Last year’s wet summer may yield a spectacular spring, if that’s how it works. How else to explain a Chinese snowball’s refusal to bloom in the spring that followed the droughty summer of 2012, while it is loaded with dozens of plump green buds this spring? In a month or so, each of these buds – the size of an olive now – will be as large as a baby’s head, quickly changing color from chartreuse to brilliant white. It’s one of my favorite shrubs in the garden. I bought it from a farmer’s market in 2010. Although it’s growing nicely, more than doubling in size from 3’ to 7’ tall, it didn’t bloom in 2011 either. Is it a biannual bloomer, or is the presence of buds weather-related? Whatever, the show is worth a two-year wait. The blooms will glow like headlights when the late afternoon sun strikes them.
Last month I hired a landscaping firm to spread pine needles vs. doing it myself. It was worth it. The crew not only spread the needles but cleared out some of the remaining leaf debris from the gardens and ripped up English ivy that had strayed into pathways. They also delivered 40 bags of mulch which I spread later on pathways around the garden.
Today is March 16. Any “normal” late winter, especially after such a rainy summer, the garden would be exploding with new buds and delicate greenery. But thanks to an unusually cold season, all that’s visible now is the brown of the pine needles and the beige of the mulch, with a few splashes of yellow from bright, early-blooming daffodils.The forsythia hasn’t even bloomed yet.
Beneath the mat of pine needles and mulch, perennials are emerging. As I walk through the garden, I look for humps that indicate a young plant is trying to push up toward the sun.
The winter honeysuckle, one of the least attractive shrubs in the garden now with its straggly limbs and last year’s browned leaves, is blooming 2 months late because of the harsh winter. The lemony fragrance of its tiny blooms is delicate yet powerful enough to be carried on a breeze.