Dear Miss Floribunda,
I haven’t heard anything so far this year about the Hyattsville Horticultural Society seed sale, which used to take place the first Saturday in February. There are, however, rumors that seeds might be obtainable from HHS at a later date. That’s nice, but I hate to miss the whole social event as well as the chance to take home some of the pots of primroses always used as table decorations.
Funny, but it was the yellow ones I always bought. I guess by February I’m starved for sunlight, and golden-yellow flowers seem to be a good substitute. Though I always planted the primroses in my garden, they never rebloomed in February but waited until April when I have lots of other yellow flowers and don’t need them. So I’m wondering if you could ask Wendy Wildflower, who has the four-season garden, for recommendations. Don’t suggest February Gold daffodils. I have some of those, and they don’t bloom till March.
Longing for Yellow on Longfellow Street
Dear Longing for Yellow,
Unfortunately, the Hyattsville Municipal Center, the usual venue for the February Hyattsville Horticultural Society (HHS) seed sale, is still unavailable for public meetings. However, this doesn’t mean that you won’t be able to buy seeds from Southern Exposure Seed Exchange and the Charles C. Hart Seed Company relatively soon. It is my understanding that seeds have been ordered, and you can contact the chair of the HHS seed committee, Julie Wolf (firstname.lastname@example.org) for a list. I’m sorry, but pots of yellow primroses won’t be available.
In the meantime, I have peeked into Wendy Wildflower’s garden and seen some feathery sprays of golden cypress and the climbing Euonymus fortunei Variegatus, whose leaves are edged with a soft gold. Euonymus, while a good climber, can be invasive as a ground cover, and you would have to keep it in bounds.
I greatly admire Wendy’s Aucuba japonica shrub, Gold Dust, which looks much less dusty than splattered with vibrant flashes of yellow. Among her winter-flowering shrubs are Chinese witch hazel, Hamamelis mollis, which can have yellow blooms as early as January when days are mild, and winter jasmine, Jasminum nudiflorum, which blooms in radiant cascades in early February. It also comes from China, where it is called Yingchun, “the flower that welcomes spring.” I asked Wendy about native witch hazel choices and learned that while Hamamelis virginiana blooms in fall rather than winter, our Hamamelis vernalis does bloom in winter, even in January. In addition, it is more fragrant than the Chinese varieties as well as ecologically a better choice. Wendy tells me her white-blooming camellias have yellow stamens and reminds me that white as well as yellow in the winter garden lifts the spirits. Our mutual neighbor Capability Green plants both white and yellow pansies next to the foundation of her house in fall. The warmth of her house keeps them flowering brightly even in the dead of winter. Of course, in spring they continue blooming till the heat of summer comes.
Although Wendy doesn’t include ivy in her garden because it can become invasive, I feel compelled to let you know that the yellow-leaved Hedera colchica Sulphur Heart and Hedera helix Goldheart are effective and easy as groundcovers. I asked Wendy what golden flowers planted from bulbs are the first to appear in her garden, and she reminded me that I have often admired her winter aconite, Eranthis hyemalis, when it begins blooming in late January/early February. She has a cheerful expanse of it near her gate, and it always brightens the day of all those who pass by. It doesn’t need to be replanted but naturalizes easily, and can thrive under trees.
Before the daffodils of March and April brighten our days, you can enjoy the snowdrops and early crocus of February. The snow crocus, Crocus chrysanthus, bloom well before the Dutch crocus of early spring. You can limit yourself to the yellow varieties, such as Goldilocks and Romance, but the mauve, white and purple blooms sport prominent stamens of bright yellow. The snow crocus has the advantage of naturalizing, so you will have more and more each year — squirrels permitting, of course.
I have noticed that among Wendy’s more somber purple, rose and mahogany-red Lenten roses (Helleborus orientalis), there smiles a chartreuse-yellow variety. This is the Corsican hellebore, Helleborus argutifolius, and it has an extraordinarily long blooming period. It starts blooming in February and continues till June if in shade.
I am sorry we can’t welcome you to a gathering next month, but please keep an eye on the HHS website, hyattsvillehorticulture.org, for information on seed purchase and social events.