Summer rain, for better and worse

While several shrubs have perished in saturated soil after a summer of flooding rains, some plants on higher ground have grown with unusual and notable vigor. Two variegated ‘Silver Cloud’ redbuds (Cercis canadensis ‘Silver Cloud’) and an Oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) have grown to engulf a Hinoki cypress (Hinoki gracillis ‘Compacta’).

I am not noted for attention to detail, but today I noticed the cypress, almost completely hidden. I’ve given little thought to it in recent years, though for a time the sprawling Oakleaf hydrangea was ruthlessly chopped to preserve the neighboring cypress. The plan from the start was something about the the textural contrast of a needled evergreen growing up through the broad leaves of the hydrangea, which worked, even if I paid little attention, until the redbud grew a few feet over the top.

The hydrangea will manage just fine with a few snips of the redbud, but the cypress will be lost in a few years if a few larger branches are not removed. Too often, I’m guilty of letting nature takes it course when it is my, not nature’s doing that has caused the complication. I suppose that other gardeners can be equally short sighted, but I’m ceaselessly exposed to my blunders.

Leaves of Munckin Oakleaf hydrangeas in damp ground have had autumn coloring for weeks.

While several Oakleaf hydrangeas in damp ground are stressed, showing autumn leaf coloring long before others, ones in drier ground have grown taller and wider than expected. Even in more typical summers the Oakleafs grow rampantly, requiring selective pruning every other year so neighboring shrubs are not overwhelmed.

Three Oakleaf hydrangeas in dry shade struggled for several years until gaining a foothold, and now with constant dampness, despite competing with maples and tulip poplars for moisture, they are thriving, as if this difficult situation was ideal. Part of this, I suspect, is the typical vigor of Oakleafs, and no credit should be given to the gardener who dug through thick roots to plant the hydrangeas. Occasionally, there are successes despite the gardener’s blunders. The three hydrangeas are still a bit sparse in flowering in shade that is too deep, and branching is less dense than in more sun, but the few scattered blooms and large leaves are perfectly suited to this part of the garden.

Finally, remontant mophead hydrangeas (Hydrangea macrophylla, flowering on new and old wood) are setting flower buds, that most often begins in September and occasionally in late August. Temperatures in the eighties are continuing, and if the setting of buds doesn’t hurry along flowers might be damaged by cold that is usually expected before the start of November.