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Ask Gerry : Trees and Shrubs : Shelter

arbutus problem

, newtown Posted On: May 20, 2014

I have I think a variety of Arbutus. it seems to be suffering in some way. im wondering if you can have a look at the pictures and see what you think, and if i can treat it.


The tree or large bush is Crinodendron, or Chinese lantern tree, not arbutus. It has red lantern-type flowers.

It looks to be suffering from wind damage, leaves withering. This probably occurred during the February storms and it likes reasonable shelter.

There is not much to do. The grass in a 2-metre diameter might be controlled with weed fabric and mulch placed on top to depth of 8cms to give the roots a boost.


Black spot on leaves of Photinia Red Robin

, Malahide Posted On: May 6, 2013

My son in law has a Red Robin tree in the garden of his recently bought house in Swords, so we can’t tell how old it is. It is about 8 ft tall. He asked me about it today as it has black spot on the green leaves and the new red leaves are shrivelled and crispy, but not falling off. The spots are black and not red which makes me think it is not the disease that this tree can get. Could it be from the recent cold winds or frost? Would appreciate your advise.

Photinia 'Red Robin' can suffer foliage damage in an exposed spot on both young and older leaves. Also there has been some damage done in recent years by leaf spot disease, about which not much can be done.

Give it a feed of tree and shrub fertiliser and see if it comes on. If not, it might need to be removed as it is not happy in the location. 


Sick Magnolia wilsonii

, Blackrock Posted On: April 25, 2012

My Magnolia wilsonii is sick, few leaves, dying branches, damaged buds, possibly due to cold weather after early good weather. What should I do to try to rescue this favourite of mine?


This is very likely to be due to harsh winds in recent days. Magnolia foliage is very easily damaged by wind, usually due to branches hitting each other as they move in the wind.

Although it looks bad when it happens, the expansion of leaves will largely hide it in a while.

old hedge needs replacing

, templemore Posted On: January 15, 2012

i have just cut down a very old ditch that has been there for i’m sure 30 odd years, i want to put in a hedge/ shelter belt as i’m putting up a polytunnel 48 foot long and 20 foot widethe garden is south facing and gets sun all day but i get severe frost and up to 90 plus mile an hour winds whats the best hedge to put in i’m thinking of laural and evergreen holly what do you suggest ?


The great thing about an old traditional hedge/ditch is that it is mostly composed of species that will re-sprout and re-establish, such as ash, hawthorn, furze, blackthon and holly.

You should allow these established plants to re-grow, which they will do at several times the rate of growth of young plants, and simply plant any gaps with hawthorn and holly.

Young plants will find it very difficult to compete with the large roots of the old trees and will need watering.

Deciduous trees withering early

, Athenry Posted On: July 26, 2011

My question is a very general one and I would imagine a lot of perople have noticed this and that is that the leaves of many deciduous trees are almost gone and we’re still in July. Sycamores and horsechestnuts for example are all looking the worst for wear. Some have observed that the west side of many trees are faring the worst. Do you have any ideas/suggestions as to why we are seeing this?


This is purely weather-related.

In May there was a severe gale especially in the west ... an gaoth rua, the old people called it ... the red wind. It can from the west/ southwest. Leaves damaged then have been shed in some cases.

Also it was very dry in April and a soil moisture deficict at depth has not been replenished ... same reason the reservoirs are low. And trees react by reducing their leaf load.


Fatsia- large holes in leaves

, Dublin Posted On: July 6, 2011

I have a fatsia for several years but find that something always eats the leaves. I dont think it is slugs or snails. Have you any suggestions, Please


The photograph shows physical damage caused by wind, or some other agent.

evergreen tree

, Tynagh Posted On: June 24, 2011

I have 3 evergreen tree in my front garden and over the last couple of weeks they come burnt or brown in colour. No all of the tree is brown only the SE Faceing section. What should i do to get these to recover, these are 6 ft in hight and about 5-6 years old


That was wind-burn caused by very strong winds, probably with salt in the air.

They will grow out if there is any green tissue left.

wisteria dying?

Posted On: May 30, 2011

At least 80% of the leaves on my wisteria have withered and fallen off i have been watering it as normal, however the plant has had to endure strong winds for the last month, it is six years old any ideas best regards.


It is possible that wisteria in an exposed spot has suffered severe wind damage.

At six years,it should not need watering, unless it is in a pot, with root restriction which may also have led to foliage withering.

New leaves on laurel hedge dying

, Newry Posted On: May 30, 2011

I have laurel hedge, planted about 4yrs ago, and I just noticed that the new leaves are turning brown/black and curling up and dying. There is plenty of new growth, but this just seems to have appeared lately. I have a LOT of hedge and it seems to have spread. Could you please advise?


