Tag: Tree care

Epic Fail in My Landscape

dead shrubsIn 2017, I designed and installed a whole new front foundation bed. It took almost a year for me to even design it, as I wanted to find the most obscure plants for my garden. No ordinary plants for me!!

I noticed a new plant being offered at a few nurseries of mine called First Editions® Amber Jubilee® Ninebark or it’s original name, Physocarpus opulifolius ‘Jefam’. Basically, Monrovia bought the rights to ‘Jefam’ and changed it’s name to patent it.

Common Ninebark’s are native here, so I didn’t question the hardiness of this shrub. I thought it’s orange leaves in this variety would be a wonderful addition to my landscape.

Sadly, this spring they barely leafed out. All five shrubs are toast. At $45 a pop at wholesale, that was a hit to my pocketbook. Hubby will be doing me the pleasure of removing them. I’ve decided large perennials would be a better choice for this location. We will be painting the house next spring and they will be safe underground opposed to these shrubs next to the house. The replacement cost is five times lower, also.

So, what happened here!?!

Well. Here are a few thoughts that ran through my mind:

  • They were planted at the correct depth, mulched and watered correctly.
  • They were planted in the correct exposure, 6 hours of sun.
  • There wasn’t an herbicide accident or outside force that took them out.
  • No animal damage.
  • Yes, sometimes things just die.

As a horticulturist, I do take this personally. I don’t understand how something can just die on my watch! I do know there are forces in nature that we as humans can’t understand yet. I get it.

The thing I did find interesting is that these plants started being advertised by Monrovia in 2014. I’m not sure how long the original ‘Jefam’ had been around. In 2017, nurseries were full of them. This year, they aren’t listed in any of the inventories. This tells me that the plant wasn’t popular or didn’t over-winter well at the nurseries. If a nursery can’t keep a plant alive, who could?

In the end, I figured my story would make non-professional gardeners feel better. Things do die in the landscape, even under the watchful eye of an educated horticulturist.

PS – I wrote this post before I ripped them out of the landscape and didn’t want to do a whole rewrite…

There is another possibility/reason they croaked. Their root systems were very week and undeveloped, a nursery management issue. Nurseries sell by pot size and actual size. Most likely the nursery had many orders for these and sold them sooner than they should have from a recent upsize in pot. Immature plants with under-developed root systems survive just fine under drip irrigation and climate control. Once out in the real world (like kids after college), they don’t realize how tough the real world is. These ripped out of the ground with little effort, as the rootball was only he size of a softball. It should have been the size of a basketball, at least.

© The Naturarian

It’s Zimmerman Pine Moth Time!

Zimmerman pine moth’s pitch tube on pine.

Any time there is a drought the previous summer/fall, Austrian, Scots, and red pines of the Midwest are susceptible to the Zimmerman pine moth (Dioryctria zimmermani). Why? In a nutshell, if a tree has enough water (turgid), any boring insect would get pushed out via the high pressure of fluids in the tree. This is why it it important to be sure your trees are getting enough water in the autumn.

White, tan or rust-colored resin flowing on the trunk could indicate the presence of the moth’s caterpillar-like larva. Finding one or two boring points is usually of no concern. Heavier infestations could cause weakened trees to become susceptible to other pests and diseases, eventually killing the tree. Heavily infested trees should be removed, so they don’t become a nursery for the moths.

It is critical to understand the life cycle of the Zimmerman pine moth [ZPM] for proper management. The tiny caterpillar over-winters in a silken cocoon-like structure just under the bark. Now, in the early spring, the caterpillars feed on the bark for a week or two, then tunnel into the main trunk, usually in a whorl area. Resin is pushed out by the insect causing a ‘pitch tube’. Fresh pitch tubes are white to tan, the consistency of lard and have a shiny appearance. Old tubes are yellow to grey, crystallized and hard, with a dull appearance. It is important not be confused by old tubes and new, which all together, may look like an infestation.

In mid-summer, the caterpillars pupate either inside the external resin or within their tunnels. At this time, it may be possible to kill the pupa by hitting the resin with a rubber mallet. I love organic cures!

The adults emerge as small grey moths in mid to late August. These moths fly at night and are rarely seen. Females lay their eggs on the trunk under the bark, thus beginning the cycle.

Management of ZPM begins with tree care including proper mulching, watering, pruning and fertilization. Healthy trees do not get attacked.

Insecticides should be applied during the two vulnerable times in the ZPM cycle. These times are mid to late April, as the over-wintering caterpillars become active, and in August, when the female moth has just laid her eggs and the caterpillars are searching for over wintering sites. Indicator plants for these spray times are when the saucer magnolia is in pink bud to early bloom, or in mid to late summer when panicle hydrangea is pink. Spraying branches and foliage is not necessary & wasteful.  Permethrin or bifenthrin are preventative sprays that are available for use by homeowners. Spraying at any other time is inefficient, as it has no effect and the insecticide may kill predators of the Zimmerman pine moth.

© The Naturarian

A Broken Tree ~ Why Arborist’s Cry

damaged treeAlthough this story doesn’t have a happy ending, it must be told to prevent future devastation.

