January Thaw Discoveries: Plants

– Posted in: What's up/blooming
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The January thaw of last week provided me with an opportunity to “check under the hood”–or, in this case, under the snow cover. It’s always thought provoking, prompting me to think about how different plants respond to this cold season.

I saw this snapdragon last time we had a thaw. It was in better shape then

This snapdragon looked perkier the last time I saw it. I don’t think it will make it till spring.
foxglove foliage

This foxglove was a seedling last year

Here’s the biggest of several foxglove rosettes that I saw in various places. Sometimes they can look great all winter, but turn brown sometime before May, when I find their dried up remains. I don’t know why. Do you? I wonder if I should be mulching them.
colchicum foliage

Some colchicums get an early start


It must be spring in the Mediterranean. That’s where a lot of colchicums originally come from (roughly speaking). And they still haven’t figured out that spring comes much, much later here. Not all my colchicums send up such precocious greenery, but many different ones do. I suspect they all share a common ancestor, and I always wonder what it is that triggers their emergence. The tips of the leaves turn brown, but the rest of the foliage looks fine and they bloom right on schedule–in autumn.
S. Arnott snowdrops

S. Arnott snowdrops

These are my furthest along snowdrops, but they aren’t nearly as far along as those of Mr. McGregor’s Daughter. She lives near Chicago. As best as I can tell, she’s had colder temperatures and more snow than I have. I thought ‘S. Arnott’ was a selection of Galanthus elwesii, one of the earliest snowdrops, but perhaps I am mistaken in that.
Lunar Glow Bergenia

Lunar Glow bergenia

This ‘Lunar Glow’ bergenia has got to be the most colorful plant I saw on my little garden walk. Do all bergenias color up so nicely in the winter? This is the only one I have, a trial plant from Terra Nova Nurseries. I need to plant more of them where they can be viewed from the house.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

In its own way, frost may be one of the most beautiful things to happen in your garden all year . . . Don’t miss it. Like all true beauty, it is fleeting. It will grace your garden for but a short while this morning. . . . For this moment, embrace frost as the beautiful gift that it is.

~Philip Harnden in A Gardener’s Guide to Frost: Outwit the Weather and Extend the Spring and Fall Seasons

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Dirty Girl Gardening February 8, 2010, 12:49 pm

I love foxglove but have none in my garden right now! Thanks for the reminder that’s what I’m getting at the nursery today.

Mr. McGregor's Daughter February 7, 2010, 8:19 pm

Thanks for the link love! My snowdrops are G. elwesii, so maybe that’s the difference. My Colchicums started sprouting in December. I have ‘The Giant.’ I have no advice to offer on Foxgloves, all mine did the same thing yours have done, turned brown and died in spring. I can’t remember what color my Bergenia are, but I don’t think they’re as bright as ‘Lunar Glow.’ That’s outstanding color.

Carolflowerhill February 7, 2010, 2:13 pm

Kathy, I love seeing those fresh green shoots pushing through the earth… it is so exciting! I confess to being totally mystified by your growth though… I am in Western Massachusetts … no green shoots? You say zone 4 … ?? When I do not think about HOW … I so enjoy seeing your new growth! Yes cover those foxglove and they will not die! Then you can lift and divide them most likely in the spring. ;>) Carol

Kathy Purdy February 7, 2010, 5:17 pm

Carolflowerhill, this was just a temporary thaw. As a matter of fact, we’ve had more snow since these pictures were taken and they are all covered up with snow again. That was part of my point–that even though all you can see is snow, there are some plants that are growing despite it. Foxgloves are biennials. I expect the one in the picture will bloom for the first time this June, set seed, and die. There won’t be any need or opportunity to divide it.