The Plant Man column
for publication the week of 06/13/04 - 06/19/04
The Plant Man
by Steve Jones
Help! My dogwood is drowning!
Several readers have asked for help this week, so let's go straight to
the e-mail bag...
QUESTION: "We bought a forest pansy redbud tree on April 25. We
planted it in our front yard where we could enjoy it and where also
others could see and enjoy it. It was looking beautiful until last
weekend, after a large amount of rainfall. The leaves started to wilt,
so I called the nursery where we bought it from and they told me to
poke some holes with a rod around the tree and after it dried up
somewhat, to apply a root stimulator. Well, it is still pretty soggy
when I stick the rod in the soil, so I have not yet applied the root
"The tree is looking worse and worse. The leaves are now all turning
brown and wilty. This is a special tree. My husband and I bought it as
Mother's Day and Father's Day gifts combined, since it was a little
pricey. Now I wonder whether it will even make it till Father's Day.
By the way, when we planted it, we followed all the directions,
digging the hole three times the width of the rootball, adding
enriched soil and not planting too deeply. I
will be awaiting your reply anxiously!" – Cindy Greenwell
ANSWER: You've done everything right as far as following the planting
instructions. However, if you have planted the tree in an area where
rainfall accumulates, that is probably the problem. Unless you can
divert the water away from this section nothing else you do will help.
If the ground that the tree was placed in does not "perc" (drain)
well, nothing you do will resolve it. If you don't wish to move the
tree to a different location, you can try elevating the tree about
three feet by creating a berm for it to sit on. It might be practical
to divert the rainwater by creating a rain garden. I wrote about that
in detail in a previous column that you can find at my web site. Go to
www.landsteward.org then find the column
under "The Plant Man" heading.
QUESTION: "I am hoping you can give me a few suggestions on
landscaping. I am living in a newly built house without backyard shade
or boundaries between our yard and the neighboring yards. The back
property is a fairly large size. I would like to put some shrubs or
fencing in the back of the house as a privacy measure. I would like it
to grow fairly fast, but have a classy feel to it as well. Possibly
some trees and flowers? I don't know if it would be possible to have
it year round either. I am very confused and overwhelmed with all that
is out there. I could use some direction. Thank
you very much for your help!" – Emily
ANSWER: I have a few suggestions. You may want to have an evergreen
border for privacy that grows fast and I can recommend a variety of
Cedar known as the Green Giant. Its one of fastest-growing of all the
conifers and is a tough plant that is easy to grow and tolerant of
most soil conditions. You might want to try some flowering cherries
that only flower but do not produce fruit. An example would be the
Washington Basin cherry. When it comes to fast-growing shade trees, I
suggest you consider Imperial Carolina poplars. Then you can add some
different types of flowering shrubs and flowers.
Quite often, the best thing to do is to pick a "theme" color and then
work with accenting colors to complement. I know this may seem
complicated but with a little planning you can turn your blank pallet
into a masterpiece!
QUESTION: "A year ago, I put a circle of landscape bricks around my
dogwood tree. I put in some flowers and top soil. The flowers grow but
the dogwood has not bloomed since then. Is there anything I can do? –
ANSWER: How many inches of soil did you place around the trunk of your
dogwood to create the flower bed? If the soil around the base of the
tree has been raised too much your dogwood is in danger of dying. Pull
back your soil from around the base of the dogwood by about 12 to 24
inches and create a "well" about the same height as the flower bed.
This will give you tree some breathing room.
The Plant Man is here to help. Send you questions about trees, shrubs
and landscaping to email@example.com and for resources and
additional information, including archived Plant Man columns, visit
www.landsteward.org where you can also subscribe to Steve's free