Cut your losses on winterkilled trees then pamper and
shape what's left
What should we do with dogwood trees that didn't bloom
I bought mine only 4-5 years ago so it's not very big. I
did notice last week that some older, established dogwoods were
blossoming but not profusely.
I now have some leaves appearing, but only on one side
of the tree. There are three major limbs. One is definitely dead
because I've cut several twigs and there isn't a speck of green
inside. Should I prune the entire limb or wait and see what happens
Does it do any good to feed the tree Miracid
Add flowering dogwood (Cornus florida) to the
lengthening list of this winter's casualties. I had hoped that
these trees lost only their flower buds but count them now with
pines, hollies, azaleas, rhododendrons, false cypresses, redbuds,
poplars, sassafrases, hawthorns and others killed in whole or part
Which combination of factors killed this tree and not that one,
or some branches but not all of a given tree? Let's leave that
detective work to others, so we can focus on determining what's
worth saving and begin rehabilitation.
You're right to look for moist green cambium tissue under the
bark. If a twig lost the leaf buds it set last year but still has
live cambium, it may yet develop new buds.
This will require energy, which must come from sugars produced
by surviving foliage or starchy reserves in limbs and roots, sent
to defoliated limbs through the cambium. So plants with more
leaves, bigger roots and thicker twigs are more likely to revive
than those with scant green or roots weakened by transplant or
Replacement leaves develop over weeks, not years. If bare limbs
don't show new growth within a month after nearby plants of the
same type have leafed out or intact buds on other limbs have
opened, start pruning.
Fertilizer is important once growth begins. It does not initiate
growth, nor can it supply energy to plants. It's not food but
vitamins, given to actively growing plants just as we supply
vitamins to children.
To "feed" recovering plants, water well and let as much light as
possible reach them. They'll use light, water and gases from the
air to make the sugars and starches that are true plant food.
Losing a main limb is tough but if it's dead, remove it. Cut to
just above a husky new bud or surviving branch. Then train new
growth into position over the next few years. Don't despair --
replacement limbs develop quickly on trees that are healthy in
their other parts.
Training new growth means disbudding to thin crowded shoots as
they appear, selective pinching to shorten new growth while it's
still soft, or gently bending and using non-binding restraints on
pliable shoots to coax them into the desired positions.
I planted some vinca flowers in pots on my deck and they
seem to be dying. I planted impatiens at the same time and they are
doing well. Is vinca more susceptible to cold? Is there a way to
bring them back to life?
You can be a plant doctor if you start with a thorough exam. Dig
out one of your ailing patients to look closely at its leaves,
roots and stem.
If the roots are white or light colored, thick and firm
all the way to the tips, and the stem is sturdy and uniformly
colored right to its base, the soil temperature and water have
probably been okay. In that case, poor growth or dieback might have
come from frost, drought or overfertilization that affected only
the youngest leaves and outer branches. Since the plant has a
healthy stem and viable roots, you can prune off dead leaves and
branches and expect new growth. Whether this is best depends on how
much of the plant you'll lose in the trimming and how quickly you
need a full look.
If the root tips are mushy and dark or the stem has sunken soft
spots or wet wounds, then cold soil and moisture probably killed
cells which were then attacked by stem rot or root rot fungi. We
shouldn't expect a young annual to overcome rot. It might survive
but remain sickly all summer. Better to replace them, along with
the soil immediately around those roots.
Stumped by fertilizer figures?
Enlist your household's math whiz or number puzzle hound. Hand
that person the fertilizer prescription from your soil test result,
a list of the three-number labels from fertilizers already in your
possession, and today's thumbs up and thumbs down. Let the high
math commence while you go back out to weed!
Green thumbs up
to those who will calculate on behalf of gardeners. Don't tell
us how, just tell us that each pound of the 10-6-4 fertilizer
listed on a soil test might as well be two pounds of 2-2-2
Driconure plus half a pound of 12-0-0 blood meal and one-tenth
pound of 0-10-0 bone meal!
Green thumbs down
to manufacturers who prey on fertilizaphobia with such tactics
as packaging the same 5-10-5 as "vegetable food" and separately as
"rose food." They know we'll buy both, just as we'll buy a 12-12-12
rather than using the 20-20-20 we already own at three-fifths
Originally published 6/7/0