Tragedy narrowly averted

If there can be such a thing as a tragedy in the garden (rather than a severe disappointment), one was narrowly averted in mid April when two nights with temperatures in the twenties damaged new leaves of Japanese maples (as well as hydrangeas and others). With fresh growth spurred by early spring warmth weeks ahead of schedule, tender leaves were precisely at the stage to be most vulnerable to a freeze. Another degree or two lower would have been trouble, but as leaves hung limply the morning after I was unsure that any maples would survive without substantial damage.

Leaves of the Fernleaf Japanese maple hang limp after the freeze.

Leaves of the Fernleaf Japanese maple hang limp after the freeze.

A few days later the results were mixed, though better than I had first feared. No Japanese maples died, or any hydrangeas or anything else that I recall. Of thirty or more maples in the garden, about half were at the vulnerable stage of leafing, and half of these continue to show signs of damage from the freeze five months later. Probably, you wouldn’t notice anything unless I pointed it out, but the foliage canopy is more sparse, and dead branches are more numerous than usual. I expect that none of this will be a problem come next spring, and any small gaps in branching should fill in quickly with spring’s new growth.

Foliage of the Fernleaf Japanese maple is more sparse than usual, but the tree is healthy and leaves are beginning to turn to autumn colors.

Foliage of the Fernleaf Japanese maple is more sparse than usual, but the tree is healthy and leaves are beginning to turn to autumn colors.

Most importantly, none of this is anything to be worried about for the future. Yes, an ill timed freeze will happen again, someday. Maybe next year, but more likely in another fifteen or twenty years, and whether it is more severe, or not, there’s not a thing to do about, or to consider doing about it. There will always be something, and if the gardener prepares for everything that could possibly go wrong, well, it’s not possible. Be prepared to accept one problem or another, and probably the damage will not turn out as severe as you think when you walk outside the morning after.

Leaves of the Bloodgood Japanese maple have faded in summer's heat, but the tree has recovered from the early spring freeze.

Leaves of the Bloodgood Japanese maple have faded in summer’s heat, but the tree has recovered from the early spring freeze.

 

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