With snow on the ground and a chill in the air, Saturday did not feel like spring. But the birds at the Arnold Arboretum were singing their spring songs. We found large concentrations of birds near the Visitor Center and around Faxon Pond.
The red-winged blackbirds, all males as far as we could tell, were singing loudly. Common grackles, another sign of spring, checked us out with those freakishly white eyes of theirs.
Next to the Hunnewell building, a shrub has been blooming bright yellow for quite a while now. Refusing to wait for spring, certain species of witch-hazel unfurl their petals as early as January. ‘Arnold Promise’ has a little more patience, waiting until the middle of February.
This past Wednesday, the Arnold Arboretum’s Nancy Rose shared the story of the plant’s origin. In 1928, William Judd collected seeds from a Chinese witch-hazel (Hamamelis mollis) growing in the Arboretum. Seven plants survived the germination process but none were like its parent. Judd deduced that the plants were a cross with the Japanese witch-hazel (Hamamelis japonica) planted nearby. The best of these plants, one that did not hold onto its dead leaves and whose flowers had long, bright yellow petals, was named ‘Arnold Promise.’