Using Tree Tone fertilizer on JMs

Discussion in 'Maples' started by Spacehog, Jun 24, 2012.

  1. Spacehog

    Spacehog Member

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    Hello again. I have a question about fertilizer that maybe some of you could shed some light on. I planted some of my Japanese Maples this weekend because things are starting to cool down a bit. I used some topsoil, compost, a bit of sulfur to lower the ph and some of this stuff called Tree Tone. It is an organic fertilizer and it talked about how it is good for trees because of some beneficial microbes. I read somewhere about the benefit of certain microbes and how they are good for Japanese Maples, so I used the stuff. If you'd like to learn all of the specs about Tree Tone, here is a link: http://www.espoma.com/p_consumer/tones_tree.html

    However, I also have been reading more recently about how people do not like to use much fertilizer with their Japanese Maples. Also, when people do use fertilizer, they like to do it early in the spring, not at the beginning of summer. Lastly, the stuff I was reading talked about how fertilizers that are low in nitrogen are usually considered better for JMs for some reason.

    I'm wondering if I should keep using the Tree Tone because it is technically a fertilizer. It's kind of too late for some of my trees because I already planted them with the Tree Tone. But I still have a couple of trees left to plant soon so I'm curious to see what people think. Here is some basic information about Tree Tone: It is 6% Nitrogen, 3% Phosphate and 2% Potash. Also it contains several various micro-organisms. The bag says that you ought to use the fertilizer either early in the spring before growth, or after the leaves fall off in the fall. Obviously I'm breaking that rule, so there is one problem.

    To put it simply, here is what I want to know. Should I be using this stuff when I plant my JMs if I am doing it in the summer? I am not going to wait till fall or next spring to plant, so timing is not really what I'm curious about. I just want to know if it would be wise to use this type of fertilizer considering the fact that I'm planting in early summer.

    I'm also slightly curious about another product made by the same folks called Holly Tone. The numbers are a little bit more favorable: 4-3-4. Also, it is designed for more acid loving plants which some of my Japanese Maples are. So would using Holly Tone be better for my plan? Thanks in advance!
     
  2. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    If you are saying you put all that stuff in the planting holes, with unmodified soil around the holes that was a mistake. Do not amend planting hole back-fill for long-term (permanent) plants. The same soil that came out of the hole is what should go back in, without modification - you want a uniform soil texture throughout the rooting area of the new specimens.

    IF fertilizer appears to be called for (soil test results or reliable personal experience) then apply that to the surface of the soil, after planting.
     
  3. Spacehog

    Spacehog Member

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    Hmmm... Ok, now I have a follow up question to a comment you made Ron B. Everything I have read talks about how drainage for Japanese Maples is very important. Since my soil is pretty high in clay content, I felt like I needed to amend the soil, or have poor drainage. I should point out that I didn't just amend the soil for the hole itself; I put the mixture of stuff I listed in the hole and a few feet around it. Now you said, "The same soil that came out of the hole is what should go back in, without modification - you want a uniform soil texture throughout the rooting area of the new specimens." I am now kind of confused about what to do because if I put the soil that I dug up back into the hole I run into a series of other problems as I understand it. One, my soil's drainage is awful. Two, my soil's ph is alkaline. Three, my soil is very low in organic material. Since I have read everywhere about the importance of 1. Drainage, 2. soil ph and 3. organic material I feel like I am in a no win situation. If I amend the soil, I can fix those problems, but then I lose the uniformity of soil that you speak of. If I put my original soil back in, I lose the 3 things I mentioned. So what would you do if you were in my situation?
     
  4. elrebe

    elrebe New Member

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    I have a suggestion Spacehog. Excellent site addressing just this problem, giving the mix combination and all. www.ces.ncsu.edu
    I would google this one and see what you think. Hoping that it will take the confusion out and be a help.
    Good luck, and sounds like your trying to be a great parent to your tree's.
     