This is probably just wind damage due to severe gales recently, the new shoots beign very soft and easily damaged.

withering trees

, cork Posted On: May 17, 2011

I have flowering plum, camellia, and acer which seem to have withered away once new leaves came on it. Is this die back. what should I do. Will they get a new flush of leaves during summer, or as the term die back suggests are they dying?


This sounds like wind damage to new foliage and this is certain if it is on one side predominantly and they will recover.


, Bagenalstown Posted On: August 3, 2010

I have bought two cissus striata but i am worried about the exposure and shelter thay have. They are planted on a west facing wall with little shelter. Have I planted them in the right place or shoul I be looking at getting a virginia creeper plant instead.


Cissus striata is not a very good gripper and can blow off a wall. It needs shelter ideally. Virginia creeper is more robust but grows bigger.

Problem with palma palm trees

, county Cork Posted On: July 13, 2010

My brother recently bought a house with 4 beautiful palms in the front garden about 8 feet high. They have become very scorched and brown at the edges and generally unhealthy looking. He tried giving them a magnesium feed but it didn’t make much difference. The garden is quite sheltered and west facing.


Various plants are called 'palms' and each of these respond differently, but, in general, this sounds like exposure to wind. This often happens with new plants and they will adapt, or may suffer continuously if the exposure is too great.

No feeding, Control grass and weeds at the base for at least one metre diameter.

Acer Dieback.

, Bray Posted On: April 22, 2010

I have noticed a lot of dieback on the branches of my Acers.


Dieback is probably due to weather damage, wind and cold. Acers need good shelter.


, granard Posted On: December 31, 2009

My dicksonia is in a pot the leaves have droped with the frost. Is it too late to cover the base with straw or hay now?


Dicksonia can be damaged by hard frost and needs the overhead shelter of tall trees to protect it. It would be still worthwhile to pack it around with straw as the growing point may not be killed.

Prevailing Strong Winds

, Ennis Posted On: May 15, 2009

I am living outside Ennis in Co. Clare for a number of years and over that time I have lost several trees to the prevailing winds. I am wondering in the Lombardy Poplar would help create some shelter or what other Tree might suit. My soil is CLAY (very wet in winter and very dry during summer, when we get it) I have lost Laburnums, Purple Maple and the latest have been some ornamental rowan. My neighbour next door couldn’t keep a tree until I built my house, now it provides the shelter his garden needs.


Choosing a tree for shelter depends on the space available, the taller the tree the more shelter. If you have lots of space, you could plant pines, Monterey pine or Scot's pine. Spruce does well on heavy land too. Lombardy poplar is upright and narrow and tends to suffer canket disease in the west.

Hornbeam is a good shelter tree on this kind of soil also alder and willow.

problems with Acer palmatum Atropurpureum

, dublin Posted On: May 10, 2009

Why are the leaves on my plant curling up and appear to be dying also on a second plant there appears to brown spotting on the leaves..what plant food should I be feeding them


The usual cause of damage on maples at this time of year is harsh weather. Strong wind, hail or sea wind can cause damage. Also look for greenflies which can cause curling and browning.

If they are in pots, they might have dried out, even for a few hours.

Do not feed until growth is normal.

Willow trees withering

Posted On: May 8, 2009

We have Willow (Golden and Red flanders) planted on an exposed site in a heavy clay on a slope which are about 3 years old and have thrived to date. Recently, the leaves have started to wither and die from the top down. I saw your response re. canker in a contorted willow, but in this case, the tree is affected from the top and the lower part of the tree is still healthy. The bark is also turning brown in the affected areas (top down). We have other will planted in another part of the garden that are not affected. Is there any treatment you would recommend?


That could be simply weather damage. Young foliage on exposed trees is easily damaged, often by branches hitting against each other in strong winds. Close inspection can ascertain this kind of physical damage as there is and element of shattering. 

What happened my hebe?

, Skerries Posted On: March 1, 2009

Hello Gerry.I have two large hebes in the garden and both of them are looking awful. The branches are drooping heavilyy and the leaves are brown and shriveled. Could this be frost damage or is it something else? Thank you Alison

 Yes, indeed this looks very much like frost damage. Wait and see what happens and some new growth will more than likely appear from the base or higher on some branches. Prune just about this new growth.

witch hazel

, moate Posted On: February 14, 2009

i have a witch hazel,Arnolds promise and it started off with about 5 fine branches which were full of leaves about 3 years ago. i’m now down to 2 main branches which have flowers but it doesnt strike me as being the healthiest. it is on good soil but the site is fairly exposed, though other shrubs and trees are doing very well.i was going to replace it last year.would i be as well off digging it up or giving it another year to improve



Witch hazel likes some shelter and can grow poorly in an exposed place. It needs well-drained, iideally fairly light humusy soil, and not heavy or sticky.

