Ponderosa in trouble?

treebeard55

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Hello, all,

I have an 80-plus-year-old ponderosa that I got in a workshop with Andy Smith, last June at MABA2008.

On the advice of others with more experience growing ponderosas in the Midwest, I repotted it as early as I dared this spring -- March 9, to be exact. I used Andy's soil recipe (50% Turface, 40% grit, 10% organics,) all particles between 3 and 4.5 mm. Root pruning was kept to a minimum, probably 15% of the toal root mass. No hose work; just dunking and careful use of a brush. The tree is in a home-made grow box roomier than the holding pot in which I got it.

We had a number of sub-freezing nites after I repotted it. I took the tree inside, into a cold basement, in that sort of weather. I know ponderosas are hardier than polar bears, but after the disturbance of the roots I wanted to protect them as much as possible. For more than a week now, it's been out on our deck in a cold frame.

I discovered today that some of last year's needle's -- maybe 20% of the total -- have turned white/gray and give every appearance of being dead. My first reaction was "Yow!" This tree is the prize of my collection, and a gift from my wife, to boot.

Those of you with more ponderosa experience -- have you encountered this before? Any comments, thoughts, observations are welcome.

(Sorry, my camera isn't good enough to give a good picture of the needles in question.)
 
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tom tynan

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It is always difficult trying to guess what might be going on with a living tree, not being there and of course - not seeing it - that said, the needle discoloration is certainly alarming. Is this concentrated on one or two isolated branches ? or in general spread out over the entire tree? If this is just a few branches - then perhaps those branches have died - the buds are not likely to ever open. The key thing to watch is the terminal buds or candles at the very tips of all of the branches, depending on where you are - these should start to elongate or just show a bit of green at the very end as it starts to differentiate - before opening up. If the candles or buds do this - then you are probably ok. If the tree does not wake up this Spring - then you know the answer.

Ponderosa are very tough trees - so it is not likely the weather that is the culprit - but, perhaps the work you did to the roots. I commented on your original post concerning the trimming of the roots - and others [with more experience then myself] pointed out that the trimming of very long roots was OK. Well - maybe not...and maybe the trimming was too aggressive? It is hard to advise when we were not there with you during the repotting and handling of the roots. One thing I would advise - is not to panic and over-water the tree- more than normal-just because you think the tree is stressed. water as you would normally - given your location and climate conditions for this time of year. Good luck and hang in there....Tom
 
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treebeard55

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No new buds yet, but then I didn't expect any yet. As for the aggressiveness of the root-pruning, I suppose it's possible, tho at the time I thought I 'd been excessively cautious, if anything!

If I sound uncertain about whether the root-pruning went too far, it's because I am. I've never worked with a tree this old before, nor a collected tree from a different climate. So, to a large degree, I'm going to know myself only when I see what the tree does.

The dying needles are near the ends of 4 or 5 branchlets. All of those branchlets have healthy needles further back -- healthy so far, at any rate.
 

JRob

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Where was the tree wintered? Is it possible the needles were sunburned? That has happened to my son's JBP this year.

JRob
 

treebeard55

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Where was the tree wintered? Is it possible the needles were sunburned? ...JRob
Once everything was fully dormant, it went into the aforementioned cold basement room. That was more to protect it from rodents and deer than anything else.

I haven't checked it yet this morning. Have to get my daughter off to school first.
 

tom tynan

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I am suggesting you watch the exisiting terminal buds to see signs of growth, change in color, elongation etc. This is happening to Ponderosa's that I have, here in southern NY State right now. I cannot see Indiana being far behind. I agree - it is unlikely in less than one season for you to see numerous NEW buds on your Ponderosa - so watch the existing buds - they will tell you ultimately whether the tree will make it thru the Spring. If you know this already, then my apologies for telling you something that you know....good luck...Tom
 

Mojosan

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Beard,

Maybe a note to Andy might be in order. He could offer some insight.
 

treebeard55

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Tom, no apology necessary. I've checked the existing buds, and they at least don't look dried, or shrunken.

Mojo, thanks. I may do that.
 

