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Saugus Gardens in the Winter

The lenten rose-2
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Here’s what’s blooming in town this week to make your walks more enjoyable

  Very few flowers may be blooming outdoors this week, but it is still an interesting time of year. January’s full moon was mostly hidden from view on Epiphany because of the snow that day, but there were a few good evenings afterward for moon viewing and stargazing before clouds filled in again. The bare branches on many trees allow for distant views, and there are plenty of birds still around to cheer up the garden scene. Walking in the wintertime can be very exhilarating, and you can warm up fast especially if the sun is shining. Today the new sculpture “The Embrace” is being unveiled on the Boston Common, and the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday is celebrated on Monday, the day after his actual birthday.

  The Lenten roses I wrote about last winter and enjoyed indoors were planted in the spring near my front door, where its foliage could be enjoyed year round. A few weeks ago, I noticed some deep pink buds on one of them. The bud is still there, just a bit bigger, and could be ready to open any day now. All of last year’s flowers were darker shades of burgundy and deep pink, so when I saw white flowering plants lined up against a store’s window this week I could not resist. My new indoor plant has almost a dozen blossoms open on it now. The most popular types are hybrids of two hardy evergreen perennial species: Christmas rose (Helleborus niger) and Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis). Christmas rose has pure white flowers while the Lenten rose flowers vary from pink to purple to nearly burgundy. Despite their common names, they are unrelated to actual roses (Rosa spp.) but are in the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae). The flower lacks true petals – the colorful parts are sepals, which are the outer layer of a flower bud. The sepals may remain on the plant for months, whether indoors or outdoors, and gradually turn from their original color of pink or white to a pale green. These plants should be kept away from children and pets who might eat them and kept watered until they can be planted outdoors. If they start drooping, give them some water, and they will perk up quickly. They like some light but don’t need to be in a very sunny window. I enjoyed Lenten rose hybrids for many decades at my mother’s home in Maine, where they usually bloomed in mid-March under the lilac and turned green by late April. A shady spot outdoors is what they like best.

  Seed catalogs have been arriving in the mail, and gardening magazines this month are full of new introductions. It is a good time to think about new vegetables, flowers and anything else you might want to try in the garden this year. Growing from seed can be a good way of getting new plants much less expensively than buying them already growing later in the season, and it can be a fun activity. While the days are still short, they are getting a little longer every day. Special lights for growing indoors in the off-season can be a worthwhile investment for starting seedlings, so they will not get too leggy reaching for the light. Depending on what you want to grow, March may be early enough to actually plant most things, and if you are growing anything that doesn’t tolerate freezing temperatures you will need to keep them indoors until Memorial Day. The relatively quiet month of January is a good time for planning the year ahead, and for taking what steps you can toward making your dream garden a little closer to reality for 2023.

  Editor’s Note: Laura Eisener is a landscape design consultant who helps homeowners with landscape design, plant selection and placement of trees and shrubs, as well as perennials. She is a member of the Saugus Garden Club and offered to write a series of articles about “what’s blooming in town” shortly after the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. She was inspired after seeing so many people taking up walking.

At peak bloom, the Christmas rose-2
At peak bloom, the Christmas “rose” and some hybrids of Lenten “rose” have snow white blossoms. (Courtesy photo to The Saugus Advocate by Laura Eisener)
The red bridge on the rail trail-2
The red bridge on the rail trail with a solitary set of footprints was a pleasant place to enjoy the light snow on January 6. (Courtesy photo to The Saugus Advocate by Laura Eisener)
The moon, now past full-2
The moon, now past full, peeks through clouds and branches. (Courtesy photo to The Saugus Advocate by Laura Eisener)
The lenten rose-2
The Lenten rose while blooming indoors has flowers that might last for months, and then, once the ground is thawed, it can be planted outside. (Courtesy photo to The Saugus Advocate by Laura Eisener)
Our Civil War sailor and soldier-2
Our Civil War sailor and soldier braved the snowfall on January 6 while our Saugus Center tree still sported its bows, lights and star. (Courtesy photo to The Saugus Advocate by Laura Eisener)

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