Here’s what’s blooming in town this week to make your walks more enjoyable
Last Friday’s snowstorm brought many cancellations and created a winter wonderland for the end of school vacation. Since it was a wetter and heavier snow than the last few storms, it was more suitable for snowman building than our previous storms, so several “seasonal sculptures” appeared in gardens all over Saugus. Three-year-old Cole Mangan of Cleveland Avenue in Lynnhurst created a happy snowman, cozily clad for the weather and wearing a smile. The fluctuating temperatures meant that parts of some of our ponds melted and created new contrasts in snow-covered ice and reflective open water. A few swans were drawn back to Hawkes Pond, and undoubtedly many other birds appreciated the opportunity to drink, bathe and perhaps feed on fish and pond weeds again before the surface freezes over again.
People continue to see bald eagles around town, and I have seen hawks several times sitting in trees this week. The bare branches make it easier to see these birds. While some of them would be around in summer, too, the foliage hides them quite effectively. Joanie Allbee saw a small owl this week in some trees near Saugus Center. I don’t know what kind of owl it is, but it is quite a charming little bird.
This week ushered in meteorological spring on March 1. I saw the first snowdrop (Galanthus nivalis) a few towns away last week before the snow covered the ground again, and hybrid witch hazels are blooming outside the building where I teach at North Shore Community College in Lynn. The flower buds on the Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis) expanded a bit but had not fully opened before the snow covered them over again. Winter blossoms like these have a high ability to withstand freezing temperatures and resume blooming without damage when the temperatures are more favorable. They are in the buttercup family (Ranunculaceae) and not really related to roses at all.
Ash Wednesday, March 3, marked the start of Lent (Orthodox congregations observe it and Easter a week later than other groups) leading up to Easter on April 17 this year. There are Lenten rose plants forced into bloom available in many florist shops and floral departments of some grocery stores, so even if my outdoor one is not ready to bloom I am already enjoying some indoor blossoms. One warning regarding indoor use is that parts of the plant, especially the roots, are poisonous and should be kept out of reach of children and pets. Lenten roses (Helleborus orientalis) and their relative Christmas rose (Helleborus niger), which often blooms even earlier, has become much more popular in recent years. While I am excited to see flowers coming on my outdoor plants because it marks the near ending of winter, the pots I have indoors can be admired in heated comfort, and since I can put the pots on a windowsill or table, they can come up to my eye level rather than me bending down to theirs.
Lenten roses got their name because of the time of year they bloom, although it varies, of course, depending on the weather every year. They are very valuable for the winter garden because they have evergreen leaves as well as late winter flowers, and typically bloom for many weeks in late winter and spring. They don’t actually have petals, but the sepals are showy, and their colors can vary from white through shades of pink to burgundy. Instead of dropping off, the sepals generally just gradually fade to light green and may still be on the plant into April and May outdoors. The indoor plants will join the outdoor ones once the ground has thawed and can be expected to adjust to our climate just fine. They do not like drying out, so should be planted in a moist, somewhat shady location where they can be expected to grow for many years.
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