Your co-worker is right. But it is not just a bad year, it is a bad decade. We have been seeing lots of problems with a particular leaf spot on the standard red tip photinia (Photinia fraseri) for quite a few years now. This disease can really defoliate and weaken red tips. As a result they are generally not recommended for planting anymore. The Chinese photinia (Photinia serrulata), a larger type with stiffer, more serrated leaves doesn't seem to have the same problem.
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