What me worry?
It wasn’t the soil. It was stress that killed the hedge.
At least that’s what I was told by the consulting arborist I brought in to explain the sudden death of a boxwood planting installed a few years ago. Though
I suspected a soil-borne fungus or bacteria would be the culprit, according to my Expert, the plants had been pushed to their biological limit, and simply died of thirst.
You might say, “What in the world does a plant have to be stressed about?” Do they wake up in the middle of the night worrying if they locked the front door, or whether or not the water bill was paid? And, their progeny almost never fall far from them, so the ‘waiting-up-until-they-get-home’ thing isn’t a source of concern, either. Theirs is a different—potentially more dire—form of pressure than humans deal with.
Harsh and extreme weather can change a plant’s health status in an instant. Heavy rains jeopardize the holding power of root systems, leaving large trees susceptible to being felled during heavy wind or ice storms. Smaller shrubs can be affected the same way, but are typically more threatened by falling limbs of their faltering overhanging neighbors. In my hedge’s case, fierce winds kept the specimen’s root system from replenishing enough of its water to keep the leaves in homeostasis.
Most plants have built-in physical defenses and chemical reactions to counteract serious negative forces. Conversely, however, occasional lack of water, reduced daily sunlight or temperatures, can trigger chemicals that begin the all-important reproductive process. Flowers turning to fruit which produce the seeds of a new generation, all miraculously within the crucial timeframe of a single growing season.
A little stress is healthy for all living on the planet. A reality check of sorts of how our life and well-being are progressing at any given moment. Too much can be a killer.
And, while anxiety, tension and physical strain seem to be important for successful functioning of plants’ reproductive organs, I’ve always found that external distractions make the same goal for humans much more difficult.
Jon Feldman is the owner of G. biloba Garden Environments. Reach him at 353-3448 or www.gbiloba.com