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Over the Fence

Where gardeners come to find out what's happening out in the yard.

How Well Did Your Landscape Plants Do This Year?

Posted by Richard Hentschel -

Down the Garden Path

Richard Hentschel, Extension Educator

Gardeners can determine how their landscape plants have done this season, having survived the bad weather last season. We have seen a lot more insect and disease activity in 2013 because of the drought and hot weather we had in 2012. Stressed plants are more susceptible to disease infestation by fungal organisms and our usual insects favor trees that are already distressed in some way. By looking a bit more closely at our trees and shrubs, we get an idea of what to expect for 2014 and how well they are recovering.

One way to determine how well the landscape plants are doing for flowering ornamental trees and shrubs is to understand that the majority of these plants produce next year's bloom show the season before. If you have viburnums in the yard that are early spring bloomers, you should be able to see the quantity and quality of flower buds right now. Are they big and firm or on the smaller side?  Are there flower buds on the ends of every branch or just scattered throughout the canopy? Magnolias are another easy plant that can indicate to you how well it did this year. At the end of most branches, you should see the large flower bud for next year. These buds look much different than those that will produce the leaves.

For larger trees that do not have a showy bloom, looking at the branches to determine the length of annual growth will tell you how they are doing. You should see even rates of growth between the terminal bud scars for years prior to 2012. The rate of growth for 2012 would be expected to be much less in most cases and the growth for this year should be better than last year, but not necessarily back to normal as compared to years prior to 2012. This is the way gardeners can determine if a recently transplanted tree is completely recovered too. While you are doing comparisons, the terminal bud size will also tell you something about how well the trees are doing. The bigger or fuller the terminal buds, the more likely you can expect a more normal rate of growth. To make this comparison you really need to check out a number of the same species or cultivars in the neighborhood or in your yard. Chances are you will find some trees have larger buds, indicating a tree in a better state, a tree that grew better in 2012.

As long as you are looking anyway, take a close look at the bark and be on the lookout for borer activity. Entomologists are predicting the peak of borer activity to build to 2016 before returning to a normal level due to all the stressed plants. Borers can tunnel deep into the tree or stay just below bark surface. The other insect to keep watching for would be a buildup of scale insects. Both work against the health of the plant and if noted early can be effectively treated.



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