Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Prunus mume 'Shiro-naniwa': Carole Bordelon says it's the earliest one

Carole Bordelon is one of two Supervisory Horticulturists at the Arboretum; she is also the curator of the Asian Collections where I now work. Yesterday the whole Asian staff did a walk-through to see how things were going and to decide what projects to address this month. We found this Flowering Apricot in the Camellia Area on the path along the Anacostia River. There were a few dozen flowers open yesterday morning with the temperature in the 40s. Today we stopped by at lunchtime; it was 62 and there were hundreds of flowers open. We saw a medium sized orange butterfly but my pictures were less than spectacular. I think it was a Comma; the last generation sometimes winters over as adults so they are able to take advantage of a day like today. I found spectacular photographs on-line in an article Butterflies of North Illinois. I threw my camera in the trash after viewing these pictures! Among these spectacular photos there is a picture of the Comma.

The Flowering Apricot is only one of a number of late-winter flowering plants that come with wonderful perfumes. Chimonanthus praecox, Wintersweet, has been blooming since late December. Witchhazels have been flowering since early winter starting with the native Hamamelis vernalis, The Ozark Witchhazel and continuing after a mid-winter gap with our other native H. virginiana and the Asian species and cultivars. The first flowers on Lonicera fragrantissima, a shrubby honeysuckle that lives on the SW corner of our house, will open tomorrow or the next day. Similarly Daphne odora growing under the back deck has a number of flowers half open today, all the way tomorrow. Behind it Sarcocca confusa is poised and would be flowering now if it were sited where it got more direct sun. All these plants have delightful fragrances and all of them flower at the end of winter or the very beginning of spring.

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