Complications

After a particularly brutal summer the remontant (reblooming ) mophead hydrangeas are flowering only sporadically (Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Penny Mac’, below). Their foliage remains lush and green, but there are many fewer flowers than most years and few buds that will bloom  later in October. A year ago temperatures were nearly as hot in July, and summer drought was more prolonged, but the hydrangeas flowered from September until frost despite the heat.

I rarely can make any sense of why anything happens in the garden, though I understand that if I don’t pull weeds when they’re small they multiply quickly, and if I don’t water new plants they are doomed to failure. Beyond these few dependable truths, I know nothing, and of course I haven’t a clue why there aren’t a handful or two of blue mophead blooms on each of the hydrangeas. No doubt there are physiological issues that a more knowledgeable gardener could have predicted, but I usually garden in a simpler world where what’s flowering today is enjoyed, and what’s not is forgotten. This condition results in other complications, but that’s a story for another day.

Also under “why worry, the damage is already done”, the toad lilies (Tricyrtis, above and below) have stretched this year. The stems are taller and leggier than a year ago, and I believe that this is after I recommended a year ago that it is better not to prune the tall stems by a third in mid summer. Only ‘Sinonome’ has grown leggy enough to flop severely, but this makes no sense at all in that it is the only one of the toad lilies that is growing in nearly full sun. My meager understanding of plant physiology reasons that it should have grown more compactly, while others in more shade stretched for the sun, but the reasons why are obviously more complex than my understanding.

I’m fairly certain that there are a roughly equivalent number of flowers from one year to the other, since pruning the stems does not result in more branching on toad lilies, only shorter and stiffer stems. The more compact growing toad lily displays the blooms more attractively, but the differences are small, and pruning causes flowering to be delayed by several weeks and often some blooms are lost to freeze or frost if the buds are too late in developing.

One toad lily was pruned (not by me but by deer) when I missed spraying it with repellent a few months ago. A consequence of spraying a deer repellent regularly is that the gardener loses touch with which plants are naturally resistant. Besides learning from experience that a plant is vulnerable when I’ve mistakenly skipped over it when spraying, I have no idea which ones are resistant and ones that aren’t. And apparently, toad lilies are not resistant because deer got this one, and it’s half the size of the others with a noticeably chomped top. It has only recently set flower buds, and if the weather cooperates I’ll be grateful for the pruning, but it’s more likely that I’ll see fewer blooms this autumn.

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4 thoughts on “Complications

  1. My toad lilies were a little legy this year as well, but i did not prunw them. Flowering was profuse. (They are near the bottom of a slope and receive morning sun.) My biggest problem for the last 2-3 years, however, has been a browning/blacking of the leaves at about the smae time as the blooming begins. It has been suggested I might have a fungus and will try an anti-fungal spray next year, but does anyone else have a suggestion.

    PS: I always appreciate Dave’s Blog.

    • I get a few black spots that are probably a mildew of some sort on Miyazaki in late summer, but I don’t worry about it. Nothing is perfect, or even nearly so in this garden, so a little mildew is nothing to be bothered about.

  2. The Penny Mac in my garden bloomed nicely in early summer and still sports many quite beautiful pinkish dried flower heads, but shows no sign of a fall rebloom. Is there something you do to achieve that, like remove spent flower heads?

    • If spent blooms are deadheaded it encourages new growth and new flower buds. I’ve never deadheaded my hydrangeas and still they rebloom, but deadheading will help. At this point of the season it’s too late to deadhead and have time for buds to set and still flower before hard frosts arrive. Next year I’m sure that they’ll bloom and rebloom as usual.

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