East Coast Update Here's where we are in piedmont Maryland, USA, zone 7, just north of Washington, D.C. There have been years when by March 24 there have been tulips for a month and winter aconites, snowdrops and crocus were but a memory. Not this year. Not only are things late, they are just sitting there going nowhere. The combination of cold, wind and low rainfall has produced a spring garden which still has an offputtingly sterile, bare wintery quality. But today was, in a sense (or rather, according to the senses) the first day of spring. The very air had that soft quality that so often is a harbinger of the surge of vegetative growth. I was out in the garden watering and was caught utterly and delightedly off guard by the scent of Viola odorata: spring really is here! And so are the deer: a group of five watched me nervously from perhaps thirty feet away as I watered. Sure hope my impromptu deer fence works! We still have winter aconites (Eranthis cilicica and E. x tubergenii Guinea Gold'), snowdrops (Galanthus Augustus' is still handsome) and crocus in variety. In fact, the crocus season this year is very compressed: last week Crocus imperati hortorum (i.e. the deliciously fragrant one sold as imperati but which is probably a form or hybrid of suaveolens) and Crocus korolkowii were still in bloom, and the vernus garden cultivars were beginning to open. I've never known that to happen. All the crocus are blooming at once this year. Leucojum vernum is in bloom. Lonicera fragrantissima did not begin to bloom until early March; Magnolia stellata is blooming, as are Mahonia bealei and Sarcococca humilis. Stachyurus praecox is almost in bloom. Flower buds of Camellia japonica - the ones the deer did not get - are showing color. Garden hellebores were mostly held back until early March, but then they surged and are now at their height. There are lots of them here: I counted over two hundred open flowers the other day. Helleborus niger has buds up, but they have not yet opened. H. torquatus is blooming. H. isturicus emerged with a bud, but the bud disappeared. H. foetidus has been blooming for months -it started before the long cold spell, sat there frozen for weeks and then picked up where it left off. Cardiocrinum cordatum and C. giganteum are up and beginning to unfurl leaves; Lilium hansonii is up as are some martagon hybrids. And we've had over night temperatures well below freezing two nights this week. Reticulate irises are at their peak, Bulbocodium (Colchicum) vernum is blooming, sessile Trillium of several species are up but not yet open, Hepatica nobilis is just about over, Cardamine trifolia is blooming as is Hacquetia epipactis. Paeonia mascula, P. wittmanniana and P. emodi are far enough advanced to allow me to count the flower buds - the same is true of some Paeonia suffruticosa cultivars. Scilla mischtschenkoana, S. bifolia, and Chionodoxa of several sorts are all blooming. I can see the inflorescence of some musk hyacinths. Dracunculus is up above ground: the dragon has emerged from its lair! Garden daffodils have finally started to bloom, but very grudgingly so far: only Tete a tete, Rijnveld's Early Sensaton and NeoPeeping Tom are actually open. (NeoPeeping Tom is my name for the Peeping Tom look-alike which ursurped the place of the genuine item in commerce years ago). Even the very earliest tulips have only bud color to show so far. Big news in the cold frames: Scoliopus hallii has not only flower buds but it's surrounded by babies. Last year's plants evidently matured seed which fell around the mother plant and is now germinating. And here's the really interesting part: the seed is showing epigeal germination, hardly what I would have expected from a vaunted Trillium relative. Neither Scoliopus hallii nor Bigelow's Scoliopus has bloomed yet, but both have buds. Is the Bigelow here Jacob Bigelow, the author of American Medical Botany? Some Asarum are already putting up new foliage - I have not seen flower buds yet. I deliberately flooded Iris cycloglossa the other day and it seems to look bigger today. The big frits are mostly just emerging, some have yet to appear (they were covered with a coldframe light most of the winter and were thus very dry). Fritillaria ariana popped out of the ground at least two weeks ago but then stalled and has not moved. It emerged from the ground inflorescence first: there's a bright white knobby cluster about the size of a small grape at the top of the stem. Other frits are in varying stages: some have been up (but not in bloom) for weeks, others are just emerging. F. thunbergii as usual is well up and devoid of flower buds. Garden hyacinths are in bud; there is no sign yet of my Hyacinthus "romannus" - which I'm pretty sure is a Roman hyacinth. Several Paris in the cold frames have already unfolded leaves; those in the open ground have yet to appear. Eremurus are up: some look fat and happy! Some very brightly and fetchingly mottled Arum italicum received from Ellen Hornig a few years ago are putting up more fresh foliage. Ramonda and Haberlea have uncurled and seem to be looking around to size things up, and Dodecatheon meadia has wide flat leaf rosettes already. Seed of Lilium candidum is germinating freely in a cold frame. Not sure, but I think Helonias bullata is putting up an inflorescence. There has been no sign of toads or wood frogs yet at the pool, although spring peepers in local vernal ponds are going to town in mild weather. Our screech owl continues to call softly every evening just outside the kitchen. And the local raccoons (which we feed, name and in general spoil) are conducting their amours very raucously all night. They have a varied repertoire of chirps and trills which are very bird like - until they break out into a shriek which sounds as if they are being skinned alive. Hmm...sounds like some people I've known. Make friends with these little devils: you'll get your reward later in the year when they show up with a clutch of the cutest fluff-ball babies in tow. We've had robins, but I'm never sure if these early robins are our local robins or are the ones headed for Canada. We've had robins, but we have not had wake robins. The pedunculate Trillium are still sleeping. Little white butterflies (I call them cabbage butterflies, but I'm not sure they're the genuine article) are visiting my weed garden of Cardamine, Lamium amplexicaule and Veronica persica. Warm weather is predicted for the weekend, so if I report next week the list may be very different. The ground is prickly with sprouts. Pretty soon I'll be able to face west and shout "OK you Californians and Oregonians, match this!" Or so I hope! Jim McKenney email@example.com Montgomery County, Maryland ,zone 7, where the first big wave is just around the corner.