Friday, May 8, 2015

Another Loss

Warm weather for early May -- some 80 degree days, humidity, open windows. Spring is now leaping ahead. It's too dry, though. 17 days since the last rain, and no rain in the forecast for a week.

There's been another disappointing loss in my garden. After losing a beautiful red Japanese maple this spring, I have now lost another cherished tree that I raised from a young sapling.

Stewartia monadelpha, also called Orangebark, is a dapper small tree. I raved about its fall color last October, with good reason:

In addition to spectacular fall color, it has a nice elegant shape, fresh looking green leaves all summer, and rough, cinnnamon colored bark. Unlike its cousin, the showier Stewartia pseudocamellia, it had only a few tiny flowers in June, but it was just the perfect tree for a narrow space near the gravel garden.

In spite of losing some top branches to dieback every winter, this tree was growing well. It was perfect.

But this spring there was more than dieback at the top. The tree did not even attempt to leaf out.

This past winter was too much for this zone 6 tree. Technically my garden is in zone 6 where the lowest expected temperature can be minus 10 F.  Zone 6 plants can tolerate temperatures between zero and minus 10.  But we never did get down to minus 10 all winter. We had single digits for days and days on end, though, with no break, and we had more than a few mornings when I woke up to zero.

It was the unbroken span of cold days and cold nights that went on forever that affected the Stewartia.
Although my garden meets the definition of zone 6, it really is a harsher place in winter than the hardiness maps can account for.

This Stewartia was planted five years ago, in 2010. Not as old as the Japanese maple I just lost, but it was still an investment in time, money, and hopes. It was a central part of the design for the border of this gravel garden and the allee that runs between the garden and house.

It was slender and still small, but it had helped to enclose the gravel sitting area and shield it from the side of the house where the cellar door and utilities are, just a few feet away. It was even beginning to shade that hot blank wall of the house from the western sun.

Functional, beautiful, and trouble free --- but too tender for winter in my garden.

This is just too, too cruel.

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