Deer Resistant Plants for Your Yard

Deer Resistant Plants for Your Yard

There is no such thing as deer-proof plants. Deer in different locations will graze on different plants, depending upon how hungry they are and what else is available for them to eat. Plants that are newly planted out directly from a nursery are usually tastier to deer than plants that have been in the ground for a while, as they have been fed regularly with fertilizer.

Often newly planted landscapes can be devastated when deer find them. It is better to use the phrase deer-resistant plants. This term describes plants being resistant to deer to a greater or lesser extent.

So bear in mind that our suggestions for deer resistant plants may still get nibbled by deer, but are less likely to be eaten than other plants that deer are naturally drawn towards. There are topical sprays that are distasteful to deer that can be applied to the foliage of plants Unfortunately they also smell terrible to people! But these can be used to discourage deer from eating your plants if applied regularly. However, it is probably easier to choose plants that deer find distasteful.


Deer Resistant Plants for Pacific Northwest Gardens:

Image of the attractive cream and light-green variegated leaves of one type of deer resistant plants: Brunnera 'Jack Frost.'
Here are some of our suggestions for deer resistant plants that can be used successfully in your landscape in the Pacific Northwest:

Deer Resistant Shade Plants

Brunnera ‘Jack Frost’

This sun to shade-loving perennial works well in a variety of soils and has some tolerance for dry shade. It has attractive cream and light-green variegated leaves. The delicate, tiny mid-blue flowers hover above the foliage in spring, brightening up the shade. ‘Jack Frost’ works great as an edging to borders, mixed with ferns and other woodland plants.

Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’

This Daphne is special because it is summer-blooming, and ‘Eternal Fragrance’ refers to it’s delicately perfumed pale pink blooms which recur through spring, summer, and fall. Plant in rich, well-amended soil and water moderately. This shrub is toxic to deer and therefore a great deer resistant plant pick. It grows slowly to only 3-4’ tall and 4-5’ wide. It is a great choice for smaller urban gardens and Asian-themed gardens.

Image of the purple flowers of the Campanula or bellflower, one option of deer resistant plants.
Campanula species

These are sometimes called bellflowers due to the shape of the flowers. There are many varieties, from groundcovers to upright perennials, and they often thrive in shady conditions, although some prefer the sun. They usually have blue, purple, or white flowers, with long bloom times, and will easily brighten your perennial or rock garden. They prefer moist, well-drained soil.

Image of the cheerful yellow flower whorls along the green foliage of the Phlomis russeliana, one of several deer resistant plants.

Deer Resistant Sun Plants

Phlomis russeliana

Also known as Turkish or Serbian sage, this plant is a great choice for a sunny spot in your mixed perennial border. It has attractive, soft, fuzzy white or green foliage and sends up flower spikes of cheerful yellow flowers, arranged in whorls along the stalk. It grows up to 3’ tall and wide. Phlomis is a low-water/drought tolerant plant that attracts pollinators.

Lupinus Species

Lupines work great in mixed borders with shrubs and other perennials. Their flower spikes bring structure and beauty to a landscape. They work well in mixed perennial and shrub borders and cottage garden style landscapes. Lupines bloom in various colors – blue, white, pink, yellow, and purple – and vary in size, averaging around 3’ and 2’ wide. This plant attracts pollinators and makes wonderful cut flowers. They need well-drained soil to thrive and even soil moisture. Add them to your deer resistant landscape.

Contact Frontier Landscaping to plan your deer resistant garden and other landscaping projects.
How Verticillium Wilt Can Affect Your Trees and Shrubs

How Verticillium Wilt Can Affect Your Trees and Shrubs

Verticillium wilt (Verticillium dahliae) is a fungal disease that affects over 300 species of woody trees and shrubs. It also affects perennials and annuals in temperate climates. It’s worth finding out more about this disease since it affects such a wide range of plants.

Susceptible Species

Common woody hosts to this disease include Japanese maples (Acer species), redbud trees (Cercis species), magnolia trees, lilacs (Syringa species), viburnums, Sumacs (Rhus species), smoke trees (Cotinus species), ash trees (Fraxinus species), and cherry trees (Prunus species).

