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not looking at all well


I noticed the browning on these conifers a while ago; I had the pots on a three-tier display stand, and it was the inner sides, that facing the next tier, that was brown. I turned them round, thinking that maybe lack of light was the cause.

Even my older conifer is going brown and losing lower foliage: sure I read that some conifers do show bare lower stems with age, but brown as well?

I searched for “conifers going brown” on GoY, and the consensus seems to be lack of water, but given the rain we’ve had recently, drought seems to be the least of their problems! When I press a fingertip into the soil, it comes out with particles sticking to it, so the soil is at least damp enough to cling.

Unless this is damage caused by a previous lack of water that hasn’t recovered? Or won’t recover? I lost one small plant several months ago, went brown right to the top by the time I noticed.

Is lack of water the only cause for conifers to go brown? If not, what other cause[s] could there be?

And my Hebe is looking distinctly sorry for itself: compare the pics taken last year and last week. The label on that says don’t over-water, which again hasn’t been easy with the rain! – I shoved it on a shelf under my worktable, hoping it’d get enough light but be out of most of the rain, but I’ve no idea if that’s the cause or, if it is, whether I got to it in time.
18th May 2011

19th January 2012

Or maybe some plants always go a bit like this at this time of year? First time I’ve had any, and not had them for a whole year yet, so I don’t know about seasonal variations. But even if there is a seasonal drop, the Hebe seems to be a tad excessive.

Even the pansies are looking a bit sad – maybe since I “stoned” them? Or moved the planters? or too much rain or just the time of year?

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Ooooer, Fran ! That's a pity ...

Just a thought. Are you watering the conifers with tap water? I don't think it is a good idea to put tap water on the foliage, especially if you are in a hard-water part of the country. I hope this helps. Use rain water if possible.

22 Jan, 2012


I have to use tap water, it's all I have to hand. I did promise myself that when I got a garden I'd get a composter and a water but. Got the composter, but there's no downpipes on the walls to tap into - no pipes on any outside walls, so no idea where the rain is channelled!

I did think of getting a water butt anyway, and putting a very large funnel on top! don't know how much it would capture, but would be better than nothing.

I've not watered them for ages, not had to, with the amount of rain we've been having. And when I do, I use a watering can without a rose, and go for the soil, though some might splash onto the foliage when I water the plant behind it. With the taller conifer, I put a length of plastic tubing in when I potted it, so I can get water to the roots without waterlogging the surface.

Tha pansises are in self-wtering troughs, which have a reservoir underneath; and hat's got plenty in, judging by the weight when moved them.

I'm bound to lose plants while I'm lerning how to do it right, or at least less wrong, but it'd help if I knew what i was doing, or not doing!

Of course, I have my baby-bath "pond" with rain-water in; I could use that water, though I do'nt know how long that'd take to empty. Maybe I should try that on some, and tap-water the others, and watch for any difference.

I have a stock of empty milk bottles by the sink, which I filled with tap water - read that using the milk-bottle rinsings helped plants, though I've kept that for my few houseplants and, recently, the ones in the mini-greenhouse. I can't remember if I've used that on the other plants; doubt it, as I don't have enough to go round all of them.

But that's the only way I can water the plants with water not straight from the tap - unless I buy water in 5-litre bottles and use them - the bottles, not the water! - to store tap water to let it warm up before use.

When I got the tables for the plants, I did seriously thing about fixing small gutering to the back edges and leading that into a butt (I've got the tables at a slight tilt backwards so rain won't pool on the tops and make the pots stand in puddles) - or even putting a plastic sheet on the table and overhanging at the back, and somewhow leading that into some kind of reservoir, but the actual how-to defeated me - including the how to get at it with all the stuff around the table.

Sigh, were I allowed to put a small awaning up over the other end, to give me a dry working space, I could use tht as a rain-catcher, but I need planning permission and £££££. My own fault for asking first!

22 Jan, 2012


I can see you've taken lots of steps to do your best with the water available.

Definitely don't let tap water fall on the foliage ... keep the soil damp, not waterlogged ...

Even if you've had rain, make sure the soil in the pots is damp ... rainfall doesn't always do a lot to water containers... the amount falling on the conifer foliage might not be enough.

