Tuesday, June 13, 2017

The Garden of the Seasons: "English Weather" Good for the Greening

A friend of mine called it "English weather." That long bout of cool and frequently rainy weather that only ended last weekend, ushering in the current warm spell.
England is a green and flowerful place, and you can credit that otherwise challenging weather for the loveliness of the English countryside and the attractiveness of gardens throughout that country from tiny urban footprints to professionally landscape-curated estates. 
So while I'm delighted to have some "American" summer weather (even with the current operatic stretch of mid-90s), I'm grateful for that cool, wet growing energy that greened up our world and is in the process of creating a lush, colorful June. 
We lost most of a venerable rhododendron two years ago in the winter that wouldn't stop. The snow kept the ground too cold for too long, apparently, and the upper three quarters of the seeming indestructible plant showed that it was mortal. Other rhodies of a similar type and age in the neighborhood showed some damage, a few died, and the greater number survived virtually untouched. So I'm not sure what lessons are to be learned. Last summer I cut off a lot of the branches I presumed to be dead or too damaged since they weren't sprouting leaves, or the leaves they grew quickly softened, browned and died. 
This year with an oddly, unbalanced looking tree -- tall bare parts, groping lower limbs -- looking like a shipwreck unable to find its way through the ice, we took more radical measures. Anne rented a chainsaw from Home Depot and we attacked the really thick spine of the old tree that I could not cut with hand tools. After a brief chainsaw surgery, some fine-tuning with clippers, and some new fertilized soil, the remaining ground-hugging stories of rhododendron filled their old place in the colorful landscape, though at a reduced height, with fat violet blooms (as seen in the top, third down, and sixth photo down).
          Taken two weeks ago, the second photo down illustrates the fullness of the verdancy. In the lower left corner of that photo you can see the colony of purple Siberian iris coming into bloom. Iris, named for an Olympian messenger service, sent strongly self-congratulatory signals this year. You see examples of the blossoms in the fourth, fifth and ninth photos. You have to catch them when they're flying those big showy flags of theirs. Most of these blossoms dried and faded under the assault of our 4-day heat wave with temps in the mid-90s. The flag iris plants in the fourth photo have actually moved on to their second round of blooms today.   
Among other plants looking their best this year is the laurel. A reliable June bloomer, sometimes this plant has suffered from dry conditions, its leaves looking limp and the entire plant less full. 
You can see in the whole-plant shot that our laurel -- a family favorite in part because it blooms each year on our daughter Sonya's June birthday -- is in a happy state of bloom (seventh photo). The eighth photo down is a close-up on the pink-highlighted flowers. They're like delicate little cup-shaped vessels for fairy tea parties.