Friday, April 29, 2016

This Is Pretty . . . and Not

This is quite pretty -- a purpleleaf sandcherry glowing at the back of the garden on a late April afternoon.

The shrub is an unbalanced shape, the blooming is very brief, and the little plant is stranded among winterberry hollies and other bare branched things that won't leaf out for a while yet. But it's so delicately pretty on its own.

This is not. . . . .

The twiggy mess with open branches and yellowy leaves emerging is 'Ogon' spirea, and it is supposed to be covered in white flowers in April. Like this, which was in prior Aprils:

It has been declining in recent years, perhaps because of too much shade between the maple and birch. It keeps losing branches and getting sparse. Last fall it had no color, and it is known for brilliant fall foliage that holds late in the season. And now, for the first time, it's not flowering.

I'm going to cut it all to the ground this week -- you can rejuvenate spireas by hard pruning -- and see if next year it looks any better.

And speaking of pruning needs, this is not pretty either. For the second year, this blackhaw viburnum tree refuses to leaf out on the entire left side.

It did this last year and stayed bare on one side all summer. The wood beneath the bark was green when scraped, so the branches were not dead, and I thought another spring would bring them back in leaf.

Not so. The tree in front is leafed out and flowers are forming. In back on the left is a bare mess. So I pruned off all the dead looking branches, fully half of this small tree. I can't even show a picture of the result. It's an abomination, tilting all to one side now.

It is not pretty.

But it was going to look awful either way. All last summer it appeared just as bad, half dead. I'm going to try to sort of balance the lopsided look by selectively pruning the leafy branches that remain now on the one side, but that could be a bad idea. We'll see.


  1. Hi Laurie, I did a little search and found this information. Maybe it will help maybe not.
    A tree with no leaves can be attributed to bud issues. If the tree has some leaves, begin your assessment of buds that never broke. If you cut into the bud and it is brown and dead, it is an indication that it has been dead quite a long time. If the bud is brown on the inside but still green on the outside, the damage is probably due to cold damage. You can also check the branches to see if they are still alive. If there are many buds dead, but the branch is alive, then the tree has been suffering for some time. The problem could be due to stress or a root problem. Suspect disease when there are no buds at all. Verticillium wilt, caused by a fungus, is common in maples and can be diagnosed if the wood is streaked. Unfortunately, there are no controls for this problem.

    Read more at Gardening Know How: Deciduous Tree Leafing Problems: Why Won’t My Tree Leaf Out?

    1. Patty, thanks for the info and references! My viburnum had the conditions described where the branch was still green on the inside, but the buds were brown and dead all through, and after two years of this, it is clear there is a systemic problem (root problem?). Not good. I'll do some more reading, but am not hopeful right now. . .