This fungal disease can also affect perennial and annual plants. This includes many crops like strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, watermelons, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, and berries (Rubus species) such as currants and raspberries. Here is a good list of species that are susceptible to verticillium wilt and some that are resistant too.

How Verticillium Wilt Affects Plants

The mycelium (strands of fungi) of Verticillium infect soil. Nursery stock can be infected through the growing medium. Unfortunately, fungicides have proven to be ineffective. Once the fungus is in the soil, it is very difficult to remove, although it can go dormant in high temperatures.

Susceptible species will be infected through their roots from contaminated soil. Verticillium affects the vascular system of plants – the vessels (xylem) that carry water through the plants from the roots to the shoots in the canopy. Once the spores reach the twigs of trees and shrubs, they block the vascular system. This prevents water from being transported, therefore causing wilting in select twigs and branches.

Often only a few parts of the tree will be affected or just one side of a tree or shrub. This is a characteristic of the disease that helps diagnose verticillium wilt.

Image of green leaves with brown edges that have been affected by the fungal disease Verticillium Wilt.

Symptoms of Verticillium Wilt

The sapwood of the affected plants will turn either dark green, black, or reddish brown. The outsides of the twigs and branches can eventually blacken too and die. Other common symptoms include:

  • Chlorosis (yellowing) of the leaves
  • Dieback, which is intensified when the tree is stressed during heat, drought, or when transplanting trees and shrubs
  • Wilting at the ends of twigs, leaves, branches, or whole branches
  • Premature fall color
  • Slow growth/stunting
  • Leaf curl
  • Plant death

Plants Resistant to Verticillium Wilt

Since this fungal disease has no treatment, if you know that your soil is infected with the fungus, opt for planting a resistant species. For example, if you remove a dead Japanese maple tree that is infected with the disease, it would be wise to not plant another maple or susceptible tree species in its place. Here is a list of resistant species you can consider:

    • Dogwoods (Cornus species)
    • Crabapples (Malus species)
  • Ceanothus
  • Oaks (Quercus species)
  • Willows (Salix species)
  • Honey Locust (Gleditsia triacanthos)
  • Conifers
  • Grasses, including bamboo


It is always wise to seek professional advice and expertise when trying to diagnose a tree or shrub disease. Other diseases can have similar symptoms, such as yellowing of the leaves and dieback. Some disease could also be due to nutritional deficiencies, drought stress, or trees planted in conditions that don’t align with their needs.

Contact Frontier Landscape for help with plant disease diagnosis. Whatever symptoms your tree is exhibiting, you want to make sure that it is structurally sound and safe to keep on your property.

Fall-Blooming Perennials for PNW Gardens

Fall-Blooming Perennials for PNW Gardens

As we head into fall, many plants are coming to the end of their flowering season. It’s a good idea to make sure that you are planting a few late season perennials that will bloom well into the fall.

Here are some beauties you may want to consider adding to your perennial borders to give your landscape interest and color in autumn.

Image of a purple Geranium ‘Rozanne’ or Rozanne Cranesbill Geranium, just one many colorful fall blooming perennials to choose from.

Geranium ‘Rozanne’ (Rozanne Cranesbill Geranium)

‘Rozanne’ is one of the hardiest geraniums and has a long, extended bloom time from late spring to late fall (first frost). ‘Rozanne’ is a champion, with its plentiful, unusual blue-purple blooms highlighted against deeply divided, attractive mid-green foliage. Geranium ‘Rozanne’ grows quickly up to 20” tall and can spread up to 24” wide, and as such makes a great groundcover.

This plant likes rich, moist, well-drained soil that is neutral or slightly alkaline. It performs well in part sun but can appreciate some afternoon shade in hotter areas. It pairs well with Acorus (Japanese flag grass) or Achillea ‘Moonshine’, when planted in the landscape. The soft yellow leaves or flowers contrasting with the bright purple flowers. The benefit of this geranium is that it is self-cleaning and requires no dead-heading, making it a truly low maintenance plant. Attractive to bees. Moderate water needs.

Close up image of one of many essential fall blooming perennials: a white Anemone x hybrida  or Japanese Anemone with a bright yellow center.

