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Take action regarding salvageable, deceased plants

OK, we’ve had some rain and lower temperatures. The grass is greening up and the hydrangeas are no longer wilted. Some plants are still poorly, and some are dead.

As Miracle Max in “The Princess Bride” says, though, “There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead. Mostly dead is slightly alive. With all dead, well, with all dead there’s usually only one thing you can do.”

Before you start searching their pockets for loose change, here are a few tips to tell whether your plant is mostly dead or all dead.

•If you have a perennial that all but goes away in the winter, then arises anew in the spring – think hosta, daylily or fern – it likely was shocked into going dormant early.

The plant will likely come back next spring as if nothing happened. Some of the prostrate daylilies at Dirt Cottage are already putting out new growth.

•If you have a bush or tree that has lost most of its leaves, it might just be that the tree has sacrificed the leaves to conserve water. If similar plants nearby have not lost a lot of leaves, then your plant is likely to be on its way to all dead. If all of the plants aren’t looking good, then wait until spring to see which ones need to be taken out.

For example, the park near my house has several cotoneaster bushes that look parched but OK, but one has leaves that are all brown. It’s safe to assume the all-brown one is a goner.

•If you have a plant like the lilac across the street, you might be able to bring it back over the next few years. Three-quarters of its branches are brittle and dry, while one brave section remains green.

Although pruning in August is never a good idea, trimming away clearly dead areas between now and when the plant will put out new growth in the spring might give it a new lease on life.

Make sure to clear out only what is dead; you can test it by wiggling twigs like a loose tooth when you were a kid. If they don’t snap and have a little give, you have a branch that might be only mostly dead, not all dead.

Beetle watch

Fort Wayne has had its share of emerald ash borers and dead ash trees, and now there’s a potentially bigger threat that the Indiana Department of Natural Resources said could kill up to half of the state’s native hardwood trees.

Asian longhorned beetle, a pest from China, has been found in the Cincinnati area, and August is prime time to spot one.

If you see large perfectly round (half-inch diameter) holes and dark-colored wet spots on trees, particularly maple, willow, elm, horse chestnut and birch trees, you might have ALB.

The DNR says the bugs are an inch long, shiny and black with white spots. Their antennae are long, with black and white stripes, and their feet have a bluish tinge (should you care to get that close).

To see what they look like, check out To report a suspected infestation, call 866-663-9684.

Anne Gregory is a garden putterer, not a gardening expert, and writer and editor. Garden photos (JPEGs, please) and tips may be sent to (please put “The Dirt” in the subject line) or 600 W. Main St., Fort Wayne, IN 46802.