Sunday, 8 January 2012

Cherry Blossom Tree (08 JAN 2012)

This is a photo of my cherry blossom tree taken last year. Foxgloves and bluebells thrived in its shade during spring, hydrangeas in the summer.   Without it, the "woodland" would be a shrubbery.

 "woodland"

Worms in this section of the garden need not worry of being sliced by my fork as there's not much digging done here; the roots wont allow it. Cherry leaves provide a nutritious mulch which has built up layer by layer, melding with the perpetually damp soil. The darkest green hellebore plantlet growing at the site where a division was planted last year is proof of this.

hellebore plantlet in the woodland

Unfortunately the cherry blossom tree is sick. At first I suspected it was ailing from bacterial canker which is a common disease suffered by cherries, but stepping back and assessing its top-heavy figure, I diagnosed stress fractures too. Fearing that the branch on the left would fall off, I called in a professional gardener for a quotation to prune the tree. He hung off the branch in question, confirmed it was solid and suggested I give him a call next year. I hung off it too to convince myself that the cracks only penetrated the outer bark.

canker ?
frost cracks ?

I wondered if the core of this ornamental tree with oriental origin was swelling and collapsing with temperature fluctuations at a different rate to the bark. I found this article which presents the hypothesis that frost cracks manifesting in the bark of thin-skinned trees after a period of extreme cold followed by rapid thawing (as we had last year), initiate from internal wounds caused by injuries early in the tree's life. It's possible to encourage the tree to generate its own plaster of callouses by tracing around the crack with a sterilised knife and removing inch wide sections of the surrounding bark. This will help prevent disease entering through the crack but doesn't heal the internal wound. I personally never use plasters, preferring to leave my cuts to air-dry - not sure what treatment the tree would opt for.

I pondered on what could possibly injure a young tree, then remembered the grafting technique which is applied to many domesticated trees to combine slow-growth of roots and trunk with branches from hybridised specimens optimised to yield desirable flowers and fruit. What worse injury could a tree experience than having its major branches lopped off and replaced?

No doubt, due to the stress of bearing the weight of its over-grown grafted branches, canker at the base of its trunk and frost cracks, the tree feels the urge to reproduce over and beyond producing cherries.  In spring, suckers sprouting from the rootstock produced delicate single flowers in pale, semi-transparent, pink a few weeks before the grafted branches above were covered by proper pink double blooms. I managed to extract one of the vigorous suckers with a large piece of root intact in summer, assuming it a certainty that by the following spring there would be a small tree-in-waiting, with a simpler, more natural beauty compared to its  parent which was aesthetically enhanced by implants.

cherry suckers in spring
extracted cherry sucker in summer

However, here is the cherry tree this week and its potted mini-me - difficult to tell if it's alive. I'm hoping that ripping the sucker from its parent doesn't count as an injury ...
                    
                     

©Copyright 2012 b-a-g. All rights reserved. Content created by b-a-g for http://experiments-with-plants.blogspot.com/2012/01/cherry-blossom-tree-08-jan-2012.html


19 comments:

gardenwalkgardentalk.com said...

Many fruit trees are highly susceptible to frost damage which more commonly occurs vertical to the bark grain. Your crack could be that, but generally it usually only affects the sun side of the trunk with expansion and contraction. This looks like a weak crotch problem though. The lesion is also common in cherry. It may be black knot, but I am not certain.

b-a-g said...

Hi Donna - Just read that your post has a similar theme : http://gardenwalkgardentalk.com/2012/01/08/ice-is-both-beauty-and-the-beast/. Weak crotch does not sound good at all. I'm guessing that my tree wasn't pruned properly during its life. I certainly haven't had it pruned, but I'll be putting that right this spring.

Crystal said...

Hi there,
Thanks for following my blog. Sorry to hear about your cherry tree. The weather certainly hasn't been kind to our trees in the past year or so. I hope your cherry recovers soon.

Donna@Gardens Eye View said...

Such a lovely tree. I am planting a native black cherry this year. It will be my first cherry tree and there are many good points here to take into consideration. Hope the tree is OK and that the crack is just on the surface.

HolleyGarden said...

