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Posts Tagged ‘shrub renovation’

If you have read the last post but are new to this blog you might take a look at this link; it’s my Lawn and Landscape article on the bare-root transplant workshop conducted last summer by arborists Mike Furgal (who developed the method of transplanting specimen trees bare-root, using an air spade) and Matt Foti (who hosted the workshop and has gone on to use the bare-root air spade technique on every transplant project he can).

The article describes the workshop’s successful transplanting of several trees on a hot August day, and lays out some of the nuts and bolts of how the work is done. Mike and Matt’s workshop charged up every one of the 100 or so attendees. As a result, many Massachusetts arborists and contractors are turning to the air spade to save and transplant specimen trees. I hope that the previous post (“Air Spade in Action”) helps to expand our understanding of some additional uses of this tool.

(And no, I am in no way affiliated with the company that manufactures either the Air Spade or the Air Knife, or any other kind of tool.)

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One last word on forsythia renovation: the root stock on older plants — as long as they’re healthy to start with — will have enough energy to push out new, vigorous growth in a hurry. The photo of the renovated, blooming bank of forsythia in my post from April 7 (Radical Renovation) shows rampant growth one year after the whacking back. It looks a little wild, doesn’t it? The plants needed to get their photosynthetic little solar collectors (leaves) up in the air and positioned to do their work as quickly as possible, and every single stem is competing for dominance.
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This photo, taken last week, shows how that initial wild growth settles down. After such a frantic rush to grow out, and also to reproduce (plants experiencing extreme stress often will have the best flower show; in reaction to the threat of death they flower heavily in attempt to replicate themselves), the stems on this bank of plants have relaxed into the plants’ typical habit. The flower show is more subdued, too, and a bit more balanced than earlier.

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In just a few days we’re going to be seeing forsythia blooming everywhere. Forsythia is one of those workhorse shrubs that crystallizes sunshine for a few days, and then fades into a medium green mass of space-filler for the rest of the growing season. Some people hate it, some love it. It grows vigorously, given full sun, and can spread widely if given the chance. It also can handle radical renovation, which is the wholesale cutting down of all its stems to the ground in a single pruning session.

This kind of pruning doesn’t suit all plants, but for many cane-growers like forsythia, it’s just the thing. Here is a photo of some forsythia shortly after it had been whacked down, in the spring of 2006. I have no photos of it before the operation (didn’t know it was going to be cut, so never took pix), but remember it as an enormous thicket, at least seven feet high (and that’s with the stems arching over each other).

Stems cut down nearly to the ground

Stems cut down nearly to the ground

Cutting the plants back in early spring (even before bloom) gives them a chance to recover and reestablish growth through the entire growing season. The next photo shows what the same bank of forsythia looked like in the spring of 2007, one year later.

The same shrubs, one year later

The same shrubs, one year later

Astonishing, isn’t it? Though the stems of the plants had been almost completely removed, there was more than enough energy in their root systems to regenerate this much growth in one year, and to set that many buds.

This method does draw heavily on a plant’s stored resources, so it’s something you’d want to do only every 12-15 years, tops. Not every plant can handle this kind of treatment, but it’s dandy for forsythia.

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