Winter seemed especially challenging this year, with numerous nasty storms battering our shores, reminding us all that Mother Nature can be brutal on Cape Cod and the Islands. As I write this, we are recovering from February’s “Winter-cane” Nemo, which lashed the Cape from stem to stern, leaving thousands without power for days on end underneath more than a foot of heavy snow. At our house in Centerville, we huddled around a wood stove for three days, grateful for some heat, but marveling at what the challenges of daily life on the Cape must have been before electricity and central heating.
We watched our trees bend in hurricane-force winds and were saddened when we lost an enormous Norway spruce in our front yard. Most of our shrubs were completely buried, bending beneath frozen ice and snow. When the sun finally appeared, my husband and I noticed that all our hydrangeas, even the delicate lacecap varieties, had survived just fine.
As I sit here looking out at our snowy landscape, it is hard to imagine that in two months our hydrangeas will be covered with green buds, preparing to burst into multi-colored bloom. I have learned by trial and error how to care for these hardy imports (most hydrangeas are native to Japan, another fragile maritime environment) which have taken to Cape Cod and the Islands like ducks to water, an apt image since hydrangeas love moist climates. As Joan Brazeau of the Cape Cod Hydrangea Society said in a spring pruning workshop I attended at Sandwich’s Heritage Museums and Gardens: “So long as they have adequate water, hydrangeas grow in the wild just fine without pruning and you can just let them go—but pruning and fertilizing will give you bigger blossoms and a better shape.”
Hydrangeas can teach you a lot about Mother Nature, and in this issue, we celebrate our coastal environment with a feature story on everything hydrangea, including a list of our favorite varieties and several pruning tips; a guide to freshwater fishing on the Cape; and a tour of places on the Cape and Islands where spring comes alive with special—and sometimes hidden—majesty. Our freelance writer Amanda Wastrom spoke to four people who know these lands better than most, and they told her where the shadblow bursts beautifully into bloom, how to find the golden marshes that turn glorious spring green first, and what birds to search for as our world brightens into the glory that is every summer.
The old-time gardeners say that blankets of snow are good for spring bloomers, protecting the roots of flowers, trees, and shrubs from extremes of temperature and damaging winds like the 70-plus-mile-an-hour gusts that tore through Cape Cod. I am comforted by this as I look out at the frozen tundra of our yard—but I cannot wait for spring to come again, which must have been an amazing gift for those who lived here centuries ago.
We hope you celebrate Cape Cod’s awakening season with us on the pages of our springtime Cape Cod LIFE!
Susan Dewey, Associate Publisher & Editor
- Posted in Susan Dewey's Blog