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RE: [AZ] Beginner

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  • Tom Schuetz
    Tom Schuetz schuetz101@verizon.net USDA Zone 7A (as of 2012) Sarah, Bill Miller s advice is good advice. I am also confused by
    Message 1 of 5 , Jan 9, 2013
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      Tom Schuetz
      USDA Zone 7A (as of 2012)
       
      Sarah, Bill Miller's advice is good advice. I am also confused by your description of  'spongy' branches. A picture would be helpful. Are you referring to a form of lichen / algae on the branches? I have observed a form of lichen which resembles filamentary growth on tree branches in Maine in an area with a lot of mist / fog, a long way from you, but something which I had never observed before and a form certainly different from the scale like growth of lichen I am used to seeing.

      From: azaleas@yahoogroups.com [mailto:azaleas@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Sarah Everett
      Sent: Wednesday, January 09, 2013 12:49 AM
      To: azaleas@yahoogroups.com
      Subject: [AZ] Beginner

       

      this is from the ASK US page, so please send me a CC...
      I am a new home-owner and a new gardener.
      I am in Oakland, CA. The climate is mild. Freezes are rare.
      I have what appears to be a very old, long-neglected azalea. It has beautiful light green lichen on it (as do many old trees & shrubs in this area).
      Many of the branches are spongy. Some are not.
      I thought it might be water & nutrient deprived, so I began regular watering, and surrounded the base with clover hay.
      There's been no noticeable improvement.
      My instinct would be to cut off the spongy branches, but I'm afraid the act in ignorance.
      Any ideas about what I'm describing, or how I should proceed?
      Thank you for your help.
      Sarah
      PS  My computer skills are only lightly better than my gardening ones...not sure how a "yahoogroup" works...

    • George Klump
      9 January 2013 Hello, Sarah, Welcome to the ASA page. Since you live not that far above me, I will make a few suggestions. First, I wouldn t worry too much
      Message 2 of 5 , Jan 9, 2013
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        9 January 2013

        Hello, Sarah
        ,

        Welcome to the ASA page.  Since you live not that far above me, I will make a few suggestions.

        First, I wouldn't worry too much about the present condition of the azalea so long as it appears to be alive and well.  As you well know fog can move in there any time just as it does here so that all kinds of things can grow on trees and plants, things which require a lot of fog and generally wet weather.

        Second, I wouldn't cut off anything, since all new flowers will grow on whatever new growth is on the azalea.  If you cut off branches now, you will probably cut off the flowers which will come out later. 

        Third, don't worry about nutrients now, though the clover hay is fine.  The nitrogen is very slow acting, though it will require something from the soil.  Just water it as needed BUT not too much.  Let the rains do most of the watering now, if you get enough rain. . . .and you should.  The main thing is to be sure that the soil drains well and rather quickly so that you do not get any root rot started.  If it already drains quickly enough, leave it alone.

        Fourth, when Easter comes, get some cottonseed meal and spread maybe a cupful around the base of the azalea.  Just water that in gently.  Do the same at the Fourth of July and on Labor Day.  You do not need to feed the plant any more than that.  In fact it would be much better, if you did not.  Azaleas do not like to be fed too much and damage can be done this way, if one is not very careful.

        Fifth, if you think the azalea is too damp too much of the time and suspect that the soil may not be draining fast enough, get some gypsum [calcium sulphate] which is cheap enough and dump perhaps a 1/4-inch of that all over the ground around the azalea.  [Actually, you can put gypsum anywhere you think drainage may be a problem,]  Azalea and rhododendron roots do not mind the damp soil and normally will take all the water they get SO LONG AS it drains away from the root zone just about as fast as it comes in.  The roots will not tolerate sitting in water. 

        Sixth, when you get to the Fourth of July and are feeding the plant, if you think it should be pruned judiciously, it can be done at that time.  I tend not to prune my azaleas unless some wild branch grows out all by itself and looks like a fright sight.  Normally, this does not happen.  But if you do wish to shape the plant or open it up a tad, that would be a perfectly good time to do it.  The new growth for next year [2014] will grow after that.  Therefore I would suggest not pruning the azalea too much later than that.  And since your freezes there are minimal and not too common, it appears, too, that your azalea has enough biomass to protect the new growth, even if some new growth were to appear on the plant in early November.  That should hurt nothing.

        This is what most of us do here and I, personally, do this with all my plants regardless of whether or not they are rhododendrons, azaleas, hibiscus, camellias or whatever.  In fact this routine works perfectly for my roses and they bloom constantly just as my vireyas do.  So take heart and take a stab at this and see what you get.  The plant should not die, if it is otherwise healthy.  If you are concerned about the lichens on the leaves, they can often be blown off by your hose on high-pressure, but I would do that only, when the sun is out bright and clear and the leaves have a chance to dry off.  Mildew can be blown off the plant the same way. 

