Tuesday, 16 December 2008

japanese maple rescue

At the end of winter I planted a little Japanese maple in the corner garden bed. The variety is called Shishigashira, a delicate dwarf variety with dense, "wrinkled" green leaves that turn bright orange in autumn. But it wasn't much to look at when I brought it home, just a little dormant stick.

But within a few weeks it burst into leaf. It seemed to be enjoying its corner, a sheltered spot with no wind and not too much sun. It even put out some new leaves.

But after a month or two I started to get worried. First the new leaves dried out and wrinkled up. I thought I hadn't watered it enough (it was a very dry October), so I made sure to give it a bit of water once a week. But then it started raining again so I stopped checking in on it. Next thing I know it looks like this.

Yep, it still looks like it's too dry. But in actuality, it's probably too wet. Over-watering shows very similar symptoms to under-watering: yellowing, dying foliage. Of course by the time I realized what was going on, we got our longest, wettest rain in years, something like 36 straight hours of rain. But finally it stopped raining, and yesterday I attempted a maple tree rescue.

First I raked away the mulch and with Tom's help dug up the maple. It was pretty easy to do, they're fairly shallow-rooted and it had only been in the ground a few months. The soil around it was definitely wet after all the rain, but it was also pretty free-draining, rich and loamy - not hard and clay, not swampy or smelly. But I still think over-watering is the culprit, because I also found a drain pipe coming out from the raised beds next to it into the corner, which means when I watered the rhodies I was also watering the maple. Good to know in the future, but too much of a good thing, even water, is a bad thing.

I mixed up cow manure and sand and filled in the hole, mixing in some of the surrounding soil too. Hopefully that will help with the drainage. Then I put the maple back, now on a bit of a mound, and piled up more manure/sand mix and surrounding soil around it, then the mulch on top. I even dug out a bit from the corners to add to the mound.

I can only hope this saves my little maple. I would hate to lose it before I ever got to see it turn colours in the autumn ... and it certainly wasn't a cheap tree!