Those groundhogs are a nice gesture, but they don’t mean much here

At least not as a prognosticator.  Perhaps it’s because here in the Pacific Northwest we have marmots, not groundhogs, who live in the mountains, and are still sensibly hibernating up there under the snowdrifts.

Down here in the lowlands we are having a classic El Niño winter, which, unlike everywhere else in North America means warmer and drier than normal (we just had our warmest January on record, averaging 47 degrees), and, as I had occasion to go to Seattle yesterday, I stopped by the Washington Park Arboretum to see if anything was blooming, for which I was richly rewarded.  Please, those of you in places where the ground is frozen and the snow lies deep, don’t hate me.  Just enjoy.

The first plant I saw in bloom was a viburnum, next to the arboretum visitor center.  They’re lovely, but they have a scent I find rather cloying.  Still, it’s February.  I wasn’t complaining.
I started off down one of the many paths.  This one leads towards the winter garden, the one deliberately planted with an eye to this time of year.  The red and yellow in the distance is witch hazel in bloom.
This is what it looks like close-up.  Like little clusters of bright yellow (or rusty red) ribbons.  It has a wonderful sort of citrusy scent.

These are one of my alltime favorite flowers, hardy cyclamen.  I used to have a small puddle of them in my own backyard, but they seem to have disappeared.  I blame the bleeding heart that ate New York for shading them out, and will get some more at the next plant sale I attend.
A few azalea and rhododendron varieties bloom this time of year naturally. 
It’s rare to find a plant at the arboretum that isn’t labeled in some way, but these fascinating tassels weren’t.  If you know what they are, will you tell me?
And that is why I don’t think groundhogs make very good prognosticators.  Especially when they’re in Pennsylvania and I’m in western Washington.