        George E. KIump
        Southern California Chapter, ARS/ASA

         






        On 1/9/2013 11:51 AM, Tom Schuetz wrote:
         

         
         
        Tom Schuetz
        USDA Zone 7A (as of 2012)
         
        Sarah, Bill Miller's advice is good advice. I am also confused by your description of  'spongy' branches. A picture would be helpful. Are you referring to a form of lichen / algae on the branches? I have observed a form of lichen which resembles filamentary growth on tree branches in Maine in an area with a lot of mist / fog, a long way from you, but something which I had never observed before and a form certainly different from the scale like growth of lichen I am used to seeing.

        From: azaleas@yahoogroups.com [mailto:azaleas@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of Sarah Everett
        Sent: Wednesday, January 09, 2013 12:49 AM
        To: azaleas@yahoogroups.com
        Subject: [AZ] Beginner

         

        this is from the ASK US page, so please send me a CC...
        I am a new home-owner and a new gardener.
        I am in Oakland, CA. The climate is mild. Freezes are rare.
        I have what appears to be a very old, long-neglected azalea. It has beautiful light green lichen on it (as do many old trees & shrubs in this area).
        Many of the branches are spongy. Some are not.
        I thought it might be water & nutrient deprived, so I began regular watering, and surrounded the base with clover hay.
        There's been no noticeable improvement.
        My instinct would be to cut off the spongy branches, but I'm afraid the act in ignorance.
        Any ideas about what I'm describing, or how I should proceed?
        Thank you for your help.
        Sarah
        PS  My computer skills are only lightly better than my gardening ones...not sure how a "yahoogroup" works...

      • John Corm
        Excellent advice! From: azaleas@yahoogroups.com [mailto:azaleas@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of William C. Miller III Sent: Wednesday, January 09, 2013 2:24 PM
        Message 3 of 5 , Jan 10, 2013
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          Excellent advice!

           

          From: azaleas@yahoogroups.com [mailto:azaleas@yahoogroups.com] On Behalf Of William C. Miller III
          Sent: Wednesday, January 09, 2013 2:24 PM
          To: azaleas@yahoogroups.com
          Cc: Sarah Everett
          Subject: Re: [AZ] Beginner

           

           

          Hi Sarah,

          I've never heard the word "spongy" used to describe azalea branches.  But, that's not a problem.

          Using scissors or shears, clip off the tip of a spongy branch.  If the cross-section is light green, the branch is probably OK. 

          If you bend the tip of a branch and it just snaps off, that portion of the branch is dead.  Continue down the same branch until it bends instead of snapping.  If you end up at the crown of the plant, then that entire branch was dead and had to come out anyway.  Removing dead wood can be done any time of the year.  Trimming is best done shortly after the azalea blooms in the spring.  If you trim or shape your azalea now, you will be cutting away this coming season's flowers which began to form last summer.

          The lichen isn't a problem and the clover hay will serve as a mulch.  Do you suppose the clover hay will attract rabbits or deer?  Folks generally use some form of bark to mulch around azaleas.  I use pine bark since it is readily available and comparatively inexpensive.  You might see what kind of bark is available at a reasonable cost from your local garden center. 

          You should go easy on the fertilizer.  Azaleas don't require much and it's easy to apply too much.  There are lots of different types of fertilizer available, and you should use one that is recommended for azaleas on the label.  Use less fertilizer than the label recommends.  It is best to apply fertilizer shortly after the azalea blooms.

          Be mindful that you want to avoid over-watering your azalea.  The site where you have your azalea planted should drain well.  Azaleas will not tolerate "wet feet."  The general rule is water thoroughly but not frequently.  "Regular" watering may be too frequent.  Automated water systems, while convenient,  often dispense too much water.  If you over-water, the roots will rot and the plant will eventually die.

          Don't worry about being a new gardener.  One learns something new every year.  It's an additive process.

          William C. Miller III
          Bethesda, Maryland    Zone 7
          www.theazaleaworks.com

            
            

          Sarah Everett wrote:

           

          this is from the ASK US page, so please send me a CC...

          I am a new home-owner and a new gardener.

          I am in Oakland, CA. The climate is mild. Freezes are rare.

          I have what appears to be a very old, long-neglected azalea. It has beautiful light green lichen on it (as do many old trees & shrubs in this area).

          Many of the branches are spongy. Some are not.

          I thought it might be water & nutrient deprived, so I began regular watering, and surrounded the base with clover hay.

          There's been no noticeable improvement.

          My instinct would be to cut off the spongy branches, but I'm afraid the act in ignorance.

          Any ideas about what I'm describing, or how I should proceed?

          Thank you for your help.

          Sarah

          PS  My computer skills are only lightly better than my gardening ones...not sure how a "yahoogroup" works...

           

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