Don’s Expert Answers: Leaves & pruning

Question From: 
Marilyn Hall in  Longford,  Launceston TAS


Nature of problem: 
Leaves & pruning


Type of Plant (if known): 
“0akville Crimson Spire”


Symptoms of Plant Illness (please try NOT to diagnose your problems yourself): 
Leaves look shocking and not sure how or when to prune


Soil Type (e.g. sandy, clay or loam) OR Potting Mix Type: 


How often do you water the plant:
Every second day in summer at base


How many hours of sunlight does the plant get each day:
Approx 14 during day light saving


What type of plant is it:
Narrow Tree


How long since you planted it:
Approx 18 months


Have you fertilised? If so, with what and when:
Yes. Moo Poo once every 6 months


Is the plant indoors or outdoors: 


Is the plant in a pot or in the ground: 


What other treatments have you given the plant: 

Upload photo if available: 

Other Comments: 
We have had some pretty weird weather her. First a hail storm, then 75 ml rain in a short period, followed by days of hot weather.
Plants in garden are not looking so good.
Trees in question are looking shocking, bit new leaves seem to be coming through.
I am not sure if I should be cutting branches by a certain amount or when.
I moved to Tassie from WA and still trying to get my head around the clay soil ( dig a hole and it half fills with water) and understanding deciduous trees.
I hope you can help please.
Also if you have some suggestions on trees/shrubs that don’t mind wet feet would be appreciated. We get strong winds here during spring/summer and frosts during winter also.
A challenging place to live when it comes to choosing the right plants.


Answer: Hi Marilyn,  Your plant is an ornamental plum tree Prunus cerasifera ‘Oakville Crimson Spire’: it is a “Pencil” shaped, ie fastigiate, purple prunus. This is a lovely plant developed by a good friend of mine, Vic Cicolella. Yours is very sick. The parent species of this prunus comes from SE China and it does not really like wet feet. Which brings me to Launceston: this city has very very gluggy soils. Water often pools on top of the ground days after rain. It appears to be a greasy, poorly oxygenated and poorly drained soil that would be a challenge to most gardeners. It is not a bad soil, but it does need special treatment. Hence, soil improvement and raised garden beds are essential. Add lots of bulk compost and lots of very coarse sand – perhaps even fine gravel. THEN work it all over with a rotary hoe rented from an equipment hire company. The garden beds must be raised up at least 40cm (ie 18 inches or so). The bottom line is that your tree’s roots are dying for lack of air. If it is still alive (albeit deciduous) in June/July, dig it up and wash all of the soil off the roots, then re-pot it into potting mix in a large pot. Treat the soil with Yates Anti Rot. If the plant grows in spring, re-plant it in your new raised garden bed the following winter.  You will need: Good luck…Don