What else can we attribute to an overly warm winter?
My climbing hydrangea hasn't bloomed and doesn't look
like it will. It usually does. What a loss. Could I have done this
by pruning it at the wrong time last year? - A.H. -
If climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala) is pruned
late in summer, after the next year's buds are formed at its branch
tips, that can reduce its next spring bloom by however many tip
buds were clipped away.
Your pruning and this year's performance may be totally
disconnected, however. Climbing hydrangeas all over our watch --
and we've been watching them from the Great Lakes to the East Coast
-- are not blooming well this year. Flowers are absent, few or have
so few showy petals that a viewer may overlook them entirely.
When something like this happens over such a large area we
figure a big-ticket factor has to be involved. Something a lot of
far-flung gardeners might have in common. For instance, the
It makes sense. Temperature and hydrangea blooms are already
linked. Growers who force potted mophead- and lacecap hydrangeas to
bloom out of season have proof that other hydrangeas'
flower bud development requires a certain level and duration of
cold between the end of one season and the beginning of the next.
They also know for certain that if temperatures are too warm during
the bud's second stage of growth, after dormancy, the blooms may be
small and lack color.
Climbing hydrangea isn't a pot crop grown for forcing but
it may share its cousins' developmental needs. In that case, the
unusually warm winter and spring just past may have nipped your
vine's bloom more completely than summer pruning ever could.
The climbing hydrangea inflorescence is huge -- that's one
flower cluster circled in orange, below. However, the
fertile flowers that make up the majority/center of the flower are
fairly dull. What the human eye admires are the sterile flowers
that ring the fertile cluster. Those aren't numerous, and have just
one set of petals. There goes the show, if their white petals fail
to develop because they did not receive the requisite hours in
unbroken below 40°F.
Then there's human timing to consider, too. Did we just fail
to look up in time to see climbing hydrangea blossoms in their
prime (below, left)? Once they pass peak (below, right), they
don't command much notice.
Let's just keep on blaming the weather for lots of things. We'll
use it to explain the phenomenal spread of some perennials that run
underground, from last fall to this spring.
There was no frost in the ground all winter in our neck of the
woods and it sure looks to us as if that constituted a field day
for many plants that spread by underground rhizomes: Solomon's seal
(Polygonatum species), queen of the prairie
(Filipendula rubra), and groundcovers like Canada anemone
(A. canadensis). Sure, they are spreaders in any
circumstance but this year some hit a new high. Ditto, some woody
sucker-producers, such as Japanese angelica tree, Aralia
elata, which is popping up 12-15 feet from the main trunk, 2x
Care to comment? Our
Forum is great for that -- you can post to exclaim or question
or just list what did well this winter, or not. We've tossed
the climbing hydrangea question up there already.