Not ready for Summer


Good grief, ninety degrees! In early April. Two weeks of warm, but pleasant weather has passed, and now it’s just hot. Too hot!

The spring bulbs are fading quickly in the heat, as are the flowering cherries, peach, and magnolias. Royal Star magnolia and Dr. Merrill are more accustomed to winter’s cold than summer, so they have dropped their petals in a huff. The pale yellow flowered Elizabeth magnolia (above) went from tight bud to bloom in no more than a day, and the flower is more cream than is usual. If the heat persists another day I’ve no doubt that these blossoms will be short lived also.

Though extreme heat such as this is unusual, spring weather in the Nation’s Capital is characterized by wild swings, and I would be little surprised by a frost in the near future. All of this is irrelevant to our garden plants, unless you have jumped ahead and planted tender annuals that might be severely injured by colder temperatures. If you are among the impatient, don’t panic, the forecast for the next week includes no frost, so you should have no reason to worry about your petunias and impatiens.

A year ago  a brief spell of warm weather in March was followed by a cool, wet April, resulting in blooms arriving later than the norm, but lasting longer so that some of the early magnolias remained in bloom until the dogwoods were flowering late in April. In our hothouse conditions the dogwoods (above) in full sun are now blooming, and in my shadier garden they are only a few days away, weeks earlier than I have records of in more than twenty years in this garden, though my record keeping is quite spotty.

The roadsides are decorated in pink, the redbuds (Cercis canadensis, above) leaning from the forest’s edge to display clusters of blooms held tight against their branches. Only a few days earlier the white flowers of serviceberry (Amelanchier canadensis, below) poked from the forest, but they have also succumbed to the heat. Both redbud and serviceberry are wonderful small native trees. I favor the redbud for its large, heart shaped leaves and a more mannerly form than the clumping serviceberry, but both are fine trees.Serviceberry

The flowers of redbud and dogwood, magnolias, and serviceberry are delightful, but I am happy to share with you blooms from some unexpected sources. The dangling flowers of the fernleaf Japanese maple (Acer japonicum ‘Aconitifolium’, below) are a marvel, though only seen from close proximity, and this is the place to encourage you to walk through, crawl through, your garden to experience flowers, buds, and emerging leaves more intimately.

At arm’s length, or better yet as close as your camera lens will allow, your garden can appreciated differently, so that you capture the beauty of a flower’s form, or the striking color contrasts as a leaf emerges from its bud (below). On hands and knees with your nose inches from the soil, the garden is a more pleasant, a cooler place with fewer burdens and worries that summer might arrive before we have had spring.

2 Comments Add yours

  1. Mary Chaves says:

    Question: Should I clean up the tulip magnolia blossoms now on the ground, or leave as mulch? I am afraid they will kill the grass. Can I use them as mulch in flower or vegetable beds?

    1. Dave says:

      The flowers of magnolias break down very quickly so there should be no harm in leaving them on the lawn. It won’t hurt to rake them and use them to mulch flowers or vegetables, but they won’t last long. For the blooms of the magnolia I have that overhangs a lawn I just leave them and the next time I mow they’re gone.

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