July 12, 2013

These is Kaput

such small trees then . . . such big hopes
Failures happen in the garden. Rabbits eat annuals and deer browse shrubs. Bugs damage perennials. Fungus is among us. In a mixed garden it is not a catastrophe. You replant some things, you move on.

But with a tree it kind of is a catastrophe. Even small ones are expensive investments. Trees take years to grow, and when I lose one, I am losing years of planning and hopes.

This year was particularly hard --- I lost two special trees that had been growing beautifully for several years. They were specimen trees in places of prominence in the yard, still small but filling out.

These two went kaput and have left a big gap in my garden:

Cercidiphyllum japonicum - Katsura tree
A tree that was to become a big shade tree on the east side of the house. I planted it in 2009 and it grew fast. But antler rub scarred the trunk badly in 2010 and a snowstorm in 2011 tore off branches and the trunk eventually opened up and split right at the base. It healed, but left no more than a quarter of the bark covering the trunk.

You can see its sorry history here.

It leafed out this spring, but with three quarters of its bark gone, it could not carry water or nutrients when summer came, and it began dying off branch by branch.

By early July I saw so many dry leaves at its base and empty branches. It isn't going to make it.


I will replant, but I am discouraged about planting another small tree that will take another half decade to reach the same size as this one.

Should I plant another katsura? If I do, I promise to wrap the trunk to protect against the deer this time. I can't promise anything about rogue autumn snowstorms, though.


Magnolia 'Elizabeth' - (hybrid cross of cucumber magnolia and Yulan magnolia)
This is a beautiful yellow flowering magnolia. I planted one in 2010. It bloomed at a young age and was destined to be a real eye catcher.

It suffered the same indignities as the katsura tree. Male deer rubbed some of the bark off one winter, the same freaky snowstorm damaged branches, and those two assaults led to bark cracking the following year.

You can see what a pretty tree it was going to become here.

Elizabeth bloomed this spring, and I was hopeful. But the tree did not leaf out. The bark damage doesn't look like much, but the crack left the bark completely separate from the core all the way around.


Should I plant another yellow magnolia? My research now informs me that yellow flowered magnolias are particularly susceptible to splitting bark, either from winter sunscald or damage to the tree's structure. So, no.

I can be patient, and I know most of my garden successes will be someone else's to enjoy -- I am not that young. But losing these trees after putting in the waiting and tending for several years is just crummy.

Replacing failed plants can be fun, everyone loves to go plant shopping and try growing new things. An open space in the garden is an opportunity. I'm just not feeling it with these two losses, though. These is kaput and so is some of my hope.

 

26 comments:

  1. I feel for you Laurie. I have been through tree losses as well and it is extremely discouraging. I have seen mature Katsuras and they are magnificent. There is an allee of them at the Guelph arboretum that is a sight to behold.

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    1. Patty, I have seen beautiful old specimens of katsuras too, and wow. And I have smelled them in fall when the falling leaves give off an aroma of cotton candy. An allee must be something to see!

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  2. Sorry for your losses. I hear you though. Voles ate the bark off a very nice specimen Japanese maple 'Shishigishira' a couple of winters ago and killed it. So far I have not replaced it. And I'm still mourning the loss of my Cercis 'Forest Pansy' a couple of years ago. Although the freak snow storm contributed to it's demise, I have no idea why it just up and mostly died. In that case, after the tree was removed I found that I prefered the resulting sunnier conditions. Then I decided to restore some lawn in that area.

    For one thing I'm certain-gardening is definitely not a suitable hobby for people who are resistant to change.

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    1. Sue, I am holding my breath for my new (last year) Forest Pansy. They don't survive very well around here, and they are prone to a canker that does them in quickly, probably what killed yours. Keep your fingers crossed for my little one!

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  3. My neighbors had the nursery plant a good size Katsura tree this past spring after being reassured (foolishly so) by the workers that the tree would be ignored by the deer. The next morning, barely 12 hours after being planted, half the tree was gone-eaten by the local Bambi.
    Regardless, it's a beautiful tree worth the effort.
    To the poster above, I had a Forest Pansy that I gave to my neighbors this spring because I didn't have enough sunlight in my yard. I'm not sure I would replant it again even if I did because from what I hear these trees last 5 years tops here in CT and then suddenly up and die. I'm not sure how true that is but I've only seen 2 established Forest Pansies around here. All the others disappear quickly.

