Why You Should "Limb Up" Your Trees

“Limbing up” – also known as “raising the crown” – can help to form a handsome woodland scene, adding depth, diversity, and a unique sense of place to the home landscape. Limbing up can add aesthetic value to the home by selectively carving out spaces for people, plants, and architecture. Read on to learn more from the following passage in The Homeowner’s Complete Tree & Shrub Handbook...

Imagine a young 10-foot-tall Japanese stewartia grows in your front yard. You’ve chosen it about seven years ago for its yellow-centered white flowers, yellow to purple fall color, and flaking gray, tan, and orangey bark. Trouble is, you can’t see any of that bark because the tree was branched almost to the ground. You decide to limb it up while it is small, since you expect it to grow about 25 feet tall. You do the work yourself with hand pruners when the branches are less than 1 1/2 inches in diameter.

You also have a shade border with a sugar maple, a red maple, a pin oak, and some shade-tolerant shrubs and perennials. You had a problem with those trees some years ago, however. When you weeded newly planted primulas and barrenworts under the trees, you’d whack your head on the lowest branches. The trees were not fully mature but they were already big – about 25 feet tall for the 13-year-old sugar maple. For a big tree-pruning job like that, you turned to a certified arborist rather than doing it yourself. Over a few winters, they removed some branches and made a shade garden a joy to maintain. The trees are still full and beautiful, but you no longer have to worry about banging your head.

Limbing up, also known as raising the crown, frees space for people, other plants, and buildings. It can open a distant view and provide more sunlight to plants growing underneath the canopy. It also increases air circulation under the branches.

If you have aged conifers like the white pines, give them a second look. Sometimes the tops of old conifers shade out lower branches, which then diet and break off in storms. Although birds like to perch on those snagged limbs, you can achieve a more refined look if you remove the low dead growth.

Not every tree needs limbing up. While pin oaks, with its droopy lower branches, may keep you from gardening successfully, there are other trees that you may not need to touch. For example, the low twisted branches of Tortuosa European beeches create variety and visual interest in the landscape. Similarly, sourwoods are so perfect in their pattern of growth, beautifully droopy flower clusters, and long lasting burgundy fall color that you may not want to change a thing.

Raise a tree’s canopy in late winter or early spring before new growth starts. Beware of removing too many branches at any one time. Foliage collects energy necessary for healthy roots. A big reduction in leaves may stress a tree, making it prone to damage from disease or insects. Prolong the process of limbing up over several years if necessary, so that you can leave at least three-quarters of the crown intact with each pruning.

Limbing up trees increases the amount of light that reaches the ground. Do you grow dense-canopied trees in your lawn, surrounded by individual rings of mulch instead of grouping them in larger beds? Raising the crowns may help the turf below them to survive.

Adding Fruiting Trees and Shrubs to Your Landscape

In addition to flowers and awesome autumn hues, shrubs and trees can produce showy fruit that magnifies your garden’s charm. Technically, fruiting is the part o fa plant’s reproductive process that occurs after flowering. Fruit comes from the female part of a seed-bearing plant. It holds the fertilized seed or seeds of that plant’s next generation. Some plants have showy fruits to attract wild-life that eat the fruit and disperse its seeds. People, of course, also eat fruit, so shrubs with edible fruit may serve a dual purpose of enjoyment in our gardens. In fact, the word fruit derives from the Latin root, fructus, or enjoyment.


Shrubs that are nondescript for most of the year take on a new look when they fruit. Purple beautyberry’s tight clusters of bright purple fruit appear on a rather plain twiggy shrub in my shrub border. where I don’t pay it much attention until handsome purple berries appear in fall. Wow! The fruit quantity changes from year to year, but the color always delights me.

Likewise, driving a marshy stretch of highway near my home becomes a new experience in fall, when winterberry’s branches, naked of leaves but lush with bright red berries, transform the muck into a cloud of brilliant red. That inspired me to plant “Winter Red” winterberry, the berries of which may last all winter in my backyard. Imagine my surprise one one very cold Thanksgiving Day when I watch a flood of wild turkeys consume them. Besides red, you can also find winterberry in orange and yellow cultivars.


The fruit of some evergreen hollies stands out against the foliage, providing fall to winter interest. Ivory Queen inkberry has white fruit and evergreen leaves on a short plan suitable for a foundation planting.

Blue holly cultivars worth growing for abundant fruit include Blue Princess and Mesog China Girl. These fairly small hollies look great grouped in borders or used as n informal hedge. These fairly small hollies look great grouped in borders or used as an informal hedge.

Nellie Stevens holly is not as hardy as blue holly, but this popular cultivar ha a good fruit set. Although Meserve hybrids and most other hollies require a male plan for lavish fruiting, Nellie can fruit on its own, though it fruits better wth a male, particularly Edward Stevens participating in the process.


