Lost newly planted trees?

dakota01April 30, 2014

I had my new landscaping put in last June. Since it was a pretty miserable and hot summer (zone 5-NWPA) I was sure to keep my new grass, shrubs and trees well watered.

Everything looked great - until Feb. All winter, my new 6 foot holly trees looked fine, nice and green with pretty red berries - then BAM - both holly trees leaves started to turn dark brown, then within a month or so all the leaves have fallen off. I see no growth or shoots coming.

My new large 7 foot Japanese Maple (could be Bene Kawa or Sanga Kamu) beautiful green leaves, turn yellow orange in fall, and beautiful red bark in the winter. was looking fine - looked at it the other day and what could have been new spring leaf shoots are now dried up. We did get a bad cold snap which could have zapped the tender leave buds - will it send out new buds? All of the established trees in my neighborhood are blooming - so I would think my JM should be doing the same - woudlnt' the established trees have gotten zapped too?

My small weeping JM didn't look very good when the landscaper put it in, but, I did wanter in hopes it would take - well, it's dead too!

I wonder just what went wrong with my new landscape?

I am not a newbie at trees/shrubs, I planted most of the landscape at my last house and NEVER lost anything! My new home is in a fairly windy area and this winter was very bad in PA could it have been the weather? Isn't it odd that I would lose 2 Holly trees?

Could it be how they were planted? I watched as the planted and it certainly was not the manner that my dad taught me! I wanted to mention it to the landscapers but they are professsionals so I figured they know more than little ol me....

The company is replacing the lost trees - but, that' not the point - I don't want it to happen again....

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How were they planting them that it was different than you would have planted them?

It's very likely the cold snap a few weeks ago zapped the leaves on the JM but it should produce new buds. As for the holly, winter bun tends to be the main problem in bad winters. Mine all got this condition but mostly on the south facing side, which is the sunniest. They have lost most of their leaves from that side but most of the north have remained. It's likely the holly would have returned as well as the JM but it's nice you had the guarantee from the landscaper.

It would also be interesting to learn what your definition of 'well watered' is as it seems it's different for some.

I don't envy you guys up in that part of the state though. It was brutal up there last season; hopefully it's getting better.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 11:15AM
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ken_adrian Adrian MI cold Z5

did you properly water trees... or did you rely on lawn irrigation for such???

if they went into winter.. not properly.. and deeply watered... then one might suggest.. winter wasnt the primary cause ... it was just the icing on the cake ...

were these large transplants?? .. how large ..

more facts if you want more divination ...


    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 1:07PM
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We had a brutal winter in S.E. Ohio. I may have lost several well-established trees, even with adequate rain last summer and into the fall, when they were going dormant. I lost established ground cover beds as well. Lost the tops off a tree peony, and a rare rhodie, though they look as if they may be coming back from lower branches. The prolonged cold was just an insult, period. Wait and see at this point is all I can say, but there is a chance .......even if you did everything right............they bit the dust. Did you have any replacement warranties on the work, just in case?

    Bookmark   April 30, 2014 at 2:08PM
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Sorry for the delay in responding -
As for watering - My dad taught me to water trees/shrubs slow but for long periods. He said you want the water to get way down into the roots and that takes time for the soil to get wet to the bottom of the hole.

So I would take my hose and put it on low - but, more than just a trickle - leave it run for a good 1/2 hour, move it around the tree area and leave it for another 1/2 or so. When I would see puddles or running water that were further away from the tree- I would stop watering.
Since the cold weather came early - I did not water in October. But, I did water until the end of September.

I don't know if my trees/hollies were transplants - I know the hollies were in large pots and the two JM were in dirt with burlap around them.

I did notice a few days ago that one branch on the large JM has a couple of leaves and the bark is a bright red. Other areas of the tree are a dull red and dry to the touch. I have not scratched the bark - I will leave the final decision of are they dead or just slow to come back due to the extreme winter we had.

As for how I would plant a tree: Dig a hole twice as big as the root ball - remove any burlap that would be protroding above the soil line - if it's in a pot, tap to remove from pot, loosen a tight root ball even if I had to use a knife to cut and loosen them, then put water in the hole, put the tree in, put some dirt, tamp with my feet, add more water, more soil more tamping till I get to the top of the landscape/dirt. Do not bury the tree - do not put too much mulch around the trunk.

They installed 4 trees and all 4 of them are either dead or ???. They did not use any water when they planted them. They did not tamp the soil, they did not loosen the root balls.
The things that did come back were the rose bushes (even though the bunnies chewed them up) ground cover (jenny something or other), the small evergreens/pines, a couple of perennials and the many low growing dwarf boxwods.

Is my planting method wrong? Is my watering method wrong?
Due to the fact that I got all new landscape and grass I watered alot last year. Could I have over watered?

Since the trees will be replaced at thier cost, If I'm doing something wrong, I need to know that so I don't kill more trees.
Thank You

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 10:44AM
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toronado3800 Zone 6 StLouis(6)

Don't beat yourself up. I think it is more a winter/microclimate/plant choice issue.

"They installed 4 trees and all 4 of them are either dead or ???. They did not use any water when they planted them. They did not tamp the soil, they did not loosen the root balls. "

"I had my new landscaping put in last June."

" (zone 5-NWPA)"

"Japanese Maple"

I have taken a few snippets here.

First, I admire your landscaper for honoring his warranty.

- June is not the greatest time to be panting. Nothing is a sure fire 100% transplant but by planting in non prime time you lose survival percentages. Trust me, I do it all the time lol.

- I despise the idea of leaving burlap on the sides of rootballs. I burlap usually decays but it just seems like a nice barrier. I'm sure it only reduces root growth out of the rootball by 10% and probably only keeps 10% of the water you give it from getting in.

- Large transplants have lower success rates. If I dig a 1 foot tree out of the ground I might get 95% of the roots.

- My zone 6 winter and a late cold snap in the spring have lots of even large established Japanes Maples suffering around my neighborhood. I see a few inches of twig dieback on these fellas all the time.

- What kind of hollies? I have three that were supposed to be but probably were not American Holly Ilex opaca that have been in the ground ten years in zone six just looking dead. I'm waiting to cut them down until June for no good reason.

This winter has me thinking climate zone ratings for plants are generous. 1 because folks want to sell plants. 2 after a decade of observing an Acer palmatum this or that they just have to give it a rating. Too bad cold winters might only come along every two or three decades but realistically how long can they wait.

So a bunch of little things conspired against you. Don't beat yourself up.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2014 at 4:22PM
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Tornado - I looked at them last nite and one of the hollies has a tiny amount of tree leaves popping out of the bottom - I guess that could be a good sign that they are not DEAD but I do wonder if the stress of winter will just do them in later this year? Or if they will come back and get healthy? Should I give all my trees/shrubs any "food" to boost them up a bit?
When the lawn guy fertilizes I think he also gives some to the shrubs - so maybe that is enough.

Now that I think further back - it wasn't June that I had all this put in - it was later in the summer as we had a horrible spring and my house wasn't done enough to have it put in sooner. So, it could have been early August which is a worse time, but I did water everything like crazy!

Since you do this all the time, is my dad's method the right way to plant? Or dropping it in a hole, not tamping and watering after the fact the right way? Which gives you the best results?


    Bookmark   May 15, 2014 at 10:15AM
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