Friday, June 6, 2014

'The Cruel Winter' of 2014

Oakleaf hydrangea getting ready to bloom,  June 6

"I must start with a warning not to despair about plants apparently killed by the frosts, ice-rain, east winds, and other afflictions they have had to suffer. They may look dead now, but their powers of revival are astonishing. You may have to cut some shrubs down to ground level, but my recommendations would be not to dig anything up rashly until you are quite, quite certain that it has no intention of putting out green shoots again. This certitude may not come until the summer is well advanced. I remember the agreeable surprises we got after the cruel winter of 1940."
~~Vita Sackville-West, April 1947.

'Endless Summer' Hydrangea, June 6
Lacecap hydrangea, June 6

I have been enjoying reading Vita Sackville-West's book, In Your Garden, which is a collection of her gardening columns in the British newspaper The Observer from 1946-1950. Reading the passage above made me think about the hydrangeas and other plants which have suffered severe winter damage this year.  I love reading these old garden books, and seeing how much is the same. Here we are, 75 years later, fretting about the same things. Gardening is so timeless.

Lacecap hydrangea 'Blue Bird,'  June 6

This was a bad winter for the hydrangeas. And rosemary. Everyone I know lost their rosemaries.  And the really cold temps and the frequent snows did some major damage to the hydrangeas around here. The professional gardeners we met on our Pennsylvania garden tour in May all mentioned their winter-damaged hydrangeas, but made the same cautions as Vita Sackville-West--don't give up on them. Don't cut out the dead wood until July, they told us.  My oakleaf hydrangeas are fine and have flowers budding, as do the 'Limelights.'  It is the old fashioned mopheads (hydrangea macrophylla) and the lacecaps (hydrangea serrata) that are looking kind of sad.  I have two 'Blue Bird' lacecaps and a variegated 'Mariesii' lacecap that all looked pretty much dead well into spring (I've had them for years).  But in early May I finally saw leaves coming up around the base.  They all have pretty good growth now, but an 'Endless Summer' (a reblooming variety) is struggling. I think they will all be okay in the end, but there probably won't be many flowers this year.  Maybe in another 75 years people will be reading about the cruel winter of 2014.

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