Planted alone, holly can make an outstanding garden specimen, particularly in winter, when there’s a little color to hold your attention. James G Eson altaclera holly grows 25 feet or more. From October to January it displays large, clear red berries against its shiny dark green leaves. Miss Helen, Comet Prancer, and fastest growing Carnival with orangey red fruit are showy American hollies that stand on their own. East Palatka and Fosters #2 holly make attractive fruiting screens, hedge, or specimens. Make sure you plan a male for fruiting and find the best for your climate.

*Source for this article was taken from The Homeowner’s Complete Tree and Shrub Handbook. For more information on adding visual interest to your yard, please visit some of these other helpful articles:

How Flowering Trees Can Improve Your Landscape
Use Tree Textures to Add Beauty to Your Landscape

How Flowering Trees Can Improve Your Landscape

In this article, you will find information about how flowering trees can add a unique contrast to your landscaping. This information is a continuation of our article about how you can use tree textures to add interest to your landscape, and is directly sourced from The Homeowner’s Complete Tree & Shrub Handbook. 

Photo by jonas mohamadi on Pexels.com

Who can resist a southern magnolia blossom’s lemony sweet fragrance and outrageous beauty? Not I! They have baby smooth petals and a sublime scent. A backdrop of large leathery ever green leaves heightens the creamy blossoms sensual appeal.

Flowers are reproductive organs that attract what they need for pollination. A pollinated flower matures into a fruit containing the seeds for the specie’s next generation. If you grow trees for their flowers, be aware that flowering can be fast, a few days for most; if the tree has bracts the period of color may last for several weeks.

Flowers come at different times of year for different plants. Red maple’s red flowers blush the crown in spring before the leaves appear. A mass of female trees on a hill or along a drive transforms the view into a subtle, yet rich red haze. Even as red maples come into leaf, reddish fruits appear in clusters, prolonging the ruddy glow. (In a garden, some folks gripe that once those pretty spring flowers become abundant fruits they result in messy seedlings that need plucking one by one.) Steweartia’s lovely white flowers occur in summer when most other trees have finished blooming, and Franklinia’s delightful flowers appear in fall, just before frost.

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When you grow a tree for flowers, the blooms should be visible among the leaves and branches. Tulip tree produces large, cupped chartreuse and orange blossoms. The tuliplike flowers are striking, but the giant tree grows so fast that, unless your house is near the height of the tree’s canopy, you can hardly see the blossoms. I know because I had one that towered over my house where I live. Honestly, tulip trees are too big for most residential lots, but we like ours and kept it for its straight towering trunk, handsome light green leaves and yellow fall color. Another tree grown for its flowering clusters is fragrant styrax. This small flowering tree is quite pretty near a patio, but has droopy white bloom clusters sometimes seem hidden amid their leaves, which grow to 8 inches long and 6 inches wide. Even if you can’t always see the scented flowers, however, you can small them and appreciate the tree’s smooth, ruddy bark and exfoliating young stems.

Gardens grow some trees for flowers alone, including a few ornamental plums and cherries. Be careful which trees you choose as many cherrie and plums, which below ot the Rose Family, are prone to disease of that group. Even disease resistant varieties may attract tent caterpillars or Japanese beetles in areas where they are pests, the trees thus require regular picking or spraying. Prunus, my favorite cherry tree for its lush, tiny pink-on-pink flowers, yellow fall color and delicate airy habit, still gets Japanese beetles every July, but I grow it with a group of other shrubs that beetles do not bother.

What appear to be flowers may in fact be showy bracts, big petal like leaves that attract animals to the small flower clusters they surround. A wonderful ornamental known for its bracts is Kousa dogwood. It produces four pointed white bracts that turn pinkish with age surrounding a little greenish flower cluster at their center.

Use Tree Textures to Add Beauty to Your Landscape

Landscaping isn’t only about size or colors of your plants, it’s also important to consider unexpected textures on the bark and leaves of your tree. In this article, you will find information on how to add beauty to your landscape by paying attention to textures on your tree. This information is sourced from The Homeowner’s Complete Tree & Shrub Handbook. 

The Beauty of Bark

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I’m a sucker for bark. I go wobbly at the sight of a mature paperbark maple, a shagbark hickory makes me drool, and my jaw drops when I see a Pacific madrone. What is it about bark that excites us? Bark is always there, hiding just below the leaves, ready to reveal its beauty if I take the time to look.

Bark is a tree’s protective coat. Some bark looks decorative year round you can always see the arced plates of shagbark hickory, the ginger curls of paperbark maple, and the peely white skin of paper birch. But other barks reveal themselves best when trees or shrubs are bare. an example, the yellow-twig ash. Once those fabulous lemon-yellow autumn leaves fall to the ground, you can see butter-yellow young stems contrasting with the round black velvet leaf buds.

My favorite trees with colorful bark, however, are the strip bark maples – brilliant coral-stemmed moosewood and red snake bark maple. Moosewood’s gleaming red and white striped stems glow in a snowy winter landscape, while the bark of red snake bark maple has vertical strips in white and olive grey green with red shoots.

