Continuing with yesterday’s garden theme, I want to tell you about the miracles that I’ve witnessed. Even after 20 years of gardening experience, I’m still surprised at the magic in the yard.
After two extremely cold, harsh winters, I had more than a few doubts about the survival of some of my more tender plants.
I have a pair of hydrangeas that we planted over a decade ago. Since that time I’ve seen a total of ONE small bloom. My poor plants seem to freeze back to the ground every January and hydrangeas are the type of shrub that forms blooms on the second-year’s growth. In other words, if the stems don’t live at least two years, I won’t get any flowers.
The root ball continues to live and each year I hold out hope that the new branches will somehow survive the cold of winter and give me big beautiful blooms the next summer. Not so…
Until this year.
I don’t know what happened. The snow and cold was here in February – I remember shoveling the long driveway (several times). Yet my hydrangeas have sprouted new leaves and flower buds on last year’s growth. Color me surprised! My dream of a hydrangea hedgerow lives on.
Over at the other side of the yard, four of my rhododendrons are suffering from a severe case of Deer-itis. Those cloven hooved devils chewed them down to spindly toothpicks, taking off every spec of tender green growth. Now, rhododendrons are normally deer resistant, but it seems that hunger knows no bounds in the dead of winter.
Once again, there’s a miracle at work. New leaves have sprouted from the bottom of the plant. Those established root balls are not ready to throw in the towel just yet. No flowers this year but I’m thankful for the second surge.
Even the blueberry patch was hit by the cold. Blueberries are another plant where you only get flowers (and later fruit) on second-year growth. My blueberries have suffered in the extreme cold. I thought for sure they were gone and considered transplanting what I could dig up in the hopes of saving a young shoot from a set of very old plants. You see, these are high-bush blueberries with a very nice taste and heavy fruit production. I don’t know the variety but they have lived on the property longer than I have and I enjoy fresh berries starting at the 4th of July and continuing for the next 30 days. Husband #2 and I used to spend 15 minutes a day picking and chatting.
But I was surprised again.
As I trimmed off dead wood, I wondered if there was any hope. Literally 2/3’s of each plant was gone. It looked as if all hope was lost.
Until you looked down.
The base of each plant has produced dozens of new green suckers working to replace the old, dead stems. No, there won’t be any berries this year but next year is looking hopeful.
Which brings me to the clematis.
Not so much a tragedy of winter, this one is my own doing. I had to fix a leaning arbor and in order to level out the base, I cut two clematis vines down to the ground so I could move the arbor to the side temporarily.
Prior to the hacking, the clematis were spindly and wild looking, climbing their was about 5 feet up the arbor on either side. Yes, I would trim each plant back to 1/3 of its height in early spring as I was told. And the plants would flower, but not heavily.
This year they are on steroids.
From stumpy little stems they have roared forward to completely coat the arbor in vines and currently tower over 7 ft high. And the blooms are spectacular!
After all of this confirms something I heard many years ago. Gardeners will tell you that new plant shoots on an old established root will grow faster and stronger than the original plant.
I wonder if this applies to people as well. I’m putting it to the test as my old self was cut down to the ground. What will my new growth look like once it starts to bloom?