Sunday, March 29, 2015

Alarming Sights

It spit snow all day yesterday -- a constant, unrelenting shower of white that did not accumulate.

Today is sunny, and I went out to see if snowdrops had appeared in the warm corner of the front walk where the snowpack is finally gone. Why yes, some clumps have popped up.

But I was immediately distracted from their pretty faces by two alarming developments in the area:

1. The Japanese maple 'Crimson Queen' splits in two every winter. Zeno's Paradox gives me less and less of a tree each year, diminishing itself by half, then half of half the next year, then half again the next winter. Once again I saw the dangling branch pulling away from the trunk.

It's always the largest branch that cracks and separates. One year Jim and I put a stainless steel bolt through the trunk to hold the two sections of main stem together, and that is still holding. The bolt is still there, with new bark grown over it.

But this latest crackup could not be clamped back on. So I cut it off, and when I was done, fully half of the tree was once again gone.

Last summer 'Crimson Queen' looked small but not unshapely. I am hoping the tree that is left will look artistic and graceful and open this summer, and not like the slowly sell-amputating disaster that it is.

And I have to admit I don't care about the shape or size of the tree when it colors up in fall -- just the rich intensity of its garnet red foliage is enough to justify it, even as it gets smaller and smaller each year.

2. The second alarming sight was a patch of kinnikinnik under the Japanese maple that is silvery white and does not look right. At first I thought it was an area that was frost coated, but it's not. I think this is a fungal issue.

Arctostaphylos uva ursi is described as trouble free and I could find nothing online about susceptibility to powdery mildew, but that's what this really looks like.

I've never seen powdery mildew as a winter problem. But low light and high humidity are the usual culprits for powdery mildew, and spending an entire winter packed solidly under three feet of snow might count as too dark and too wet.

This low groundcover wants hot and dry and lean conditions, but this cultivar -- 'Massachusetts' -- will take winter wet. I think the winter wet we had was too much even for this variety however.

The snowdrops sure aren't much to see yet. They're cute but clumps are isolated and sparse . . . I keep telling myself they will spread and make a nice show, popping out of the green kinnikinnik some day.

They'd be a lot more interesting if I didn't get so alarmed at the state of the maple and the condition of the kinnikinnik, though.

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