A rocky situation

sandaidh(western NY)January 13, 2007

This will be my fourth winter in WNY. Two years ago, I planted a wisteria in my front yard, planning on "tree shaping" it, which I've done before. I do provide winter protection as I know it's kind of "iffy" in this area. Here's my dilemma. What I hadn't realized when I planted it, was that there's a large rock (boulder?) right underneath. I hadn't had to dig down far enough when I planted to find it. I DID find it this winter when I went to pound in the stakes to support the winter protection (a mulch-filled Quick Tube) around the plant. The stakes would go down anywhere from 3 to 8 inches, depending on where I was in the yard, and stop. I could hear it hit rock, and no amount of pounding would persuade it to go any further. So I know my wisteria is planted right on top of it. Which also means that the rock is going to prevent the root system from growing down deep enough to go below the frost level. Frozen roots equal dead plant.

Question - should I go ahead and dig it up, while it's dormant, and replant it elsewhere in the yard (probing for underground rocks/boulders first). Or should I just leave well enough alone, cross my fingers and hope for the best? Am I worrying about nothing? LOL

I just haven't lived here long enough to feel comfortable in my knowledge of winter weather and plants. And this is a problem I've never had to deal with before. Any advice, opinions, solutions, thoughts would be appreciated.

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mad_gallica(zone 5 - eastern New York)

Pounding proves nothing. You could be hitting one large rock. You could be hitting a bunch of small rocks. You could be hitting practically anything. The only way to find out is to start digging. Most perennials seem to be all right with a clear foot of root space. For a relatively large shrubs, which I guess would be how I would classify wisteria, you may want to go twice that deep. You won't know whether obstacles will prevent that large a hole until you dig the hole.

I'm not sure I'd plan on moving it unless is shows signs of stunting. Unless it is a solid piece of rock, roots can get between, around, and underneath it.

    Bookmark   January 13, 2007 at 11:17AM
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gottagarden(z5 western NY)

Frost level around here is 42 inches.(in a bad winter, not like this one!) NO plant goes that deep. Frozen roots do not equal dead plants.(unless they're tender annuals) Every living thing you see around here gets their roots frozen and they're fine with it, they're "hardy". Most plants only have roots in the top 6-12 inches of soil. If the wisteria has full sun, adequate rain and drainage, it will be fine and I would not move it.

BTW, I had trained a wisteria as a tree in my last house. It was just getting beautiful when I moved and had to leave it behind. Good luck with yours.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2007 at 8:26AM
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sandaidh(western NY)

Thank you for your replies. I know I have a lot to learn about living, and gardening, here in WNY.

Mad Gallica - I didn't just try pounding in a few spots. When I felt, and heard, the metal stake (3 ft high metal T-post fence stake which I normally use to fence my veggie garden to keep a neighbor's St Bernard out) hit rock, I pulled it out and moved an inch or two and tried again. I did that with each support stake (there are 5) until I was able to pound the stake down past the flange. Considering how many different directions I had to go, and how far away from the plant, I think I can be fairly certain that it's one large rock. True, I won't know for sure until digging, but I admit to a bit of reluctance in digging up my entire front yard.

Gottagarden - Thank you for the reassurance that frozen roots don't equal dead plants. Agsin, it points out how much I have to learn about living and gardening here. I brought two small wisteria with me when I moved here. One I've kept in a pot, the other is the one planted in the front yard. Everything I'd read on them in this area seems to go back and forth between 'yes' and 'no.' And one of the main reasons that I planted it in the front yard, as opposed to the more protected back yard, is that it gets full sun, good drainage and plenty of water. I was elated when I saw the first buds last spring, showing it had survived last winter. But it got taller (which is good), making it harder to protect this winter (which is not so good). This one will not be able to get as tall as my previous one did simple because of the winter protection.

Yes, they are very beautiful when tree trained. My previous one was about 7 ft tall and would often bloom three times a year. I know they can be resiliant as that one had been blown over when the trunk was about 1 to 2 inches in diameter. The stake had pulled out of the ground. Anyway, the trunk had snapped/broken most of the way through and everyone thought it was a goner. They said pull it out and plant a new one. I put the stake deeper into the ground, stood the wisteria back up and tied it securely to the stake. I grew back together. Originally planted in 1976, it was still growing, and blooming, beautifully in 2003 when I moved and left it behind.

Thanks, both of you, for your advice. I guess for now, I'll just leave well enough alone and see what happens. If nothing else, I do still have the potted one, which I bring inside for the winter.

    Bookmark   January 14, 2007 at 12:08PM
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