Tag Archives: lawn spray

Garden lore: seasonal garden advice

Herewith your annual reminder of three seasonal matters.

  • If your magnolia appears to have plenty of furry buds but when they go to open, all you get is a few damaged petals – or nothing – the culprit is almost certainly a possum. They can develop a taste for the buds and eat the centre out without the damage being overly obvious to the casual eye until the blooms fail to open. A single possum is quite capable of taking out most of the buds on a tree over a few nights. Mark and the dogs head out every dry night at this time of the year on a possums-in-the-magnolias round. The price of our glorious display is seasonal vigilance (and high velocity lead, which is not an option for city dwellers).

    One of the first blooms on Magnolia Felix Jury

  • If you feel you must spray your lawn, do it on the next fine day and do not delay if if you have deciduous magnolias (or indeed kiwi fruit or any other plants that are susceptible to hormone spray drift). The faintest whiff of lawn spray at the time the leaf buds are breaking dormancy is likely to damage them badly and magnolias are particularly susceptible. Most magnolias break into leaf just as flowering finishes. Every year we get enquiries from people worrying about the deformed new foliage on their trees. Invariably, the cause is lawn spray. Unfortunately, there is not a whole lot you can do about spray-happy neighbours.
  • Get any tree or large shrub pruning done urgently. The birds will be building nests full time shortly. I am not sure what killing off birds’ eggs – or worse, later in the season, hatchlings – is called. Aviancide, perhaps? But if you have ever taken the time to watch the birds gathering materials for nests, you will realise what a huge amount of time and effort it takes. It seems very mean to destroy them, all for failing to factor that into planning for pruning.

    Vulcan in its full glory today.

Garden lore

“Woman has no seductions for the man who cannot keep his eyes off the magnolias.”

Anonymous, from Up the Garden Path by Laura Stoddart.

Magnolias and lawn spray do not mix. This one is Sprengeri diva

Magnolias and lawn spray do not mix. This one is Sprengeri diva

Magnolia problems
If you insist on spraying your lawns, and many do, then get onto it straight away. Many of the common lawn sprays are hormone-based. If you delay any longer, you risk causing severe damage to deciduous plants just breaking dormancy. It doesn’t matter how careful you are – spray drifts invisibly and the slightest whiff can damage other plants at critical times. Kiwifruit are particularly sensitive and so are magnolias.

There are two common questions about deciduous magnolias we are asked repeatedly, year in and year out. The first is related to malformed leaves, or sometimes defoliation on one side of the tree. Almost invariably, we find the enquirer has sprayed their lawn for moss and flat weeds. Of course, magnolias are often used as lawn specimens. So if you must spray, get it on as soon as there is a fine, calm day. It should not affect your magnolia at this time of winter. If you leave it until spring is advanced, there will be damage and it can be severe and unsightly.

The second common question is about completely malformed flowers on magnolias. Possum damage. You just need one critter who develops a taste for them and it can take out pretty much an entire season of blooms. It nibbles in from the top to eat the bud so you can’t spot the damage from below.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.