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Don't Miss the Pigsqueak

Published in the six Nashoba Publishing papers on , Friday, 6 April 2001

When does the Pigsqueak bloom? When does it not? My Bergenia cordifolia ‘Baby Doll’ is a puzzle to me. For several years I never saw flowers. That was okay with me, since the leaves are interesting in their own right. They grow in a rosette from the center: big, 10-inch, roughly paddle-shaped, leathery and shiny: evergreen, with a bit of bronzy purple in their color gets more intense in the winter. .

Then one March I happened to spot the Pigsqueak blooming! Well before the crocus — before anything else in my garden. Thick, 12-inch, dark red flower stalks held clusters of little pale pink, bell-shaped flowers. I decided I had just never looked early enough. But last year I started looking as soon as the snow receded from the bed, and it didn’t bloom. So this year I have been even more determined to watch it. And of course this year the snow isn’t gone yet, and March is over. During a thaw last week I checked: no flower stems at all.

A little beyond the Bergenia there is some Hellebore I planted last year, from a clump in my mother’s garden near Rochester, New York. She didn’t know what variety it was, so I don’t know when to expect it to bloom either — but the books say somewhere from January to April. Two Helleborus varieties have common names that reflect their early bloom time: Christmas Rose and Lenten Rose. They don’t really look like roses: the blooms are droopy, star- or bell-shaped single flowers, in white, cream, pink, purple and green, sometimes spotted — I think Mom said this one was cream. I hope these flowers are more dependable than the Pigsqueak’s.

Another early bloomer I’d like to get is some Witch Hazel (Hamamelis). This 6- to 12- foot woody shrub bears fragrant, spidery-shaped flowers in yellow, orange, red, or a combination — on bare branches. Various Witch Hazels bloom from November to April; the flower buds are frost-hardy but the petals, once open, burn if they freeze. So I need to be careful to plant a variety that blooms after we have much frost. Or before — but as I write this it’s that time when I’m tired of winter but spring seems so tardy, and I’m yearning for flowers in my garden right now.

(And no, I have no clue why Bergenia is called Pigsqueak. I keep trying to imagine it.)

p.s. (This wasn't in the paper:) I finally saw it blooming on 24 April. I could swear the flower stalks shot up and the florets opened overnight, when we had two days of 80° F weather.

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© Copyright 2001 Catherine Holmes Clark