SPD (Sudden plant death) To replace or not to replace -a few musings about whether to replace plants that have died in my garden.
I have had a couple of deaths in my garden this year that have baffled me.
The first was my Tarragon.
I have had the plant growing for many years in a small pot, I keep it in a pot as I must put it into the glasshouse each winter as Tarragon is cold sensitive. It dies down in winter and re-shoots vigorously in spring. I have re-potted it every couple of years and fed and watered it as per usual, so I was somewhat surprised to notice it not shooting in the spring.
Why did it die?
After some research, I have discovered that Tarragon does not have a long-life expectancy so I can only assume it died of old age.
The second sudden death was my chestnut tree.
It has been growing and fruiting for 20 years. It cropped well last autumn, coloured well and at the beginning of winter become deciduous as normal. Come spring, nothing happened- no new shoots. On closer examination, the whole tree is dead, completely dead, no sign of life at all.
Again, the big question is why?
They are long lived tree with a normal life expectancy of 200-800 years.
After much research, I am still not sure why it died.
It has been a wet winter but it is growing in a well- drained area and from all my research, a bit of extra moisture during dormancy is not a problem.
Chestnuts can be damaged and stressed by late frost burning new emerging shoots but there were never any new shoots to be frost burned, so it wasn’t that.
There was no sap extruding from the bark low on the trunk, a sure sign of root disease, though I am convinced that this is what killed it. I had the same thing happened to a 15-year-old walnut tree several years ago with the only explanation being root rot.
Now which root disease I am not sure but Phytophthora cinnamomi is probably the most likely cause as it is the most common root rot disease in the area, but without laboratory dragonises I would not know for sure. It has certainly been the demise of several conifers in the garden over the past few years and it tends to affect mature trees which are stressed for some reason- too wet, to dry etc.
Now the big question is: Do I replace these plants that have for some reason not survived the environment that I am trying to grow them in.
I am a great believer in growing plants that thrive in my garden without excessive care and intervention, rather than putting effort into keeping alive something that is struggling to survive.
The Tarragon is a no brainer, even though it does require intervention by placing it in the glasshouse it takes so little effort that I will replace it. I use it all summer in veal and chicken dishes and I like to make my own Tarragon vinegar.
Like a lot of home-made products, once having experienced the taste of freshly made products, it is difficult to go back to buying the mass produced alternative.
Tarragon plants are cheap to purchase and now that I am aware that it is not long lived I will endeavour to propagate young plants every few years so I do not need to buy it again.
So the decision is easy, I just need to track down a French Tarragon plant, not the Russian or Mexican varieties, as they do not have the subtle flavour of the French- anyway more about Tarragon in another blog.
As for the chestnut, this is a real dilemma. Even though the tree cropped well we rarely harvested any crop as the wretched sulphur crested cockatoo liked to strip the tree of its extremely spiky seed pods and rip them open so they could eat the immature nuts. At approximately 4 x 5meter in size the tree was too difficult to net.
Chest nuts are expensive trees to buy and if it is Phytophthora cinnamomi it is almost impossible to control and the same thing could occur once the tree matures.
So, I think the chestnut will be a NO for replanting.
I had already made this decision for the walnut trees as well. Shame really, the Nuttery is looking a bit sad now but perhaps I need to come to the realisation that nuts trees are not going to thrive in my garden and put my money and efforts into other food producing crops that grow well here.
It is important to try and find out why plants have not survived in your garden and determine if it is just an unsuitability thing or if different care and maintenance is needed.
I have seen a lot of people put money and effort into trying to grow a plant that is not suited to their environment and be continually disappointed.
Sometimes it is best just to grow what thrives.
So decisions made- Iam off to buy a new Tarragon plant and to work on how to bring down and dispose of a large dead chestnut tree.
Happy gardening (or musing)
Sad news about the chestnut! No, it’s too big an investment to risk again, especially when it may die 20 years after you planted it! It does sound like root rot though, doesn’t it? What else could it be?
My thoughts exactly.
Yes, I’m afraid it’s the lot of the gardener….sudden death. I’m in the same predicament with a couple of elder, that, although not dead, are for some reason, “underachieving” this year. I’ve decided to wait and see.
An even bigger dilemmer when they are not dead, just not doing well, hard to know when to bite the bullet and remove them.