Anemone x hybrida (Japanese Anemone)

The Japanese anemone is an essential fall-blooming perennial. There are many elegant hybrids of Japanese anemones available that are usually either white or pink or a mix of the two. Their time to shine is truly in the fall! They spread by rhizomes and can take over an area, so it’s best to give them plenty of space, although it will take them 1-2 years to establish. Depending on the hybrid, they reach approximately 1-3’ tall and 1-2’ wide.

Japanese anemones like partial shade but will become too leggy with too much shade and will wilt in the hot afternoon sun. They are perfect for Japanese- and Asian-inspired gardens. The hybrid ‘Honorine Jobert’ has truly white, big, graceful flowers with yellow centers that glow in dappled shade locations. ‘September Charm’ is a beautiful, light pink hybrid, which has huge flowers and is attractive to butterflies. Anemones like rich, well-drained soil that shouldn’t dry out. Regular, seasonal applications of compost will keep this plant happy. Moderate water needs. Relatively disease and pest free. Deer and rabbit resistant. The leaves can develop some powdery mildew if planted in too much shade.

Image of a bunch of bright yellow Rudbeckia hirta or Brown-Eyed Susan flower, a great choice out of many colorful fall blooming perennials.

Rudbeckia hirta (Brown-Eyed Susan)

Brown-eyed Susans are a classic fall-blooming perennial in Pacific Northwest gardens. Their long bloom time reaches well into fall (June-September), ensuring that this plant is a staple to plant along a path in your landscape. Rudbeckia is in the Asteraceae family and has the typical aster disc center with orange-yellow ray flowers surrounding it. They typically reach 2-3’ tall and 1-2’ wide.

Brown-eyed Susans are attractive to pollinators, specifically butterflies. These flowers like full sun, rich soils, and moderate water. They should be regularly deadheaded to get the best performance of a long bloom period.

There are a great many exciting cultivars available to bring some variety into your garden. It is worth browsing in a local nursery to find the ones you like best. Rudbeckia hirta ‘Moreno’ has an effective contrast of deep burgundy on the inner part of the petals and orange on the outside. Rudbeckia triloba ‘Prairie Glow’ has two-tone petals of maroon and a lighter reddish pink.

Contact Frontier Landscaping for more information and help with selecting and adding perennials and other plants to your garden.

Plant Insect & Pest Profiles: Powdery Mildew

Plant Insect & Pest Profiles: Powdery Mildew

Control of Powdery Mildew

Powdery Mildew is a white fungus found growing on the leaves of various trees, shrubs and annuals. It afflicts many commonly found trees and shrubs: Red-tipped Photinia (Photinia x fraseri), Sycamore Trees (Platanus acerifolia), Crape Myrtles (Lagerstroemia indica varieties), some Cultivars of Ninebark (Physocarpus species), some varieties of Euonymus shrubs, Rose bushes and some Stone Fruit Tree species (Rosa & Prunus ), Apple Trees (Malus), on both the leaves and fruit, and some species of squash and cucumber plants. Powdery Mildew can also be a big problem when growing grape vines.
It can grow on the tops or undersides of leaves, stems and fruits.

How to Identify

Powdery Mildew is white or pale gray in color, and tends to grow in circular patterns on leaves. The spores are spread by the wind. They do not need water to germinate.
Powdery Mildew can distort and stunt new growth on plants, and cause premature leaf drop, as well as being unsightly. Powdery mildew is ugly, but will not kill plants.

Cultural Control of Powdery Mildew

Despite being called Mildew, Powdery Mildew, does prefer and thrive in dry conditions, which is why it takes off in our drier seasons. The spores will survive on plant tissue only, on leaves and buds, but will not live in soil. So it is important to dispose of all diseased plant material, don’t put it in your compost pile, as spores can over-winter and infect plants in the Spring.

Favorable conditions for spores growing, are areas with warm days and cool nights. Ideal temperatures for the fungus spreading are 70-85 Deg. F. Direct Sunlight and rain will prevent powdery mildew from spreading.

