Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Losses Mount

Strange weather -- very hot, in the 80s and up to 90F and very humid and summery feeling. Too hot for early May. It's also very dry. Three full weeks now without a drop of rain, and the winter stressed trees and shrubs are holding back. Lawns all over the neighborhood are browning like it's July.

There are more losses in my garden.

Winter was too harsh for the Stewartia pseudocamellia by the front door. The bottom branches are leafing out but the top branches, fully two thirds of the tree, are not.

Unlike the Stewartia mondadelpha that did not leaf out at all, this tree does have some life, but I don't know if it can recover all that lost canopy. Even if it lives, it will be severely stunted, as if lopped in half.

I won't take it out. It is still alive, and if I can eliminate the dead two thirds and re-train a leader, I may get a tree shape back. In another 9 years. Maybe.

It was yet another prized specimen tree that I raised from a 10 inch tall seedling over the last 8 or 9 years. Like my other losses this year -- a Japanese maple, another Stewartia and now this one -- it was one of the most shapely trees in my garden. with amazing white flowers and drop dead scarlet fall color.

I feel like I am starting over just when the prettiest trees I had planted were becoming beautiful specimens worth noticing.

But wait, there's more.

The first sassafras I ever planted -- again, a tiny whip of a sapling in 2006 that grew to be a full, leafy tree -- has also lost some if its canopy. In this case it is the lower third of the branches that are dry and snap off. It is leafing out up at the top so I think it will be okay, but it will be sparse and branchless at the bottom.

The big stand of 'Henry's Garnet' iteas (sweetspire) that anchors the middle of the Birch Garden look terrible. They are always late to leaf out, but a few scraggly leaves are just now appearing on a few random branches and the rest looks completely bare beneath the arching white flowered aronias.

Can I cut iteas all the way down to rejuvenate them? I can't find anything that says itea responds to a hard cut back. But what is there to lose? If it has died off above ground it will have to be cut hard. It's a suckering shrub, so I hope the roots will regenerate new growth.

The Cornus florida (pink flowering dogwood) in front is refusing to flower at all this year. Only a few stunted blooms are opening. Winter did not kill the tree, and leaves are opening, but the flower buds were killed.

Other flowering dogwoods all over town are in beautiful bloom, so their buds survived this winter just fine. In the geographical oddity that is apparently my zone 2 garden, however, this dogwood's flowers were completely zapped.

The big old silver maple (or is it an old cottonwood?) in the meadow in the distance has died. It is the focal point of my view from the living room window, so now my window frames a big dead tree. Silver maples in the woods around here did survive the winter, so maybe this one just succumbed to old age.

Old trees die. We'll just call this maple "sculptural" now and deal with the changed view out the window.

But the losses and ruination of prized young trees I had planted, long before they were mature, well before they could offer shade in my garden --- that's a deep and unsettling discouragement.


  1. Very sorry to see these losses Laurie. It is sad and disappointing. It was another difficult winter. Here in southern Ontario the evergreens took a big hit with alot of brown leaves. Even my rhodos took a hit this year and they have managed to miss the scald previously. Something good will come of this eventually (she says positively).

    1. Love the positive encouragement -- it helps. Thanks. What a hard winter we all had in the north this year!