No flowers?

Now is the time, not next week when both of us will have forgotten, to check for next spring’s flower buds. Dogwoods, spring flowering camellias, rhododendron, paperbush, and pieris have already started budding in this garden. Actually, several weeks ago, but now most buds are large enough to see. Azaleas have set buds, but most are too small to see, so don’t bother looking.

Leaves of our native dogwoods often begin to color in late September, and branch tips clearly show buds that will flower in the spring.

Why? And, who cares? Well, if you’ve been whining that your dogwood never flowers, now’s the time to see why. Not that you can fix it now. Too late for this year since buds began developing a month ago, but the reason you don’t get flowers is probably too much shade, and today you have a good chance to verify and possibly thin some branches to let a little more sun shine in. No way you can tell in early April when there are no leaves on trees. Of course it’s sunny then.

Flower buds are prominent on this Pieris japonica ‘Cavatine’. A more shaded side of this shrub has many fewer buds. Traces of lacebug damage can be seen on leaves, which are never treated with pesticides in this garden. Only a severe infestation will effect the health of Pieris, and lacebug infestations are greater in areas of full sun.

There are several trees in this garden that don’t flower when they’re supposed to, or they flower one year and not the next three. Sometimes, I can’t tell why, but usually the culprit is shade, and most often the task to open things up is too big a deal, so I do nothing. But then, I don’t expect blooms next year, and know that nothing will change unless some natural event makes some changes. Which has happened.

Flower buds are developing on the late winter flowering paperbushes (Edgeworthia chrysantha), a personal favorite. There seem to be similar numbers of buds in sun or part shade, though paperbush grows with more open branching in shade.

Probably five or six years ago (maybe a bit longer), three Oakleaf hydrangeas stopped flowering. Too much shade, I was certain, but the shade mostly came from eighty foot tall maples and tulip poplars with the lowest branches far out of my reach. Oh well, at least the foliage and autumn leaf colors are nice. Until, an ice storm in late December took out a large portion of one of the maples.

The tree, more correctly half a tree, barely missed the house, and it broke a third out of one of the Oakleafs. But gee whiz, all three flowered the next year with additional sunlight that was hardly noticeable. You too can wait on nature to look out for you, and good luck with that, or you can look now, and do a little thinning of branches to let in enough sun to get those blooms back.

What if too much shade isn’t the problem, but something else? Rarely happens in this garden, but this gets much more complicated to diagnose. And if the answer isn’t simple, I let it go rather than obsessively chasing a question that might never be answered.

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2 Comments Add yours

  1. tonytomeo says:

    ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’ dogwood are blooming now! It is not pretty bloom; bracts just unfurl and wilt. I know it is because of the weather, but I am surprises by how widespread the problem is.

    1. Dave says:

      A very confused tree. We occasionally see flowers out of season on early spring flowering trees, but it is usually after frost. Never dogwoods.

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