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Any idea what is happening to my cypress? What can I do to save it? - L.S. -
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Posted 05 May 2016 - 08:47 PM
Posted 05 May 2016 - 09:34 PM
First guess, this falsecypress has been weakened by less than perfect growing conditions and/or damaged by the cold during the 2013-2014 or 2014-2015 winters. Thus weakened, it subsequently lost more foliage than it grew each year so it thinned out, and now borers have attacked it. The borer that attacks falsecypress (your shrub looks like a variety of Chamaecyparis obtusa, a.k.a. Hinoki falsecypress a.k.a. Japanese garden cypress) is an opportunist. That is, it's not a strong insect, not able to penetrate the bark or live with the chemical soup of a vigorously growing falsecypress. It gains access only once the plant is weak and probably is even attracted by the smell of the distressed plant.
So borers are a sympton.More on borers of falsecypress and relatives of falsecypress:
Japanese cedar longhorned beetle Callidiellum rufipenne
flatheaded cedar borer Chrysobothris nixa, http://c.ymcdn.com/s.../May05Borer.pdf
If you work to control the borers themselves that's fine, but to do only that would be like treating the sores on a malnourished person without addressing the underlying vitamin deficiencies.
Your real focus must be to make the plant stronger.
All this to do... If it's not too late. Kind of looks like the weeping wounds are high on the shrub -- maybe wood hurt by winter cold when the lower reaches were under snow. In that case you may lose the top of the plant because removing the borer damaged wood will mean cutting the trunk off just above the still-full section. The shrub can grow back, can develop a new top from lower branches but that won't happen quickly. And it may not happen at all if you don't correct or protect against what happened to weaken this shrub in the first place.
A note about growing these fine plants (about which every gardener has theories so take ours with that grain of salt): Water is so critical for a Hinoki. Not just keeping the roots moist (and never soggy) but keeping the atmospheric humidity high all around it, as if the plant's living in its native land on the seashore. We saw a great change for the better in one of our own Hinokis when we decided to dump a big bowl of water at its feet twice a day, year 'round; i.e., every time we changed the dog's water. That's the only change we made in that plant's care and it was transformed from a constantly-thinning, barely growing creature to a bulking-up beauty that was actually adding some height. (Unfortunately, three years into the experiment one of the dogs passed on and our new recruit puppy decided to chew on that plant...)
Conifer expert and Forum Moderator Dennis Groh tells us the pre-eminent dwarf conifer collector and grower of the current age, Chubb Harper, once said "Don't fall for those Hinokis, they're heartbreakers." I take his point to be: Something always happens to them here in the center of a continent where it's very hot in summer, very cold in winter. Sooner or later they fail, and it usually happens just as you most admire them.
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