February is when thoughts of gardening start coming to mind more and more. A walk around the garden this weekend revealed that things are starting to come to life. Among the native plants, Oregon Grape and Indian Plum are beginning to bloom now. Red Current is sprouting leaves and won't be far behind. The tiny flowers of Sarcococca are filling the air with perfume. Hellebores and Chinese Witch Hazel are also opening their flowers and Irises are coming up. Japanese Skimmia are still holding the shiny red berries they bore last fall.
Even in the dark and cold of mid-winter, there is one plant that always treats us with flowers, even here in our northern latitude. The hybrid Mahonia x media 'Charity' is a cross between Chinese and Japanese Mahonias. These are cousins of our native Oregon Grape (M. aquifolium). Mine grows well on the shady north side of the house. Although it can "see the sky," it never gets direct sunlight. Nevertheless, it always delivers a little sunlight in the middle of winter. The photo was taken in December.
Rainyside Gardeners offers a list of great plant choices for the Northwest winter garden. Now is the time to start planning for next year.