July 27, 2013

Reasons for Concern

We have had plenty of rain this summer, with record amounts in spring, and enough as July came on.

An inch fell the other night, and when I went out the next morning, I was concerned to see the river birch (Betula nigra) with so many yellow leaves.

The ground is damp, there is enough moisture in the soil and then some. But it is shedding leaves all over.

The round blue spruce beneath the birch is catching the discarded leaves and holding them like little treasures.

Should I be concerned?

Next to the birch is a small pagoda dogwood (Cornus alternifolia) and it has yellow leaves all over. It's hard to photograph because it is so spindly yet, but here it is, looking very yellow.


Should I be concerned about this too?

The river birch has lots of new green leaves in addition to all the yellow, and I think it will be fine. It put on so much growth when there was too much rain, and then had to shed the excess when July temperatures got so hot for so long. It has enough moisture, it just doesn't want all those leaves right now in the middle of summer.

The pagoda dogwood does not have any good green leaves on it. I am more worried about its skinny self. Should I be so uneasy?

While I sat on the patio stewing over these two trees, the hummingbird dive bombed me. His feeder is on a pole next to where I sit, and he buzzed my face and zipped by, asking "what are you doing there? Should I be concerned? What's going on?"

Earlier in the summer the pole is covered by a clematis that hides the sugar feeder from anyone sitting nearby. It is clematis viticella 'Alba Luxurians', and it really is luxuriant in full bloom. The hummingbirds always know I am there, but never mind as long as they can hide from me.

But when the blooms go by the clematis gets ratty looking, so I cut it down, and by late summer it completely regrows and is once again just as flowery and luxuriant. The individual flowers are white with green streaks.

Right now, though, with the foliage gone, the hummer lets me know there is reason to be agitated.

And I am concerned too. Those yellow leaves. I'm worried.



* * (the male ruby throated hummingbird is aggressive and won't be photographed. The female will hold still for a shot sometimes like the one above. They are very expressive birds. The male communicates with me, hovering in my face at times, deliberately buzzing too near my head, and once dipping his wings in delight and looking straight at me as he played in the spray from my garden hose.)

24 comments:

  1. I think maybe they're OK, Maybe as gardeners we just worry a bit too much?

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    1. El Gaucho, I think you are right. I am actually starting to see a few new green leaves on the little pagoda dogwood today. Maybe it is recovering?

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  2. Odd and disconcerting, much like something out of a sci-fi movie. And as in one of those movies, the oddities could vanish as mysteriously as they came. Let's face it, Laurrie, with the strange weather, nothing should surprise.

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    1. Lee, very disconcerting, but I do think it's all weather related. I am hoping these two trees can stand the weather in the end!

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  3. I can only pass on a couple of things I have been told by people I think are well informed. First, trees can show signs of drought stress the year after the drought actually occurs. Regarding the Pagoda Dogwood, one of my instructors believes they should not be planted here in zone 5 and says they are not long-lived in this area, preferring zone 4.

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    1. Jason, that's interesting about the pagoda dogwood. It's not commonly sold around here, and one nursery where I inquired said they don't sell it because it does not do well in our climate. Didn't stop me from finding it elsewhere and planting it though! I may have to look at growing it as an experiment.

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  4. Odd about your trees. We've also had lots of rain and my trees, for the first time in years, are not dropping tons of leaves in mid-summer. Only time will tell. But your yard looks gorgeous anyway. Interesting about male vs. female hummingbirds. I rarely even see the male hummingbird. I always assumed he took off after his work was finished in the spring...

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    1. Sarah, thanks. The male hummingbird here sticks around all season. He's quite a character, very territorial and even drives the female off the feeder. He frequently buzzes me and it is quite clear it is intentional. Sometimes I think he is just saying hello, other times he's telling me to get out of his yard!

