Meteorologist Dave Epstein is our go-to person for pressing weather questions, from winter blizzards to summer droughts. He is also a horticulturist, which means that he is an expert in everything that produces leaves and flowers. GBH morning edition He asked you, our audience, for your questions about the weather and gardening for Dave to answer on air. This transcript has been edited for clarity.
Our two maples in the front yard are already shedding dozens of increasingly brown leaves. Are those trees in danger? How should we take care of them, when in the best of cases we can water twice a week? – Patrick
First, let’s discuss why trees lose their leaves.
“What they are doing is protecting themselves,” Epstein said. “The leaves are where the tree loses its water through transpiration. The back of the leaves have stomata, you may remember from biology. [class] – and those little holes push moisture out.”
If a tree is healthy, Epstein said, it should be fine next year, even if it is losing leaves now.
And to help the tree get the most out of each watering, Epstein suggested placing a watering hose not directly around the trunk, but further below the branches. The circumference of the branches is probably a good indication of where the roots are.
“Let it drip for several hours and that’s what will give the tree some water,” Epstein said.
Due to lack of rain, our boxwood bushes, kousa dogwood, and one other large tree (not sure what kind) are in disrepair with lots of brown leaves. Do they have a chance of surviving or might they be too far away to recover? –Sue in Topsfield
Although it’s hard to play tree doctor without paying a house call, Epstein had some advice.
“I think we’re going to see a dieback,” he said. “You can see a few branches of a tree die, or you can see a whole tree die. I have lost some of my dogwoods.
Epstein said his azaleas have also struggled. But don’t despair, he said.
“Look at it as an opportunity to go to a nursery and buy something new,” Epstein said. “Think about what is drought tolerant and native.”
My husband and niece, both from Metrowest, have an abundance of Mexican flowering plants that attract bees and butterflies. They sent seeds to [my] sister-in-law in central Maine, an expert gardener, but so far she has lots of leaves but not a single flower. Any idea why? – Connie in Natick
It could be that the plant needs to be more mature, or that it was not a good fit for the soil it was planted in. But, at the risk of getting a little philosophical, part of gardening is recognizing that plants, like all living things, need different conditions to thrive.
“Sometimes things that work well in one area just don’t work well in another,” Epstein said. “On your own property, you might have a hydrangea that grows very well on the south side and very poorly on the north side. The answer is that I don’t know. And that’s fine.”