Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Uh-oh... (May 2018 Foliage Follow-up)

If you've read prior posts referencing the mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) I inherited with my garden, you probably already know I have a love-hate relationship with it.  It has a prominent position in my back garden, sitting near the edge of the patio just inside the hedge that lines the border on the main level.  The property drops down at a precipitous angle on the other side of that hedge and the tree's roots presumably have a significant role in stabilizing that slope.  The tree's beautiful when it's fully leafed out and flowering.  On the other hand, it's exceptionally messy, dropping its flowers almost as soon as they appear in early summer, followed by both foliage and an endless supply of seedpods.  It's also bare for nearly half the year.  I'd have never planted this tree but I've also never seriously considered replacing it as that prospect poses significant challenges; however, this year, I've reason to be concerned that the tree may be taking matters into its own hands - or, rather, branches.

This is what the tree looks like at present:

May 8, 2018:  There's hardly a leaf on it.  In fact, the tree sported more leaves in January than it does now.  The leaves I saw in January surprised and alarmed me, especially when Evan, The Practical Plant Geek, raised the possibility that these adventitious growths might signify a tree in distress.

Closer view of the canopy


I was fairly certain the tree was late in leafing out so I finally faced that concern and waded through the photos I've taken over the last several years.  With the possible exception of 2014, it looks as though the tree has never been this bare this late in the season.

June 10, 2013

July 5, 2013, one of the few photos of the tree in flower, when it's in its glory

April 29, 2014: I don't have any photos of the tree taken in the May or at any other time in 2014 but it appears as bare in this late April 2014 photo as it is at present.

May 29, 2015

April 30, 2016

May 9, 2017


So, should I be worried?  I asked an arborist about the adventitious growth prior to pruning the tree in January.  While he admitted it could be a sign that the tree is in decline, he also said he'd seen trees behaving oddly throughout the area this year in response to our generally warmer winter temperatures and low rainfall.  I have my own evidence of anomalies too.  The buds on the small cherry tree we recently took out never opened.  The peach tree at the bottom of the slope produced only a smattering of flowers before belatedly leafing out.  My ornamental pear never lost its leaves during the winter months and also produced few flowers this spring.

Maybe the mimosa will leaf out within the next month.  If it fails to leaf out at all, I'll call the arborist back for a consultation later in the year.  If it proves to be diseased and I have to cut it down, I'm fairly certain I'll leave the stump in place as I don't think I can risk destabilizing the slope by grinding it out.  Maybe I can find a spot elsewhere in the border to plant another tree but it'll probably have to be a small one as my city's "view conservation" ordinance limits the height of any new additions that interfere with a neighbor's view.  Maybe we can build an arbor over the patio to provide an alternative source of shade.  Despite all my prior complaints about the tree, I really hope I don't have to make any of those decisions.

For other Foliage Follow-ups, visit Pam at Digging.  Pam's announced that this is the end of the monthly meme for her but, as she's done a magnificent job driving home the importance of foliage in the garden, I doubt it's the last foliage-centric post for me or other garden bloggers.  Thanks Pam!


All material © 2012-2018 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

36 comments:

  1. I really hope your mimosa isn't a goner! It has such a beautiful form. An arbor over your patio for shade would also be a nice addition to your garden.

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    1. I've thought of asking my husband to build an arbor over the patio regardless of what happens with the mimosa, Alison, but he already has more than enough projects to keep him busy and I don't want to push my luck.

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  2. I'm sorry about your tree. I've got a live oak in distress...and it's distressing! I'm glad to hear you'll continue posting about foliage because, as you know, I love seeing great foliage combos in gardens all over the world. Thanks for participating along with me for so long!

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    1. Oh, I'd hate to see you lose one of your wonderful oaks, Pam. Fingers crossed for both of us.

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  3. I hope it survives, it is beautiful when in flower.If it dies could you use the trunk as a climbing frame for a climbing plant? I put roses up all my tree stumps.

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    1. That's a great idea, Chloris! Planting a rose probably wouldn't be a good choice in my case given where things stand with our drought but I'm sure I could find something suitable.

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  4. Hi Kris-It sounds like you have a dilemma. The garden is always evolving, isn't it? Albizia is marginally hardy in CT. My tiny Albizia 'Summer Chocolate' was late planted and didn't make it through the winter. I had a beautiful one in my old garden so will try again.

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    1. 'Summer Chocolate' seems more benign than the regular species, Sue, but perhaps that's just because all the specimens I've seen have been relatively small. I hope you can make a go with another one.

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  5. Mimosa are an invasive species here. We take them out whenever possible. I loved those trees when I was a girl. They bloomed around my birthday. I always thought they bloomed just for me. ;) Of course now I know they bloom for the hummingbirds who love those blooms dearly.

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    1. I can see how they can be invasive, Lisa. They self-seed freely here and I routinely find seedlings one or more feet tall tucked into one odd corner or another. As annoying as the plant can be, though, it would leave a monumental gap in my back border.

