Observations in mid May

May, and particularly the last half of the month, is the peak in this garden. This is when foliage fills to hide neighboring homes, and a period when there are many more flowers and foliage of interest than I have time to comment on.

After struggles with poorly drained soil and spider mites in the garden’s early days, most azaleas were give up on. Delaware Valley White remains under a shaded canopy where I expect an azalea to flower sparsely. It does not, and in this shady setting it does not suffer from mites.

I wonder why deciduous Exbury azaleas are not more common. Very fragrant orange and yellow azaleas are intertwined with an aged redbud, a scene that could not be envisioned when planted twenty years ago.

While orange and yellow Exbury azaleas grow into a tangle of branches and flowers, the yellow flowers several days later, and it seems clear that it is the more fragrant.

I’ve written in recent weeks that the ‘Cherokee Sunset’ dogwood has not flowered in years for whatever reasons, until this spring. And, with cool temperatures until this week, flowers have stayed longer than expected. Here, the slightly fading red flowers contrast with the variegated leaves.

Flowers of the hybrid ‘Stellar Pink’ dogwood are barely pink in this Virginia garden. I’ve seen flowers of this dogwood in the northwest that are fully pink, but that is rare in our warmer, more humid climate. Regardless of flower color, ‘Stellar Pink’ is a vigorous, disease resistant dogwood.

The Chinese dogwood (Cornus kousa) will be in full bloom in ten days. Leaves appear before flowers, but foliage will nearly be covered when flowers are at their peak. The selection of one dogwood rather than another can be decided by time of flowering, with the native the earliest, followed by hybrids, then Chinese dogwoods. If disease resistance is a factor, hybrids and Chinese dogwoods are almost completely resistant to the variety of diseases and fungus that afflict our native dogwood.

I will put in a plug, however, for the native dogwoods. Several in my garden have yearly troubles with leaf spotting and powdery mildew, among other minor issues, but they are going on their third decade, and I expect each will be around as long as I am.

The variegated Cornelian cherry (Cornus mas ‘Variegata’) faded from bloom long ago, but the crisply variegated leaves stand out. This dogwood was transplanted from a dry, shady spot in late winter into partial sun. It appears that the transplant will be a success.

Flowers of the hybrid ‘Venus’ dogwood are exceptionally large. With genetics of the tall growing Pacific dogwood, ‘Venus’ grows quickly, and more upright than other dogwoods in the garden.

I wonder, a lot it seems, why the Red Horse Chestnut is not more common. In foliage and in flower there are few trees to compare.

The Autumn Full Moon maple is distinct from the Golden Full Moon maple, though I doubt many care about the relatively minor differences. I lusted after one or the other for years. Both are marvelous Japanese maples, though Autumn Full Moon suffered in too much sun until this year when a Persian ironwood (Parrotia persica) was transplanted to provide some shade. The move should benefit the maple and ironwood.

The dwarf ‘Shaina’ Japanese maple is a curiosity, growing only knee high. Over the winter, a nearby, struggling spruce was removed, so ‘Shaina’ has more space to spread.

Flowers of the native Fringetree (Chionanthus virginicus) are short lived, but exceptional. More scenes of the garden will follow ….. And, in case you missed the video of the rear garden (Warning, it’s ten minutes long. There’s a lot of garden to see).

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