In a patch of January sunshine, bright violet flowers glow. They’re tiny– but in winter, every flower is precious. I’m stoked.
This is Hepatica. I got a pot of it from the Vancouver Island Rock & Alpine Garden Society meeting last January. I’m happy that it’s settled into its new home & is blooming so early. This winter has been fairly mild so far, but we did have snow for 3 days over Christmas. Tough little plant, eh? The leaves didn’t even die back.
These leaves are kind of unusual, too. Each leaf grows up from the crown of the plant & has 3 rounded lobes. They were mottled green last summer but are now changing to a more bronzy colour. Years ago someone decided they looked a bit like a human liver, so that’s why Hepatica is also called liver-leaf or liverwort. I think it’s prettier than that name implies.
This little woodland gem grows in zone 4-9 across the northern hemisphere, so it can handle some pretty tough winters. It’s a native wildflower in Eastern Canada.
The flowers open wide in the sunshine then close as the cloud cover moves in or night falls. I reckon that’s a clever strategy for protecting itself until another day when the insects might be out again to help with pollination.
Some sources say Hepatica needs moisture, so I’ve kept it in a pot in the courtyard where I’m sure it’ll get summer water more often than our garden beds do. Other sources say it can be drought-tolerant, too. Here in Victoria, the summers are REALLY dry so I wonder if it can survive that much drought? (There’s certainly no lack of moisture through our Pacific Northwest winters.)
Hepatica is listed as a handy ‘winter browse‘ & is not safe from deer. That’s just another reason to keep it in our courtyard.
I only have this one plant & I’m reticent to risk it. Hopefully, it’ll set seed. If I can get some new plants started, I might be able to encourage the babies to grow in a protected spot in our garden. Until then, it’ll stay in the pot where I know it’s happy.
Other January gems in the Pacific Northwest:
- Viburnum ‘Pink Dawn’
- Apple Blossom Camellia
- January Meadow
- Winter Jasmine
- Winter’s FragrantSweetbox
- Winter Iris