Monday, November 8, 2010

Downward Dogwood aka The Borer War

In the garden outside my kitchen stands a Rutgers hybrid Stellar Pink dogwood. Tall and beautiful, it is resistant to dogwood anthracose, powdery mildew, and borers. At least that's what the tag said... In reality, its flowers are very pale pink instead of dark pink, it's trunk is peeling, and half the tree has tiny leaves while the other half has normal sized leaves.

My, what tiny leaves you have! 

All summer I stewed about the dogwood. The trunk shouldn't be so weird looking, I thought.   Having convinced myself the tree was being suffocated by a girdled root, I weighed my options, and decided to call an arborist. I'm embarassed to admit how little I know about trees: they are usually big, usually green, and don't like being drowned in mulch or whacked by lawn mowers. But I did know that every time I passed the dogwood, regardless of the direction I took, I ran into the same thought, that something was wrong and I was not the person to make an accurate diagnosis.

 According to the perky arborist, who called my trees by personal pronouns and petted all five of my dogs, my dogwood has a problem with dogwood borers. Apparently, it hadn't read its tag. It also has a tree wound of myserious origins. After completing a root collar excavation and soil tests, it was determined that the tree didn't have a girdled root, or any strange diseases, and that other than being full of borers, the reason for half the tree being covered in tiny leaves was unknown. 

Dogwood borers are insidious little creatures that bore tunnels into the trunks and damage the vascular system. 

The war has started and it's me against the borers. I have only one weapon, a pesticide deep within the realms of the Dark Side. My favorite garden center smartie advised me to paint it on the trunk, which prevents it from contaminating the other plants or running into the soil. I hope it works.


  1. I can't remember if I mentioned this to you or not but I grew up in the DC area and I so miss the flora - especially dogwood trees and the fall color! A Texas Dogwood was added to my garden a copule of seasons ago and while I enjoy it, it's just not the same. I'd settle for pale pink flowers...good luck with the borers.

    Was the swallowtail picture recent? I love when they find the parsley as I start to hunt for crysalis'! Haven't found one yet but will keep looking!

  2. I just took the swallowtail caterpillar pic this weekend!! Swallowtail cats have been permanent residents in my parsley all summer. They seem to love my pot in partial shade the best. I've had about 2 doz caterpillars but I can never find their chrysalises.

    The DC area does have some gorgeous trees. :0) I have a Yoshino cherry in my backyard with amazing flowers every spring.

  3. Your dogwood does look ill or bored by borers. Hope it recovers soon.

  4. Hope your tree recovers soon. I would be a shame to loose it. Here dogwoods are just starting to change colors, is quite nice.
    Also, I know is a disease, but i think the mosaic bark gives your tree nice character.

  5. How inconsiderate of those borers not to have read the plant tag!! Honestly, what a shame about your dogwood- I hope the cure works! I like the abolia that you show in the header- it must not be hardy here as I do not recall ever seeing one. Very pretty!!

  6. Sorry to hear the diagnosis on your dog, but happy to hear that you actually have a knowledgeable arborist! I called one about a dying dogwood. He didn't know why it was failing (certainly didn't look at roots or anything). So he just injected it with fertilizer under the bark. The tree was dead by winter. Freaking idiot!

    Okay another sorry that you have to call in the Imperial Forces of the Dark Side, but painting the bark seems a good idea. Best of luck and keep us posted please! :-D

  7. oh what a shame, dogwoods are gorgeous but so fussy. Wonderful that you were able to get a diagnosis though, at least you have an idea of what you're dealing with. Hopefully your painting does the trick.

  8. To all - With my Jedi paintbrush at the ready, I have officially challenged those evil varmints to a duel. I shall be victorious! Die, dogwood borers! Die!! (Or at least leave peacefully and utterly incapacitated to wreak further damage.)

  9. I didn't know that dogwoods got borers. They don't need any more problems, being picky anyway! I hope you're able to get the problem sorted out and the tree fully recovers.

  10. Good luck with the dogwood tree! It would be sad to lose it. I have had to battle tree borers before, though not in a dogwood, and it was a tough fight. I love your glossy abelia! I planted one called 'confetti' a few years ago, and it has sadly lost most of its variegation. i would love one like yours!

  11. Hello TS, I just finished reading your last five posts. I must comment on From Start to Finish. I wholeheartedly agree with another post-er that you are a story teller. I was smiling at imagining you hop along the grass with camera in hand to photograph the monarch. Sad with you on the demise of the poor bird (I have been through that experience too many times). "Usher" we certainly are, caretakers of our little plots of land.
    I sympathize with you about the dogwood. Unfortunately some plants are duds. I enjoyed the posts and will be back. -Patty @ women and the garden


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