I think cherry trees are some of the most beautiful of all trees. Unfortunately, they don't grow well here due to our high heat. Yours is gorgeous, and a splendid star of the woodland. I hope yours continues to live to an old age. Smart thinking of you to start another, though, just in case.

Masha said...

Very interesting. My grafted trees don't usually sucker because the graft union is buried. But then don't the trunk and branches belong to the same tree? It must be different over where you are... I hope your tree continues to do well for you despite its injuries.

Andrea said...

Hi b-a-g, I am not familiar with your cherry plant as it is a temperate plant. But maybe that canker area is also a possibility of not very compatible grafts. Production of shoots at the rootstock might also be an attempt of the plant to grow its own and discard the foreign matter or the different scion materials. If you will allow all those shoots to grow, the scion might eventually die. Remember the sink and source theory? I am not really sure, this is just my thinking.

Karin / Southern Meadows said...

Interesting...I have 10 Cherry Trees and they are all suffering the same fate as yours. I am ready to take them all out because they are weak, shooting sprouts even out into the lawn and their limbs and trunks are splitting. Very sad but I don't think there is anything I can do to save them at this point. They are so gorgeous in the spring but alas they seem a very fickle species.

b-a-g said...

Crystal, Donna & Holley - Thanks for your best wishes.

Thanks for the information Masha & Andrea - I think you may be right. I always assumed that branches were grafted, but I just checked. You're talking about crown grafting where the scion is implanted just above the roots. The suckers with different flowers compared to the rest of the tree are growing out of large roots.

Oh dear Karin - I thought I had a problem. The avenues around where I live are lined with blossom trees. They are all growing suckers too. The difference is that the council prune the trees right down. I used to think this was cruel, but at least the trees don't get over-loaded like mine.

Elephant's Eye said...

Our inherited apples and plums all look pretty sad, if observed too closely. We'll stumble on, and take them out one by one if necessary. Heavy pruning called for this winter!

Pam's English Garden said...

Dear b-a-g, This is not my area of expertise, but I found the posting very interesting. It is always sad to lose a tree, and I hope yours survives. P. x

Carolyn @ Carolyn's Shade Gardens said...

Here in the mid-Atlantic, cherry trees are considered weak and not long-lived although quite desirable for their flowers. That being said I have a couple that are definitely over 50 and going strong. I find that those cracks and lesions and all the bad looking "stuff" doesn't necessarily mean that a bad result is imminent. I suggest ignoring it. I do take off root suckers though. I think your tree guy gave you good advice.

catharine Howard said...

I am sorry that your cherry is less than happy. don't prune it till July though as stone fruits are susceptible to silver leaf.

b-a-g said...

Diana & Catharine - Thanks for the advice on pruning, I'll wait till the weather is warmer.

Thanks Pam - Before I started gardening I wouldn't have believed that one could feel sentimental about a tree.

Thanks Carolyn - Good to know its possible for these trees to have a relatively long life, even if they are cracked and oozing. Their blossoms make up for it.

debsgarden said...

I hope your cherry tree and its offspring both survive. I have had limited success with cherry trees. They tend to be sickly trees in my part of the world. However, I do have an ornamental cherry that survived what I thought was a fatal illness. If you want to read about it you can type in 'We are Survivors' on the search feature of my blog and you will find an older post about it. Your cherry tree might surprise you!

linniew said...

b-a-g I totally agree with Carolyn above. Cherry trees can pretend illness but go on and on. (They might tend toward hypochondria...) I think you should just cut the suckers and enjoy the tree.

The Sage Butterfly said...

Good luck! Sometimes it is so difficult to know whether something will be fatal or not.

Alistair said...

Hi b-a-g, We have a cheals weeping. It is a small tree but a few years ago it started to ooze out sap from lesions on the branches. I cut the branches back below these wounds and the tree recovered fully surprisingly retaining a good shape. We must always remember not! to prune cherries whilst dormant but wait until flowering is over and the leaves are mature. http://www.bbc.co.uk/lancashire/content/articles/2008/01/08/cherries_feature.shtml

b-a-g said...

Deb - Thanks for directing me to your "We are survivors" post. The story of your tree is encouraging. I hope you continue to maintain good health.

Thanks Linnie & Sage Butterfly - Gardening has taught me to always hope for the best!

Thanks Alastair - message received!

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