  5. ajaykalra

    ajaykalra Member

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    What you did is absolutely fine. It wouldnt be prudent to put clay around maple or for that matter any plant (unless plant loves clay). You need soil around your maple so that roots can expand. In your case, its imperative that you amend soil.

    I typically never fertilize maples. However when I plant them, as habit I put some holly tone/plant tone. Organic fertilizers should be fine though, but I use it sparingly for maples.
     
  6. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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    >What you did is absolutely fine. It wouldnt be prudent to put clay around maple or for that matter any plant (unless plant loves clay). You need soil around your maple so that roots can expand. In your case, its imperative that you amend soil<

    This is false and was being seen to be the case by at least the 1960s.

    If you are interested in being steered in the right direction on this and other plant establishment-related topics, check this out.

    http://www.puyallup.wsu.edu/~linda chalker-scott/Horticultural Myths_files/index.html
     
  7. ajaykalra

    ajaykalra Member

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    Thanks. Please point me to the specific link which shows that soil shouldnt be amended when native soil is clay, as is the case with OP. I would like to know more about it and with reasoning as to why. I also trust personal experience over the studies and when proven wrong will adjust and learn from it.

    Here is my experience: I have planted over 300+ trees(a relative small number) and many shrubs, including 50+ maples in ground and have always amended soil, sometimes heavily, if I encounter clay. A number of my trees are mounded over the ground for several reasons(all non native soil), including standing water when it rains or clay. I load my truck with top soil, amend it with lots of compost and plant whatever tree I want, including maples, fruit trees, blueberry, raspberry etc. Granted, I have done this only at one location(my home) and it has been only around 10 years but so far results have been as expected. None of the mounds, which were all non native soil, have failed. I honestly cant see why anyone would NOT amend soil while planting a tree when native soil is clay.

    On a similar note, I recall vividly about how studies shifted regarding planting a tree. Initially it was all about planting the root ball few inches about ground level. Then I recently saw the studies which concluded that this is not needed. I realized over the years to do what you think works for you and learn/adjust from it if it fails. I should also add that I am an engineer by trade and I think in terms of continuity with least change to avoid shock. For me, in this context that means you don't want soil ph or other attributes changing dramatically for a plant. That means, amend in such a way to cover the entire planting area consistently, including where the expected roots will be many years from now.

    My $0.02.

    Ajay
     
  8. Spacehog

    Spacehog Member

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    Ok Rob, thanks for, uh, the negativity I guess. I like how you just declare something to be false and then offer nothing on the topic at hand. Oh, except for that site which doesn't address my question either.

    As for everyone else thanks for practical and useful advice! Since the guy who got me into gardening is a botany phd. that teaches at Ohio Wesleyan I gave him a call to see what he thought. Surprisingly enough what he said was pretty much exactly what Ajay said. So you can give yourself a pat on the back Ajay, your engineering mind is apparently on par with a botany professor.

    Thanks too for the site you provided Lynne, I found it to be informative. I think I'm getting a picture of what to do now.
     
  9. JT1

    JT1 Contributor 10 Years

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    I have the same experience with our heavy clay soil. If you dig down 3" into the native soil you hit solid clay. Sometimes I feel more like a sculptor working with clay medium, than a gardener when planting in my yard.

    As a result all my beds and plantings are built up with a mixture of composted peat and small pine bark chips. I use a product called Garden Magic for my composted peat. Since you are not far away, it may be available in your market. It’s only 1.99 to 2.99 for a 50lb bag in my area.

    I have over 40 specimen size Japanese Maples in the ground and hundreds of different varieties of other plants in my garden (a few dozen other varieties growing in container or as bonsai). All are doing great.

    The only thing I ever lost (out of all my trees and plants) was my ‘Bonfire’, but looking back I believe it was starting to show early signs of failing when I bought it last year. After looking at the original root ball it was solid clay. At some point, the tree was put in a pot, because 6” of the outer roots were in the trade potting medium and the core was solid clay. My guess is the tree was field grown in clay soil, then dug and potted in potting medium. This is the opposite scenario of the norm (clay inside the root ball when its usually outside the root ball in the native soil). In this scenario the outer root ball was free draining and lightly moist, but the inner root ball was saturated solid clay. So there is something to be said for all the studies against backfilling with a different soil types. But I don’t think all the studies can cover every scenario.

