No doubt, gardeners get jittery at the mention of any number of weather events, constantly dreading freezes and droughts that might bring ruin to their treasures. Certainly, every gardener has suffered losses due to cold, snow or ice, wind, hail, or combinations of these within a single storm. Never, he proclaims, has he seen a winter (or summer) with such extremes, and if he lives another fifty years there will not be another like this one.
And, perhaps he is right. A period of prolonged rain might be followed by drought, unusual warmth will precede damaging cold, and any sequence of pleasurable and disastrous weather is unlikely to be duplicated in any other year. Every year is horrible, but also splendid. The gardener can only hope that the balance tips towards splendid, and usually it does.
After exceptionally warm March temperatures, two April nights with freezes in the mid twenties caused considerable damage in the garden. Newly emerging leaves of Japanese maples, weeks early, were at their most vulnerable when the cold hit, and for several days after the leaves hung limp and lifeless (above). Fortunately, most perked up following a soaking rain and a few sunny days, and I was surprised and encouraged how little damage was evident two weeks later.
Hydrangeas took the freeze a bit harder. Mophead and lacecap hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla, above) survived the meager cold of winter without a problem, but new leaves turned black overnight in the April freeze. There was no question that leaves would not survive, though there was also little doubt that the shrubs would eventually revive. Now, they have, with flowers buds developing a month late on reblooming types, and with the hydrangeas in good health that has finally covered stems that died back in the freeze.
Oakleaf (Hydrangea quercifolia, above) and paniculata varieties (Hydrangea paniculata, below) are later to leaf than mopheads, and these were unaffected by the cold. For whatever reason, and most often the gardener is clueless about these things, the Oakleaf hydrangeas are flowering more heavily than is typical. I am certain this has nothing to do with the late freeze, but could possibly be a result of the warmer winter temperatures. It is best, I think, for the gardener not to think too deeply about such things lest he injure himself.