Is this Autumn Blaze Maple worth saving?

Discussion in 'Maples' started by Tom Peng, Jul 23, 2020.

  1. Tom Peng

    Tom Peng New Member

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    Hi guys, hope all of you are doing well in these crazy times. I know basically nothing about trees and would appreciate any thoughts on what is going on with the pictured Autumn Blaze Maple. I have done a lot of reading so far, and it looks like the tree was likely planted too deep, with the root flare was covered in mulch. So perhaps that explains most of the issue, but this tree has a sister roughly 30 yards away that was treated exactly the same way, and that tree is thriving. As you can see, this one's top half is dead.

    In your honest opinion, is this tree worth saving? If so, what actions should I take? I'm planning to do the following this weekend:

    - Remove dead branches at the branch collars. Remove any suckers and waterspouts. Not sure what to do with the main trunk though, which seems dead halfway up the tree.

    - Remove mulch, dig gently to find root flare. Cover with mulch only up to the root flare.

    - Add a watering bag.

    Any thoughts or opinions would be highly appreciated!
     

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  2. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    @Tom Peng, good morning Tom and welcome to the maples forum.
    IMO it is worth saving and everything you have said you are going to do is correct.
    The problems more than likely started last year when not enough nutrients were stored in the roots to allow for proper leafing out in the Spring or nutrients etc are unable to get to the upper branches.
    Regarding the trunk, do a thumb nail test to see if there's green underneath the bark. If there is it's still alive, if not then you will have to remove it down to the live.
    I am wondering what is going on also beneath the mulch. Is there a girdling root that is gradually choking the tree to death!! More investigations necessary there IMO. I think this could be the problem if a sister tree planted the same way close by is doing fine.
    Looking at the photo there is a ring keeping the mulch in place, now although it looks neat and tidy, when there is heavy rain is the water draining away quickly enough !! it may not be and as maples are shallow rooting your maple maybe sitting in a bowl of water causing root rot.
    Have you checked how wet the soil is beneath the mulch? Your maple should be allowed to dry out between watering.
    Your next steps are to remove the mulch and if you can take photos of what you see and post them on this thread, members can evaluate what they see for you.
    Hope that's of a little help so far and I look forward to seeing an update very soon from you.
     
  3. emery

    emery Renowned Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    Honestly, and with respect to @Acerholic , I would replace it. It's not an expensive tree, and by the time you nurse this one along, a replacement will have a 5 year advance on it.

    If it has sentimental value, or you don't want to spend the 40 bucks (just a guess), you can certainly save it.

    I don't think overwatering is likely a problem with this type of maple. 'Autumn Blaze' is a cross between Red and Silver maples (x freemanii) and all of these tend to resent wet feet much less than other maples. Indeed, Red maples are called "Swamp Maple" in much of the US.

    -E
     
  4. Tom Peng

    Tom Peng New Member

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    Do either of you have an opinion what I might replace it with? I was thinking crepe myrtle but there are already a ton of those down here and it might be nice to plant something a bit more unique. Full sun, no shade to speak of.
     
  5. wcutler

    wcutler Esteemed Contributor Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout 10 Years

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  6. Margot

    Margot Generous Contributor 10 Years

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    This is an excellent article. Even though it is promoting an alternative product to water newly planted trees, the facts presented about how trees are grown in nurseries and how they must grow in their permanent locations is spot on. I roll my eyes every time I see those silly vertical water bags around newly-planted boulevard trees. What chance do they have of survival unless sufficient rainfall supplements the limited water supply from those bags?
     
  7. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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  8. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    @Tom Peng, good morning Tom, if you decide to go down the route of replacing and you feel that it is Verticullum Wilt as per Ron's link then I would consider a tree that is not susceptible to this disease. Verticullum can stay in the soil for many many years and any maple replaced with like will suffer the same.
    The Hort forum as Wendy suggested is good place to ask the question for another tree.

    If it was my tree I would still give it a chance before discarding to the dump. I do not like the soil / mulch up against the trunk and would want to see what is going on under that also. As tree planting is best in September for a replacement, you have time to investigate first,
    even if it's out of curiosity at what has caused this, you might be surprised at what you see and could consider a remedy from advice on this forum.
    Do update the thread at whatever course of action you take.

