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Help! me save my ancient kalmias

Posted by hobbes_in_dobbs z5a NY (My Page) on
Tue, Apr 10, 07 at 20:19

Hi there. I moved to this property 5 years ago with lots of huge old rhodies and kalmia. They were in horrible shape, tons of dead wood, the rhodies had beetles and weevils and the kalmia was full of fungus. We really went to work on them-- pruning, bug control, mulch, pH control, spraying for the leaf spot, holly-tone, anti-dessicant in the winter (we are on the Hudson and there are winds) and even "messenger" (whatever, I thought give it a try) and mycorrhizal fungus and they improved dramatically, with some of the kalmia just hanging on, but nevertheless making a beautiful display of flowers. Then we had our walkway redone-- which weaves right through them--and some retaining walls built which I'm assuming disrupted their root systems (up about 2-3 feet away from the trunks). This work continued for two years, ending last year. Now the rhodies still look great, but some of the kalmia is tanking. Oh, yes, and one of the ancient andromeda too. These are beautiful, 15-20 feet guys. Like gorgeous trees. Lots of branch die back, crappy color, no new growth, no buds to speak of, leaf spot (even with the spraying--it was a wet summer). Yet they look like they can be saved. Only one looks really terminal. So I checked the pH and it had crept up to 7 (maybe because of the cement?) and I fixed that. Now what? Is there anything else I can so to pamper these guys?? Thanks all you kalmia people!

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Help! me save my ancient kalmias

Yeah, cement is alkaline and will raise the ph of surrounding soil. New cement will leach into the soil more than old cement but even old cement has an effect.
That is one problem. I also thing you're doing too much with the kalmias. If they are ancient then they've been there for decades with probably no care at all. The only maintenance should be pruning deadwood and mulching with pine needles or oak leaves.

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