We were camping at one of our local campgrounds last October and this tree was on our site. I normally love to put supporting links to campgrounds in my blog, however I’m going to be anonymous on this one. For us, this campground is close (under an hour drive) and is on a river we like to kayak on. Sadly though, they don’t care for their campground whatsoever. Almost every tree in the campground is injured in one way or another. Many are ready to fall on campers with a good gust of wind! I cringe when I see these situations, as what am I to do? Tell the family of 6 to move their camper now, before you lose a few of your chitlins from a downed tree? I’d get a “Pffft, we’re fine, you crazy, tree lady!” Yeah, don’t mind the lady with the ‘Risk Assessment Arborist’ badge on her lapel. =-P

I’ve pondered highly about saying something to the owners of such campgrounds. I would think that they would love the free information from a licensed arborist! Of course, I can give constructive criticism without being accusatory. No one wants to be told they don’t know what they’re doing  😉 However, I’ve done this once with nasty repercussions.

I was at a campground that had poison ivy everywhere in spades! Some hung into the paths that people walk on. I mentioned this to the owner, who told me, “What am I supposed to do about it?” I said that there are landscapers that care for these types of situations and his reply was that he didn’t have the money to do it and people will just have to avoid it. I told him he could put up a sign that identifies the area and show folks what poison ivy looks like. He said he didn’t want people to be afraid to camp there and campers should know what PI looks like! This campground was charging $72 a night, without sewer. This is an outrageous fee, for you non-campers. Normal rates are about $30-$40, with sewer, at a private campground.

Sometimes, there’s really no risk involved in the landscape. Many times it’s just a plant health problem or an aesthetic thang.

Take a look at the photos of this tree… From a layman’s perspective, it may not look like there are any issues at all. However, upon further inspection, do you notice how large the trunk is compared to the canopy of the tree? A few years ago, the whole top of this tree broke off. Then the tree sent out a bunch of shoots from the broken trunk to compensate for the loss of its food-making leaves. These branches are not attached to the tree very well and can break with little effort. As you can see, many of the branches are dying already.

The last photo is of the root-crown and how it was planted. This tree had little chance from day one of ever surviving. It was buried too deep and has multiple girdling roots, which are roots that circle the trunk and only get tighter as the tree grows, cutting off its circulation, in layman’s terms.

Can this tree be saved? No. Its structure has been so compromised, there’s really no way to prune it back to a healthy shape.

Just like Prince sang, “This is what is sounds like…. when Arborists cry.”  😉 Or some thing like that!!


© The Naturarian

Identifying Diplodia Tip Blight in Pines

Diplodia tip blight is a disease of pines in the Midwest area and the treatment window will soon be upon us. This disease is caused by the fungus Sphaeropsis sapinea and highly effects two-needled pines such as Austrian, scotch, mugo and red, but can infect all evergreens. Here, our Austrian Pines are the most affected and are no longer planted here.

pine with blight on needles

The disease will eventually kill the tree, but can take a long time, without treatment (5 years-ish). Although treatments can slow the process, careful thought is needed in a budgetary sense. The tree will begin to have die-back (larger branch death) and will require regular pruning to be aesthetically pleasing… if that’s even possible. Treatments can be costly, worse-case ineffective, if not applied correctly. The cost of removal will go up as the tree gets larger or becomes more hazardous to fell. In the end, depending where the tree is located, along with the ‘value’ placed on the tree, it may be more cost-effective to remove the tree and replace it as soon as diagnosed.

blight on pine needle

The Diplodia fungus overwinters on infected needles, cones, and within the bark of twigs. Spores are released from spring through late fall. New shoots are infected during the spring from bud break to the end of the growing season. The cones are infected during the spring of the second season, as it takes two years for cones to mature.

Spread of the disease is by the splashing of water, be it rain or over-head irrigation. Because this disease tends to overwinter and spread from infected cones, symptoms are first noticeable on the lower branches, as old cones collect under the tree. Symptoms of infected trees become visible in summer through fall and resemble stunted needle growth and yellowing. Spores can be seen on the needles & old cones as black dots. Because cones are more susceptible to infection, younger, non-cone bearing trees are often symptom-free.

Managing Diplodia tip blight focuses on tree health and sanitation. Providing proper care such as no overhead (and proper) watering, mulching, pest management and fertilization, helps suppress the disease. Removal of diseased cones from the ground helps, but is not practical in large stands of pines. Pruning of infected tips will aesthetically improve the tree, but will do little in the stop of the disease.

Severely infected trees should be removed. A fungicide spray program needs to be implemented in the spring and includes at least three applications. Make the first application just prior to bud break* (which will be soon) and make two additional applications at 10-day intervals. It is important to get the first application on the trees before any bud sheaths have broken (the papery tan cover). If the tree you’re trying to save is of high value, consult a licensed ISA arborist, as the chemicals available to professionals are usually more effective.

* Indicator plants to watch for blooming that coincide with bud break:

  • Spiraea x vanhouttei – Vanhoutti Spirea
  • Cercis canadensis – Eastern Redbud
  • Chaenomeles speciosa – Quince
  • Syringa vulgaris – Common Lilac

© The Naturarian