Limb stub leads to trunk rot

Q: Our Japanese cherry tree trunk is decaying at the base, starting 10 inches above the soil line. My wife thinks it’s termite or ant damage. The damage begins where I removed a limb years ago and has gone into the heartwood of the tree. Tim Sendrowski, email

A: I think the rot started at the top of the wound where the limb was trimmed off and a stub was left. The tree was never able to grow over the stub. Rainwater got in and rot grew into the center of the tree. From there, it moved downward in the trunk. It broke through the bark, and the tree couldn’t cover it to protect the center of the tree from even more water intrusion. All this led to the rot you have now, not termites or ants. The damage to the trunk is likely so severe that the tree may fall someday. My advice is to enjoy the spring flowers until your tree falls or loses so many leaves that it is too ugly to keep. You can then remove it completely and replace it with a tree of your choice.

Q: My hollies have gotten too tall. I want to cut them 2 feet lower so I can paint the house. The landscape company I contacted said it might harm them if I didn’t wait till spring. What is your opinion? Mark Ussery, email

A: Pruning in November is not great for the shrubs’ health. It will retard winter cold-hardiness plus you will be looking at ugly bare sticks until spring. Can you remove the bare minimum of shrubbery to get the painting done and do the major pruning in March?

Q: We have two healthy orange trees in pots. We have been bringing them into the garage at night to get some heat from the house walls. Can we plant these and leave them outside? If not, what is the best way to get them through the winter? Quinton Sanders, Monroe

A: There is no variety of orange that will survive winter outdoors in North Georgia. I have seen TV documentaries about religious penitents who endure all kinds of punishment in order to be forgiven. I have friends who successfully overwinter oranges and limes and tangerines, but the continual hauling of heavy pots in and out of the garage looks too much like a penance for me to try doing it for just a few fruit. If you want to try, look online for the sagas of those gardeners who have been successful and then decide if you are ready to put on your hair shirt and start hauling.

Email Walter at Listen to his occasional garden comments on “Green and Growing with Ashley Frasca” Saturday mornings on 95.5 WSB. Visit his website,, or join his Facebook Page at, for his latest tips.