Writings about

the many life lessons

unearthed when we dig

in the dirt . . . and pursue

a wide range of other interests

in the constantly changing

garden of life.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

When Bloom Time Is Off-Time


Last week, at Town and Country Nurseries in nearby Haddam I noticed a rhododendron unlike any of mine: low-growing, small leaves. But most surprising, it was in bloom. Still is. It’s mid-October, and it’s . . . still . . . in . . . bloom.

Lauren, my enabler at the garden center, was as amazed as I was. As we talked, we examined the plant more closely and discovered buds promising more pink blooms. I suppose they’ll open fully in November. 

This late-bloomer is not some strange cultivar; it’s Rhododendron ‘Wilsonii’, not one I’ve grown before but certainly no stranger in the rhoddy world. Nothing I’ve read about it says anything about fall blooms; it usually blooms in spring like it’s larger cousins.

So what’s going on?

Lauren and I could only speculate that last winter’s warmth may have disrupted the bloom cycle. That seemed likely to me, as my big rhoddies did not bloom this year, and only one has buds now. The way the year is going, it might bloom in December. 

This big little Wilsonii surprise makes up for the un-bloomers. And to extend the pleasure, I’m not messing with it at all: I’m leaving the yellowing leaves where they are. And I’m not going to repot it until spring. When, for all I know it might bloom again. Ahhh, climate change.

No matter how much my social conscience reminds me that plants gone haywire, blooming off-time, should not be cause for celebration, I look at these flowers, which may be the canaries of our overheated planet, and I can't help loving what I see.


22 comments:

  1. Oooo, I love these canaries too. I wouldn't mind if one flew into my garden. I might have to go stroll through the nurseries here tomorrow.

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    1. Let me know if you get lucky on your canary hunt; I'm guessing there are a few out your way too.

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  2. So true, Lee, we had many more butterflies than normal this summer and while it was enchanting, I couldn't quite get rid of that small yellow warning light in my mind. Then again, the only constant in life is change :)

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    1. Indeed, what would life and gardening be if they weren't filled with change?

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  3. Hey Lee, You came across a real find. Those smaller growing rhododendrons are indeed a real prize. I've not grown Wilsonii, but I do grow Chapmanii. It looks similar to the Wilsonii. The booms are pink, in clusters, small. It is a great shrub and I hope your new addition will grow really well in your garden.

    My large rhododendrons always open a few blooms in Sept/Oct. So does my Japanese magnolia? Think they are confused? Or Maybe it is just too warm. It is a lot warmer than it used to be in all seasons.

    The encore azaleas are blooming now. Does it strike you as odd that pink flowers seem to be out of place with all the reds, oranges, yellows and browns of Autumn?

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    1. Thank you, Barbara. Random blooms off-season always interest me, and I figure some come because something is different. But then, I remind myself that consistency never is guaranteed.

      Absolutely, it's odd seeing pink among what we think of as autumnal colors. The rhododendron pink certainly stands out in my garden.

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  4. What a nice little treasure you found, Lee! Lauren sounds like quite the accomplished "enabler." I think all of the untimely but appreciated blooms may be the canaries of our overheated planet too. :-)

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    1. Hey, Beth. Lauren doesn't have to work hard; she just says hello and lets me sell myself. My big accomplishment was leaving the nursery with only one of these rhoddies.

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  5. Conditions are certainly weirding out the plants lately. I also think stress from being confined in a pot causes off-time blooms. I have had container plants that color vividly or bloom in strange ways, but then revert to normal patterns once planted. But who can tell what climate oddness will do to all our gardens?

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    1. Good points, Laurrie; no telling what oddnesses we'll see next. Also, yes, plants do respond to stress by blooming; you ever intentionally stress them? I have. And this one will continue to stress because I'll put it into a container instead of in the ground. It could become my autumn rhododendron.

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    1. If it's not, it very well could *become one* in my garden, Sharon; I'll bonsai almost any plant that holds still.

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  7. When I was taking bloom day pictures the other day I thought I saw a flash of pink on one of my yaku Rhodies but was in too much of a rush to investigate further. I'll have to remember to take a closer look tonight. Maybe it's a trend.

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    1. Ummm, you'll have to let me know whether you're joining the off-time rhodie group. I hope you are.

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  8. The regular old rhodies at our house always have a little renaissance in October, producing a smaller flush of bloom before winter. I'm always surprised to see the flowers, even though this happens every fall. I should know by now.....
    The rest of the buds just stay closed until spring.

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    1. With my regular rhodies, it's one bloom in spring, and they're done. And this year, no blooms at all. You get a bonus bloom, with the same surprise over and over. I need to give mine a talking to.

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  9. I was on another blog where a bunch of sprig bloomers were also putting on a show. Odd indeed, but enjoying it is the best solution. :o)

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  10. Yep, in the end we succumb to pleasure.

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  11. Lee, we have a few Rhoddies blooming at our garden center and despite what horrible stresses they have experienced, it is quite fascinating. In our neck of the woods, we believe that the severe drought pushed many plants into dormancy. When the rains and cooler temps came, they were tricked into believing it might be spring and broke dormancy. We have seen many spring bloomers do their thing lately. It's odd, but like you, I get a kick out of seeing the blooms!

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    1. Greetings, Mario. Thanks for that Midwest report, which helps me understand what's happening with mine. Ironic that rhoddies are being tricked and we're getting treats during the Halloween month. Cheers!

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  12. Often my coast azaleas will sport a few flowers in the fall, although not this year. No real drought over the summer, maybe that's why.

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    1. Your experience shows it's a lost cause trying to predict exactly what's going to bloom when. Gardening's never boring, is it? Enjoy those azaleas whenever they flower.

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