Improve Cultural Conditions of Plants

A good first step of cultural control, is to pay attention to the cultural conditions of afflicted plants. If plants are stressed, they will be more susceptible to disease:

  • Pruning to increase air circulation while dormant, or earlier in the season, will help, particularly with branches or plants that are in the shade.
  • Adequate Water Make sure that the plants are healthy, pay attention to their water requirements
  • Drainage make sure that drainage is good, dig in some soil amendment
  • Fertilize plants to make sure that they’re as healthy as they can be.
  • Remove Dead Leaves, or buds that drop to prevent mildew from spreading


  • Wash off leaves regularly with a jet of water
  • Spray with Neem Oil or Horticultural Oils
  • Spray with Organic Fungicides, such as sulfur

Choose Mildew Resistant Varieties:

  • Platanus acerifolia ‘Columbia’, ‘Liberty’ and ‘Yarwood’ have some resistance.
  • Popular Roses such as ‘Just Joey’ and ‘Olympiad’ are resistant. Here’s a list of Roses resistant to different diseases
  • Crape Myrtles with excellent resistance are: Tonto, Muskogee, Acoma, Souix, Tuskegee

As always, it is worth seeking out the advice of Tree and Landscape professionals to ensure the very best care for your plants.

Good references for more information on Powdery Mildew: UC Davis and University of Washington

Using a Professional Tree Planting Service to Install and Care for Trees in your Garden

Using a Professional Tree Planting Service to Install and Care for Trees in your Garden

Frontier Landscaping offers Tree Planting as one of our many Professional Services

Frontier Landscaping provides a tree planting service, we can also help with care of young trees. It is important to develop a plant care regimen of initial watering and fertilizing to establish newly planted trees. We also provide on-going plant health care, such as pruning and regular watering, as the trees develop, particularly in the Summer dry months. Eventually trees will rely less on watering, as their roots develop and they find their own access to water and nutrients, by sending down tap roots. But initially, they’re reliant on us (the landscapers) and you (the homeowners) to make sure they have enough water.

Irrigation Installation

We can set up irrigation to ensure infrequent but deep watering, which is preferred by trees and helps them to develop deep root systems. Trees have very different needs to your vegetable garden. Irrigation sprays should not hit the base of the tree, as this could encourage crown and root rot. Watering should be applied at the drip line of the tree, where the tree naturally directs the water when it rains.

Our Tree Planting Service will Follow a Step by Step Guide, to correctly install your tree. It is important with installation, not to plant trees too high or too low. The tree crown should be just above grade or ground level. You don’t want mulch or soil piled up around the base of the tree, as it can encourage crown and root rot. We make sure to loosen the roots, so that they don’t continue to grow in the shape of the pot it’s removed from. Instead, the loosened roots will reach out into the surrounding soil, which is scraped with grooves, to encourage the roots to penetrate. We keep an eye out for circling roots, these roots can wind around the roots and trunk, and girdle the tree, cutting off supplies of food and water. A quick prune of these problem roots upon planting, can nip any problems in the bud!

Ongoing Tree Care from our Landscaping Service, will make sure that the tree has the greatest chance of growing up healthy and strong. Regular, seasonal applications of fertilizer, and inspection for pests and diseases, are essential, and a part of our regular maintenance visits.

Training a young tree

On planting, a tree will need staking to protect it. We place the stakes on the side of the prevailing wind, making sure to give the tree the support it needs. The ties should be supportive, but not be tied too tightly, so the tree has room to move in the wind and develop strength, just as we build muscles when we move. The tree will then need structural pruning as it grows. Lower branches are left on to give the young tree energy, but as the tree grows taller these branches can be taken off for clearance, or left on and shaped, depending upon the client’s need and the tree’s function in the garden. Regular pruning will help get ahead of any problems, removing excess weight from branches that could cause them to break in Winter storms.

Overall, young trees will benefit from the on-going care of professional experts. Providing care early on will help them grow and benefit your property and neighborhood. Scheduling regular ‘check up’ appointments for your tree will save you costs in the long run.

