Both trees are located in the west facing area of our yard. The Beech is in the middle of the yard with good drainage and the Dogwood is at the rear of the yard where it unfortunately sat in a pool of water because of the heavy spring rains. Both have no leaves and are about six to ten feet high. The Beech has recently pushed out a live twig with gorgeous leaves at the base of the trunk. I’ve never experienced a season like this where many of my mature plantings have succumbed to either cold, or wet. I’m also wondering if the early warm week in spring followed by extremely cold weather had a detrimental affect on them. Should I leave as is and wait for next year to see if the entire trees come back?
Those of us who have lost trees will share your dismay and disappointment. This has been a difficult winter and spring transition in Toronto with extremes in weather systems and heavy spring precipitation. From your description, your Cornus kousa it is beyond help: if it has not leafed out, this is an indication that it has been under stress. The life cycle of deciduous trees depends upon the annual leafing out process to provide the tree with the energy it needs to complete its energy reserves for upcoming winter dormancy and spring leaf-out. Chinese dogwoods do not do well in extremely wet or extremely dry soils, so your waterlogged garden may be responsible. They also prefer an acidic soil pH (5.5 – 6.5). If your garden’s soil pH is higher, this may have contributed to decreased vigour and hence an increased vulnerability to other stress factors. (You can check your soil pH level with kits that are readily available at home and garden centres and nurseries).
The tri-colour beech also has a preference for a slightly acidic soil but will tolerate a wider range of soil pH. The branches that have sprouted from the base of your tree at the roots are known as “epicormic shoots”, and are also a sign of severe stress. You don’t mention any signs of insect activity or other evidence of disease in the trunk of the tree now, nor any insect pest or fungal infections in the previous year. In this case it may be safe to assume that our weather extremes are responsible – tri-colour beeches are known to be sensitive to late frosts.
You may wish to consult a certified arborist for a professional opinion before you take the step of removing the trees. To find a certified professional arborist in your area, visit the Ontario branch of the International Society of Arboriculture.