Over the past six or eight weeks we have received many phone calls from clients who were concerned about the condition of their professional landscape design, in particular their Cherry trees. What are usually healthy, vibrant trees with cascades of spring blooms are looking quite sickly this year. Most Cherry trees did not fully leaf out and flowering was minimal to non-existent.
We have inspected many such trees this spring and what we are seeing is widespread winter damage across the entire Botanical Genus Prunus which includes Weeping Cherries (Prunus subhirtella ‘Pendula’), Kwanzan Cherries (Prunus serrulata ‘Kwanzan’) and Purple Leafed Plums (Prunus ceresifera ‘Thundercloud’). Close inspection reveals scattered live growth interspersed with many dead brittle branches. Scratching the bark shows some green indicating live growth with normal vascular tissue to other branches that show brown beneath the bark indicating dead tissue.
Although we have seen other years with scattered winter kill, we don’t recall another year with such devastating winter damage. In past years tough winters have taken out trees that were stressed or less than healthy, but this past winter was not so selective, taking out trees that looked great last fall.
The next logical question is “what do we do with these trees”? The choices are: 1) Remove and replace these trees or 2) give them more time and see what they do.
The choice is made easier by the severity of the damage. If the tree has few or no leaves at this point in the season, it should be removed and replaced. If the tree has scattered leaves across fifty percent or more of their canopy, then give the trees a bit more time to recover.
Our main concern when trees are damaged within a professional landscape design is that identifying those trees entering what we call a “death spiral”. The main purpose of a tree’s leaves is to conduct Photosynthesis; the process of converting light into stored energy which “feeds” the tree. Without enough leaves to provide and convert energy for the tree, it will suffer stress. This also makes the tree more likely to succumb to insect or disease activity, typically resulting in the death of the tree.
Even after the tree damage we have seen from this past winter, we will continue to plant Cherry trees. The U.S.D.A. Hardiness Rating for the Weeping Cherry is 5 and 2 for the Kwanzan Cherry. Here in Central Ohio we are Zone 6A. Although the potential for another unusually harsh winter exists, it would be a shame to allow that infrequently possibility to keep us from enjoying the beauty of these beautiful blooming trees.
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Matt McCoy is a Nationally Certified Landscape Professional and the President of McCoy Landscape Services, Inc. McCoy is a full service landscaping company specializing in the design and installation of Outdoor Living Spaces, Paver Patios and colorful Landscaping. McCoy Landscape serves the Central Ohio communities of Delaware, Powell, Lewis Center, Westerville, Marion, Mt. Gilead, Upper Sandusky and Bucyrus.