Returning to Virginia after a week of deep winter in Vermont, I was shocked at the changes in my garden. The weather here has been abnormally mild, with temperatures in the 60s and even up to 70, and plants are responding as if the arrival of spring is a foregone conclusion. Hellebores, the so-called Lenten roses, are supposed to bloom early, but I’ve never seen them so healthy and profuse in mid-February. The hardy quince bush is always optimistic, showing a few coral buds before the end of winter, but it’s now blanketed in open blooms. What worries me most are the roses and hydrangeas that have started to leaf out, and my delicate tree peony, which is budding at least a month ahead of schedule. At this rate, I shudder to think what will happen if we have a hard frost. Then I remind myself that I’ll always find something in the garden to cause anxiety. Meanwhile, I’ll get started on spring garden clean-up. The warm days make it easier, and there’a every reason to believe I’ll be planting soon.