January Blooming

viola-in-snow_dbg_10200118_lah_6906xBlooming? In January?

I spent a day last week at the Denver Botanic Gardens. The weather was sunny and warm, with highs in the 50s, and I just couldn’t stay indoors. I figured I’d walk around and take pictures of the dormant plants—some look better than others at this time of year—and hardscape features. Well-designed gardens have appeal in January as well as July, and these certainly qualify as well-designed.

As I expected, the conifers and evergreens (such as Mahonia) dominated the landscape, along with the warm golds and coppers of the ornamental grasses. I was happily snapping photo after photo, enjoying the beautiful day, when I saw something peeking out from under some melting snow—several somethings—yellow and purple somethings.

I looked closer.

Here we are in the middle of January, after a very cold (for Colorado) fall and winter. Until the current warmer spell, lows had been in the minus teens. That’s cold! Yet, there in front of me, foliage still encased in ice crystals, were some blooming violas. I was stunned.

They had clearly been planted late in the season, because the plants were still rather small. But these amazingly hardy plants were doing their best, putting forth flowers. I had to applaud their fortitude.

I’m not sure why they were blooming. They certainly had no hope of attracting bees at this time of year. It was probably a combination of breeding for earlier and earlier bloom, coupled with a week of false spring. Whatever the reason, they were receiving lots of attention. Violas, while well-liked, are usually considered rather ordinary. But when you’re the only plant blooming in a garden of muted grays and dead browns, you stand out.

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