Today, there will be no whining that the paperbushes (Edgeworthia chrysantha) and Southern magnolias (Magnolia grandiflora) are troubled, or that the mophead hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla) have died to the ground. Winter has left behind considerable miseries that must be dealt with, but on a sunny, though slightly cool late April afternoon there is too much joy to allow the day to be spoiled by concerns that will be nearly forgotten within months.
In fact, no matter how I try I still recall when evergreen magnolias were splintered under the weight of many inches of snow, and then again the following year. Now, most of the leathery leaves of both magnolias are brown, though parts are green so it will not be quickly determined if the trees can be saved, or not.
I’m afraid that reminders of this severe winter will linger too long. The upper branches of the witch’s broom Japanese maple ‘Shaina’ (Acer palmatum ‘Shaina’, above) have died, or at least they are long delayed so that while lower branches are fully leafed, the bark of the top branches is still green, but fading. The slow growing ‘Shaina’ will take years to recover, and once the dead is pruned it could be so disfigured that it must be discarded, or at least transplanted to a less obvious spot in the garden.
Now, I fear that I’ve strayed too far into complaining, with too little celebration of the day. There is considerable beauty when Japanese maples first leaf in the spring, and many have delightful flowers that dangle beneath the vibrantly colored new foliage. Good fortune a week ago when emerging foliage was most vulnerable kept temperatures a degree or two too warm to inflict any more than minor damage when it seemed catastrophe was imminent.
A new Japanese maple has been planted near the spot at the entry to the rear garden where an old dwarf hemlock (Tsuga canadensis ‘Lewis’) died of unknown causes, but certainly was related somehow to the unusual and prolonged cold. I suspect that the culprit was extreme variations in temperature rather than only the lows, and now that it’s been chopped out I look forward to the maple occupying this spot.
The new Japanese maple is a Linearilobum type (Acer palmatum ‘Scolopendrifolium atropurpureum’, above) with long, narrow red lobes, and if I have figured correctly it will obstruct the flagstone path to the rear garden within three years. This will require selective pruning of those branches, and by the fifth year the branches will arch over the path in magnificent fashion. Or, something like that.
This much is clear. It is difficult to go far wrong by planting a Japanese maple anywhere with a bit of sun. Certainly, mistakes are made when the eventual size of a tree is not considered, but even when a ‘Bloodgood’ or other large growing maple is crammed into a space far too small, the tree is likely to be splendid.
Some perennials are coming up that were planted at some point a year ago, but that I have forgotten about. Too often I will begin to dig to plant a hydrangea in a small open area, only to uproot a hosta or bleeding heart (Dicentra spectabilis ‘Gold Heart’, above) that was planted earlier. It is difficult to keep up with everything, and to those who recommend that a plan of the garden would help to avoid such problems, well, I have no good answer except that the garden is too large, and I haven’t the will to take on the project. So, that’s settled.
Little harm comes of this, and both the hydrangea and bleeding heart find a home. On occasion, something is irreparably damaged, but this is the hazard of cramming so many delights into one garden so that a day such as today can be enjoyed.