    Local advice from local growers or experts will trump any book or study in my opinion. What works in one area of the country or world may not work in another. My experience and idea of clay soil is probably going to be different then what’s thought of as clay soil in a different region or part of the world. Books and studies are great information, good for those who like to read and relax, or expand their knowledge. But I feel they can be dangerous for the inexperienced person trying to do the right thing. That is when asking a local expert is the best thing to do.
     
  10. Houzi

    Houzi Active Member 10 Years

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    Firstly let me say that no soil can be ammended to improve drainage,be it in a container or not.It can only drain as fast and as far as the smallest particles will allow(in this case clay).Any ammendments utilised merely take up space in the soil where there may have been water,so yes there may be less water present but drainage will not change.You have to take the clay out of the equation.
    Whilst many people may have got away with ammendments,the clay situation will never be the ideal.This subject has been covered many many times here and on other forums so I'm surprised no-one this time has explained the reasons why ammending is risky.If you dig a hole in poorly draining soil,where will the water during prolonged rainy spells end up? You have infact created a kind of sump which like any sump,it's effectiveness can only be as good as it's size.
    The key to people's success as seen here and many times before is the 'mounding up'..ie planting above the clay.This effectively takes the clay out of the equation as most of the roots are in their own little environment of whatever soil,and water will not travel upwards.Hopefully the roots will never reach deep enough into the clay level where the trouble lies.
     
  11. Spacehog

    Spacehog Member

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    Ah, JT1 you certainly are the one I trust most. If you can do what those pictures showed in this same Ohio clay, then I feel less nervous for sure. I will have to keep an eye out for that Garden Magic for sure! The stuff I used is called Bumper Crop and it seems really good, but not as easy on the wallet.

    I did try to elevate the mound as much as I could as Houzi described. In some spots it was easier than others though. At this point I guess we'll just have to wait and see what worked.
     
  12. JT1

    JT1 Contributor 10 Years

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    Thank you!

    Another nice thing about building up the beds is it creates more interest in the garden. If you are like me, you will start collecting Japanese maples and it will expand into collecting dwarf and unusual plants. If the beds are built up, you are creating an elevated stage for those smaller plants to be seen. They will not be hidden every time the grass grows. It creates a better sense of depth in the garden, flat is boring in my opinion. You need movement in the garden to keep things interesting, whether it be movement in elevation, plant height or shape, or curves in the beds and pathways.
     
  13. elrebe

    elrebe New Member

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    Your welcome Spacehog :)
     
  14. Daniel Mosquin

    Daniel Mosquin Paragon of Plants UBC Botanical Garden Forums Administrator Forums Moderator 10 Years

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    The above is the correct answer to the original question.

    This is the link which Ron was specifically suggesting: The Myth of Soil Amendments, though perhaps he suggested the entire set as there is also information there about the use of fertilizer.

    True, though, that it doesn't specifically reference clay soils. For that, we have to go to the scientific literature.

    Effect of Amended Backfill Soils When Planting Five Species of Palms in HortTechnology 16(3):457-460

    And, Effect of Backfill Amendment on Growth of Red Maple in Journal of Arboriculture 21(5):247-250

    To be fair, this study wasn't really about clay soils -- only 21.5% clay. But the results:

    And, Soil Amendments at Planting 2(1):27-30

    These were in clay soils:

    Concluding,

    The available evidence points to it being an unnecessary expenditure, a loss of time for little (if any) return, and the environmental impact of the production and transport of these products.

    Ron has answered the same question that you asked many times over many years. He has offered much to this site over the span of a decade.

    Please have the professor send along the citations for the scientific papers showing evidence to the contrary of the above-cited sources.

    I will grant that no study can address all factors. However, when there is a preponderance of evidence pointing in one direction, it does start to support broad-based understanding, in this case: backfill amendments with non-native soils is not useful.