Preparing for Spring: Yard Maintenance

Preparing for Spring: Yard Maintenance

Yard Maintenance is an important part of preparing your garden for the up-coming year. Whether you have a landscaping crew do this, or you work in the yard yourself. Don’t miss these important steps:

  1. Following the recent snow, clean up any de-icing products from driveways and paths, and keep off planting beds. Add some gypsum to any beds that may have been affected by these products.
  2. You may have already added some soil amendments to planting beds, as part of your Fall/Winter garden maintenance. If not, it’s not too late for this. The Pacific Northwest still has many months of rain before the drier season is upon us, this will help the organic amendment penetrate the soil, and encourage good soil life and drainage.
  3. It’s also a good time to adjust soil pH, if your soil is too acidic, you can add some agricultural lime. If your soil is too alkaline, you can add aluminum sulfate, sphagnum peat or organic soil amendment, (most of these tend to be acidic). Adjusting pH will ensure that your plants can absorb the nutrients they need.
  1. Now is the time to fertilize plants. Rhododendrons, Camellias and Azaleas will appreciate an acid fertilizer mix for their upcoming blooms. Other trees and shrubs can be fed a general organic fertilizer. Your lawn will also appreciate some fertilizer, as it comes out of Winter dormancy.
  2. Cut back grasses; Miscanthus, Calamagrostis and Pennisetum, can now be cut down to the base, so they will be ready for the new Spring growth. The stalks can even be left on planting beds as mulch to keep weeds down. Perennials can also be cleaned up and any dead leaves and flower stalks removed, once danger of heavy frost is past, for example, Sedums and Echinacea.
  3. Pull up any weeds and make sure to dispose of them in your green bin, don’t throw them in the compost bin, unless you want weeds sprouting up! If you didn’t already apply bark mulch or dust, top dress the soil to keep the weeds down.

We hope that these tips will help you with your yard maintenance.
Contact Frontier Landscaping for help with this and so much more!

Winter Landscape Revamps

Winter Landscape Revamps

Even though winter can be stormy and rainy in the Pacific Northwest, our climate is mild enough that most landscape installations can take place regardless.

A big benefit of landscape renovation in the off season is your landscape is ready to enjoy once warmer spring temperatures resume. Here are a few things you may consider adding this winter.

Retaining walls

Retaining walls are an excellent way to increase your curb appeal. They allow for integration with landscape lighting and maximize your planting space. We can create retaining walls that include staircases, raised or terraced garden beds.
When you add plants and areas for flowers, it breaks up the hardscape and adds year-round interest, it also secures your slope and can be used to redirect water away from your structures.

Our retaining wall projects will leave your landscape beautiful, strong, functional, and long lasting.

We are preferred contractors at Mutual Materials. We can help in all aspects of your wall-building project including design, grading, excavation, drainage and wall construction.

Hedging and privacy screening

Now that outdoor socializing is happening year-round, you may realize that you are outside and in view of neighbors. For added privacy consider and evergreen hedge, mixed border, or landscape trees to separate your property from your neighbors.

Hedging helps not only provide much needed privacy, but it also buffers noise, provides habitat for birds and can provide shade to your patio or garden. As long as the ground is not frozen, winter is an excellent time to get new plants established, with a reduced risk of transplant shock.

Landscape Lighting

Adding new lights can aid with entertaining, safety, and security around your home. Installing outdoor lights can also enhance the time you can enjoy your landscape for entertaining.

Give us a call today to start a project! You will be happy you got yours in ahead of the rush!

Winter Landscape Maintenance Tasks for an Effortless Spring

Winter Landscape Maintenance Tasks for an Effortless Spring

Just because it is winter, doesn’t mean Mother Nature is entirely asleep. Although your landscape plants are dormant this time of year, there are tasks you can do now that will give you a healthier and more beautiful landscape next spring.

Winter clean ups help prevent pest issues over the winter months and get you a head start on spring gardening!

Leaf clean-up

If you haven’t done so already now is the time to gather and pick up fallen leaves from your deciduous plants and trees. While you can utilize leaves as a way to mulch there are a few tips to make sure you don’t lead to pathogens or weeds later.

If your plants showed any signs of disease, do not use those leaves, this is especially important in ornamental cherry trees, rose bushes, and fruit trees. All clippings need to be disposed of away from your landscape. You should also be careful to make sure there are no seed heads in your leaf piles that may try to germinate in your leaves over the winter.