Red willow and shrubby dogwoods also come into their own after leaf drop. Native red-osier dogwood has red young stems in the winter. The cultivar “Cardinal” has brighter stems and more disease resistance than other popular varieties. Yellow-twig dogwood produces disease resistant, school bus yellow stems. Midwinter fire has flamelike stems of red orange and yellow. Remember new stem growth is the most colorful, so cut these shrubs to the base each spring or you’ll end up with dull bark.

Just as landscape texture refers to a tree’s visual nature, it may . also pertain to the sense of touch. Smooth, muscled beach bark thus differs by sight and touch from rough, plated bark of old sugar maples.

Evergreen Textures

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Now that we’ve talked about the bark of trees, let’s take a look at some of the other textures of trees that draw us in.

Textures effect our two senses of vision and touch. Coarse textured shrubs and trees have large leaves that create bold patterns of light and shade on a plant’s surface. Course plants leap forward in a landscape. On the other hand, trees and shrubs with fine-textured foliage have little contrast between light and dark. Their even surface can more easily fades into the background. Planting bold textured shrubs such as Oregon grape holly at teh back of a garden, makes it feel smaller while planting fine-textured plants like yew or pine enlarges the space.

To find additional information on landscaping, please visit our article on to properly landscape your yard by incorporating trees!

Common Insect Pests

In this article, you will find practical methods for identifying, preventing, and treating the following: Aphid, Gall, Lacebug, Leaf Miner, Scale, Spider Mite, Tent Caterpillar, and Wood Borer. This information is a continuation of our article on Common Tree and Plant Diseases, and is directly sourced from The Homeowner’s Complete Tree & Shrub Handbook. The second section of the article describes practical earth-friendly strategies to manage insects, while keeping your trees and shrubs healthy.

Being able to identify various insects can be instrumental in helping you prevent stress and disease to your trees and shrubs. For that reason, we recommend keeping these two articles handy as a reference!

Aphid

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Description: Aphids are sapsucking insects that come in many colors and textures from red, yellow, green, purple, brown, and black to whitish because of a light all-over secretion. Some have wings and some don’t, and many prefer congregating on the lower surface of leaves. What they have in common is their tiny size, pear-shaped bodies,
long legs, and long antennae. They tend to be group feeders on leaves and stems, but you’ll occasionally see a loner. Aphids probably won’t destroy your trees and shrubs, but sooty mold can turn the sticky honeydew they release black. You may also notice the foliage wilt, yellow, or distort.

Cause: Regular infestations.

Preventive Measures: You cant escape them: an aphid species is linked with almost every tree and shrub.

Treatment: Tree and shrub damage is usually more visual than life threatening. Live and let live, unless they really bother you or the infestation is severe. Hose foliage and stems with a powerful stream of water to displace them. If you want something more, spray your plant with insecticidal soap or horticultural oil. Many beneficial insects such as ants, lady beetles, and parasitic wasps will destroy aphids if you don’t destroy them first. Skip heavy-duty insecticides because they kill not just the bad guys but also the good.

Gall

Description: Galls are abnormal growths of plant tissue on leaves, twigs, and bark of trees. Oaks host most galls, but they also appear on other trees and shrubs.

Cause: Mites, wasps, aphids, and midge flies can all bring about galls. The insects that make galls are most active when trees leaf out in spring.

Preventive Measures: Keep trees healthy. Galls are not pretty but they don’t do permanent damage to your woody plants. You don’t know your trees have galls until
you see them, and spraying them won’t help because the gall shields the larvae.

Treatment: Hold off on chemical sprays. Sometimes tolerating a pest is the best thing to do. If the infestation is severe, you can prune out ugly twigs.

Lacebug

Description: Lacebugs get their name from their decorative wings and hood adorned with a lacy pattern of veins. These sapsucking pests about 1/8 inch long come in many species that affect a multitude of woody plants. They live on leaf bottoms, where they excrete spots of dark crud as they eat. Minor lacebug damage looks like yellowy dots on the upper leaf surface. Repeated severe infestations can kill a plant. Different species attack evergreen and deciduous plants, but damage is most common on evergreens.

Cause: Incorrect planting sites encourage some infestation of lace bugs.

Preventive Measures: Lace bugs thrive in sun. Set vulnerable plants such as azalea and andromeda in shade.

Treatment: In early spring. start checking under the leaves for eggs, newly hatched nymphs, and adults. Keep checking every couple of weeks, since several generations may hatch in a year. Dealing promptly with infestation prevents ugly damage from occurring. As with aphids, you can set upon lacebugs with a hose and give them a hard spray to displace and kill nymphs (immature insects) in spring. Encourage beneficial insects that prey on lace bugs by avoiding the use of chemical insecticides. Instead, drench leaves (especially the bottoms) with insecticidal soaps or horticultural oils to control the nymphs when they hatch.

