Feathers and Sprouts

A couple of days ago, I saw a new bird through my kitchen window. He wasn’t at the feeder; instead, he was perched on the broad trunk of the maple tree that grows by our front porch and shades the koi pond. After doing some searching, I concluded that he MIGHT be a red-breasted sapsucker.

Red-breasted sapsucker... probably
Red-breasted sapsucker… probably

Anyway, I carefully crept out onto the porch to get a picture — after snapping a few through the kitchen window, just to be safe — and I got one good one before he flew away. As I turned back to the house, I saw something startling on the hydrangea next to the front door: green buds and emerging leaves! Last year, this plant didn’t put out a single leaf until, if I remember correctly, late May or even June. Perhaps coincidentally, it had also been cut back almost to ground level the previous year. And it had barely flowered. We decided that this year we just wouldn’t cut it at all, since some hydrangeas bloom from second-year canes. So that could be the reason it’s leafing out so early — maybe hydrangeas always do this, and last year the cutting back damaged it? The previous owners also mentioned that last winter had some especially hard freezes that could have slowed growth, too.

Leaf buds on a hydrangea... in December!
Leaf buds on a hydrangea… in December!

Of course I squelched barefoot off the porch to get a picture of the miraculous leaf buds, and as I did, I noticed suspiciously anenome-shaped leaves swaying in the breeze next to the marker labeled “Anenome” that I’d pushed into the soil where I’d planted bulbs. Glancing along the front garden, I saw more green. The kids were inside without me, eating lunch, so I couldn’t prowl around with the camera as much as I wanted to. That had to wait till Friday morning, when Niko was in school and Sofia was napping. I wandered around and found more and more new growth. One that particularly surprised me was the raised bed of chrysanthemums. Last year, the bed was empty until early summer, when the dead-looking roots I’d been refraining from disturbing finally started sending up shoots. I was glad I’d left them, of course. I figured I’d just have to deal with a long bed filled with nothing until midsummer every year. But this year we have green in December. Who knows, maybe they’ll flower in April this year!

And all of this is happening before Christmas. It’s not even midwinter yet. I’m not sure what to think. Do I need to be worried about frost damage? Is this normal? I want to be excited, but as this is my first year gardening in Oregon, I’m reserving judgement.

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