    See quoting of article above re: indicating that this practice is not economically sound.
     
    Last edited: Jun 27, 2012
  15. JT1

    JT1 Contributor 10 Years

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    Thank you for taking the time to provide all the above information Daniel.


    I must confess, that one may argue that my addiction to collecting Japanese maples and other dwarf and unusual plants is a practice that is not economically sound. But for me and those who visit my garden, the collection brings great happiness, which I feel is priceless.

    To those who landscape for a living, doing the right thing with the bottom line in mind makes perfect sense.

    Agreed, Ron B has contributed very generously to this site over the span of a decade. I always enjoy researching the links he provides and appreciate the insight he provides in sharing his knowledge and experience.

    When a study is provided pertaining to planting Japanese maples in compacted clay, you will have my undivided attention.
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2012
  16. JT1

    JT1 Contributor 10 Years

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    Furthermore:

    Yes, it was clay soil, specifically Cecil Clay in the SE US. Not the clay we have in Ohio. Since I am unfamiliar with Cecil Clay, I searched the internet to find out more information. I found "Cecil Clay" from the SE US is the following:

    http://www.soil.ncsu.edu/about/century/soilsurvey.html

    I wish our clay shared the same properties as Cecil Clay. The study involving Cecil clay does not include Japanese maples. But it does seem that most of the plants responded positively to mounded amended soils. This is the same planting practice that is successful in my garden and a similar method others have mentioned in this post. I call it "building up", but I guess my degree in Aerospace Flight Technology did not make me familiar with horticulture terms.

    I realize a Research Manager's education far surpasses my level of education in the topic of discussion. You could bury me in a furry of book references and research topics to support your point. But until there is specific research regarding planting Japanese Maples in the native OH clay, I will continue to practice economically unsound planting practices. i.e. "the $5 hole" is an insurance policy or small cost to protect my investment in expensive specimen plants. Until a such study is conducted I will still stand by my response:

    If you could find me funding, I would be happy to conduct a study with your assistance.
     
  17. maf

    maf Generous Contributor Maple Society 10 Years

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    It seems to me that the practice advocated by several forum members in this thread, ie to dig a wide saucer shaped hole and backfill with amended soil to create a mounded planting, creates a soil system very similar to that which exists naturally in forests. Organic material collects on the forest floor and over time decomposes to a humus layer. Where there are depressions in the subsoil the layer of organic material will be deeper than the surrounding area much like the shallow bowl shaped planting hole.

    There is a world of difference between planting in this style and simply digging a bucket shaped hole in solid clay and filling that with amended soil.
     
  18. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Many times so-called intellectual studies are not all
    that scientific in their scope. Certainly not like it
    was back in the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s when we did not
    start our project with an answer to our question
    and did almost everything possible to defend that
    answer in writing and to our intellectual brethren.
    Findings have been fudged on purpose and still
    presented in journals. Much like presenting an
    argument in court in which one side has to tell
    it like it was and the other side has wide latitude
    to bend the truth almost at will in their court brief
    in order to protect their client.

    I’ve yielded and presented sides to an argument
    that are not what I would do in a given situation.
    I’ve advised people to be careful, mindful of what
    they are doing with amended soil and amended
    planting soil, even when I’ve never, not once in
    46 years of hands on growing of plants had a
    bad experience amending soils for my own plants
    and others plants using my own blend of amended
    soil. I suggest someone take a little initiative and
    read some of the soil reports coming out of Florida
    from the University of Florida at Gainesville and
    elsewhere to learn what they’ve come up with
    for the calcareous clay soil issues where they are.
    The planting concept for Macadamias in Florida
    would be an eye opener for a lot of people and
    this technique has been published (now go find it
    for yourself. I’ve listed the link to this web site
    years ago in this UBC CPR forum).

