Help! My dogwood is drowning!

The Plant Man column for publication the week of 06/13/04 - 06/19/04 (794 words)
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 stimulator.
"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 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? Philip Luciano.
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 and for resources and additional information, including archived Plant Man columns, visit where you can also subscribe to Steve's free e-mailed newsletter.
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