    Good luck
     
  9. Tom Peng

    Tom Peng New Member

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    I guess this answers the question about girdling roots. 90DB0751-C483-4F69-B50A-E3C186382F6C.jpeg
     
  10. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    @Tom Peng, the roots have not spread at all into the surrounding soil.
    It looks as though when planted the hole was dug deep enough but not wide enough.
    There is a theory of digging a square hole to stop the continuation of the roots circling which these have. I do this with all new trees and tease the roots from the root ball to give them a good start, rather than continuing in the circular manner. At least two and a half times the circumference of the rootball, as a rule of thumb. The planting medium should be a mixture of the soil removed, mixed with a good compost and planted high enough to see the root flare and to allow for sinkage. I also add a dusting of mycorrhizal to help root growth. Staked and watered regularly for the first two years is a must.
    Now for the decision, replace or try and save this one. As you have lifted it now and disturbed the roots, I think as Emery suggested it may be best to replace.
    Sorry not to have good news for this tree, but when and if you buy another, you will now have some advice on planting.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2020
  11. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    Replant in soil that came out of hole without adding texture affecting amendments such as compost. Washing potting soil off at planting time also enables viewing and correction of more than superficial root defects, prevents same water movement issues resulting from zones of textural difference that amending of backfill can create.

    Horticultural techniques for successful plant establishment

    https://s3.wp.wsu.edu/uploads/sites/403/2015/03/Planting-fact-sheet.pdf
     
  12. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    @Tom Peng, I thought I would add this link so you can see both sides of the argument on planting trees. The process that I have explained is what I have done successfully for 42 years of growing maples. I still have the 42 year old trees that I planted this way.
    I do not want to tell you how to plant a maple, only what I do. Hope that clarifies my posting.

    Planting Trees and Shrubs
     
  13. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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  14. Margot

    Margot Generous Contributor 10 Years

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    I have read all 40-or-so of Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott's "Horticultural Myths" Linda Chalker-Scott | Washington State University at least once and many of them, several times. I have changed my gardening practices drastically over the years because of the science-based evidence she presents that shows there is often a better way of gardening than what was recommended in the past. Often too, we formerly did things and used products that have been proven to be uneccessary, wasting time and money.

    For my own interest, I quickly made this list of a few changes I have made over the past few years:
    · don't use bone meal or epsom salts (The Myth of Beneficial Bone Meal)
    · don’t paint cut ends of branches or wounds (The Myth of Wound Dressings)
    · avoid manures and other mulches or amendments containing phosphate (Several articles)
    · do not put drainage material in containers (The Myth of Drainage Material in Container Plantings)
    · never use landscape fabric, newspaper or cardboard to suppress weeds (The Myth of Landscape Fabric)
    · do not amend the surrounding soil when planting trees or shrubs (The Myth of Soil Amendments – Parts I, II & III)
    · avoid staking newly-planted trees if at all possible (The Myth of Staking)
    · loosen roots of perennials, shrubs and trees before planting (The Myth of Fragile Roots)
    · leave leaves and other ‘clean’ plant debris under shrubs and trees

    It has been difficult sometimes to put my faith in new practices when I have seemingly been successful doing things the way my parents did decades ago. However, when I read the scientific evidence showing how plants grow and respond to their environments, I cannot ignore the logic.
     
    Last edited: Jul 26, 2020
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  15. Dr. Green Thumb

    Dr. Green Thumb New Member

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    Hello, Acerholic I've just planted an autumn blaze and only afterwards read your planting guide. I mixed in an organic Miracle Gro compost at a 1:2 ratio to backfill soil. This MG compost mix was sold as a potting soil. Pray tell - why is potting soil not to be used while planting outdoor maples? Thank you! @Acerholic
     
  16. Acerholic

    Acerholic Paragon of Plants Forums Moderator VCBF Cherry Scout Maple Society

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    Good morning Dr Green Thumb, I think @Margot posting below with the link to Linda Chalker Scott will explain the science far better than I ever could. So can I refer you question to that link for the answer.
    Linda Chalker-Scott | Washington State University
    As far as personally amending the soil is concerned, I carry this out where I live as I am on heavy clay and I have had success doing this compared to my close neighbours and indeed my parents who had no success at all growing healthy maples. So there is no science to back up what I do, other than comparisons.
    I have removed and replaced tonnes of soil over a few decades and as recently as 10 years ago another neighbour did this also. She now grows lovely maples that she couldn't before. I say couldn't, but what I mean is, 'better' specimens.
    So I will carry on improving my soil, it is a constant battle btw, but I do recognise that the science says NO and as this is a science based forum then the current advice is not to amend.
     
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  17. Dr. Green Thumb

    Dr. Green Thumb New Member

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    Dr. Scott's a joy to read. Thank you.
     
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