Good luck :o)

22 Jan, 2012


*s* thanks, dear! nods, the foliage is pretty ense, and would block rain from reaching the surface, or divert it over the edge of the pot as runoff - thought that might help the plant next to it.

Of course, it might just be that, given the weather and my mood, I've not been out there much recntly, cheering them on and spreading good vibes!

22 Jan, 2012


If you have to use tapwater, Fran, I've heard that if you let it stand for 24 hours first, the fluorine in it dissipates, but if you live in a very hard-water area, a couple of drops of vinegar in a watering can can neutralise the lime. I have absolutely NO idea whether this is true, and I am sure someone is about to put me right. We have exactly the same problems with quite a few of our conifers, too (not the junipers, though) and I put it down to extreme cold last winter, but I'm sure this last hot, dry summer hasn't helped, either. Try singing some of those Gardening tunes to them!

22 Jan, 2012


Conifers stay green for a long time before they tell us they are in trouble,then it is often to late.Lack of water two or three months back is most likely.
As for your pansies they like plenty of air at soil level to prevent damping off so not sure the stones are a good idea,
also i have noticed a lot of aphis around check the lower leaves as they will suck the energy out of the plant .Problem is we import plants and aphis and if there is a lack frost they increase in there thousands.

22 Jan, 2012


I couldn't agree more, Brian. I and my neighbours were praying for a good sharp frost back around Christmas time, or we know we shall have a very poor time of it from bugs come the spring. No-one likes having to spray to get rid of them.

22 Jan, 2012


The pansies look OK to me. Are you removing the dead flowers? If you don't they will think OK, I've set seed, no need to flower any more.

The hebe is in a bad way - have you had it out of the pot to see what the roots are like? It may be pot bound or maybe the roots are being eaten by something - not very likely at this time of year but worth checking.

The conifers look like a variety that will grow big eventually, so maybe they need bigger pots too - except the one on the right which is too far gone to recover. If the pot gets full of roots they can form a dense mat that water has difficulty penetrating and it can run down between the compost and the pot without wetting anything much on the way down. If you decide they need bigger pots use ericaceous compost. If you decide to replace them eventually check with the nursery that you get a variety suitable for containers.

22 Jan, 2012


Thanks, Gattina; the only way I can stand tap water is in milk bottles, I must get some bigger containers and stand them outside, more or less out of my way.

Not heard the vinegar tip before, I’ll check up on that.

*s* trying to think of a song that has “stay green” in it!

Hi Bjs, I put the stones in because the last lot of pansies, and the petunias that followed them, were dug up by something rooting in the soil; I’d tried bark chips and sliced chilli, then someone suggested pebbles. I’ve spaced the stones to cover “open ground” but they’re not infringing on plant space.

Maybe I should take the stones from a couple of troughs and see if that makes a difference; compare results after a while. I know the stones are clean, I scrubbed them severely to make sure there was no beach salt at all on them, and rinsed them more than once.

Not noticed any aphids, but then, I’d need to be really up-close or they’d need to swarm in thousands for me to see.

*s* in a sort of way I wouldn’t mind if there were aphids; I’ve seen where one can buy ladybird eggs, but it says they need food as soon as they hatch, so don’t buy until you get infested. But maybe I’d rather do without both.

I’ve had no flowers to remove, Steragram; at least, not for a while: they flowered a bit and then – as you see them in the pic. I’ve got a very few flowering in another trough, but by no means all of them.

I’ve not had the Hebe out since I put it in that pot, but maybe I should have a look at the roots – *s* I don’t know what they’re supposed to look like when healthy, so might not spot a problem, unless it’s severe.

These are “dwarf” conifers; the labels said they’d grow up to 3’, which is about as big as I want them. I’ll check the roots of them, too – I work on the principle that the less I fiddle, the less I’ll stress them.

This is what I get for buying plants at Lidl, rather than a named variety at a garden centre. Not that I’m saying that Lidl do inferior stuff! Just not well labelled and no one to ask about future care.

I’ve got enough gardening books to be able to cross-check conifers against container plants; when I can find them in the pile!a

23 Jan, 2012


I just checked my "flowers" and found a pic of the conifers uploaded July last year - they look perfectly fine then, so whatver's happened to them happened later - or at least showed later.

25 Jan, 2012

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