this is as close as we’ve gotten to rain lately, but not a drop has fallen from the sky. for several weeks, temps have been in the high 90’s to low 100’s, with heat indices well over 100. plants in the yard & garden are starting to show the effect of a slow-bake oven.
now, i realize plants deal with stress in their own special way. many of these plants are just going into a summer dormancy period, sending whatever water and nutrients they receive to their roots and other storage structures. i expect many of them (well, some of them anyway) to come back whenever the temps decline and it rains again. i’ll patiently wait with my umbrella turned upside down. as for the critters, if they want to belly up to our botanical bar, so be it. i won’t be applying chemicals to prevent them from the feast.
speaking of chemicals, that brings me to a touchy subject that recently came to my attention: Imprelis, a pre-emergent herbicide used to treat broadleaf turf grass weeds (dandelion, plantain, clover, ground ivy & wood violet) is now showing injury & damage to the root systems of trees and shrubs (mostly conifers) across the midwest. since it’s a pre-emergent herbicide, the chemical remains persistent in the soil profile for a longer period of time. since it’s a systemic herbicide, the chemical translocates to stems and needle tissues causing browning, twisted growth and needle drop. mind you, these symptoms were NOT the intended effect nor the intended target. a statement from DuPont to its customers was distributed here, along with a guide for how to managed stressed trees here. stressed trees, huh? obviously, this product was not tested to the fullest extent prior to release for the commercial trade, and that’s a damned, irresponsible shame. in this day and age? really?? really!!!
allow me to take you to my parent’s garden in southeast michigan for some personal proof. my mom’s just sent the one picture on the right so far, but yes, there’s more.
a recent new york times article was published about this debacle. one of the landscape service companies mentioned is the very one my parents use (Underwood’s), and they’ve since been out to the farm to “document” the damage. the disappointing thing (among many issues surrounding this unfortunate event) is that my mom found out about it by just happening to mention the browning of her trees while at another retail nursery earlier this summer. the landscape service company didn’t contact her about it – she called them. only to find out that they knew about it, and had been applying a “neutralizing” chemical to try to lessen the potency of the chemical on the trees’ roots. for full disclosure, i’m a former member of the michigan nursery and landscape association, and don’t really hold anything against the landscape company itself, as i’m sure they were applying the herbicide as instructed on the label, but come on people – open & transparent communication is essential for sensitive issues like this! not only between the chemical manufacturers and the landscape trade, but between the landscape service companies and their customers. good thing my mom was home when they came to survey her property last week, as she was able to point out more *potentially* damaged specimens they might’ve overlooked. Pseudotsuga menziesii (douglas fir), Picea glauca var. densata (black hills spruce), Picea sylvestris (scotch pine), Chamaecyparis obtusa nana (dwarf hinoki cypress), Cercidiphyllum japonicum (katsura), Syringa sp. (lilac shrubs)… i’m pensively waiting along with my parents to see what else Imprelis affects – hopefully nothing else, but it doesn’t sound promising. even if the landscape company is able to replace the trees, as mentioned in the article, they won’t be able to replace the same size & stature of tree (or shrub), nor the personal attachments we have to those particular specimens. family and friends gifted and helped plant many of those trees, some of which are all we have left to remember them by. we even buried cherished members of our pet family under their branches. pardon me for the idiom, but that’s obviously adding insult to injury. and i haven’t even told you about all the Fraxinus (ash) trees they’ve lost to the emerald ash borer, EAB. guess i’ll save that for another post.
my alma mater, michigan state university, has published a fact sheet on Imprelis herbicide injury here, and articles on the issue here, here, here and here. i’ll continue to follow this issue, and will keep you posted as i learn more.
happy bloom day everyone! sorry for the bummer of a post, but i’m really looking forward to some fun & inspiration in seattle during the garden blogger’s fling next week. i’ll happily bring an umbrella.