The hedge of bottlebrush buckeyes looks fantastic this spring.
|Aesculus parviflora, all green and full|
To the left of the full shrubs there is the open space where we had one plant taken out (it was a different cultivar and looked odd). In that open space suckers from the original plants are filling in nicely.
Bottlebrush buckeyes want shade and water. They get neither in my full sun site, and they struggled mightily in the dry summer last year, refusing to flower at all and spending the season with browned leaves.
But here they are this spring, no worse for wear and looking lush.
The other buckeye in my garden is a red-flowered Aesculus pavia, a small tree with scarlet firecracker flowers.
|It's a young tree, and this is the first year it has flowered well.|
This little buckeye tree is also a water lover, but it came through the dry summer and looks the best it ever has. It's new and little, and this is the first year I've seen such a nice flower display.
|Love the red spikes.|
Both stewartias look really good this spring. They aren't the water lovers that the buckeyes tend to be, but they can be easily stressed in any hard conditions. The stewartias had no issues with the drought.
But other plants that like dry conditions and are tough as nails have come back this spring looking awfully miserable.
Comptonia, a tough suckering plant that likes dry and lean soil, has dieback throughout. I have already cut out some dead branches, but it looks terrible this year. Here it is in another year, looking great, but this spring it is too bare and open to even photograph.
|Comptonia (Sweetfern) in prior years, full and lush|
Another surprise is caryopteris, which is also supposed to like dry and lean soil. The woody caryopteris plants are slowly emerging this spring, so they survive, but the three I have are small and a little stunted looking so far.
And the herbaceous caryopteris, 'Snow Fairy' is barely emerging at all. There are a few wobbly looking shoots coming up. It emerges late, but this is the end of May, and there is almost nothing to see of this plant.
|Stubs of 'Snow Fairy' caryopteris, with only a curled leaf or two emerging.|
It's right under the thriving red buckeye. Did the thirsty buckeye manage to take all the water that was available last summer and starve the plant beneath it?
In summer this caryopteris is a full, shrubby plant, with white edged variegated leaves. It lives this spring, but looks like it is barely hanging on.
|'Snow Fairy' caryopteris last summer, with its pretty variegated leaves|
Another plant having a tough comeback this spring is my Rose of Sharon, despite being a tough, reliable plant. Hibiscus syriacus is always the last of the last to leaf out in spring, but never quite this late. It's slow, but you can usually see some tight budding getting ready to break when it's finally ready.
This year I'm seeing almost nothing. It may be fine, just delayed beyond its normal slow schedule, but it looks sort of dead right now.
This winter was mild, and we've had plenty of rain this spring, but last summer seems to have hit the dry loving tough-as-nails plants the hardest.
And there are other stresses right now. Our house is for sale, and we had a handful of lookers the first few days it was on the market, but no showings this week, and none scheduled.
Feedback from the few lookers we had was unhelpfully neutral -- "priced just right", "shows well", "not interested".
I'm a little stressed but trying to relax about it.