This is a tough time of the year in New England. Winter has outworn its welcome but is reluctant to release its icy grip and move us forward into full-blown mud season. It’s April 1, and the joke’s on us as a late season Nor’easter is delivering snow and sleet and freezing rain.
Even thoguh it’s too wet and cold to plant anything this time of year, the early subtle signs of spring provide enough incentive to get outdoors and brave the sharp wind. Rakes in hand we uncover beds one at a time, waking up what lies beneath. We wait all winter for these signs. Snowdrops, crocus and daffodils are nice for sure. But it’s those hardiest of woodland perennials that are the most interesting, defying the freezing temperatures with their resolute displays of leathery evergreen leaves and flower buds.
European Wild Ginger is the first to appear with glossy rich green leaves emerging from the late winter snow. Tightly folded, inconspicuous flower buds stay tucked underneath close to the ground and open to bell-shaped blossoms. A great groundcover for shady areas requiring some moisture but otherwise carefree.
Then there’s the Lenten Rose, a jewel in the late winter garden. Hardy and tough, these beauties are native to the woodlands of Europe and tolerate our winters well given the right spot – again some moisture like the Ginger and soil amended with compost or mulched, aged leaves.
This pair is worth the sore muscles from raking, waking up not only the harbingers of early spring but those underused muscles left dormant all winter long.
text and photos by Ann D. Travers