|Above: two shots (including one close-up) of Rhododendron lutescens taken last year, and one newer one (note how much larger the plant is) taken this spring—author photos. Below, Rhododendron kesangiae. Photo courtesy High Beeches Garden, England. |
My topic this week will definitely not be of any great interest to my southern Ontario (and similar climates) readers but I think I should write on a topic of particular concern to many gardeners here in British Columbia.
No matter where I go here in the Oceanside area (mid-Vancouver-Island) I encounter folks who ask gardening questions. Beginning late last summer, the most common question I heard was, “How come my fruit trees didn’t have any fruit this year?”
Initially my response was one of dismay, but once I thought about the particularly cool spring we had last year I began to wonder if that might have been the answer. This spring it has started all over again with gardeners wondering whether their “trees will bear this year?”
That is when I start to sound pessimistic because virtually everyone out here this year is complaining how cold it is this spring. Just this week CTV National News did an item on the suffering Okanagan Valley wine producers that included interviews with at least two major wine makers. They are all saying their vines are still not showing any actual growth from the dormant bud stage, and as I look at our own grape vine here (a seedless red variety) we have the same problem.
Now, after the cool spring last year, we actually had a wonderful summer with hardly any rain, and good moderate temperatures. But, as regards all those fruit trees that did not produce any fruit, I think it was likely a case of the damage being done during those many cold weeks in the spring. In our own case, the wild cherry did produce some fruit (a reduced amount) but our apple tree did not produce any apples. In both cases we had good flowering for a shortened period of time.
Who knows what is going to happen this year! Some of the early flowering trees (cherries, plums etc.) are in full flower now, and due to the cold nights (down to almost zero every night for at least the last two weeks) they are lasting in full flower for a significantly extended period of time. Many other trees and shrubs are at least two weeks, and many are a month behind their normal blooming time. The Forsythia are still in flower and the Star magnolias are in full bloom finally, but the Saucer magnolias are still in the tight bud stage.
It was interesting to note on the CTV News item this week, no mention was made of other fruit growers’ concerns. In a search of ‘The Web’ the only other group who seem to be complaining about this year’s very slow and late spring is the marijuana growers (an illegal activity!).
I think if anything points to a distinct lack of fruit this summer, it is our current situation now. For many gardeners it may be a similar situation to last year.
Just how far behind we are is indicated here in our own garden by a couple of flowering shrubs which I photographed each year at their peak of bloom. Perhaps the best example is the Rhododendron lutescens—a lovely yellow-early-flowering Rhodo. The photo of this plant that ran with my April 10 article on this site was taken on April 5th this year. I have included it this week as well. Last year, my pictures of the same plant were taken on March 11—three days short of four weeks earlier than this year. And, this is a plant which does well in cool weather!
Just how far behind we are is also indicated here by the length of the ski season. Nearby Mount Washington (adjacent to Courtenay/Comox an hour north of us) has been in full operation since last fall and is only closing this Monday (April 25). They had more snow this year than ever since records were kept! And yet, we only had two light falls that lasted at the most three days.
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Not for any particular reason, I shall conclude this week’s item with news of a new Rhododendron. High Beeches Garden (Haywards Heath, West Sussex, England) has applied to register Rhododendron kesangiae 'Royal Wedding' in honor of Prince William and Kathleen Middleton's marriage on April 29. Seedlings of the pink R. kesangiae were collected by Edward Boscawen of High Beeches during a botanical trip in Bhutan (between India and China) in 1987.
The species was named after the country's Queen Kesangiae. Some of these are now flowering in the care of High Beeches Garden, with one flowering this year for the first time.
Edward Boscawen's daughter Sarah Bray, who is now responsible for High Beeches, said: "We are delighted that we have a new form of a particularly fine rhododendron and that it is outstanding enough to be named in honour of the royal wedding."