In the garden, it’s the weather that always rules. Every year there is a week in May when the world is ablaze with flowers, but this year something is different.
I think it it is the dogwoods (Cornus florida}. I have not seen them bloom like this so extravagantly and full, since the advent of anthracnose fungus many years ago. Dogwood used to be our most beautiful spring flowering tree because the blooms open before the leaves come out and last a long, long time. Then the fungus attacked and the trees faded, barely surviving.
At first, quarantine and removal of diseased trees was recommended. Lots of infected trees were cut down. It didn’t stop the spread of the fungus. Those that were left struggled along, losing lower branches and barely blooming. But this year they are ablaze with flowers, a veritable canopy of white and pink beauty. The question is why, suddenly, so many flowers.
I asked the most knowledgeable gardeners I know. Some said the cold winter and long lasting snow on the ground protected them. But dogwoods set buds the summer before. Part of last summer was dry, and when trees are under drought stress they think they might die so they produce more flower buds. Some other experts said the spring was late (it was) so all the trees and shrubs flowered together, making this spring’s display so incredible. Other folks said that there were warm days this spring, then cool weather, then warmth again, which was the cause.
I wonder (and hope) that the anthracnose fungus has lost its virulence. Infestations, like fungi, diseases and insects, run in cycles. Their populations grow, peak, and then collapse, often taking years to complete. One theory blames sun spots, in cycles of 11 and 22 years, which affect the weather. Then there is global warming and its accompanying weather changes and drought. The Bible says even Moses predicted years of plenty and years of famine. The bottom line is: it always comes back to the weather.
By the time you read this, rain storms may have knocked the colored petals to the ground. The Japanese, who never waste a bit of subtle beauty, cherish this flowering garden carpet, though it lasts barely a day or two. One of the attractions of gardens is that they change almost daily and so excite our senses. Most people enjoy the movement, the flicker, the budding, the flowering and even the fading. The May garden is an ongoing reality show.
Ruth S. Foster is a landscape consultant and arborist. More gardening
information can be found on her website, www.mothersgarden.net.