A joyful day


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.Geranium and euphorbia in late April

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.Shaina Japanese maple in early spring

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.Fernleaf Japanese maple in late April

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.Viridis Japanese maple in late April

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.Linearilobum maple

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.Carol Mackie daphne and Japanese maple

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.Gold Heart bleeding heart

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.Epimedium in late April

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.Emerging leaves on Japanese maple

5 Comments Add yours

  1. Kathleen Webber says:

    Everything is gorgeous! Especially love the japanese maple blooms. Only a grump wouldn’t be charmed by
    the epimedium.

    1. Dave says:

      Most of my spring clean up has been completed, so I spent the weekend wandering about the garden, pulling a weed here and there and mostly admiring the maples and blooms. After four weekends spent mostly in labor, this was a luxury.

  2. Yvonne T says:

    Beautiful! What oh what to do with the hydrangeas that have died to the ground? Should I take the opportunity to replace my border of seven single blooming Nikko big mops with re looming Endless Summer? Where could I find five gallon ESs? Decisions decisions. Would love to hear views on Nikko vs ES.

    1. Dave says:

      I have ten year old hydrangeas that have been killed to the ground, but they are showing new growth at the base. So, I’ve pruned the dead wood as low as possible, and I expect that the hydrangeas will grow considerably over the next month or two, and that the rebloomers will probably have some flowers by mid June. In areas that experience regular subfreezing winter temperatures the rebloomers such as Endless Summer and Penny Mac are advantageous because they flower on old and new wood. So, when buds at branch tips are damaged, which happens frequently, they still flower, while varieties such as Nikko Blue will not. Nikko Blue is an excellent plant for the south, but from the mid Atlantic north they do not flower dependably.

      Three or five gallon containers of Endless Summer or Penny Mac (that are genetically very similar) are common in just about any garden center. Hydrangeas grow rapidly, so there is no advantage to a fie gallon pot rather than three gallon. If both sizes are available I’d buy the smaller one and save a few dollars.

      1. Yvonne T says:

        Thank you! Very helpful indeed. My Nikkos are showing new growth at the base so I will prune them and move them to a less visible spot and take the “excuse” to get Endless Summer or Penny Mac.

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