Monday, December 15, 2014

Doctor's Visit

Last week the doctor came.

Mike, the arborist from Bartlett Tree Experts, scheduled a visit to check on the health of my property and see what my trees and shrubs might need in the coming year.

I like Bartlett because they do not hawk expensive services that aren't needed. They assess, and they will recommend, but you have to tell them how much intervention (for pests) or how much change (pruning or planting) you really want. They don't push anything.

I like Mike because he genuinely loves trees and can talk for hours with me at a level that most gardeners or visitors can't. He shows me pruning techniques, educates me on what to look for in tree health and marvels at what I've planted.

We had to walk around for 45 minutes in pretty appalling weather, but I enjoyed every minute of it.

Here's what the doctor says:

The older black gum in front needs to have a leader selected -- it's trying to grow up and out in two directions. I had noticed that too. Same thing with the new katsura, it has strong competing leaders and one has to be selected.
The confused black gum in front. It needs a leader established

We need to pick one tall central branch and reduce the others

We could stop spraying the paper birches and see how they do with black spot and defoliation without the fungicide. I don't want to do that, though.

My tilted Cornus mas in the Driveway Garden is canted over because it is really too wet. The roots can't hold onto the mushy soil. I had noticed damp wet and puddles in that spot but didn't realize how it was affecting the corneliancherry dogwood there. Move it? What to do. . .
I've staked it upright for a couple seasons, but when the stake
is removed it goes sideways again

He is as mystified as I am about the 'Orange Dream' Japanese maple in the Birch Garden forming congested branching every summer, almost like witches' brooms. It gets too much sun and is prone to scorching. Mike speculated that when the long graceful new branching in spring starts to scorch in summer the branches die back at the tips. All the growth then goes into a bunchy clump below the die back point. I think he's right. What to do -- I can't get the poor thing more shade.
In June you see the dieback on the tips.
By August bunchy leaf growth will form below the dieback.

The brown dead branches of the blue spruces on the berm won't recover. He explained all five have needle dieback problems but the three that get more sun have enough sugar in their needles to grow and fight off the pathogens. The two on the right, in more shade from the river birch, can't produce enough sugar to keep their shaded branches from succumbing to the disease.
A lot of dieback on the lower, shaded branches
Bartlett will prune the rampant river birches and get their branches up off the spruces this winter, but I am going to ask them to take out the two most defoliated spruces. The berm will look different -- there will still be a grouping of three spruces on one side, but I have to rethink a planting plan for the right side under the river birch.
The dieback won't recover even if it gets more sun in the future

The 'Dawn' viburnum is a mess. A wildly arching branchy whippy mess of a plant. Mike said to just do topping cuts all over -- not the usual advice -- and try to create some side branching, but we both had a good laugh over how ungainly the thing is.

Root flares need to be excavated on several trees, but it's minor and can be done by hand, so I'll do that in late winter. More pruning needs to take place on a couple other trees, and I can do that too.

The 'Bloodgood' Japanese maple by the deck is in pretty dire straits, and Mike is concerned, but Bartlett will continue to treat the phytophthera problem. They are now trying a soil drench that is nothing more than potassium, but it seems to help. Trial and error. He says not to despair, but. . . am I on a death watch?
Like the 'Orange Dream' maple, you can see the empty leafless tips of this 'Bloodgood' Japanese maple.
Phytophthera canker has killed a third or more of the trunk and the top branches can't get what they need.

The doctor made his recommendations, took notes, and will put together a plan for keeping my arboretum healthy next year.

We all benefit from an annual check up. At least "diet and exercise" didn't come up. My own doctor is on about that again . . .

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