Autumn Browning and Needle Shed on Hinoki Cypress

If the inner needles on your Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis) are suddenly turning from a healthy looking green to shades of yellow, orange and brownish-red in autumn, there is little need for concern. Needle shed is all part of a natural process. Each year evergreens will produce new foliage in spring and part of the preparation process involves shedding their older foliage in the previous fall. Shedding of needles and foliage is a process that evergreens go through as a way of preparing for new growth once the weather warms. As the days become shorter and temperatures lower, evergreens go through a slight dormant period similar to deciduous trees and shrubs. Many evergreens such as Chamaecyparis (Hinoki Cypress), Thuja (Arborvitae), fir, pine, cedar, hemlock and spruce lose some of their needles every year and may go through a major shedding every three to five years.

Autumn Browning and Needle Shed Hinoki Cypress

To examine, look at your tree carefully. Older foliage is shed first so the losses should generally be from the inside out and not at the tips. Prior to shedding the needles appear from green to yellow, orange and eventually brown, remaining on the tree until the process is complete.  The actual amount of needle shed on the tree or shrub varies depending on the growing season, temperature changes and amount of rainfall, and can sometimes be sudden. Often the change is unnoticeable but generally the drier the season or more drastic the temperature change the more noticeable the needle shed, a natural cleaning process leading to new growth in the spring.

Hinoki Cypress Major Needle Shed Autumn

The sudden change in temperatures over the past couple of weeks here in the northeast has caused some of the Hinoki Cypress to go through a major shed. I do have concern over this particular Hinoki, which I have had for over twenty years. It does tend to get more yellowing/browning over the others, but normally comes back with a flush of new growth in spring. If desired, lightly brushing the inner portion of the plant will help to remove the older browned foliage. If concerned about any particular branches on your plant, scrape the bark with your fingernail down to the growing layer. If the branches are brown and brittle the area tested has met its demise. If there is presence of a green growing layer underneath the surface of the bark, the branch is indeed alive.

 Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee, 2019, All Rights Reserved

Late Summer/Early Fall Pest Alert: Fall Webworm

Fall is approaching and a common garden pest, the fall webworm (Hyphantria cunea) can become noticeable on trees, causing unsightly larval nests covering entire branches, resulting in stress to the tree and severe leaf damage. Fall webworm are caterpillars that weave loose webbing around the tree’s outer foliage while feeding on leaves, compared to tent caterpillars that appear in spring and build their more opaque nests within the inner crotch of the branches. The webworm caterpillar is approximately one inch in length with a light greenish-yellow body and black to reddish head. Adults emerge later on as white moths with dark spots on their wings.

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Fall Webworm Caterpillar

The best way to eliminate fall webworm is to remove the infected branches immediately, before the larvae hatch and take over the tree. If the caterpillars have already left the nest, it is recommended to spray with an organophosphate insecticide such as Acephate (contained in Orthene or Sevin) or Malathion. Acephate is both a foliar and soil systemic which keeps on working 10–15 days after application. Malathion is a foliar insecticide which is also commonly used, but note that Malathion may leave a residue. The best proactive method of killing overwintering larvae is to apply a dormant oil in early spring while the tree is dormant. Dormant oil is a more natural solution and works by smothering and killing the overwintering eggs.

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Fall Webworm Adult Moth (Source: Wikimedia Commons Author TampAGS, for AGS Media)

In the spring, adult moths emerge and deposit eggs, continuing the life cycle of the caterpillar. These caterpillars may go through as many as eleven growth stages before leaving the web.

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A Guide to Northeastern Gardening: Journeys of a Garden Designer Zones 3-9

Landscape Design Combinations

Author:  Lee@Landscape Design By Lee 2018. All Rights Reserved.

After many years of hybridizing and the production of more cold hardy varieties, Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia indica) can be successfully grown here in the Northeast. These showy trees are a personal favorite of mine due to their beautiful long lasting blooms that start at the end of the summer and last well into Fall, a bloom period of approximately 120 days!   Just as other flowering trees and shrubs are reaching the end of their bloom cycle the stately Crape Myrtle ‘Lagerstroemia indica’ starts its spectacular show. I often use these beautiful trees as an eye catching element in my designs as they serve nicely as an anchor plant in a foundation planting or as a focal point in an island bed or backyard garden.

(Photo: Lagerstromeia indica ‘Sioux’)

There are many varieties of this beautiful tree ranging in size from ‘Pocomoke’ and ’Chickasaw’, which are dwarf varieties, topping off at approximately 5 feet to ‘Natchez’ (White),‘Tuscarora’ (Coral Pink),‘Muskogee’ (Lavender) and ‘Catawba’ (Purple) ranging at a height between 12-20 feet. A personal favorite of mine is Crape Myrtle ’Sioux’, a medium variety that ranges in height to approximately 12-15 feet. The medium-pink flowers of the ‘Sioux’ Crape Myrtle begin late in July and last well into October and are an elegant display not to be missed. Three other varieties of Lagerstroemia worth mentioning are ‘Tonto’ and ‘Dynamite’, both known for their vibrant red flowers and medium height of 12-15 feet and ‘Zuni’ (Purple) at a smaller 8-9 feet in stature.

Lagerstromeia Crape Myrtle Muskogee
(Photo: Lagerstroemia indica ‘Muskogee’)

HARDINESS AND GROWING CONDITIONS: Lagerstroemia are a hardy to zones 7-9 and are “deer resistant”, meaning that deer will most likely avoid them in their diet. They grow best in full sunlight in a well-drained soil with a pH of 5.0-6.5. These trees require little to no pruning but can be pruned to maintain a more compact shape or to remove any dead branches that may result from a harsh winter.  If you are going to prune wait until late winter or early spring after the last frost. The plants are dormant in winter and any flowering occurs on new growth so pruning will encourage new flower producing branches. Remove any dead branches, suckers growing from the base or weak twiggy branches and allow strong leader branches to keep the framework of the tree.

Lagerstroemia indica ‘Natchez’

TRANSPLANTING:  If you are planning on transplanting your Crape Myrtle tree the best time to transplant in the northeast is in mid April or mid September through mid October.  Roots need time to become established before the summer heat or winter cold set in. Dig a hole slightly wider than the root ball and make sure the tree sits at the height of the surface or slightly above.  Apply a layer of mulch around the tree to protect the roots and keep well watered until established.  Crape Myrtle are somewhat sensitive to cold so there may be some branch die back in the first season until the plant becomes well established.

Lagerstroemia indica ‘Tuscarora’

Depending on the preference of the grower Crape Myrtle can be planted as either a multi-trunk or singular-trunk form and can be displayed as either a shrub or tree in the landscape.  An important note worth mentioning is that Crape Myrtle (Lagerstroemia) are among the last plants to push out their new growth so if they appear to be dead at the end of winter going into spring just give them some time to come into their glory. Since they are later to push out their leaves they do benefit from an early spring feeding of a high phosphorus-lower nitrogen 5-10-5 formula to promote good foliage growth and an abundance of blooms in July-August. Crape Myrtles are not susceptible to insects or disease but as in any landscape planting they should be monitored and properly maintained to keep them in good health.

If you are looking for a long blooming, deer resistant, low maintenance tree to add color to your garden then Crape Myrtle may be the tree for you. I for one would highly recommend this beautiful plant as a welcome addition to any formal or informal landscape.
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