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  5. Hummers do seem to communicate with people. It is such fun having them in the garden. I doubt you have to worry about a river birch. They after all love water and live nearly in rivers around here. Now the dogwood. I don't know. We had a pagoda dogwood die but it has come back from the root. I don't know what caused the death of the mother plant but it has come back quite beautiful as it grows, blooms and does it's dogwood thing. That clematis is to die for. What a beautiful plant. Seeing these pictures gives me clematis envy.

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    1. Lisa, I do think the river birch will be fine. It just didn't need all those extra rain-stoked leaves. The pagoda dogwood is iffy though. How interesting that yours has completely regrown from the root! The clematis is easy to grow-- this one takes little space and no care other than a chop back.

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  6. I wouldn't worry about the river birch. They shed leaves as a stress response, especially if the temps suddenly sky rocket or it gets a bit dry. My lawn/garden are covered in yellow leaves right now since it hadn't rained in 2 weeks and the birch didn't feel my extra watering was adequate. I have a Rutgers Hybrid dogwood that was very iffy the first couple of years. It took a lot of extra care to get it settled and I'm in zone 7A. I hope yours doesn't become an expensive annual. :(

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    1. Tammy, now that a few days have passed and cooler temperatures have returned, the birch is looking just fine. Even the dogwood may put out some new leaves. That heat wave earlier in July really took a toll this year.

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  7. Possibly with all the rain the young pagoda could use some slow release nitrogen? A topdress of compost? Just a thought that came into my head as I read the post. It's getting toward the end of fertilizer time for some things but may help. Everything stressed loves compost. I think the river birch does this when it is stressed in some way and we did just come through a crazy heat wave. I have a group of three of them and at some point every summer they drop yellow leaves. Your clematis is beautiful!! I need one!

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    1. Diane, that's a great suggestion about giving the dogwood a fertilizer or compost boost. It's still such a small tree, it won't take much, and it certainly has been stressed with too much water and very high temps earlier this season. Thanks!

      The clematis is an easy care no problem vine -- one of my favorites!

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  8. I hope both of your trees recover. No doubt high heat has stressed them. I would give the dogwood a tonic of Epsom salts/seaweed fertilizer. I just published a post on heat stress, though you probably already know my helpful tips.

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    1. Deb, I agree about the need for a little boost for the dogwood, and I'm going to give it some fertilizer even though it is late in the season. It's actually starting to look a little better now with cooler temperatures back on the summer schedule.

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  9. I'm glad to see you have some great advice here, Laurrie. I've been stewing over a couple of trees, too, that look pretty stressed out. But they're not young trees, so I hope they'll survive and do better next year. I hope your dogwood recovers. Hummingbirds are such fun to watch, aren't they? I've yet to get one good picture of one this year, and sometimes one will buzz up close to me as if to say, "Here I am; where's your camera?" Of course, by the time I fumble to get my camera in focus, she's gone:)

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    1. Rose, I have received good advice about the yellow leaves from commenters -- isn't that the great thing about blogging? Your hummingbirds must be ruby throats too, I would think, and they really are so communicative. They interact with us as no other birds do!

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  10. What a great idea to cover the pole holding the nectar with a clematis...I might have to try that at my house too. Gosh that little hummingbird is so cute in your last photo :)

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    1. Rosemary, the hummingbird really is adorable -- I have several shots of her. But it's the male who has all the personality, and I can't get a photo of him!

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  11. I hope your dogwood rebounds--they are one of the loveliest trees.

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    1. Heather, it's been cooler now for a while, and I am seeing some new green leaves on the dogwood. Fingers crossed!

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  12. Laurrie, I have my fingers crossed for your dogwood - and mine. I purchased one this spring and almost all the leaves fell. They have regrown but they are tiny little things. We had a dry spell for a while so I'm hoping that was the cause. As long as there's some growth then the branches have not died and that's good.

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    1. Marguerite, I am hoping both of our dogwoods do okay. The fact that yours has regrown is a very good sign, and the leaves will fill in and get to be a normal size as it continues to recover. I hope!

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