I know that the whole world can't get enough of talking about the mild winter that most of the United States has been experiencing, to the point that some people are getting a little cranky about it, but I know a good bandwagon when I see one and you know I'm on it!
In all seriousness, I've absolutely loved this incredibly mild winter. I may feel differently about it come summer when we get a feel for what kind of impact this will have on our gardens (I don't think plants that don't care to be wet are going to fair well) and the water levels in the Great Lakes which are already a serious environmental problem (and one that makes life much more difficult for sailors who have a hard time getting boats to the dock because the water isn't deep enough). I could believe how many signs of spring I found walking around the yard over the weekend.
I know late February isn't an unheard of time for some signs of spring to start popping up in some places. But here in southeastern Wisconsin (newly minted Zone 5b), it is unheard of. February is full-on winter here. Heck, so is March most years.
Exhibit A: This photo taken March 25, 2011
But take a look at what I found in the yard this weekend:
That's not a daffodil popping up a good 3 or 4 inches out of the ground; it's an allium. That is early.
Just a few feet away from the allium, one of the clematis actually has leaves popping up. They are not happy and I don't expect those leaves will do well as they are sure to sustain some serious freezing (I might be happy about the weather, but I'm also a realist). This one (either 'Mrs. N. Thompson' or 'Westerplatte'; they grow up the same trellis so there's no way to know which is which until they bloom) is probably being a bit bold because it grows in a very warm microclimate: the small garden alongside the south side of the house that borders the patio.
The vernal witch hazel is blooming. I wish I had saved the information on this one as I don't know what cultivar it is. The flowers are very pretty but very, very small. I'm wondering if they will get bigger as the plant matures.
The climbing rose 'William Baffin' has some pretty good buds on it already.
This isn't really anything related to the weather, but I'm so happy I left my Juncus 'Blue Mohawk' grasses standing. These were new from Proven Winners last year and even though they are hardy to zone 5 they seemed to be marketed mostly as annuals. I planted three in the ground and one in a pot which I'm overwintering in the garage and decided to let them all be. They are still as green as they ever were (maybe a touch less blue) and they are really quite stunning in the rather stark winter landscape.