This Year I Finally Didn’t Hate My Tree Peony

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Hate is really the wrong word for the way I feel about my tree peony. Colossal waste of space would generally sum it up much better. I am not one who generally hates blooming plants (or any plants or other living things).

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What generally happens to this glorious plant is that its bloom tends to coincide with our first heat wave. And so its flowers tend to want to do this.

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Notice the flower in front hiding behind the leaf. They tend to bloom for all of one day, then fry, and burn up and they’re done. It’s so disappointing.

This year, we didn’t have an early heat wave. The plant bloomed for over a week. In over 25 years living in this house, I have never seen this. It’s been spectacular.

So all is forgiven.

Smooth Hydrangea Pest

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Something’s clearly not right with the leaves of this hydrangea. Several of them are all glued or stuck together at the top.

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If you look at this photo of the peeled opened leaf cluster, you can see several holes that have been chewed in the leaves, as well as small black dots. That’s caterpillar frass (the polite term for its excrement).

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And here, just barely visible, (look for the tiny black head) is the creature known as the hydrangea leaftier.

It doesn’t affect all hydrangeas. As the title of my post indicates, only smooth hydrangeas are susceptible. If you’re not sure what smooth hydrangeas are, they are ones with names like ‘Annabelle,’ Invincibelle Spirit and Incrediball. The botanical name is hydrangea arborescens.

How do you treat these? It’s very simple. You prune them off as soon as you see them. Since this type of hydrangea blooms on new wood, the sooner you catch them, the better it is.

Insecticides are unlikely to work because the insect is so deep inside the leaf pocket so don’t waste your time.

The sooner you get them, the fewer you’ll have. So keep your eyes open if you have this type of hydrangea. A little preventative pruning goes a long way to keeping them happy!

“Holiday” Gardening

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I am not sure that I have ever talked about this before but this is an idea that I used when I worked in retail gardening and I still use it for myself as a handy “marker” to remember important things. I often talk about it in my lectures.

What am I talking about? Well, I key important things in the garden to regional or national holidays. And of course, this is not original to me.

The famous fertilizer company “4-step plan” is based on something similar–the concept of phenology, of when plants bloom.

I found, however, that folks had no idea when plants bloom (or in some instances, what the blooming plants referenced by the fertilizer company were!)

So I changed it up a bit. Here in the United States, everyone knows when Income Tax day is (April 15) or that Mother’s Day is the second weekend in May. Memorial Day is the last weekend in May.

For us here in Connecticut, the lilacs (above) bloom at Mother’s Day. It’s true even in this exceptionally cold spring. So that’s a good marker for folks.

There are some particularly nasty sawfly larva that come out some time between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day, depending on temperatures. One skelatonizes rose leaves; the other attacks mugo pine. If I were to say “watch for these in May,” that’s pretty vague. But to say, “keep your eyes open between Mother’s Day and Memorial Day,” now folks have some idea of the timeframe to check their plants.

I even use it to remember that one of my favorite migratory birds, the catbird, usually returns around Mother’s Day. This year it returned May 6.

So “holiday gardening” can be helpful for reminders. And who doesn’t need reminders now and again?

A Sea of Yellow

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Sometimes in gardening the best results are happy accidents. Both these plants–the golden creeping Jenny and the viola odorata ‘Freckles’ were not planted here. The creeping Jenny came from a container that I had here years ago and the violet has been naturalized all over my yard, most likely by ants, which like the eliaosome that violets have. Since I like the combination, I leave it.

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A few warm days have finally coaxed my ‘Elizabeth’ magnolia into bloom.

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And my kerria japonica is also blooming. It’s a little late this year. It often blooms about the same time as the forsythia.

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This is the close-up of the flowers. For some reason, the single flowered variety is less popular than the double flowered variety. But as I always say, we can’t all like the same thing.