The darkness presses everywhere this time of year. Even though the days are getting noticeably longer, the drizzle or fog shroud of a western Oregon winter can make for very gray days. It seems that spring will never arrive.
But in the front yard an old friend is having a party. Defying the freezing rain, wind, and just general nastiness, a burst of color shoots into air like exploding fireworks. The witch hazel is blooming.
I remember the first time I ever saw these little wonders putting on their extravagant show. Friends and I were trawling our favorite Seattle nursery one January, clutching our Starbucks (mocha with everything for me,) presumably there to look at camellias. We walked down the aisle and there on scraggly branches was an amazing site. Sulfur yellow, watermelon red, and camp fire orange blooms were bursting out of the gray. You could hear the cannons thunder they were so loud. I'd grown up around hazels my whole life but I had no idea these plants had such amazing blooms. I applauded and spilled my mocha. I grabbed one before it could skitter away and planted it in my Federal Way garden.
When I moved into my home here in Springfield, I again found a nursery and hunted it down. This time it was in the middle of summer but I was undaunted. The staff didn't think they had any and waived me over to the shrub section. I spent a half an hour before I spied it. It was tucked between sun burnt rhodies and a sad spirea. Score! It's been rockin' my Willamette Valley winter ever since.
My next garden will feature a little hedge, I think, resplendent with all the available colors. I can't wait.