After weeks of cool temperatures the weather suddenly turned past warm to hot, and even if this was only for a few days the soaring temperatures have had an immediate effect on the garden. Blooms that were delayed for weeks have popped out in quick succession, and each day brings new flowers. In fact, due to ninety degree temperatures, some flowers that typically bloom in the relative coolness of mid March have gone from bud to bloom, and then past their peak in only a few days.
The early flowering magnolias were tardy by weeks, but last week they went from tight bud to full bloom within hours, it seemed. By the end of the week the flowers of ‘Dr. Merrill’ (Magnolia x loebneri ‘Dr. Merrill’, above) and ‘Royal Star’ (Magnolia stellata ‘Royal Star’, below) are fading quickly, and the later blooming ‘Jane’ (Magnolia x ‘Jane’) and ‘Elizabeth’ (Magnolia acuminata ‘Elizabeth’) are nearly at their peak.
There are two cherries in the garden, the early flowering ‘Okame’ (Prunus x incamp ‘Okame) and the common weeping pink (Prunus subhirtella ‘Pendula’, below) that grows so large that it overwhelms many suburban properties. Most weeping cherries are grafted onto a six foot trunk, and somehow this gives the illusion that the tree is more dwarf, but as the tree in my garden attests, it will grow to thirty feet tall and wide. Fortunately, I’ve had the benefit of witnessing this error in placement at least fourteen thousand times, and occasionally I pay attention so that I’ve gotten this one right.
The pink weeping cherry in my garden is not grafted, but grown on its own roots. The habit of this cherry is that upright arching branches mound upon one another, so when it is not grafted onto a straight trunk it must be staked to grow upright or it looks shrub-like at a young age. I suspect that without a graft it grows larger more quickly, but there is no doubt that the grafted ones grow just as tall and wide. The white weeping form ‘Snow Fountain’ (Prunus x ‘Snofozam’) grows half the height and width of the pink variety, so it is more appropriate for most properties. Both are lovely trees, but I think it shameful to have to butcher a tree so that it doesn’t overwhelm walks or driveways as the the pink so often does when misplaced.
The longest delayed flowers in the garden due to the cold are the hybrid camellias ‘Winter’s Star’ (below) and ‘Winter’s Interlude’ planted alongside the driveway. Others planted twenty feet away, but with a bit more sunlight, flowered splendidly beginning in November into December, and I recall that ‘Winter’s Star’ by the drive had a bloom or two before cold weather set it. With extreme warm winter temperatures a year ago, the hybrid camellias continued to flower through January. Most years a few buds will begin to open on warm days, but then the partially opened flowers are severely damaged by freeze. Some buds remain unopened, and usually prolonged freezing temperatures dry the buds so they are not viable once warm weather arrives in March.
But, today ‘Winter’s Star’ and ‘Winter’s Interlude’ are in full bloom, only five months late. In the next week I expect the spring blooming camellias (Camellia japonica) to begin flowering, that is, if deer have not nibbled the buds along with the tips of foliage that I neglected to spray with repellent in late November as I’m supposed to. By mid winter my neglect had turned into a science experiment, and now it is confirmed that if the repellent is not sprayed deer will find the unprotected plants. They will eat their preferred azaleas and aucubas first, then move on to the camellias, so that all of these must flush growth this spring to be recognizable as more than bare sticks. This is quite enough experimentation, nothing new was learned, and this episode only verifies that I am too often a lazy fool.
Now, I’ve wandered on too long, so I’ll close for the day, but with much more to talk about in the coming days. The redbuds and dogwoods (above) are coming out, and serviceberry is nearly at its peak. This long delayed blooming season will result in a marvelous April.