Leaf Miner

Description: Leaf miners are similar to borers except that the latter go deeper into the plant. The larvae of leaf miners live inside leaves and their damage is visible as an irregular narrow whitish trail on the leaf surface. Most attacks are visible at the beginning and end of summer in mature foliage. Most woody plant families are susceptible to their raids.

Cause: Adult beetles and moths looking for suitable host for their larvae to develop.

Preventive Measures: Avoid stressing trees and shrubs with too much or too little water, and provide desirable conditions for their growth.

Treatment: Chemicals don’t work because the larvae are inside the plant. Anyway, leaf miners usually don’t cause permanent damage to most trees and shrubs.

Scale

Description: Scale insects feed on the sap of both evergreen and deciduous trees and
shrubs with mouth parts up to 8 times longer than their bodies. Scales hug their bodies tight to their food source and can be found on leaves, twigs, branches, and trunks. They can weaken and eventually kill the plant they infest, though that is not typical. Two kinds of scales exist, hard and soft. The latter makes honeydew while the former does not.

Cause: Scales occur on trees and shrubs that are stressed.

Preventive Measures: Maintain healthy trees and shrubs or drought. Avoid chemicals that harm lady beetles and that can survive an attack. Give your plants adequate
water and nutrition, especially when stressed by injury or drought. Avoid chemicals that harm lady beetles and parasitic wasps, their natural predators.

Treatment: Rub them off by hand or prune off severely infested branches. Because adults have a waxy coating that shields them from insecticides, you have to control them when they are overwintering or immature crawlers. Dormant oils work in early spring before trees and shrubs leaf out.

Spider Mite

Description: Mites are in the spider family. These teeny red, brown, or spotted sapsuckers damage leaf tissues. Fine webbing will appear on deciduous trees with large infestations. Leaves become spotty, yellow, and then brown before dropping. Common
hosts include spruces, arborvitaes, raspberries, roses, crabapples, and shrubby cinquefoils. To see if you have mites, tap a branch while holding a sheet of white paper
under it. If you see moving dots, you have spider mites.

Cause: Hot, dry, and dusty conditions grow their populations, while wet or humid weather lowers them.

Preventive Measures: Keep trees and shrubs healthy because spider mites thrive on stressed plants.

Treatment: While infestations are light, you can control them by spraying plants with hard jets of water. Do this whenever mite damage is apparent and repeat it weekly for at least 3 weeks. Use repeated applications of insecticidal soap or horticultural oil to further lower mite populations.

Tent Caterpillar

Description: You know them-those ugly, white, larvae-holding, silken webs or tents hung up in tree branches. The caterpillars eat the leaves of deciduous trees. They attack many kinds of trees but like rose, alder, birch, willow, ash, and apple more than most. Although they don’t kill trees, they can weaken them and make them vulnerable to other problems. Vigorous trees withstand an attack and releaf quickly.

Cause: Periodic infestations.

Preventive Measures: Keeping trees healthy helps them survive an infestation.

Treatment: Eliminate egg cases from trees. They are made of a foamy-looking gray to brown hard substance and are about 1% inches long. Remove the cases with pruners or
by hand. Get rid of hatched caterpillars by eliminating their nests from the limbs.

Wood Borer

Description: These insects, typically moths and beetles, grow under the bark of trees and shrubs, mining the inner bark in an immature, larval state. Most borers are drawn to dead, stressed, or dying trees. The beetles are dark brown, black, or red with tiny hard bodies. Many species attack conifers but the European elm bark beetle is a transmitting agent for the Dutch elm disease fungus that decimated the American elm (Ulmus americana) population in North America. Other examples of borers are longhorned beetles and carpenterworms, which become moths. Sawdust on the ground and sap mixed with sawdust oozing from little holes are signs that bark beetles have emerged from the trunk of conifers.

Cause: Trees stressed by drought, disease, and physical damage are more prone to wood borers than robust trees and shrubs.

Preventive measures: Keep shrubs and trees in tiptop health. Plant pest-resistant species and take good care of landscape shrubs and trees. Don’t over- or underwater
them, and make sure their growing conditions are conducive to maximum vigor. Baby new transplants.

Treatment: Cut off and get rid of infested branches to prevent the spread of the beetles. If the trunk shows lots of beetle damage, you may have to dispense with whole trees to save nearby trees. A certified arborist will know the right time to prune diseased branches from different types of trees.

Earth Friendly Remedies

Bordeaux mix can kill some disease-causing bacteria and fungi that affect both woody ornamentals and trees and shrubs grown for fruits or nuts. Bordeaux is good to use full strength as a long-lasting fungicide in fall, winter, and spring before a plant breaks dormancy; you can also use it at reduced strength after spring growth begins. You need proper safety gear (goggles and protective clothing) to apply this mixture, which you can buy prepackaged or make fresh. One gallon of Bordeaux mix requires blending 3 1/3 tablespoons of copper sulfate and 10 tablespoons of hydrated lime with 1 gallon of water. It should be used right after mixing. Bordeaux mix can control some mildews, fireblight, and apple scab.

