What an awkward but accurate title for this post.
You see, it's been almost a year since the "oatmeal snow". That's how I heard it described when I came back into town after a short trip last November. And then I looked out the bathroom window and wondered why I could see that white house across the pond better than ever before.
This early snow had been wet and heavy, with a consistency like concrete. It crushed the beautiful lilac tree that graced the space out my bathroom window, whose arching limbs formed an umbrella of lavender blooms every spring. With its limbs cracked and splayed from the center, there was no coming back.
But what about the daphnes? Five shrubs, partly the shrub backbone of the courtyard garden, their light gray limbs bent and broken. I imagined digging them out and waiting for something new to fill in the holes in this very visible garden.
Daphne "Carol Mackie" didn't start out as one of my favorites, actually finding her way to my garden by way of a local garden designer. But then I came upon scenes like this..
How could you not love foliage like that? Blue-green with a gold band that became more cream into the season. Just enough variegation to define itself from the green uni-blob of summer. But enough variegation to light up a shady spot. Oh, and the flowers, not insignificant, not inconsequential, but more lke a bonus, pale pink to white fragrant clusters in early to late spring.
As the winter went on and became the fourth snowiest one on record, the snow continued to pile up. And without anywhere else for it to go, the damaged daphnes disappeared under the growing heaps.
When I first moved here I was intrigued by trees that were bowed to the ground. How I wondered could a tree just lean over and form a semi circle with itself. While some snap with the weight of snow and ice, others bend until they meet the earth again making arboreal arcs in the forest.
When the snow finally melted mid-April, I could see the daphnes were nowhere as near as charming as these curving trees. In fact they dragged down the entire garden design with their crippled posture and lack of leaves. I made plans to replace them. Often labeled as hardy to zone 5, maybe they weren't meant to be in Minnesota.
I'd like to say it was a "wait and see" approach that saved them, but it was more like a "didn't get around to it" reprieve.
Then two things happened. As the time came near to have the lilac tree removed, a few faint blossoms appeared on the daphnes, the pink flowers the same shade as apple blossoms I thought. Tired of being impaled by the lilac branches across the path, I got out the pruners and started trimming. I lopped off one that formed a perfect "Y". And then I thought, why not. Why not make crutches like the ones they use in apple orchards for ancient trees?
I loved the idea of recycling one plant to help another, but in this case, one tree to help five shrubs. It seemed fitting. Even though at the time I didn't think it would work completely.
Nonetheless I fashioned a number of these crutches, little ones and big ones, short one and tall ones, and positioned them under all the daphnes at various points, forcing the branches upwards but not too far.
Lo and behold as the summer progressed, it became evident my little plant support operation was a success, and one of the more gratifying gardening experiences I've had lately.