Spring Gold Cedar… a landscaper’s joke.

As The Passionate Gardener, I want everyone to have a thriving, beautiful garden.  Unfortunately, as I drive around the city, I see many gardens that are not thriving, even though it is obvious that there are people trying very hard.  One problem my assistant and I saw so often that we began to joke about it; is the ‘Spring Gold Cedar’.  (The joke, which may only be funny to gardeners, is that the cedars have died over the winter, and in the spring, display dead, gold coloured foliage.  It is also an homage to the creative names plant breeders give to their new offerings.  Heuchera ‘Root Beer’ is not a joke, but rather a pretty new perennial.)

Why are there so many Spring Gold cedars?  Not to mention, Spring Gold pines, spruce, and junipers?  There are a few reasons that I can tell, and they are all fixable.  The first would be a lack of water.  Cedars, especially, but all evergreens really need to be watered regularly as they establish themselves.  The most important time to water is in the fall.  In Calgary, our weather pattern has changed dramatically over the last decade or so.  Fall stretches on and on, which is lovely for people, but can be very hard on plants.  They lose moisture on warm days, and there is little rain to make up for it.  Many homeowners have their irrigation system shut down in September, so plants accustomed to regular water must now enter winter after two months of unexpected drought.  This can be neutral or even beneficial to plants that go dormant and lose their leaves in the fall, but it can be very detrimental and even fatal to the evergreens.

What should we do to protect our beloved evergreens?  Give them a long drink each fall, even by leaving the hose on a trickle for an entire day, to make sure the tree has enough moisture to carry it through the winter.  Add some compost on top of the soil to help retain moisture and add nutrients.  Use mulch to protect from erosion and moisture loss.  This should be enough to carry most evergreens through most winters, but if you are concerned, it can also help to pile snow around the base of the tree to protect the roots.  At last resort, products such as Wilt-Pruf can be sprayed on evergreen trees and shrubs to slow down transpiration, and thus moisture loss.  http://www.wiltpruf.com/home/protection.aspx

Some evergreens still don’t stand a chance, and this is usually because they were planted improperly.  Calgary typically has very heavy clay soil, and this can be difficult for a plant’s roots to penetrate.  When digging the hole, don’t dig a round hole and amend the soil within it.  You might end up with what I call ‘ clay pot syndrome’, where the tree’s roots never manage to leave the original hole, and instead wind around and around.  Eventually the tree will die, because it’s roots have choked out themselves.  This is often a cause when you see trees that were planted 3 years ago suddenly die.  Instead; dig that round hole, but then make it sun shaped by using the shovel to cut rays extending into the surrounding soil.  Amend the soil in the hole lightly, but then spread some compost around on the surface of the soil, where earthworms and other micro-organisms will find it and incorporate it.  Always make sure that the tree is planted at the correct level, usually where the soil level was in the pot.  Sometimes soil in the pot will have washed away, in which case you want to plant so that the wide part of the truck is just at the surface of the soil.  Tamp down the soil firmly so there are no air pockets and so the tree is firmly in place and standing straight.

In areas that were once farmland, and not forest, trees may have a hard time establishing themselves due to the soil.  Just like a forest above ground is more mature than a newly plowed field or a grassy meadow, it is also more mature underground, with rich fungal dominated soil.  To help re-create the fungal dominated soil, add some finer wood mulch on top of the soil.  Some people even recommend adding dried oatmeal to the soil, as oats help promote the growth of fungii.

To grow a tree to the size necessary for sale takes years, and requires a good deal of water and nutrients.  The tree is willing and able to pay off that debt to our environment, but only if it survives.  If you lack confidence that you can prevent the return of the dreaded ‘Spring Gold Cedar’ in your own garden, please give us a call.  We’d like to fill your garden with healthy thriving trees!

Posted Monday, May 21st, 2012 under Gardening ideas, Quick tips, Uncategorized.

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