Fixed copper fungicides, which are different copper compounds mixed with water, are safer to apply and safer to use on tender plants. You can also buy these ready made.

Insecticidal soaps kill vulnerable soft-bodied insects on contact. For efficacy, you have to ensure thorough coverage of affected plants, including stems and upper and lower leaf surfaces. The application may work better if you spray early in the morning or in the evening to prevent quick evaporation. These soaps are people-safe when you follow the package directions. As with any insecticide, use only when absolutely necessary.

Horticultural oils, which are made of refined petroleum or plant oils mixed with water, control many pesky insects on plants but tend to have limited effects on beneficial insects. Oils can kill aphids, mites, caterpillars, and scales on woody ornamentals as well as help prevent powdery mildew and rust. Dormant oil is horticultural oil used on trees and shrubs during their dormant season. Summer oil is safe to use on mature leaves during the growing season. Sometimes oils can injure sensitive species, such as juniper, hickory, black walnut, redbud, smoketree, some azaleas, spruce, Douglas fir, and Japanese cedar or cryptomeria, and Japanese, sugar, and red maples. Always follow package directions when spraying these products.

Common Tree and Plant Diseases

Your ultimate guide to common tree and plant disease comes to you from The Homeowner’s Complete Tree & Shrub Handbook. In this article, you will find practical methods for identifying, preventing, and treating the following: Canker, Leaf Spot, Mildews, Root Rot, Sooty Mold, and Verticillium Wilt.

Knowing the causes for these various diseases can help you prevent tree and plant disease in the future. After all, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!

See Related: Common Insect Pests

Canker

Description: Cankers are long, dark, sometimes sunken lesions with defined edges on limbs and trunks of woody plants. The lesions sometimes may ooze tacky, tawny sap. Canker can destroy leaves, twigs, and branches. Trunk cankers can kill your trees. The rim of bark around the canker may turn inside, giving the lesion a rolled edge.

Cause: Canker-causing fungi and bacteria attack weak trees and shrubs, which may have been harmed by environmental stresses such as sunscald, flooding, or frost damage, or human error such as driving a lawn mower into a tree trunk.

Preventive Measures: Mulch around trees and shrubs to avoid damaging them with landscape equipment.

Treatment: Treat your woodies well. Maintain the health of established trees and shrubs by fertilizing when necessary and watering them during prolonged dry spells. Prune off severely damaged limbs.

Leaf Spot

Description: Foliage of numerous trees and shrubs develops spots that vary in shape, size, and color. Sometimes leaf spots grow bigger until they slow the tree’s or shrub’s development. Other kinds of leaf spots may develop holes in
the middle.

Cause: Different fungi and bacteria cause leaf spots. Some infections occur during rainy springs when spattering water carries bacteria from twigs to shoots.

Preventive Measures: After fall leaf drop, rake up and discard diseased leaves and twigs. Weed under evergreens for good air circulation. Plant disease-resistant cultivars.

Treatment: For bacterial leaf spot, which often starts out pale green and becomes brown with clear borders, spray with Bordeaux mix (copper sulfate) as buds begin
to expand in wet weather. If it’s dry when buds expand, although the plant will look bad, it will not be as weakened by the disease.

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Mildews

Description: Mildews are parasitic fungal diseases that affect live trees and shrubs. Downy mildews show up mostly on the foliage of plants, including redbud (Cercis canadensis), hackberry (Celtis species), Viburnum species, brambles (Rubus species), currants (Ribes species), and roses (Rosa species). If your woodies have downy mildew, you’ll see on leaf tops some spotty discoloration that eventually turns brown. Grayish white fuzz appears on the underside of the patches. The diseased spots can spread so much that early leaf drop occurs. If you see splotchy, pale gray areas on leaf and stem surfaces, this is most likely a layer of white, powdery spores known as powdery mildew. A few of the many, many woodies affected by powdery mildew our common lilac (Syringa vulgaris), apples and crab apples (Malus species), roses (Rosa species), ornamental cherries and other stone fruit trees (Prunus species), redtip (Photinia species), hydrangea (Hydrangea species), crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica), and gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides). Both mildews may warp the buds and developing foliage, though powdery mildew rarely causes permanent harm.

Cause: Downy mildew is a current cool to warm humid weather. Water splashing from dead sick leaves on the ground to the plant’s lower leaves replays the cycle of mildew infection year after year. Powdery mildews come about with warm days and cool nights in dry or humid, but not rainy, weather. Where I live, the warm days, cool nights, and dry conditions of the typical summer frequently lead to powdery mildew on susceptible plants.

