Changes

The gardener understands that most blooms are fleeting, flowering only for days or a few short weeks. When Japanese irises (Iris ensata, below) flower beside the koi pond from mid May into June, this is accomplished with a succession of cultivars, and so it is with daylilies (Hemerocallis) and other ornaments in our gardens. Changes are most notable when the gardener is gone for a period, and even after an absence of five days the difference is considerable.

Fading of flowers of the Bigleaf magnolia (Magnolia macrophylla) and Chinese dogwoods (Cornus kousa) was expected in the second week of June, with blooms remaining only on a partially shaded ‘Satomi’ dogwood (below). In the heat of the typical Virginia spring, ‘Satomi’ and the hybrid ‘Stellar Pink’ rarely display any more than a slight blush of pink. ‘Stellar’ barely showed the slightest pink blush in late April into May, while ‘Satomi’ is more pink than usual, though not the color of the pink flowered native dogwood (Cornus florida ‘Rubra’).

The Bigleaf magnolia (below) is treasured, though it is coarsely branched with outsized leaves and flowers to match. I once pleached a Paulownia (until it became an unbearable nuisance), which curbed its flowering, but resulted in leaves two feet or more in length. The Bigleaf magnolia requires no such treatment, with leaves nearly to two feet and typical magnolia flowers at least a foot across. Unfortunately, as ‘Satomi’ and ‘Stellar Pink’ dogwoods have grown, and under its own dense canopy, lower branches of the magnolia have become shaded, and flowers are moving too high in the tree to be appreciated close up. In any case, the remaining flowers faded while I was traveling for several days. As a not so small consolation, flowers from upper most branches litter the stone path beneath the tall Stewartia (Stewartia pseudocamellia, below), and soon marble sized flower buds on more shaded lower branches will open. 

Stewartia is a slow starter, requiring a good decade before it becomes much of a tree. While I am most impatient, it is fortunate that other treasures occupied my attention while this marvelous tree developed. As with too many other favorites, I wish now that it was given a more prominent position, but the gardener must balance joy and disappointment.

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