JasonG

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Show us a picture of the folaige in question and also a picture of "a good section". I am pretty sure we can figure something out but seeing it will be in order. Also, if you scratch around in the soil do you see in new active root growth?

I have heard of a few recent "deaths" of ponderosas from the midwest and east coast....

Show us pictures!! lol!

Jason
 

Walter Pall

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On the advice of others with more experience growing ponderosas in the Midwest, I repotted it as early as I dared this spring -- March 9, to be exact.
I wonder what sort of advice you listened to.
The best time to repot a pondeosa in an area from northern California all the way to Wadhinton DC is starting NOW. In Colorado and mor north it is in two weeks or even later.
If not absolutely necessary do not cut any roots on ponderosas, even ten to fifteen years after collecting. Wind the roots into the pot somehow.
Plant into very well draining substrate.
Water every day!!!! Feed every ten days with regular plant feed.

And don't listen to amateur advice. Listen to those who have ponderosas in show quality.
 

treebeard55

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I wonder what sort of advice you listened to.
The best time to repot a pondeosa in an area from northern California all the way to Wadhinton DC is starting NOW. In Colorado and mor north it is in two weeks or even later.
If not absolutely necessary do not cut any roots on ponderosas, even ten to fifteen years after collecting. Wind the roots into the pot somehow.
Plant into very well draining substrate.
Water every day!!!! Feed every ten days with regular plant feed.

And don't listen to amateur advice. Listen to those who have ponderosas in show quality.
Thanks for your response, Walter. Maybe I over-reacted to the fact that I lost several pines last year by repotting too late -- the spring growth flush was essentially over, and the trees' root systems couldn't rebuild.

The soil is very well well-draining: all particles between 3 and 4.5 mm, which is the coarsest I could manage.

John Kirby is the main one I listened to, and he has worked with ponderosas for a number of years now. His climate is much more like mine than Andy Smith's. But don't blame him! I may have misapplied what he wrote in some of his posts.

So far the tree is doing no worse. And, for whatever it's worth, some of the dying needles have healthy needles both above and below them. I almost wonder if this is some sort of spot-poisoning from something. :confused:
 

JasonG

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You will never know until we see photos of what is going on.....without them everything is a wild guess....

Jason
 

treebeard55

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Jason, in my first post I said I didn't think I could get photos that would show enough detail; that's due to the basic nature of my camera, and the detail lost in re-sizing.

If someone would care to explain how to embed a picture, I would give it a try. I didn't find anything about it in the FAQ.
 

JasonG

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Ah...yes to embed a photo open an acct at photobucket.com, upload the photo then when you do a post on a forum you copy the img link (when you hover over the image it will appear and is the one on the bottom) from photobucket to the post you are working in. It is super simple and very fast to do.

Hope this helps, let me know if you need better instructions... :D
 

treebeard55

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Finally had a chance to take some photos, and now to see if I've understood the Photobucket instructions!

The pics were taken less than an hour ago. The second is a whole-canopy shot, from about 45 degrees right of front. The third is a copy of the first, with lighting and contrast enhanced a bit on Photoshop.

Opinions, comments, "eureka's"?



 

Walter Pall

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What's your problem? It looks alive to me. Can you show a picutre of the buds? Pluck all the brown needles. Water and feed like hell and it will thrive. Some whirls are dead. This is not so good but also not the end of the world.
 

treebeard55

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Walter, it's been a long time since I was so happy to be told, in effect, that I'd gotten worked up for nothing! Thanks for your comments.

I'll try to get pictures of the buds, but I'm not sure my camera can do work that precise. None of the buds have started to open yet, but then none look dried or drying, either.
 

treebeard55

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OK, here are a couple of pictures of buds. I'm not sure how much help they'll be; I'm working with an inexpensive camera.


 

Walter Pall

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It looks very weak to me but not dead. They are tough takers. It will throw very few neelds if at all this summer. Just keep on watering and feeding ad placing in full sun. Next year it will probably have much healthier buds. Good luck. I had one which did not have new buds for two seasons and in the third seasons it came again.
 
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