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Report From An Opinionated Gardener – January 18

I spoke to a lovely garden club in Chatham today, and one of the questions at the end of the program was about a Kousa dogwood. This woman was wondering why their tree bloomed so well in 2009 but had no flowers in 2010.

She wasn’t alone. Many in the area had poor flowering, not only on Cornus kousa, but on rhododendrons and lilacs as well. All of these are spring or early summer bloomers, I reminded this audience. They form the buds of next year’s flowers in the mid to late summer the year before. Then I asked them to remember what the weather was like in July and early August in 2009. Wet and cold, wet and cold, wet and cold.

That cold, rainy season affected the formation of flower buds for the spring to come, much as a very cold winter will freeze the hydrangea buds for next summer.

There’s nothing we can do about any of this; the weather is beyond our control. Being in the present, and doing what we can right now is the most important of course. Nevertheless, we can often answer questions or anticipate what we’ll be dealing with by looking forward and back.

Normally the Kousa dogwood is a reliable plant for this area. Some keep them as multi-stemmed large shrubs, and others let them grow to be medium sized trees.

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