Mulching for an easier spring

Do not mulch over the crowns of your plants or change the depth at the base of your landscape trees. This can inhibit the air circulation and lead to fungal issues with your plants next spring. With mulching, there can be too much of a good thing, so make sure you don’t overwhelm your plants with mulch, create a consistent application and avoid overdoing it on slopes. You don’t want rain to wash away your product!

When properly applied, mulch will help your soil retain water next spring and prevent winter weeds. Be sure to mulch the non-planted areas about three inches deep with compost, mulch, or bark for the best visual impact and practical success. There are winter and early spring weeds, so mulch will help prevent those before they can take hold in your soil.

Cutting back perennial plants

Many perennials “die-back” to the ground and return effortlessly the following spring. By this time of year you will be able to identify what plants remain woody and above ground and what have retreated back to below ground level. If your perennial truly is herbaceous (no woody above ground structure) you are free to remove the last season’s foliage. Hostas, coneflowers, and other flowering perennial plants are ready to be “put to bed” now.

There are a few perennial plants that can play tricks on you, like potentilla, lavender, and rosemary. These plants have a woody structure and are technically small woody shrubs often grouped with perennials because of their size. These perform best to shearing no more than a third of the whole plant, rather than a tough cut back. If you go too deep they will not grow back vigorously like other perennial plants. If they do get very woody and you can’t maintain their shape, it may be wise to replace them with younger plants.

Spent blooms

There are many reasons to hire a professional landscaper and flowering plants is one of them. Often folks who struggle with “Why won’t my plant bloom,” have mistakenly pruned off the flower buds in the winter.

It is safe to cut off the blooms of hydrangeas and roses in the winter. Do not prune your rhododendrons, azaleas, or lilacs right now, because you may be removing their spring buds inadvertently in the process. If in doubt, consider the bloom time. It’s best to be cautious not to over prune your spring blooming plants if you can’t accurately identify them.

Contact us today for help getting your garden prepared this winter for a lovely spring.

Enjoy your patio this winter!

Enjoy your patio this winter!

Updating your patio can make it an area you enjoy year round. With new restrictions gathering outdoors can give you peace of mind to spend quality time with your family and observe social distance this winter.

Having an outdoor living area creates the feeling of an extension of your home. As we are spending more and more time indoors and at home this year your patio can offer you a personal escape from the stresses of everyday life, distance learning and working from home take a toll and having a patio to escape can help you stay sane and connected to your landscape.

Fire Pits

A fire pit is the perfect spot to gather and relax with your family this winter. They provide warmth, community (even if it’s just your family gathering right now), and the feeling of being around a campfire, right in your own backyard. We are experts at designing your fire pit to integrate into other areas of your landscaping so you can enjoy it year round.

We can integrate water permeable stone or pavers, space for seating, and paths to weave from your home to your fire area and have everything function for safety and long lasting durability.

Outdoor Seating

Comfort is the key to enjoying your outdoor space. Investing in long lasting outdoor seating will make your patio a place you can truly enjoy. The Northwest naturally has a damp winter climate so storing your cushions out of the rain is the key to helping them last longer. You can include a built in storage area into the design of your patio, so that when you want to add additional comfort they are not packed far away.

Including seating to your patio design in the form of benches and seating areas around a fire pit is an additional enhancement that will personalize your space. Adding touches of home can help you blend your personal style with your patio by using pillows, candles, and outdoor art to style your space.

Landscape Lighting

Adding lighting on your patio, not only improves the safety to you and your family, it also changes the mood. We use energy efficient LED lighting to enhance your patio. There are so many different types of outdoor lights available now, we can help you create a style all your own, or mimic the designs in your home. Lights really make a patio or seating area welcoming and we can enhance your system by adding dimmers, motion lights, or uplighting specimen plants in your landscape.
We can install all your lighting needs, from lighting pathways to and from your fire pit, to spotlightling trees you want to see from your back patio.

Bring plants closer to your home with containers on your patio

Container gardens on your patio are the perfect way to bring your landscape closer to your home. Planting a container garden is a great way to have fresh herbs, like rosemary or bay leaf, just a few steps away from the grill or your kitchen door. Container gardening is a great way to bring nature closer to your home and enjoy beautiful plants in all seasons.