Preventative Measures: Pick up infected leaves and dispose of them in the trash. Choose mildew– resistant varieties of susceptible plants when available. Prune trees and shrubs to allow maximum air circulation so foliage can dry out quickly from dew, rain, (downy mildew only; rain actually impedes the spread of powdery mildew), or watering. A sunny breeze site not too closely planted also helps air circulate.

Treatment: Improve air circulation. Remove infected leaves, plant parts, or when necessary, the entire plant. Spray plants with 1 tablespoon of baking soda dissolved in 3 quarts of water for powdery mildew. For downy mildew, spray with fungicide derived from copper.


Phytopthora Root Rot

Description: This soil– born organism causes root rot in many trees and shrubs and eventually kills them. You may notice wilting, yellowing, and the preservation of dried leaves due to the roots’ in ability to take up water. You first notice root rot in summer when plans are more water stressed. Some of the fungal spores stay active even after the plant has died.

Cause: Moist warm soils are necessary for this fungus to thrive and spread from plant the plant. The disease disperses downhill.

Treatment: Fungicide in the affected soil mat keep the disease from spreading to other plants. An increase in the amount of organic matter in the soil my further reduce fungal activity.

Sooty Mold

Description: If you see black mold growing on twigs and foliage your plant may be infected with sooty molds or dark fungi. These develop on honey dew (a sugary juice) produced by sapsucking insects such as scales, aphids, whiteflies, and mealybugs.

Cause: A fungus that grows on secretions of sapsucking insects. The presence of sooty molds maybe rising due to global warming and the stress of hotter, drier weather, which can increase the number of certain sapsucking insects.

Preventative Measures: Identify the insect by referring to pictures and descriptions. You can also consult your local Cooperative Extension Service for help identifying and dealing with insect problems.

Treatment: Sooty mold rubs easily of leaves and can rinse off in the rain. By decreasing the number of sapsucking insects on your plant, you can control the spread of sooty mold.

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Verticillium Wilt

Description: A common fungal disease among landscape plants, verticillium wilt clogs the vascular system, depriving the plant of water and nutrients and causing leaves to wilt and branches to die back either one by one or on one side of the plant. Verticillium wilt can kill plants quickly or slowly over many years depending upon how far the disease progresses through the root system. Many wood plants are vulnerable to this disease, including maple (Acer species), weigela, magnolias, viburnums, rhododendrons, and tulip-tree (Liriodendron tulipfera).

Cause: Caused by soil-borne fungi, especially in cool areas of North America, the diseases also spread by contaminated garden tools and by the wind.

Preventative Measures: Plant resistant trees such as Hawthorne (Crataegus species), London planetree (Platanus x acerifolia), holly (Ilex species), katsura (Cercidiphyllum japonicum), oak (Quercus species), and thornless honey locust (Gleditsia triacanthos finermis). You can also grow plants with exposed seed, such as conifers and ginko, which are not prone to the disease.

Treatment: None.

Tough Decisions About Saving or Eliminating a Tree

Because your landscape is alive, it constantly changes and grows. You may make an aesthetic decision about saving or eliminating a tree a number of years after you’ve planted them. But sometimes practicality dictates your decision. For example, bit old trees towering over small houses often add charm and character to a landscape. The tree, however, may need branches pruned or cabled to keep them from falling on the house in strong winds or a storm. You may wish to consult a professional arborist to help make that decision.

Another common reason for re-evaluation is when a fast-growing shade tree that was tiny when planted now dwarfs shrubs and other trees in teh landscape, creating deep shade where none was before. This often happens to foundation plantings, where big shade trees were planted at a distance and now block all sun from reaching the house. A small sun loving tree or shrub that thrived for years may decline and even die in too much shade.

If you see shrubs and small trees with few leaves and long spindly stems, consider that too much shade may be the problem. When plants are in this condition, it’s usually not worth saving them. Remove them and plant new shade-tolerant varieties.

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Soil Compression

Take down trees near the houes, where construction equipment will be rolling over the root zones. Even if you fence off the tree to protect the bark from damage, soil compression may still destroy the tree.

Aesthetics

Remove trees that block desirable views. You may also want to cut down trees that lack character or beauty. Straight healthy trees are usually worth saving. Likewise, save gnarly old trees with striking form if they’re healthy and pose no hazard.

Damage

Tilting or damaged trees may ruin views from your home and be risky to keep. Take them out and replace them with straight and healthy new specimens. If you want to plant lawn in the area, have stumps on the round out about 1 foot deep.

These are all important things to note when you need to make tough decisions about whether or not to keep a tree. Of course, aesthetics always play an important role when making that decision.

This information was provided by an interesting book called “The Homeowners Complete Guide to Tree and Shrubs”.

When Storms Come Your Way

Snow and Ice

Snow and ice can look magical on trees, but they can also destroy then. The weight of snow can crush evergreens by breaking them apart. It can also weigh down deciduous tree limbs until they also break. Sometimes it weighs so heavily on a treetop that it can lift the root mass right out of the soil.

