Six on Saturday: Unexpected Pleasures

Scarlet oakleaf Hydrangea leaves brighten up a foggy, January garden. Edgeworthia flowers hang like tiny snowballs, opening very slowly over winter. Our Camellias remain in full bloom.


January presents as a quiet month on all fronts.  After a good six weeks of holiday indulgences, most of us are ready to go home and rest a while.  Especially for a gardener, expectations are low.  So low that a new seed catalog in the mail presents a thrill of color and possibility.

Which is why I’m feeling exceptionally appreciative for the unexpected pleasures in our garden this week.  It is wet and almost warm out there, since Christmas.  We had some freezing weather early on, but not enough to kill the geraniums on the front porch or slow down the Verbena and Allysum blooming on the patio.


Allysum blooms on the patio, enticing the occasional bee. Germander leaves remain deeply green all winter, finally blooming by late April.


And the Iris!  Ohh la la!  Blooming since New Year’s Eve, we are into our fifth day now of a beautiful blue and white scented Iris.  This is why I love the re-bloomers so very much.

Our rosemary is in bloom, and some daffodils have already broken ground with the first green tips of leaves.  It can’t be spring, in the first week of the new year, and we know there will be cold days and nights ahead.  But this interlude of curious cardinals, an occasional bee, mild afternoons and fragrant flowers charms us with its promise of spring now on the horizon.


Iris and Verbena bloom together this week on our patio.  The Verbena has remained in bloom since I bought it last April.


In our climate, one can easily plan for year-round flowers and plenty of interest in the garden on every day of the year.  There is no true ‘down time’ anymore.  I’ve finished my first round of clearing and cleaning in the perennial beds, but am not yet ready to cut down the beautiful seedheads of our native perennials.  Besides, the birds aren’t yet finished with them.

There is still that crate of daffodil bulbs in the garage, too, waiting for me to dedicate an afternoon to finally committing them to the Earth.



I was delighted to discover, while cutting down the Cannas and ginger lilies and generally surveying the garden,  several dozen seedling Ilex opaca shining through the fallen leaves.  I had wished for some native holly to transplant for a project a few years back.  And the multiverse clearly heard my wish and granted it in abundance.  Were I to allow them all to grow, our garden would soon become a holly forest.


Rosemary blooms during winter here in Williamsburg. I sometimes cut it to use in Christmas wreathes or winter arrangements.


So the task at hand is to dig and pot most of those little holly trees in the week ahead.  I’ll likely throw a daffodil bulb in each hole before I fill it with compost or bark mulch, and call it job well done.  The seemingly random daffies will remind me of this beautiful gift of native trees, sown by the birds, and filling our garden this month with vibrant green poking through the wet fallen leaves.

As the final bulbs go into the ground, the first snowdrops and Hellebores have bloomed.  There is always an unexpected pleasure waiting if one will only take a moment to see what is already there.


Hellebores bloom in our garden from late December through early May, giving flowers during the greyest days of the year.


Woodland Gnome 2020


Mahonia prepares to bloom, to the delight of our native bees still foraging on warm days. The Egeworthia, covered in silvery flowers, grows more spectacular each year.  We’re so grateful to our friend who introduced it to me years ago.



Many thanks to the wonderful ‘Six on Saturday’ meme sponsored by The Propagator


About woodlandgnome

Lifelong teacher and gardener.

8 responses to “Six on Saturday: Unexpected Pleasures

  1. That is an impressive Edgeworthia. I saw the picture first, and then read about the mahonia. I had to do a double take before reading on.

    • Very good to hear from you, Tony. We enjoy the Edgeworthia so much. It entertains us during this bleak time of the year 😊

      • My colleague really likes his, but otherwise, I think those who live where winters are more bleak have more of an appreciation for it.

        • A landscape architect friend introduced me to this shrub in his own yard. It was stunning when I saw in in late winter and I fell in love…. with the shrub. It took about 2 years for me to find and plant one and we have enjoyed it ever since. It makes a nice, solid green backdrop all summer and has nice yellow color in fall. This year its leaves were mostly fallen before they began changing from green, our autumn was so mild. And, warm weather in January triggered the flower buds to begin opening nearly 6 weeks early. I’ll be curious to see how it looks by late February.

          • If I remember correctly, they do not get good color in autumn in our mild climate. They are prettier in other people’s gardens. They look much happier in the Pacific Northwest; and I suspect they would color nicely there. . . Now you got me wondering. Well, they are rare here, so I do not need to worry about trying one in my own garden.

  2. I have enjoyed the trip around your garden in its winter finery. There really is always something to find in our gardens to brighten the day. You have also reminded me I must pay some urgent attention to my rather bedraggled and neglected hellebores!

    • Thank you, Peggy. It is always exciting to find new leaves and emerging buds on the Hellebores. That variety keeps itself in good shape with little attention. There are plenty more waiting for some grooming elsewhere in our garden 😉 I’m always reluctant to cut back too soon, and then invite more damage from unexpected cold snaps. The old leaves aren’t pretty, but they offer some protection from heavy rain and snow/ice to their whole area. We’re always playing the chances in the garden, aren’t we?

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