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.
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.
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.
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.