Here comes trouble

My wife took a break from her studies yesterday to take a stroll through the garden. Since she has gone back to school for a mid-life career change she doesn’t spend much time outdoors, which is fine with me since she usually has a few “suggestions” for me. She instructs me to prune this or that to keep the paths open, and threatens that if  I don’t she’ll have to take care of it herself. When I come home with a bunch of perennials, or when a mail order package arrives, she’s horrified that I could be jamming more plants into the garden. I’ve been instructed more than a few times that there’s no more room, and “no more plants”!

Fortunately, she was preoccupied on her cellphone yesterday, so she steered clear of me while I was planting. I think she barely noticed what was going on since she didn’t have any comments for me afterward. The big leafed hostas have just begun to spread out, so they haven’t take over the paths yet, but there are nandinas and spiny mahonias that I have to duck under and around, and I didn’t hear a word about them.

I spent a good part of the day planting, and of course there’s still plenty of clean up to be done, so I was working on a few of the bigger messes. The winter weeds really got out of hand this year since I did nothing through the winter, so I’m slow in catching up. Although the redbud and dogwood blooms are fading, the period from the middle of April to mid May is my favorite time in the garden. Everyday there are new blooms on something, and as the shrubs and perennials burst into leaf they hide much of the garden’s untidiness until the piles of leaves and branches decay and disappear on their own.

The Japanese maples have leafed several weeks early this year, and it’s fortunate that they have escaped injury from the recent freezes. In past years I’ve found that there is a couple day period when the leaves have just emerged when the foliage is particularly vulnerable to damage, but for my garden the timing worked out fine. Other local gardeners were not so fortunate, and I’ve found that Japanese maples are very slow to recover from frost or freeze injury. When new leaves are lost to a freeze the tree will usually leaf again, but very sporadically so that branch tips die back, often severely. The dead branches will require pruning, and probably a few more years before they return to good health.

Most of the Japanese maples in my garden are now flowering, and I’m certain that few people consider for a moment that they flower (above and below). I treasure the dainty blooms, and make a point to visit the maples often just after the new leaves open. 

I hope that I’m a week or two from having the garden back in shape, at least the shape that I’m satisfied to live with. There are some messes that have been around for a few years, and it’s unlikely they’ll be addressed this year (or any other year). If I can keep my wife occupied, and indoors, my work list will be much shorter, and I’ll be much happier, even if the mahonias occasionally draw blood as I squeeze past.

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3 thoughts on “Here comes trouble

  1. Dave do you have any advice for what to do about the hydrageas that got so bit by the freese? Love your weekly columns!!!

    • Hydrangeas usually have enough vigor to leaf again after frost damage to new growth. However, in many instances the soft wood of branches is injured so that they do not leaf out to the tips. The die back can be significant, but when new growth sprouts it’s fairly easy to see where the plant needs to be pruned. In some cases a hydrangea can be damaged so that leaves sprout only from the base of the shrub. In a few months these will have grown so much you’ll barely recognize that there was a problem earlier in the spring.

      Cut the stems back to just above the new leaves. This will cut off the early flowers, and for some hydrangeas this is the only bloom for the year. Hydrangeas like Endless Summer and Penny Mac are remontant, meaning they flower on new growth, so these will still flower this year, just a few weeks later.

  2. One of the joys of reading your blog is how you describe your wifes relationship with you and the garden…and which side covertly wins out! Those are the entries I read aloud to my wife and share a laugh.

    Keep up the good work.

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