Now, this is spring

While spring offers no guarantees, I’m feeling it’s spring. Warm days earlier in March were followed by cooler temperatures and nighttime freezes, and yes, next week will be cooler, but fifties and sixties are delightful. Soon enough I’ll be cursing the heat.

Paperbush flowering, overlooking the koi pond.

It must be spring. Every evening upon returning home, I spend every minute of daylight in the garden. The spring clean up is mostly complete, but there’s always something to do, even if it’s just wandering, plucking an occasional weed, and browsing. I have not pulled the reclining lounger out of winter storage yet, but soon it (and I) will stretch out beside the koi pond (above).

After a slow start, with chilly weather extending from late January until the end of February, the garden is off and running. It seems odd that the early flowering magnolias (‘Merrill’ magnolia, above) have not opened yet (I see a friend in what should be a much cooler area with multiple magnolias in flower), but everything else on the early spring schedule is now blooming. This garden is at the low end of surrounding hills, and with a forest along the southeastern property line the early spring sun doesn’t heat things up until later.

Of course there are daffodils, though relatively small patches scattered about the garden. Crocuses are up, and several have faded along with snowdrops that were particularly wonderful this year, even if they were a bit late. It is disappointing that winter aconites (Eranthis) did not flower. I suspect the problem is competition from an ‘Evergold’ carex that has creeped beyond expected boundaries, so I must make note to move the small bulbs in the next few weeks.

I am most pleased that the paperbushes (Edgeworthia chrysantha, above, and a young, red tipped ‘Akebono’, below) are at their peak bloom today. Flower buds, and sometimes stems of these favorites (perhaps my personal favorite if forced to choose just one) are damaged when winter temperatures drop near zero (Fahrenheit), but with lows only in the mid teens this winter all are flowering splendidly, if a bit late.

I am reminded that the paperbushes, treasured as they are, also should be mentioned with a word of caution. References state the mature size of paperbushes as six feet tall and wide, yet one in the garden has spread to eighteen feet and two others to fifteen. Several long forgotten neighboring shrubs and perennials have been lost while I was too lazy to move them as the paperbushes spread. Fellow gardeners seem surprised upon seeing their girth, but I suspect that they have seen only younger plants. Certainly, there is no special care given, or even fertilizer to account for this size.

In a long established garden details are sometimes overlooked, but a few days ago my wife and I were walking around the garden together, and we noticed that ‘Dorothy Wycoff’ Japanese andromeda (Pieris japonica ‘Dorothy Wycoff’, above and below) beside the garage door is nearing ten feet tall. This is not news since it hasn’t grown an inch so far this year, but in a garden with large and sometimes overgrown trees and shrubs, sometimes things sneak up on you.

For years I’ve had to prune the andromeda so the bluestone path (above) beside it remains open, but I would have guessed it was six or seven feet tall if I wasn’t standing in front of it. Plants grow, and while Japanese andromeda can have root problems without excellent drainage, ‘Dorothy’ and handfuls of other andromedas in this garden evidently have the drainage required to thrive. Several can have a bit of a lacebug problem, while ‘Dorothy’ has little or none. All are marvelous in bloom, with several flowering today (Pieris japonica ‘Katsura’, below) and others that will flower in the next few weeks while warm temperatures become more regular.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. tonytomeo says:

    Goodness that is a big Pieris. The only Pieris that got that big at the farm were the simple Pieris forestii.

    1. Dave says:

      Yes, it’s by far the largest of others of comparable age. This is what happens when you’re in one place for 32 years.

      1. tonytomeo says:

        Our oldest stock plants are almost as old, but still quite low. That is normal for them here. I happen to like them, but dislike how they get ruined by so-called ‘gardeners’ in typical landscapes. They get shorn like everything else, and rarely get three feet tall.

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