The cat’s away

I’m in Oregon for the week, twenty-seven hundred miles from home, and while I’m away there’s no one to tend the garden. Just before I left the steering went out on the lawn tractor, so I couldn’t cut the grass the day before. It will be a foot tall when I get back. And the weeds, it’s better not to think about them.

Before leaving I took a last stroll through the garden, and of course it was blooming like the week before, and the week before that. This week there will be more flowers, but I won’t be there to see them. So, today I’ll savor a few that were blooming the day I left.

Both Oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia, above) and blue flowered Penny Mac (Hydrangea macrophylla, below) are just beginning to flower, and they are likely to be at their peak just about the time I return. Though the blue hydrangeas suffered some die back over the winter, all are remontant, so they will flower through the summer on this season’s growth.

The spireas are blooming, and though they would prefer full sun the surrounding trees have grown, so they’re shaded for most of the day. The foliage color of Gold Mound (Spirea japonica ‘Gold Mound’, below) is not as yellow as in more sun, but the blooms don’t suffer at all.

This spring I planted a small Clerodendrum (Clerodendrum bungei, below) that I first saw on a trip to Oregon thirty years ago. The grower of this native Chinese shrub requested that I rub the foliage and sniff. I recall the smell of peanut butter, though my wife tells me that the scent is more like peanut butter that has gone bad. It is probably not cold hardy enough to survive, but there will be at least one bloom on the small shrub. And, at the least my romantic notion of an encounter with a shrub with leaves that smell of peanut butter has been recalled, on a journey to Oregon several years before my adult children were born.

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