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  6. I had an Albizia in my previous garden and found it to be a slightly .disappointing tree. I loved the flowers on it but it was very prone to borer and had rather large holes in the trunk. It never seemed to grow as much as I thought it should and certainly never attained the height of yours.

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    1. This tree was well-established when we moved in and the extended months with bare branches have always been disappointing but replacing a tree this large is problematic for all the reasons I described so I've learned to live with it. However, it appears I may also need to learn to live without it!

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  7. I live in the Temecula area and have loved my mimosa tree (Albizia julibrissin) for the filtered sunlight it has given but I think in our area their life span is about 20 -25 years. Mine went in to decline about 5 years ago from borers and this year no leaves - sadly it came down very easily as the interior had significant rot -

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  8. Information on Shot Hole Borer from Univ of Calif Agriculture and Natural Resources -
    http://ucanr.edu/sites/pshb/overview/Hosts/Silk_Tree/
    The Silk Tree is a reproductive host - check the list for other hosts as those trees may be at risk also in your garden -

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    1. I've heard that it can be short-lived. I've no idea how old it is as it was a mature specimen when we moved in. It may indeed be reaching the end of its natural life.

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    2. Thanks for the additional information. I have a couple of very small Japanese maples as well as a Bauhinia, although not the species on the UCANR list. It appears I may need to contact the arborist sooner rather than later. I did have signs of gumming on the mimosa earlier, which I showed to the arborist but he didn't think it was conclusive. Ugh!

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  9. Oh dear, I hope you don't have to make such a tough call. It's such a grand, stately tree! Keep us posted, please!

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    1. Oh, if the tree service arrives to take it out next year, you can bet I'll post my tale of woe, Beth!

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  10. It is worrisome when a beloved, mature tree fails to grow with the seasons. I hope it's a one-off and that the tree is back to good form next season. Meanwhile, the rest of your garden is stunning!

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    1. Thanks Alys. I retain hope that the tree lasts at least a few more years but, if its decline continues, I'll deal with it.

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  11. I think Mimosa is considered a short-lived tree (relatively). My own very young Mimona (not an Albizia) was killed by the winter cold this year but as it is outside the main garden it hasn't had an impact. I'll keep my fingers crossed for your tree, it would be sad to lose it.

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    1. I'm already trying to get used to the idea of the tree being gone. I check the tree daily to see if there's any new foliage growth and there's just no sign of it. I'll wait until summer's warmth is a steady presence before calling in the arborist for a consultation, though.

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  12. Such a lovely tree, hope it will be ok!

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    1. Thanks but I'm afraid the signs are not at all positive at the moment.

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  13. As I've commented before they are so invasive in my area that I mostly have a hate relationship. I truly understand your distress about this situation, though. The tree does have a beautiful form and hill stabilization is so important. Perhaps your drought has impacted it adversely. We are losing lots of trees in my rural area and I think the recent summers of drought are taking their toll. I'll keep my fingers crossed for your tree.

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    1. Drought seems to be the basis of most of the tree deaths we've seen of late. A perpetuation of those conditions weakens the trees and makes them susceptible to pests like shot hole borers and pine bark beetles. I can't even count the number of trees I've seen removed within a few miles of my home within the past year.

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  14. Well damn! I'm so sorry. Even though it was a pain a great deal of the year, I know you loved it's positive attributes. Mine is leafing out now, while still holding on to several seed pods from last season (its first year producing them). I'm praying there are not 10,000 babies in my future.

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    1. It's hard to lose a major feature of the garden, even if it does have some warts, Loree! Two steps forward and one step back when it comes to trying to design a landscape it seems.

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  15. Poor tree! We had one of those growing up, and since my job was cleaning all the mess, I mostly despised it, but they are gorgeous for that one brief period. Hope all this ends positively for you... Even if it's with a new arbor!

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    1. I throw nasty epithets at the tree during July-August when the litter is at its worst, Renee. It's looking like there won't be any litter to clean-up this year, though. I haven't mentioned the arbor idea to my husband (yet) and, as it looks as if we're headed toward a kitchen remodel, it may be a long while before I get an arbor...

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  16. Fingers crossed for the Mimosa. It is a messy thing but That view of your garden with the tree defining the edge wouldn't be the same without it.

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    1. No, the view won't be the same. I'd be more accepting of the likely removal if I could place a new tree in approximately the same location but that seems unlikely.

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  17. Ya want a palm tree? They're coming up everywhere here.

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  18. Ugh--I'm sorry to see this. Reimagining your landscape without such a specimen will be a challenge but, if it comes to it, you'll find a new opportunity that will make your heart sing.

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    1. I'm trying to come to terms with the loss of the tree. There's still no sign whatsoever that it's going to leaf out. Sadly, it's a favorite hang-out spot for the birds...

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