Discredit where credit is due

Too often, I point to inattention to detail in maintaining this garden, and while the far less than manicured look is undeniable and mostly intentional, I am also occasionally guilty of failing to notice the everyday wonders of the garden. While certainly true, I plead for forgiveness on grounds that wonders (large and not so) are so numerous that inevitably some must be overlooked.

I notice this afternoon that foliage of an azalea (Autumn Encore ‘Fire’ azalea, below), planted several years ago, is unusually red. Perhaps it has been this color every year, or some unique combination of temperature and sunlight exposure this autumn has turned leaves a darker color than in previous years. In any case, I am intrigued, and I’ll be on the lookout a year from now.

Also unusual, though not rare, and clearly a result of an early drop in temperatures, Japanese maples that hold leaves and typically show autumn colors late into the season now hold onto brown leaves long after other trees are bare. With a short period in November of overnight temperatures dropping into the teens (Fahrenheit), the natural process of coloring and then leaves dropping was disrupted. There is no harm done except the browned leaves are unsightly.

I am certain that flower buds of paperbushes (Edgeworthia chrysantha, above) are developing ahead of schedule, though there is a probability that this is wishful thinking. The buds are regularly monitored starting in December, hoping for glimpses of color to accompany blooms of witch hazels shortly following the new year. More often, flowers open late in February, or disappointingly, in early March, but in an oddly mild winter there can be color showing by mid January.

So, buds are checked on every stroll through the garden. Have buds swelled since yesterday, or last week, and are paperbushes in more shaded areas ahead or behind? Without the distraction of more than a few blooms, there is ample time to check the tiniest details.

‘Diabolo’ ninebark

A too shaded ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Monlo’, above) perished earlier this year, though perhaps this was due to excessive rainfall that spelled the doom of others in the past year. I notice today an unanticipated benefit of this disappointing loss. The pendulous European beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Pendula’), that should be featured in the garden, but is hardly seen, is now visible from a certain angle on the patio beside the koi pond.

The huge, but mostly hidden beech has long been a regrettable error in the design of the garden. Only the top has been seen, with the ninebark and a clump of fringetrees (Chionanthus virginicus) in front, but now there is a view to the ground when standing in the correct spot. Not the best, but an improvement. I regret that the accident of the ninebark’s demise was necessary, but happily I will accept the improved view of this wonderful tree.