Hello and welcome to the 2018 series of bloom reports for Rhododendron State Park in Fitzwilliam, NH!
Normally, as is the case this year the flowers of the native Rhododendron maximus at the grove in Fitzwilliam don’t start to open up until after the beginning of the month of July, with the most blooms visible during the second or third week. Exact timing of the bloom is always difficult to predict, but count on the middle of July for the best show. Last year (2017) the bloom came a few days early, but the best show was still between the second and third week of July.
The regional weather, among other more mysterious things, can have a profound effect on plants in general. One constant aspect that will not be changing anytime soon barring any hideous planetary misfortune, is the amount of dark time (some will say “photoperiod” but it’s really the amount of dark hours that plants measure) a plant receives that governs its seasonal activity. So why does the weather affect the bloom time? A simple explanation: every sort of plant needs a certain range of temperature for a certain amount of time in order to trigger its activities (not to mention moisture, another important ingredient for growth and blooms that is always affected by the weather).
Speaking of which, the wide fluctuation of thermometer readings this last winter was hard on a large number of plants including some of the hybridized and cultivated Rhododendrons that are now starting to flower. Mostly the leaves, but some flower buds as well are looking pretty brown from desiccation (drying out). Rhododendrons are well equipped to resist drying by curling and drooping their leaves during cold and/or dry spells – it often happens during the summer as well – so it follows that conditions were severe enough during the winter months to overcome the defense that rhododendrons evolved to survive – or was it also the very dry August of 2017 that contributed?
At least at the grove in Fizwilliam, I observed very little evidence of such damage. Is it because they are native? Perhaps. But they also are protected by trees above and wet soil below. This combination in itself may be enough. Who knows?
Until next time,