    We’ve had University and Cooperative Extension,
    even Integrated Pest Management approval around
    here to amend soils for various plants for many
    years. Even today coastal redwoods are pretty
    much expected to be planted in humus amended
    soils no matter what soil it is but the criterion is
    rather based on the pH of the soil instead. It is
    because of this that Azaleas and Rhododendrons
    around here are usually planted in raised soil
    amended mounds rather than in native alkaline
    soil. All points stating that there is no practical
    application across the board for amending soils
    at all are not being credible, depending on the
    plant we want to grow and where we want to
    grow it. Some areas do not need to amend
    soils for planting of particular plants, other
    areas may not be so fortunate.

    By the way even backfilling native soil, even in
    some Forest soil situations can create a sink for
    water to collect and not readily be dispersed
    and/or percolated out from very soon. Even
    transplanted native Conifers can feel the effects
    of fungal root rot due our lack of ability to dig
    out a proper hole for planting.

    Jim
     
    Last edited: Jun 28, 2012
  19. Kaitain4

    Kaitain4 Well-Known Member Maple Society 10 Years

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    I have horrible clay soils here in Tennessee. Nothing will grow in it except weeds and Hickory trees. So I plant EVERYTHING in raised beds made of good garden soil (trucked in), which I heavily ammend. As long as you ammend the whole bed, you will be OK. Ammending the soil is improving the soil. Farmers do this all the time when they spread manure and rotted hay on their fields and till the soil. Good soil is the key to good plants, and the more organic material the better. My maples love my raised beds (and so do my conifers), and do spectacularly well. Give your plants a good start and they will reward you for many years to come. Keep them up, out of the clay and you won't go wrong.
     
  20. Spacehog

    Spacehog Member

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    Daniel M. writes, "Please have the professor send along the citations for the scientific papers showing evidence to the contrary of the above-cited sources."

    I showed the thread to my professor friend and it was pretty interesting to hear his response. He pointed out to me that the study that criticized ammending the soil is an economic study, not a botany study. I asked if he knew of any studys about planting a Japanese Maple in alkaline clay and here is what he said,

    "If there is a study out there on that, no one would read it. That sort of thing fits into the category of self evident. If I made a study about pouring sulfuric acid onto plants to see if it harms them would you read it? Or would you just assume, yeah it surely must hurt them because, well, sulfuric acid is extremely destructive. No one is going to do a study about planting Japanese Maples in alkaline clay because anyone who knows anything about Japanese Maples know that they prefer acidic soil that is well drained. To suggest that an economic study says otherwise is irrelevant." -Chris Wolverton (Ohio Wesleyan)

    He then suggested that if I had some money to waste, I could get a Japanese Maple and plant it in my alkaline clay so that I could watch it die. "Then you'll know for sure" he said.

    I'm really not trying to sound hostile about the advice. Honestly, I appreciate the advice and I feel like I am learning a lot from this community. In this case I am just quoting what Chris said. he's watching me write this, so he'll sign off on this being exactly what he said. From what I can tell, everyone that has grown Japanese Maples successfully is telling me that ammending the soil should be done. A professor of botany is telling me that I should ammend the soil. So I'm going to go ahead and stick with ammending the soil in the way that people like mef and JT1 have described. If someone has planted a Japanese Maple in alkaline soil, I'd love to see some pictures though. I mean, if that does work, that would be good to know. I get the impression that no one has tried it though. Or at least that no one has tried it successfully.

    I do appreciate ALL of the input and I was not trying to suggest that Ron B. is a bad guy or a fool or anything like that. I just felt like he was being very negative about some advice that I found to be useful. As it happens, the advice he gave me has proven to be less useful because the site he listed did not really touch on the specific question I had it mind. That doesn't mean I am writing him off or anything. It just means I am choosing to go against what he said in favor of people that have experience with Japanese Maples like JT1.

    Like I said though, all research aside, if anyone has a picture of a Japanese Maple that they have grown in alkaline clay I will eat my words and I'll definitely show it to my professor friend who will probably say that the picture is a fake.
     