If you think it is in a bad position, and you have a better place to put it, lift it when dormant and move it, making sure to plant it with the root ball a little high, slightly higher than it was.  It is likely to die where it is now in any case!

Shelter for an Atlantic coastal garden

, Cahersiveen Posted On: January 13, 2009

I have a large area of ground around my summer house. Space is not a problem! In order for me to develop a substantially large garden in the future (up to 2 acres) I have to firstly establish a good shelter belt. I have chosen (so far) pines with a mix of broadleaves such as Sycamore, Ask (Fraxinus) and Alder. The pines were only 2ft tall when planted (from pots) and the broadleaves were approx 3-4ft bare-root at planting. They were planted two years ago and despite some failures are just doing OK. Slow but gradually growing despite the occasional battering from winter storms. Do you have any suggestions ragarding adding other trees to this shelter belt? I would like to add at least another layer to the leeward side of this current planting in order to beef up the shelter belt and not have it grow as just a linear planting. But am I being too impatient? I would like to vary the mix of trees (coniferous & broadleaves) but the site is still very prone to damage from the severe Atlantic storms thay come form the south-west. Advice on choice of trees, planting patterns and maybe the need to be more patient?


The trees you chose are all good for tolerating severe exposure. The trees might have been a bit large for planting in such severe conditions. Small trees, planted from pots, would kick off better.

Also, it is essential to have no competition from grass or weeds within a radius of 50cms of the stems of young trees.

You can thicken up shelter by planting more trees within the outer line. You can use native species such as holly and hazel on dry soil and grey willow on damper spots. Traditional shelter hedge plants, which can be left unclipped, include griselinia, Euonymus japonicus,  escallonia, Olearia macrodonta and fuchsia.

You would be better sourcing trees from a forest nursery rather than garden centres which tend to stock garden material of larger sizes, and very few stock small plants of shelter trees.

You could also feed these trees in spring with a general fertilizer, about 30 per square metre, enough to boost growth on what is probably poor ground but not enough to make them soft and easily wind-damaged.

Probelms with Beech Hedge

, Kildorrery Posted On: June 25, 2008

Gerry, last October I planted a row of Beech hedge on my sloping front garden, it is a quite exposed and windy location. The hedges took very well and there was plenty of new growth this spring early summer. However, in the past month the leaves are turning brown almost as if autumn has come early. I am thinking it is some sort of deficiency. Any suggestions?

Beech is not a partiucularly wind-resistant tree and even big mature beech trees have suffered this spring and early summer due to cold dry winds and strong gales.

Ceanothus with wind damage

, Oughterard Posted On: June 2, 2008

I have two 3 year old Ceanothus which unfortunately this year suffered severe wind damage to one side. They look unsightly at the moment with one side in full bloom and the other side nearly bare. Can I cut plants back after flowering or will I have to be more ruthless and get rid? Thanking you in advance

Ceanothus does not re-grow well on the side if all the green growth is burned, and tends to grow in the opposite direction. Light pruning might help to restore a balanced shape.

But if this is not possible, it might be necessary to remove them, bearing in mind that if it happened in one year, it is likely to happen again.

plants for seaside tubs

, Inishlyre Posted On: June 1, 2008

Hi Gerry! We live on one of the small Clew Bay islands and, as part of a RSS scheme, want to plant some large tubs on top of our sea wall. We don’t want a “strctured” look – more natural & wild – but need plants that are wind (prev. s-se) & salt resistant. Box snails are also a bit of a problem. Any help you could give would be greatly appreciated!Hope your Whit weekend is a great one … ATB – Rhoda

If you go to our Plant finder and select plants that resist strong exposure under Shelter needs, you will find some ideas.

Suitable kinds would include: hydrangea, Rosa rugosa,  sea buckthorn, tree lupin, hebe, escallonia, hypericum, and perennials such as cortaderia, phormium, agapanthus, crocosmia and kniphofia.

Plants for windy area in garden

, Sligo Posted On: April 4, 2008

Hi looking for some recommendations on plants for long windy area between our house and next door. There is a fence and wall in place but but plants seem to still have quite some windburn…Thanks


If you go to the Plant finder in Know-how, and select Shelter needs,  you will find a good range of plants that resist strong exposure. You can click on Plant type to choose the kind of plants you want to use.