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    1. Anonymous, the deer leave nothing alone, I have discovered that. I agree about Forest Pansy redbuds being so iffy. I have hopes for mine, but I know they are easily lost to a canker, storm damage and winter cold. But a neighbor has a mature one that is just beautiful, so I know they can do well here (in just the right site with some luck!). Here's hoping the gift you gave your neighbors does well. And here's hoping my own Forest Pansy lasts more than 5 years : )

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  4. I can feel your despair in this post. It is discouraging to lose perennials or shrubs, but trees that you hoped were thriving is really hard to take. I lost a magnolia back when we lived in Massachusetts, it seemed fine but then never leafed out in the spring. Is Paulownia tomentosa hardy there? It's a great fast-growing tree here in the PNW. If you replant, can you wrap the trunks in hardware cloth to deter the deer? Or maybe you could plant a good-size shrub, my elderberry and ninebark have grown very quickly.

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    1. Alison, If I replant I will surely wrap the trunk in hardware cloth. I did not wrap the original katsura because it was multi-stemmed and the individual stems were so thin and whippy -- not a target for antler rub, I thought, as the deer seemed to prefer smooth-barked trunks (Lindens) with some solid heft to rub against. Sheesh, was I wrong. Now I know!

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  5. Oh how sad (and frustrating). I'm sorry to hear about the trees going kaput. I hope you're able to find another solution that makes you happy, though there's no making up the time and investment you've lost.

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    1. Kathryn, well, I will replant and learn to be patient with the new trees! There's a life lesson in here I think.

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  6. Oh how I hate when that happens, especially with trees. Although I can't say for sure I've ever encountered the deer antler problem - that's a new one for me, thank goodness. The older I get, the more I see the charm of annuals. Trees are just too much delayed gratification.

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    1. Sarah, trees are the very definition of delayed gratification. Sort of like raising a family -- you don't see the results for decades : )

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  7. How disappointing. Sometimes it takes us awhile to get up the nerve to start again. As gardeners we do, somehow, rise to the challenge. I hope something really interesting tweaks your interest and you plant it.

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    1. Lisa, I will replant, and it will be fun to see new trees in these spots, but I need to get my oomph back to start over with small saplings.

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  8. My condolences. This kind of thing is very dispiriting. I've heard the Katsura is a great tree, maybe next time will be the charm.

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    1. Jason, thanks. The mature katsuras I have seen are spectacular, and I do want to try again. Hope springs!

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  9. Sorry to see this Laurrie...it is hard...I have had hard luck planting new trees this year too.

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    1. Donna, so sorry to hear you are losing trees too. It's a challenge!

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  10. I understand your pain, Laurrie. Losing trees that way was common in my East Haddam neighborhood until a couple of neighbors began hunting with bows and arrows. Also, I know people who wrap trees with a supposedly protective material. You ever try that?

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    1. Lee, I do get much more proactive about wrapping young trees in hardware cloth now. I lost a beautiful linden years ago even though I had wrapped it in the fall --- I took the hardware cloth off at Christmas, thinking the rut was over and the male deer had moved on -- and then lost that tree by New Year's! So now every tree gets protected in early fall and it stays on till March. I do learn, even though I learn too late sometimes.

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  11. I understand your sadness in losing these two trees, Laurrie. Right now I am looking at a couple of older trees in our yard that I know aren't going to make it much longer and wondering how long we can hold off cutting them down, thinking about the huge difference their absence is going to make in the landscape. I always think of the saying that the best time to plant trees is "20 years ago." There's not much one can do, though, when Mother Nature hurls some wicked storms at you, other than keep starting over.

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    1. Rose, Losing a young tree is a disappointment, but having to take down mature, shady, big trees must be very hard. I feel for you -- not just for the loss of your older trees, but for the cost. Taking down a big tree is expensive!

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  12. What sort of height are you seeking, Laurrie?

    Some shrubs can attain mature height very fast and reach 10-20 feet or higher. (I posted about fast-growing shrubs on my blog last week and got some good suggestions -- including yours about viburnums and forsythia!)

    For larger trees, how about a Mulberry or an Ostrya virginiana (a.k.a. Eastern Hophornbeam)?

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    1. Aaron, The open spot where the katsura tree was really calls for a big shade tree, so something eventually 30 feet high or more. It is away from the house but in a place where I want it to provide shade on the side of the house.

      So timely with the suggestion for hophornbeam! I just planted an ostrya virginiana this spring and can't wait to see it grow. I could possibly move that to the empty spot. It would eventually be tall enough to be a shade tree, and I love the hoplike flowers on it.

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  13. It sounds like you need a trip to the local/state arboretum to see what's growing well there. Have you thought about a big red flame maple? I could have the name wrong. We had a massive maple at our house in upstate NY that was bright red in the fall and was probably as old as our house, which was built in 1895. It was spectacular and seemed like a pretty tough tree.

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    1. Tammy, I do have maples in the yard already -- two very big red maples that are stunning in fall (October Glory), and the back hill is 50% species red maples, silver maples and one sugar maple. I love them, and they are iconic New England trees around here. I think I want something different for the yard, though. Too hot to think about it now, but I need to start planning replacements this fall.

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