At its best

Abundant rainfall in recent weeks has encouraged lush growth, possibly more than the typical lushness of May. Already, a few branches that veer to obstruct garden paths have been snipped, inevitably with more to come.

Today, the highlight of the garden must be the northern border that is colored by yellow, orange, and red Exbury azaleas (above) and three tall fringetrees (Chionanthus virginicus, below). In recent years, the azalea border has been extended with additional varieties and with several native azaleas that will flower a few weeks later. Newcomers are no more than waist height, so there is a while before these reach fifteen feet to match the Exburys. There is always something to justify the claim that next year will be even better.

A Chinese fingetree (Chionanthus retusus ‘Tokyo Tower’) on the lower side of the koi pond grows vigorously, but flowers sparsely the past two years. Perhaps there is damage from fluctuating winter temperatures, as mophead hydrangeas have suffered inordinately even with a mild winter. All mopheads have required extensive pruning of dead tips, so the first blooms are likely to be delayed on remontant types that flower on new, spring growth. This bud damage is a bit of a mystery with mild winter temperatures, but I suppose that alternating mild and chilly weather must be the culprit.

I am surprised by the impact of the removal of a large, variegated redbud that began leaning a decade ago, but became worse in recent years and intolerable after a clinging snow in early January when it leaned to touch the ground The void was anticipated, and two small trees planted, but it will be a few years before these make much of a show.

The rebud’s removal does open a better view of the azaleas, at least for several years until a red flowered Kousa dogwood (Cornus kousa ‘Scarlet Fire’, above) grows to fill the space. Still, the azaleas were splendid intermingled with a mature redbud, so I expect May to be equally glorious in future years.

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