Monday, April 24, 2006

Scilla goes wild

The scilla grows like a weed here, and it's unusually prolific this year. The color in real life is actually much more intensely blue than in this photo:



And then there's Charybdis:



Yes, I know; a lousy pun.

It's a photo of one of two azalea bushes I planted last year. Both seem to be dead in the water. I'm not totally certain, though, because there is one tiny branch with green leaves coming in on each. Is this evidence that the entire bush might actually have a chance of reviving? Or are they both goners?

7 Comments:

At 11:27 PM, April 24, 2006, Anonymous nostromo said...

I loved the dead azalea as Charybdis. As I recall, when our old azalea showed up one spring with only a single live branch and all the rest dead, I gave it a year to improve and fill in. Time did not help. When it became obvious that it was never going to look anything but ungainly, we yanked it out and put in a new one. Sounds cruel, but what can you do? The new one has been lovely for several years. My advice to you: let the poor dried up thing RIP in the compost pile, and get a new one.

 
At 1:18 AM, April 25, 2006, Blogger Robert Schwartz said...

I got politics on the brain. I first saw the headline as "Scalia Goes Wild." Sad.

 
At 3:36 AM, April 25, 2006, Blogger Foobarista said...

Aside: I'm glad to be back home from Shanghai, where your blog is blocked by the Great Chinese Firewall - as are all other Blogger blogs. I see you've been busy in the three weeks I was there...

 
At 8:30 AM, April 25, 2006, Anonymous TomTom said...

The azalea is a goner; probably planted rootbound, into a small hole, is my diagnosis.

 
At 10:53 AM, April 25, 2006, Blogger Dymphna said...

Tomtom's diagnosis is spot on. I did that to a curly willow last year. My bad.

The old saying: for a ten dollar plant, don't dig a five dollar hole. Make the hole twice to three times as wide as the ball. Check the root system and see if it's wrapped around itself. If it is, you'll have to untangle the roots and lay them out or they will just continue wrapping themselves in a circle until the plant commits suicide.

That far north, with azaleas, I'd provide some good winter protection. They have a fair amount of close-to-the-surface root so they need coverage, especially the first year or two. Snow works fine if it starts early and stays on. Otherwise, mulch the area thickly.

I failed to do that with a new fig and it's not doing well. I shoulda stuck to the Brown Turkey variety since that's all that really grows well this far upland and inland.

Isn't scilla wonderful? It's fairly tidy, too, given that it's a bulb (related to garlic, btw). After 27 or more years of bounteous blooms, it's scanty this year. My own mistreatment as I've always dug into the area with annuals, figuring the scilla could take it. They could, just not two decades of it!

Anyway, a lot of verbiage for: toss the azaleas on the compost pile and dig wider holes. Not too deep. Some composted material or rotted manure with the soil, and cover the area with pine needles. They love pine. Keep them watered the first year...that also may have been your problem. And don't feed them after late summer, especially in your area.

A friend gave us five big azaleas. He dug them up to make room for stuff he likes. Wish I could give you some!

 
At 11:49 AM, April 25, 2006, Blogger neo-neocon said...

Dymphna, thanks. But I think the holes were plenty big. My guess is that is was the water.

Oh dear, back to the drawing board.

 
At 3:17 PM, April 25, 2006, Blogger Senescent Wasp said...

Neo,
As D says azalea has a lot of surface root mass; heritage as a forest floor plant feeding on the mulch. We don't have frost problems here but drowning is an ever present danger. I like to dig a good hole, tousle the bottom of the root ball and make sure the whole business is on a slight mound to drain water away from the stem. A layer of mulch, I use oak leaf mold because it is acid in reaction, to hold just enough moisture to keep the feeder roots happy. Ask yourself how you would like to live if you lived in a forest.

I also use organics for feeding because they tend to be acidifiers, we're an alkaline people out here; hoof and horn or cottonseed is great. Long slow push of N; so the surface roots don't burn; and enough trace for chewiness. This simulates the slow breakdown of the forest floor duff. Also, some of our confiers seem to have an adverse reaction on the feeder roots on non established plants.

Knock wood, I haven't croaked one in years. The pericats and the rothschildianas are real reliable for me.

 

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