Not ready for winter


Somehow, this year has passed too quickly. When cold persisted too long into spring, the internal clocks of many plants became muddled, and mine also so that it seems only a short while ago I was nursing too many shrubs through their winter injuries.

I was jolted, along with the garden’s hydrangeas, by fifteen degree temperatures a few weeks ago. Though this cold was not so unusual for November, I was far from prepared for the start of winter. Fortunately, recent weeks have been more mild, and with regular rainfall the saturated ground is most ideal as evergreens brace for winter.

Lacecap hydrangea in early November
Lacecap hydrangea in early November

Today, the foliage of hydrangeas that turned brown overnight in the freeze, has finally dropped. So, these appear less bedraggled, and there is no reason to expect any harm was done except that the autumn foliage colors of the mopheads (Hydrangea macrophylla) were disappointing. The Oakleaf hydrangeas (Hydrangea quercifolia) did not disappoint, though there are likely more brown leaves and fewer burgundy ones than typically in mid December.

Oakleaf hydrangea in early November
Oakleaf hydrangea in early November

I am undecided to date about the yellow leafed ‘Little Honey’, which is described as having “glowing golden foliage”. I suppose that I have trouble distinguishing golden from yellow, but there is no doubt that it is different than the scattering of other Oakleafs in the garden. This small shrub, planted a year ago, got off to a slow start after the winter, then when it began finally to grow in early summer a beast of some sort (probably a deer) damaged the few emerging flower panicles so that there were no blooms this year.

Little Honey hydrangea in mid December
Little Honey hydrangea in mid December

By late summer ‘Little Honey’ rejuvenated a bit, and its foliage remained clear of the black spotting that is prevalent on many Oakleaf hydrangeas. In mid December the leaves remain mostly yellow, with an attractive mottling of burgundy, so there’s hope that this will turn out alright.

I also have high hopes for another newly introduced Oakleaf with the unfortunate moniker ‘Jetstream’. This trade name seems ill suited to a shrub, but I’ve been pleased with two shrubs planted in late summer (though one was striped bare by deer). Its foliage is larger than typical, even on small plants, and the leaves are unblemished so that the hydrangea appears more a tropical than a sturdy native shrub.

A year ago an ice storm had already wreaked havoc on the garden, and of course now I am hearing from too many the predictions of the almanac that this winter will be much harsher than average. Fifteen degrees for a few nights in November (and much colder in parts of the country) will bring out the predictors who claim that “we ain’t seen nothing yet”, but it seems unlikely this winter can be more harsh than last year’s. I hope.

With too many rainy days I am hopelessly behind in my late autumn chores. Piles of leaves on the half of the garden that borders the forest are becoming damper and more matted, and will be more difficult to clean up whenever it is that I get around to this. In fact, too often I delay this task, so today is not so different than any other year, except I’m feeling more October-ish than December-ish.

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