Ice-coated trunks and branches bend low and sometimes snap. You can help avoid permanent damage by gently brushing snow off the branches you can reach.

  • An arborist may need to stake or cable trees vulnerable to folding under the weight of ice.
  • Whether cabled or not, let the ice melt naturally.
  • Prune any damage so the tree will not create a hazard. Well-pruned trees and shrubs stand up better to snow and ice than trees with weak branch crotches or more than one leader.
  • Trying up boxwood or erect evergreens like red cedar and arborvitae may help prevent injury.
  • Crisscross the entire crows with nylon cord or fishing line and remove promptly in the Spring.
  • Protect smaller shrubs with teepee made from leaning two boards.
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Wind

Healthy trunks and branches ben to some extent with the wind. The branches most susceptible to breaking are heavy ones that join with the trunk at an acute angle. Choosing healthy, well formed trees can prevent this damage. If it’s too late for that, you can have an arborist help you shape the tree for added strength. Wind protection is particularly important for evergreens, which keep losing water through their leaves during the winter. Making sure these trees and shrubs are well watered before the ground freezes helps prevent the foliage from turning brown. Although you should cut back the volume of water you give your trees in early fall so they can harden off for winter, keep watering them until the ground freezes.

You can also avoid damage to evergreens through proper planting. Never plant evergreens susceptible to wind damage, like arborvitae and yew, on the south sides of your home. In most of the US, the westerlies or prevailing winds move from the west or southwest towards the east or northeast. Local geography, including large bodies of water and tall buildings, may affect wind speed and direction in a particular place. West-to-east airflow snakes in ridges or crests throughs or depressions going north and south. Winds on the west side of a ridge are from the south-west (warm) and those on the east side travel from the northwest (cold). If you must, build a two or three-sided wind fence out of stakes and burlap to block the prevailing winter wind and the southern and southwestern exposure of the evergreens.

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Lightning

If a lightning strike hits a tree on your property, you may not see the injuries, but they can range from burnt roots to systematic damage inside the tree. External damage takes many forms. Long strips of bark may hang loosely from the tree, a branch may explode or pests may overwhelm the injured tree. Popular landscape trees are month the more susceptible trees to lightning damage. Although you can’t prevent a calamity, you can planet trees less vulnerable to strikes such as birch and beech. If lighting strikes such as birch and beech. If lighting strikes a tree without doing too much damage, you can help it bounce back by first cutting off hanging bark, then fertilizing the plant, keeping its root zone mulched, and watering it during dry spells.

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Drought

A lack of water in the soil affects trees and shrubs by decreasing their vigor and even killing them. Drought destroys feeder roots and root hairs, which provide the avenue for most water absorption. Because they are are mostly in the top foot of the soil, they are quickly affected by moisture loss. The tree suffers stress, and leaves may wilt, scorch, or drop. Spider mites, leaf eating insects or wood borers are active in hot dry weather and invade the drought stressed tree.

If you live in an area known for dry soils and lack access to irrigation water, plant only drought tolerant species. If you live where drought is infrequent, keep trees and shrubs well watered during dry spells and remember that it’s better to water deeply and less frequently instead of briefly watering the soil surface every few days. During a drought, water newly panted trees weekly and more established trees every four to six weeks.

To water a tree deeply, set up a trickling hose around the drip line and leave it in place for 30 minutes. Move the hose to one third the way around the tree and water again for the same amount of time. Repeat more more time. If the tree is very big, you’ll need to move the hose to more spots around the drop line. Recently transplanted material needs special care and plenty of water to help it become established.

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*This information was provided by the Homeowner’s Complete Tree and Shrub Handbook.

Choosing the Right Fertilizer


Fertilizer is NOT plant food. Trees, like all green plants, make their own food. Fertilizers contain elements essential for tree growth that may be missing from depleted soils.

For the first year after planting, trees and shrubs need no additional fertilizers, and those treated can probably fend for themselves. Likewise, mature established trees need no extra nutrients when grown in healthy undisturbed soil. Most gardens, however, contain trees and shrubs planted for the gardener’s pleasure and not because that’s where they would naturally grow. That’s why they need the occasional nutrient boost that a fertilizer gives.

Fertilizers vary in their mix of the basic nutrients: nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium. Nitrogen promotes leaf an stem growth, phosphorous and potassium support flowering and root development.

Whenever you read a fertilizer label, the numbers representing the percentages of each nutrient always appear on the label in that order. This is true whether the fertilizer is granular, liquid or soluble powder.

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Organic Approach to Fertilizing

Instead of using fertilizers, organic gardeners keep their soils healthy with compost, a jumble of decaying organic matter such as leaves, clipped grass, and worm casings, that enhances soil structure and supplies nutrients to plants.

