Wednesday, February 4, 2009

If I were a mid-winter pollinator...

The sun has been out too much! Doesn't it know that I have things to do? Things that involve being indoors? I am swept outside.

Yesterday, running in the arboretum, my nose discovered something. I slowed, stopped, and was led off trail into the nearby foliage, sniffing around like a bear. Eventually I sourced the fragrance in an evergreen shrub with small off-white flowers blooming regularly along its stem. I was entranced, closed my eyes and immersed myself in it. A smell reminiscent of jasmine, which I remember from California nights as a kid; it always nabbed my attention when I passed, as distracting as this.

I opened my eyes to the reality of mid-winter, the deciduous plants hardly budding, the evergreens hunkered down. What a niche this little shrub has discovered, making a stir when all else is still. It certainly got my attention. I whispered to it: "If I were a pollinator, I would pollinate you." I pinched off a branch-end and put it in my pocket.

I have since identified it (tentatively) as Sarcocca hookeriana var. digyna 'Purple Stem.' Prettier than the standard Sarcoccas, with thinner leaves and a red stem. The time to take cuttings is late summer, and I have put it on my calendar.

If you haven't been to the J.A. Witt Winter Garden at the Arboretum this year, go now. The Witch Hazels are all in bloom, some more fragrant than others, some richer in color. My favorite is Hamamelis x. intermedia 'Orange Beauty' with its large blooms like exploded crayons (their petals look like wax shavings; in the case of Orange Beauty: Laser Lemon #FFFF66) and its syrupy fragrance. There are a number of other plants at the Witt Winter Garden that look great in winter, whether for their blooms or for their trunks and branches. The Corylus avellana 'Contorta' tree is an example of the latter with its corkscrew branches, any of which would make an excellent magic wand.

I have pruned the Aucuba japonica I mentioned in the last post, and will be posting photos shortly. It looks good from most angles, but from some it becomes clear that I gave it a mullet.

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