Volume 7, September 2017
Questions from You:

Why are distorted, splotched leaves falling right now from my oaks and maples?

The tree roots are stressed from two to five years of drought conditions and are predisposed to fungal pathogens such as Tar Spot that appear on the leaves.  Insects may also invade at this time, quite opportunistically.  Trees will reach and shed these
Drought stressed oak
leaves early as a defense mechanism.  Remember, the amount and frequency of rain THROUGHOUT the growing season is most important to healthy plants.  Food reserves are used up during and after drought to rebuild damaged internal systems.  That further weakens the plant. 

So the negative effects of drought may take months or years to manifest.  And it may take years to recover.  We recommend a deep watering in weeks like this one where rainfall is absent, right now until the ground freezes.  This is especially important for newer woody plantings that went in during the past five years.  Perennials should be fine.  
Tar spots on Maple leaves

Our fall deep root compost tea and soil amending programs can help, too, by providing nutrients to soil microorganisms that may have been depleted by drought stressed plants.  A soil test helps us uncover these deficiencies.  Remember, soil microorganisms work to combat harmful insect and disease life cycles that proliferate in the soil!  Contact Priscilla for more information and to arrange for a site analysis by one of our Plant Health Care staff.

How can I make my landscape more resistant to tree and shrub disease issues?

In a nutshell, build diversity.  Reduce the total number of any one species, for example boxwood.  You'll then decrease the risk of losing many plants to a single disease and ensure that large amounts of inoculum cannot develop.

We can help you choose plants that are best adapted to your particular site conditions.  You may love roses, but if you live in the woods, there will be far too much shade to grow them well, and they will always be predisposed to trouble from both pests and diseases.  On the other hand, if you are out in a broad open space and exposed to sun and wind, choose drought tolerant species that are resilient such as herbs, silver leaved plants and native trees in the legume family.
Introducing Anika Walker
Welcome Anika!
Anika joined our staff in late July at a critical time when pruning work was piling up and we were taking on some large-scale plantings.  She grew up in North Carolina and has been gardening professionally for a number of years.  She has seamlessly fit into our crew and is a fast, efficient, and friendly gardener!
Article Reprint from NY Times:  How Walking in Nature Changes the Brain
I thought you might enjoy this article as much as I did.  Fall is a great time to get outdoors!  What interesting research on how our brains can benefit from a simple, short walk in a natural setting.  Tower Hill Botanic Garden has been offering classes in "Forest Bathing" which I hope will be repeated soon.  Check their website for details.
Plant Pick:  Ferns
As I make my rounds, I see spots to plant so many of our native ferns as well as the truly varied and interesting Japanese painted ferns!  Many of you want to defer planting them until spring.  Here is my argument for why NOW is the time to plant ferns:

They are at their peak of glory right now, both in nursery pots and in the ground. A fern does not emerge from the ground as until mid May.  Therefore, it is not available for sale until at least June 1 or even later.  By that time, summer drought may be here.
A fern planted now will pop up right on time in spring and be EVEN LARGER next year at this time!  
Ferns can be planted through early November (the last few weeks as dormant patties).

Here are some of my favorite ferns and how to use them: 
Polystichum acrostichoides (Christmas Fern)
Athyrium naponicum 'Pictum' (Japanese Painted Fern)

Dryopteris x 'Ghost'
(Ghost Fern)
Dennstaedtia punctilobula
(Hay Scented Fern)

Polystichum acrostichoides, Christmas fern, is evergreen.  It is a clumper and can tolerate dry shade conditions.  However, it will really thrive with a rich layer of compost.  Slumps in the sun, so keep it in those problem shady spots.  

Athyrium naponicum 'Pictum', Japanese painted fern.  So many color variations!  So many forms!  Pick a spot where its low lying fronds can be appreciated, rather than hidden by the foliage of taller plants.  Completely hardy in our area and very nice planted with astilbes, ginger, tiarella and the like.

Dryopteris x 'Ghost' is a cross between two favorites, the Marginal Wood fern and the Japanese painted fern.  Its fronds are 24" tall and upright, with a whitish cast predominating over touches of red and green.  Gently spreading over time and it really lights up a dark, shady nook.

Dennstaedtia punctilobula, hayscented fern, is the running one we see
Dryopteris marginalis
(Marginal Wood Fern)
along roadsides at the edges of woods.  It freely spreads as a groundcover (another lawn alternative).  It will turn a lovely golden yellow in early fall before falling down at the first deep frost.

Dryopteris marginalis, Marginal Wood Fern, is evergreen and can tolerate dry shade conditions.  It is a also a clumper and gently spreads wider, putting out more fronds over time.  A great fern to fill in a shady bank where you don't want to mow!  Here it is on the right at our Concord customer.
Priscilla's To-Do List for September
Mary Stoker mum
  • Begin to divide and transplant perennials that are not fall bloomers
  • Add new plants and carefully mulch to prevent winter heaving
  • Complete order for fall planted bulbs
  • Clean up summer annuals like petunias as they fade and use an organic liquid foliar feed weekly to encourage strong annuals such as lantana, marigold and dahlia that continue into fall
  • Refresh containers with fall interest annuals and perennials such as red grasses, asters, kale or chard, mums and sedums
  • Refresh vegetable gardens with starts of kale, chard, lettuce
  • Pull out vegetables that are no longer producing and clean up all spent foliage/fruits on the ground
  • Cover crops can be planted to enrich vegetable garden soil and suppress weeds if you don't succession plant
  • Sow microgreens in containers near your back doorstep for easy, quick shearing
  • Finish up summer pruning by mid month
  • Nip back vegetative growth of rose canes, wisteria, trumpet vine
  • Aerate lawns
  • Fertilize and overseed lawns
  • Keep up with weeding
  • Watering deeply is especially important now (see accompanying article on lingering impact of drought)
We look forward to working in your fall gardens.  Please let me know if there is something you would like to see come up next year.

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