Bad Breaks

Broken branch of a crape myrtle
Sometimes in gardening, as in life, we experience bad breaks. We don't intend for these to happen, they just do. Whether caused by too much stress, mistakes, or happenstance the only power we have over these breaks is to clean up and hope for the best. Such is the case with one of my crape myrtles planted along our property line border. The crape myrtles have a beautiful watermelon red color when in bloom but the recent rains have left their branches heavy with moisture.  Add to that a dash of wind and you have a recipe for a bad break. The crape myrtles broke off right at a branching point (or crotch) where two of the major branches were joined.



Here's a closer look at the break point.  The joint is split down the middle which isn't good because it leaves a large gaping opening for pests and disease.  It also prevents the cambium layer of bark from transmitting moisture further up the branch.


Fortunately the aesthetic impact of the broken branch is minimal. I removed the branch with a bow saw and tried to make the cut as clean as possible. It was difficult because of the location. Truthfully that branch probably should have been pruned off in the spring. Often you can prevent bad breaks from happening with proper pruning.  The wound should heal over time.  The bark will slowly grow over the wound and eventually close it up completely.  It's very similar to what my deer damaged trees have done. All of the deer damaged trees that survived through the first year of wounding are doing very well now. (If you have deer in your area protect your young trees now from the deer rubbing that happens in the fall. Here's how I prevent deer from damaging my trees.)


Of course a smart gardener always tries to make lemonade out of lemons or in this case new trees out of cuttings! I snipped off 12 appropriate semi-hardwood cuttings from the fall branch and began the process of rooting them. Hopefully they will root and grow into strong crape myrtles to plant next year.

Yogurt cups make a good container for rooting cuttings.

How has the wet weather effected your garden?

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