An excellent nitrogen-rich organic soil additive is rotted manure of bats, cows, chickens, and horses. Sometimes you can find dehydrated, pelletized, composted manure packaged as an easy-to-use organic fertilizer.

Other organic fertilizers range from liquids made from fish and seaweed to bonemeal, blood meal, cottonseed meal, and alfalfa meal. Organic fertilizers not only supply necessary nutrients, they usually condition the soil, adding organic matter and improving the soil’s moisture an nutrient retention. Follow the package directions to establish the necessary amount for your plants and trees.

Synthetic Fertilizers

If you prefer using synthetic fertilizer blends, then it’s even more important to understand how much of each nutrient you need. You can discover that information form a soil test.

Dry granular synthetic fertilizers are cheap and easy to apply but they must be watered in to release their nutrients. The idea ratio of NPK for trees is about 3:1:1. Thus, if you see a product labeled 27-9-9 or 30-10-7, it would fall into this range.

If you broadcast fertilizer, keep it off your driveway, patio, and walkways, because rain or sprinklers can wash it from your property and into drains and culverts, eventually spilling into nearby bodies of water.

Also make sure you apply fertilizer at the correct rate and in the right location, because a tree’s root zone may expand in any direction two to three times the radius of the crown. For instance, if the crown of the tree is 15′ wide, keep the area closest to the trunk and apply the granules under the canopy starting 5 feet from the edge of the crown to about 15 feet beyond it.

You may want a tree service to inject a liquid product into the root zones. Most tree roots that take up nutrients exist in the top 6-8 inches of soil, so deeper injections are unnecessary and not as useful to the plant. if a tree grown in lawn, an arborist will feed it just below the turf roots.

*This information was provided by the Homeowner’s Complete Tree and Shrub Handbook.

Big Pests That Can Damage Your Trees

Where we live in Denver, CO, there’s a lot of wildlife. You might see deer, birds, squirrels and maybe even wild turkeys strolling down roads. Unfortunately, sometimes their presence can also cause problems for your trees and landscaping. 

Here’s a few interesting tips and tricks from The Essential Guide to Choosing, Planting and Maintaining Perfect Landscape Plants or The Homeowner’s Handbook

Related Post: Common Insect Pests

Big Pests That Can Damage Your Trees
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Deer

Antlers on deer start growing in March or April and this is when much antler damage to trees occur. Bucks use trees as rubbing posts for their developing antlers. They also feed on the trowing tips of woody ornamentals, leaving in their wake bare jagged stubs. No tree or shrub is safe from deer, though some plans are less appealing than others. Just by landscaping our homes and turning old farmer’s fields into tree filled subdivisions we create a habitat for them.  As we destroy their native woods, they seek new sources of food and shelter and destroy or human landscape. 

The surest way to keep deer off your land is to build a 9-foot fence around it. Deer jump high and can leap fences up to that height. Less physical barriers include wrapping commercial tree guards around trunks and staking 5-foot-high wire mesh cages around the plants you’re protecting. Set the caging stakes around the plant’s circumferences at the distance of about 2 feet. 

Don’t invite deer to visit by leaving food for them. Deer repellents may work for a while, and so may automatic motion detectors that flood an area with light or sound when creatures walk by. After a while, however, deer adapt and you’ll need something new to surprise them. 

Deer have a preferred menu, from the most to the least favorite plans. If you plant their least favorites, they may visit the neighbors first, but chances are that they’ll return to your house in deepest winter when the good stuff next door is gone. 

Other Wild Visitors

Deer aren’t the only garden pests. Flocks of wild turkeys strut through yards at different seasons devouring nuts, insects, fern fronds, and berries from shrubs, planted for winter interest. 

Even domesticated animals destroy gardens. Dogs often relieve themselves on newly planted trees or shrubs, which can kill them later in the season.  Rabbits, mice and voles also gnaw on trees. Repellents sometimes work to keep rabbits away, but you may need to use a mesh tree guard on a young tree until its bark is sturdy enough to keep it safe from harm. 

Voles injure not only tree bark, but also roots and lower twigs. They girdle or chew a ring around the bark at the base of young trees, which disrupts the flow of water and nutrients. The tree weakens and ultimately dies. Some vole species eat little tree roots and girdle big ones, as well as girdling the trunk. This damage happens more in winter when they’ve exhausted other sources of food. They also nest at the base of trees and breed at an alarming rate. 

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Prevention Is the Best Cure

Besides having predators kill of the tiny rodents, you can save your trees by keeping your grass short and mulch shallow and away from the tree trunk. Those cone-shaped mulch mountains you see around trees create terrific nesting spots for voles. 

Clean your garden after leaf drop in fall, since autumn leaves also create habitat. When you remove the fallen leaves, voles won’t have a place to nest. 

Deer Resistant Trees:

  • Maple
  • Chokeberry
  • Barberry
  • Birch
  • Boxwood
  • Smoketree
  • Juniper
  • Magnolia
  • Spruce
  • Pine