It's bleak midwinter on Vashon Island and you'd think the garden would have sense enough to hunker down and wait for better weather. Thankfully, no. Outside the dining room window, a pink viburnum (Viburnum x bodnantense) is in full bloom on the year's shortest day, a joyful counterpoint to the drizzle and gloom of December in Puget Sound. Why every gardener doesn't grow this beauty is beyond me. It's undemanding and bursts into bloom when most of the rest of the garden is on seasonal sabbatical. The occasional mild freezes of lowland Cascadia aren't a problem for this shrub. A faint sugary scent is a bonus, though it pales compared to its relative, the Koreanspice viburnum (V. carlesii), whose flowers will explode four months hence with a heady perfume reminiscent of girls at the senior prom. For a double feature in the solstice garden, it's hard to beat the juiced up versions of tall Oregon grape (Mahonia aquifolium), a staple of the Pacific Northwest woodlands. With mahonia hybrids like Arthur Menzies, you get mid-winter flowers -- brilliant yellow stalks shooting from the top of the shrub like Fourth of July flares -- plus hummingbirds. Yes, hummingbirds in December. Yesterday at DIG, the stylish Vashon nursery, Rufous hummingbirds were fliting around two large patches of Arthur Menzies in glorious bloom. DIG's co-owner, Sylvia Matlock, says the birds aren't taking a holiday break. "One of them gives me the evil eye when I arrive in the morning. He's very protective of the territory and absolutely fearless," she says. "I'm wondering where they go after the mahonia stops blooming but I realize they've been doing this for a long time so I guess they've got it figured out." Snowberries (Symphoricarpos albus) are another stellar solstice attraction in the mild winters of the north Pacific Coast. Small white berries persist on the bare branches of these shrubs throughout the winter, a beacon in the forest for those who like to roam in the winter gloam. A half-dozen of these shrubs line our wooded driveway, with the berries acting as helpful reflectors to the car headlights when we come and go in the dark. Lewis and Clark carried snowberry cuttings back from the Northwest to Thomas Jefferson. He grew them at Monticello and reportedly was so pleased, he sent specimens to his "intimate friend" and fellow horticulturist, the beautiful Comtesse de Tessé, who gardened near Versailles. No word if the plants paid dividends to our lusty third President when he visited France but when did the unexpected arrival of flowers (or berries) ever hurt.