You can also change your pots throughout the year to add seasonal interest! Things to plant this time of year include, winter pansies, small evergreen trees decorated for the holidays, or spring flowering bulbs.

We love creating beautiful patios and outdoor living spaces for you to enjoy- year round. Contact us today for an outdoor living space that maximizes your enjoyment, relaxation, and functionality.

Treating Summer Drought Stress in your Landscape

Fall is  an excellent time for landscape improvements, the sun’s still shining, temperatures are more mellow. Plants love this time of year, it’s perfect to establish healthy roots and still mild enough to work outdoors comfortably.

When you go outside this month to decorate your porch or rake your leaves you may start to notice plants struggling that were looking healthy during the summer. This can confuse and bewilder homeowners. A once healthy fir tree may start dropping its needles, or a mature ornamental tree will drop its leaves a month early. Although it’s  been weeks since the summer heat wave, these are symptoms your landscape was under summer water stress.

What’s normal and what is a sign for concern? This can be hard to determine but here are some troubleshooting tips to help you prevent and diagnose drought stress in your landscape:

Needle drop on your conifers 

You have established conifers that are losing their needles like crazy. This can be dramatic, but it is usually a normal part of getting ready for winter for most conifers. If the interior needles (closest to the trunk) of your trees are shedding that is probably normal.

Signs to watch out for: The center branch (central leader) having dieback issues. This is a sign the tree could not get water into its system. The tips or new growth drying out and losing needles or entire branches. A tree care professional can determine if selective pruning will help your plant recover or not.

Leaf drop or branch die off in ornamentals 

Die out in the crown or on main branches of trees or early leaf drop can be dramatic and very concerning to homeowners. Many deciduous ornamental and flowering trees will drop leaves in order to combat drought stress.  On young plants you can slightly scrape the bark and if you reveal green it’s likely going to be ok. Maintenance involves diagnosing issues, removing any dead wood and in many cases this will restore the plant’s health. 

Early fall color on ornamental shade trees or shrubs

Although beautiful, this can be alarming! Check to see if leaf buds are still developing normally in the dormant period. These can usually be found at the base of the dropping leaf. Be mindful to offer irrigation during dry autumn times, or dry spells prior to a frost.

Perennials browning or crisping, dropping flowers early 

It is not uncommon for perennials to be looking rough by the fall. If you have flowers and ornamental grasses in your landscape that have well established root systems, this is probably not cause for alarm. You can wait for the foliage to begin to die back naturally and then help by cutting back remaining foliage. Landscape technicians will mulch leaving some space for the crown of perennial plants to emerge the next spring.

Plants need a lot less water by the time September comes around, but once the ground is freezing, plants cannot take up moisture, even if the surrounding soil is moist. So water your plants and trees that are in containers and the landscape prior to a freeze.

Disease and Pests 

Pathogens and insects often attack plants when they are undergoing stress. Ongoing landscape maintenance is the key to monitoring and keeping your garden healthy to prevent diseases and infestations before they start. If you do have an issue that requires treatment, increasing the overall health of your soil and plant is imperative to helping your plants recover. Multiple threats will attack stressed plants, so make sure an experienced professional diagnoses all your disease and insect issues.

Landscape techniques to prevent summer drought stress

Regular steady irrigation schedule, adjusted to the seasonal weather conditions is so important to establishing a healthy landscape.

An automatic sprinkler or drip irrigation system. These actually save you money and conserve water by getting your landscape the irrigation it needs in regular intervals. 

Give your landscape trees room to mature, do not plant annuals and perennials right at the base of trees. Give a buffer of 3-5 feet around trees to ensure that you do not drown or bury the base of your tree in bark, compost or other plantings. Young trees need longer durations of deep watering than other plants, so be sure to target their needs specifically.

Monitor slopes and drainage issues. Areas of the landscape on hills or slopes often need water delivered at a slower rate. They also pose a challenge to plant your landscape plants at the proper depth.

Ongoing landscape maintenance will help prevent stress issues, but if your garden is displaying the symptoms of drought stress this fall, we can help you diagnose and salvage your landscape so that by next spring it is revitalized and healthy again.

Call us today to schedule your landscape maintenance or tree care consultation. 


Call us today for a free quote on all your landscaping needs!