest red petals at the end of what appear to be green leaf buds. The catkins just look cheerful as they sway in the breeze.

OH, the mid-winter blooming hellebores! Most of the hellebores here came from Grandma T’s garden and have multiplied. Like columbine, hellebores seem to freely hybridize so there are color variations in the flowers of new plants.

helleborus orientalis

A yellow hybrid purchase in 2008

The rain returned last Tuesday and continued off and on through Friday. The crocus had about two weeks of glory before succumbing to the rain and falling over. These are giant crocus, ‘Pickwick” inter-planted with white ‘Peter Pan’ and white arabis. They are about 4-5 inches tall and have mulitplied nicely since planting in 1997. They run about 15′ along the edge of the driveway. Tulips are planted behind and will bloom over the next w months. So many plants resuming growth and blooming it is hard to keep up!