Thursday, July 30, 2015

Wrong Plant, Wrong Place

About a month ago, I was at the local Verizon store in Hendersonville and watch a crew with a local Landscape Contracting company unload and install this hedge of Leyland Cypress.  The soil (if I dare to even call the substrate that) was hard, compacted and likely sterile.  The plants were in 5-6' tall in 7 gallon containers.  The crew had been instructed by someone (I chose to mind my own business and not ask) to plant them on 5' centers 3' from the wall and 2' from the side walk. 90% of this area is under an overhanging canopy.  This is what the hedge looks like today.  There's no evidence of any follow-up watering or other care.  Honestly, Leyland Cypress is  the wrong plant for this wrong site and my observation, unfortunately, was that the crew were not trained to properly prepare the site and install the plants.   I don't expect to get a call from the Verizon store wanting to know why their plants are dying but I regularly do for similar installations.   While Leyland Cypress are known to get a "grocery list" of pathogens, managing for these pathogens is pointless if the plants are in the wrong location.  Unfortunately, none of the diseases are manageable; post infection and the one or two pathogens  that could be prevented with fungicides aren't likely to be managed by sprays on the average clients budget.    They need extra helpings of most of the resources that plants need to survive:  Light- Too much shade is death to a Leyland Cypress even from adjacent plants in a hedge;  Water- Leyland Cypress aren't reliably drought tolerant so they need to be monitored to keep their roots moist but not saturated and their foliage slightly on the dry side; Nutrients- Maintain an evenly balance fertilizer program, with adequate micro-nutrients and a pH of 6.5; Space-  Leyland Cypress need around 20' of spacing on all sides to avoid overcrowding and over competition from other plants.   Keep in mind these trees came from parent plants that originate in rugged areas of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.  The climate there is quite different than that found here in the Southeast and while they can perform fairly well here if they are pampered, their lifespan is typically shortened by  climatic stress particularly when used in the wrong place.

This kind of work reflects negatively on the business that installed the trees as well as the landscape industry as a whole.  We can and must rise above the practices involved with this poor quality work and work together to improve all of our levels of understanding about Right Plant for the Right Place!

For more information contact your local Cooperative Extension Center and ask for the Commercial Horticulture Agent.