One of the things I like most of all about understanding the plant world is that, while we are barely just a few days into winter, I can already see the signs that warmer days will be here soon.
When I worked at a plant nursery in high school, customers would come in every summer with the same confounded plea, 'Why aren't my hydrangeas/azaleas/rhododendrons blooming?' The first question I quickly learned to ask was, 'When do you prune them?' Inevitably they would answer, 'Early spring.'
One quickly learns that plants which bloom in the spring set their flower buds in the fall. The buds sit, cocoon-like, all winter long, preparing for their flower show a few months later. When those customers prune their shrubs in the early spring, they are cutting off all the flowers prematurely.
As someone who really doesn't prefer the cold, I take a lot of comfort in seeing these flower buds. It's the promise of a spring that, at times, seems a bit too distant.