52 Weeks in the Garden: Week 4

As January comes to a close, we’ve had a week of moderating temperatures that ended with temperatures in the upper 30s. Just this morning, the row of icicles that had been growing along southern gutters came crashing down on the perennial border below. Areas of turf and mulch have begun to show through the snow cover.

H. macrophylla ‘Blushing Bride’ (leaf buds)

When we last looked at Hydrangea macrophylla ‘Blushing Bride’ in the garden, its vegetative buds were starting to swell. This week, a few of the buds have broken. I’ve just finished reading Hydrangeas for American Gardens by Michael Dirr, and one of the issues with H. macrophylla that Dirr emphasizes is a tendency to get harmed by exposure to cold temperatures.

I can certainly understand why, if bud break occurs so easily when temperatures warm slightly. Of the two newly planted ‘Blushing Bride’ specimens in the garden, the one that has shown some bud break this week is sited in direct morning sun. The specimen planted in the shade of the garage is holding its buds more tightly.

We have at least three more months with the possibility of severe frost, so I hope that the rest of the leaf buds don’t follow suit and open too soon. I’m looking forward to the foliage and flower show that ‘Blushing Bride’ promises, and stunted or killed buds aren’t going to support a bright future for this plant in my garden.

H. macrophylla ‘Blushing Bride’ (flower bud shrouded in last year’s leaf)

Maybe the rest of the buds will take their cue from this terminal flower bud and stay under cover for the rest of winter.

Cercis canadensis (seed pod)

In contrast to the Hydrangea, our redbud (Cercis canadensis) is still snuggled in dormancy. There are not even signs of bud formation along its textured bark. Last fall, the redbud had the heaviest seed set we’ve ever seen, but now only one seedpod remains attached. The pods hold several flat seeds that are generally considered viable for growing seedlings. It will be interesting this spring, with the heavy seed set, if any of the seeds self-sow in the garden.

Hylotelephium ‘Matrona’ (dried seed head)

On the subject of seeds, I took a closer look at the seed head of our H. ‘Matrona’. Each of the dried flowers on the corymb (flat inforescence) appears to be comprised of five small seed capsules. I’ve never had ‘Matrona’ seedlings emerge in the garden, so I wasn’t surprised to find that these perennials are sterile.

My curiosity did motivate me, however, to crush a few of the dried flowers to see what was inside the capsules. It sure looked like seed to me. So when a perennial is considered sterile, does that mean it produces seed, but that seed is not viable?

That will be a question to answer in a future installment of 52 Weeks in the Garden. Until then, it’s time to get ready for what NOAA is forecasting as a major snow/ice event headed our way in the next 48 hours. Whether I’m writing about ice damage or snow drifts next week remains to be seen.

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