  21. Spacehog

    Spacehog Member

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    Oh yes, I did enjoy your contribution as well Jim or Mr. Shep or whatever you prefer to be called. I think I will check out that study at Florida that you mentioned, that sounds pretty interesting.

    I am thankful to for Kaitain's contribution. It seems like you must grow some Maples based on your description Kaitain. It seems to me like you and all of the other Japanese Maple growers are telling me the same thing and backing it up with pictures to prove it. Thanks for chipping in!
     
  22. Ron B

    Ron B Paragon of Plants 10 Years

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  23. Houzi

    Houzi Active Member 10 Years

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    As far as I can see everyone has given good advice and everyone has gone about planting the right way.I think the confusion has been about the word 'ammending'.....Maybe I'm wrong but in my mind no-one here has actually amended their soils,they have planted in a different soil on top of the clay which to me is different.
     
  24. Spacehog

    Spacehog Member

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    Oh yeah. I am definitely not an expert on the gardening lingo because I am brand new to gardening. I thought that if you add compost, topsoil and other things on top of your soil that it is considered ammending the soil. I mean, I am digging down into the native soil to start with. But then I mound the new soil so that the level is above the native soil.

    The part that seemed to confuse me was when I was being told to use nothing whatsoever except for the native soil. In my case that would be digging a hole in alkaline clay and then surrounding my new tree with more alkaline clay which seems crazy to me. I don't care if it saves me money to plant the tree in bad soil. I'd rather have a tree that grows and lives so I'm not going to fill my original hole with my native soil because it drains poorly and is alkaline.
     
  25. mr.shep

    mr.shep Well-Known Member 10 Years

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    Re: O.T. I am a tired puppy.

    One of the reasons I have held back posting in the
    forum is due in part to threads like this. I've been
    waiting a long time for someone in the UBC botanical
    garden to show me they know how to grow a plant by
    their willingness to help others. Which certainly has
    been lacking, almost non-existent since my joining
    this forum. So, when they do post with information
    that may or may not be true for their area and are
    willing to cite journal examples I usually take things
    with a grain of salt and am quite accepting of them.
    Where I draw the line is not in scope, rationale,
    personal opinions based on something concrete
    but I do tend to get livid when others back someone
    else's misguided agenda. Misguided in the sense
    that no one else in the applied science field would
    give them the time of day due to their desire to put
    their own personal opinions ahead of everyone else's,
    even from others in the same department. Internally
    we call this being rogue (at the expense of the plant)!

    We need to know the other sides thinking of the
    equation and may even learn something from it. I
    have made some comments in this forum in the past
    about some of Linda's musings but not once have I
    mentioned or suggested that others should not read
    her writings based on the link that Ron has posted
    so often. There are parts in those "myth" articles
    some of you need to know and I suggest and always
    have stated that you should read them. Granted
    some of the proposed myths are not mythical or
    applicable to some areas and you would be better
    served in the plant world to know which ones they
    are and why.

    Sometime people will realize that realism in plants has
    been construed as being a negative connotation for years.

    In the plant world we have always been prone to get all
    worked up due to our stoic opinions that are all subject
    to change. As we learn and know more what we first
    thought of a plant may be a whole lot different later on
    and many of you will not experience this until you are
    forced to learn Maples the hard way. Which means you
    are going to lose some. If you are dedicated, what
    you try to do is figure out why and how you lost them
    and could you have helped them along. In most but
    not all cases you could have helped them but chose
    not to do anything or did the wrong thing and you felt
    the pain firsthand like so many people have before you.
    What separates the long term avid collector from the
    rest of the enthusiasts is how we feel when we start to
    lose some of these plants that we've nurtured and grown
    for 20 years and more. Losing a one or even a five gallon
    plant is just a drop in the bucket. Not even worth
    mentioning in the larger scale of things. Lose a plant
    that you foolishly paid $1,000 for as a two gallon (just
    had to have it before anyone else did), grew it on for
    22 years and then see it decline and perish within two
    years; if you want to test how much of a Maple enthusiast
    you are and what this plant really does mean to you.

    Jim
     

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