A gardener questions that his hydrangeas are not flowering this year, and perhaps they never will again. Possibly, they’re dying, he thinks. But, of course, the hydrangeas are fine, and only delayed a bit because they were nipped by April freezes, then constant rain and cloudy skies have slowed regrowth.
Perhaps the problem is not the hydrangeas (which it is not in this garden), but dogwoods. ‘Cherokee Sunset’ dogwood (Cornus florida ‘Cherokee Sunset’, above) should have splendid red flowers followed by bright yellow and green variegated foliage, but the small tree in this garden has failed to flower for years. Yes, years. I know, when someone tells this tale to me I roll my eyes (not so the storyteller can see). I know that the dogwood has probably flowered all along, but this fellow has not spent enough time in his garden in April to see it.
Sadly, the problem is not a lack of observation, but some combination of factors that denies blooms to this dogwood. Though its foliage is splendid today (in late May), it will not be long until powdery mildew twists and curls the leaves, and then it is not splendid at all. How this adversely effects the development of flower buds, I’m not quite certain, because many other dogwoods set buds more heavily when trees are stressed. So, I don’t know, but I am fairly certain that when a neighboring hornbeam with pendulous branches overtakes the dogwood, I will make no effort to save it.
Yesterday I noticed that a Chinese dogwood (Cornus kousa) planted in deep shade has a few scattered flowers, for the first time. There are several other Chinese dogwoods in the garden, and all are planted in enough sun that there are at least some flowers. Ones in nearly full sun are covered in blooms, with ones that are partially shaded not so much, but still some flowers. This dogwood was a lost soul, rescued from a trash pile even though I knew there was no proper place to plant it. But, for five or six years it has grown, long ago surviving its broken burlap root ball, and its short time on the trash heap. And now, there are some flowers, which I figured I’d never see.
The other Chinese dogwoods are flowering nicely, even the the vigorously growing, variegated ‘Samaritan’ that is shaded a bit too much, and only blooms off and on. The wide spreading ‘Wolf Eyes’ (below) is planted very near ‘Cherokee Sunset’, and it appears that this will be an off year for its flowering. In recent years it has had some issues in late summer, so perhaps this has caused a bit of a problem, but it appears healthy, and some branches are covered in flowers. I don’t think this is anything to be bothered about.
The pink flowered ‘Satomi’ (below) is rarely very pink, most often white with a slight pink tint. Now, the flowers are more pink than usual, a consequence, I suspect, of the prolonged gray skies of recent weeks. This happens once every ten or twelve years in this garden. The gardener only needs to be around long enough to witness such things.