Monday, August 3, 2015

August Assessments

Boy did it rain last week. A line of thunderstorms brought almost two inches (!) of drenching rain last Thursday evening. It came down in windblown curtains. Noisy waterfalls ebbed and surged, stopped and then started again, pouring down and sounding like trains running over tracks. It was needed.

Summer is racing by. It's time to make assessments of what needs fixing next season. Here's what I think:

I don't need two sweetbay magnolias.
There are two sweetbay magnolias at the north corner of the house. The one in front of the window is taller, flowers more, and is just a statelier shape. The one at the corner is smaller. It was a smaller sapling when planted and was moved twice before it landed here at the corner.

It's too close to the house, it looks funny paired with its larger sibling, and somehow the form of one sweetbay looks nice, while this one looks weedy. It needs to go. I'll take it out.

Clematis Jackmanii 'Superba' has to move. 
It has outgrown its tower. It's eye catching in bloom, but the thing looks densely congested and it looms oddly in the open garden.


It needs to be taken out of this spot. I want to transplant it somewhere else, but I have no structure it could climb to its heart's content. That pillar standing in the middle of nowhere is unnatural looking, although when the little gray dogwood (Cornus racemosa) right next to it gets taller than the tower, maybe it won't loom so. Even so, the clematis is too big here and I'll move it.

The lone bottlebrush buckeye is really, really annoying me.
I can't help it, this just drives me nuts and I keep writing about it in this diary. That mislabeled rogue cultivar does not belong in a row with its species cousins.

I do think I will take it out and let the other Aesculus parviflora shrubs fill in the gap for a coherent and consistent hedge. I just have to for my sanity and nerves.

One of the pair of black gums has a distinctly weeping habit.
There are two in the front yard. The one on the left wants to droop over. I have trimmed the branches repeatedly and the remaining lower branches then arch downward even more. The leader has gone awry.

Several other black gums (Nyssa sylvatica) I have planted have stiffly pyramidal shapes and upright leaders. This one is the only one with such a weeping tendency.

I kept thinking it was immature growth and as it matured it would stiffen up and take on the usual form. It has been growing in this spot since 2010 and was a large specimen when planted. It is not outgrowing the droopiness, and in fact it is getting more noticeable.

It's paired with another black gum for symmetry in the front yard, but the two trees look so different. My assessment is that this one is genetically a weeper, but my solution is to do nothing, as I'm not sure what can be done about it.

A large baptisia needs an intervention.
Baptisias have clean, fresh looking foliage all summer, and are not bothered much by pests or diseases. They are always described as indestructible, easy plants. But the Baptisia 'Twilite Prairieblues' outside the bedroom window has a lot of grayish, browning foliage at the top, and the soil under it is carpeted with dried discarded leaves.

It turns out to have spider mites -- nothing else around it is infected and baptisias in general are not susceptible. Go figure. A miticide spray is needed.

My other false indigo, Baptisia pendula, planted in the Birch Garden, looks fine.

At least the spider mite problem on 'Twilite Prairieblues' is fixable, but the reason it became infested is a mystery.

The 'Orange Dream' Japanese maple is struggling.
I was so pleased it made it through the winter when other small trees did not. I pruned off winter kill, and thought I'd escaped further trouble. But now it's pretty fried at the top, and the heart shaped canopy is forming even more of a gap in the middle.

It always gets this way in summer -- it is in too much sun -- but it looks worse than in other years and the shape is starting to deform.

Extra deep watering and more frequent soaking may help. Of course this tree is at the back of the Birch Garden at the very edge of the yard where no hose can reach it, so frequent deep watering is something I've already decided to just feel guilty about not doing enough.

The Blackhaw Viburnum is half dead.
The rounded green tree next to the wine colored redbud is a Blackhaw (Viburnum prunifolium) that I limbed up rather artfully, and I've been so pleased with how the trunks look opened up. But this summer half the tree in back has died off.

The tightly twisted trunks are actually compressing each other, and the trunk that supports the branches at the back of the tree is flattened and unable to support its canopy. Frost nipped the back branches this spring, and now this summer it's dying back even more. I can wait to see what develops -- maybe it will resprout more fully next year. But in my assessment, this tree is half gone.

I will lop off the compressed trunk, leaving just the single stem to grow. That will remove half of the structure and all of the graceful look of the stems. To even it out on the fuller side, I'll have to take off branches in front too.

If it kills the tree I'll start over and plant something else.

I am no stranger to do-overs and raising baby trees.

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