Tuesday, May 24, 2016

An Unpretty Spring

This has not been a pretty spring.

First, a too warm winter exposed plants to damage when cold hit. And when deep cold did hit in early April, it totally eliminated any forsythia blooms, or star magnolias, or 'Dawn' viburnum flowers. There were none.

We went away. Ten days gone. Time to forget the inauspicious start and come back to a refreshed spring garden.

It got too dry here while we were in wet, lush Normandy. It has only rained a dribble or two in all of April and May, just a few tenths at a time, a few times.

So some of the trees are reluctant to do anything -- like my sourwood (Oxydendrum) tree, which still hasn't opened its leaves fully, despite Memorial Day bearing down on us.

The black gum (Nyssa sylvatica) trees in the front yard haven't completely leafed out either, and hydrangeas are all just stick piles right now.

The dwarf deutzias, 'Nikko', are usually pretty bloomers in May, but not this year. It''s so dry they won't leaf out either. No pretty white flowers at all, and just a few leaves clustered at the base. They are alive, they will fill in eventually, but this spring has passed them by.

Another plant that hates this spring is the groundcover Himalayan fleeceflower, Persicaria 'Dimity'. It needs a very wet spring to get going, and once it has leafed out it can take some dry conditions. But it simply cannot tolerate a dry spring, and stubbornly remains blighted brown and crispy in large swaths throughout my whole garden. Ugh.

There are a few orange geums blooming now, and some tiarellas, but they are sparse and tentative, while in prior, wetter springs they were lovely and widespread.

Nothing is pretty this year. Even the groundcover sedums are struggling.

I pruned the redtwig dogwoods by the front door in April, to rejuvenate them. They will take another year to fill back in. Meanwhile, they bloom, but the open, rangy, pruned branches give them a weedy look. In other years, although congested and too overgrown, the blooming redtwig dogwoods were spectacular.

This corylopsis, or winterhazel, did not bloom in April and is barely putting out any leaves now. Not the pretty accent I wanted at the corner of the front walk.

I could go on. It's just not a spring I want to remember in my garden.

I lost the New Jersey Tea shrub, Ceanothus americanus -- a charming white flowered plant seen here in a prior season, flowering under the green, leafy Stewartia monadelpha that I lost last year. Neither plant is my garden this spring. This space is now a big blank.

I will miss it -- what a pretty, tidy, low shrub it was, and the bees loved it. I also lost one of the 'Mt. Airy' fothergillas by the gravel garden. Dead sticks remain.

How do you keep gardening when major elements disappear each year and must be replanted, making every season a new, immature version of what you imagined, with continuous blank spaces, open spots and unfinished designs? I understand a garden is never "finished", but mine can't even get started.

I know, I know, I promised to come back from France in a cheery mood and not complain. But I am discouraged. Spring here has been such a disappointment. Let it be over.

Okay, to end on a better note, Doublefile viburnum 'Shasta' is beautiful. We call it the wedding cake shrub, and it blooms, even in an unpretty spring, on our wedding anniversary.

Seventeen years. We celebrated with a cruise down the Seine, and then came back to this sight, to mark the actual anniversary date.

Even a disappointing spring has joy. Now, please, let it rain.

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Well, I asked for rain, but didn't specify exactly where. The rain on the doppler map this morning is heavy, but is rotating in a perfect circle around a completely rain free center -- where the blue pin is dropped at Hartford my struggling garden sits and the precipitation is not forecast to circle into the area. Maybe we'll get sprinkles.

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