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Birchcrest Honored As Top 100 Company

Dave Dailey Rochester Top 100Birchcrest Tree & Landscape is ranked 15th on Rochester’s list of Top 100 fastest growing privately owned companies. For that, we thank each of you who put your trust in the 95 professionals who are part of the Birchcrest family. We also thank Rochester Business Alliance and KPMG, LLP for sponsoring this program.

To be eligible for this honor, a company must have earned at least $1 million in revenue in each of the three most recent fiscal years.

I started this full service tree care, landscaping and lawn care company in 1981. While we enjoyed steady growth from the start, we have enjoyed even greater growth in the last 10 years. This growth culminated in our being eligible for the Top 100 listing this year.

I attribute the company’s success to the dedication, education and creativity of our staff. Birchcrest employs 10 ISA Certified Arborists, two ISA Board Certified Master Arborists and eight NYSNLA Certified Nursery & Landscape Professionals.

I personally thank you for your business, and look forward to serving even more of you in 2015.

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How To Prepare Your Landscape Plants For Bad Weather

Although we’ve enjoyed a relatively nice fall after a less than perfect summer, the lower temperatures are a sure indicator that winter is on the way. Some forecasters are predicting a repeat of last winter while others are convinced that this will be a mild El Nino winter. Will your landscape plants be prepared for whatever Mother Nature heaps upon them?

Here are five steps for protecting plants from damage and costly repair:

  •  Inspect your property for trees showing signs of instability. Look for cracks in trunks or major limbs, dead branches, aged or decaying trees.
  • Take action to remedy potential hazards. Trees with branches hanging over the roof or close to power lines could cause property damage. Have them removed before a storm hits.
  • Once a problem is found, have it taken care of right away. Have our professionals remove damaged or decaying trees and shrubs. We can also prune and remove branches close to power lines. Leaning trees may have root issues, so have them inspected by one of our 10 Certified Arborists.
  • Document tree and shrub value. Properly maintained trees and shrubs may increase property value by up to 20%. A Certified Arborist can provide an estimated value by inspecting your trees. Keep a good record with photos of the trees and the arborist’s evaluation.
  • Hire one of our Certified Arborists to develop a master plan for your shrub and tree care. He/she can also determine if broken trunks and limbs should be removed or if uprooted trees can be saved or replanted.

You have a major investment in your landscape. Don’t let the weather wash out or blow that investment away.


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Ever Dissect A Tree?

Illustration courtesy of ArborDay.org

Illustration courtesy of ArborDay.org

Surely, you’ve seen a cross cut wood round. Many of you have probably even cut some. However, have you ever dissected a tree to see the various layers? It’s like peeling an onion.

The Arbor Day Foundation has created a descriptive illustration showing the relationship in size, as well as structure, of the various layers. The dissection begins at the outside and works its way into the interior.

The outer bark is the tree’s outermost layer, which helps keep out moisture in the rain and prevents the tree from losing moisture when the air is dry. It also insulates against cold and heat and wards off insects and diseases. Its job is to protect the tree. As we continue our trip through a tree, you’ll see how the bark is constantly renewed from within.

The next layer is the inner bark. This layer has tiny tubes in which “phloem” is circulated. Phloem carries the food, manufactured by photosynthesis, throughout the tree. Inner bark lives for only a short time. Then it dies, turns to cork and becomes part of the protective outer bark.

The cambium layer is the growing part of the trunk. Each year, it produces new bark and new wood in response to hormones that pass down through the phloem from the leaves and stimulate growth in cells.

Sapwood is the trunk’s next layer. It’s new wood, and like the inner layer with its food carrying vascular system, the sapwood has similar tubes, called xylem, through which water and nutrients move from the roots up to the leaves. As newer rings of sapwood are laid down, inner cells lose their vitality and turn to heartwood, creating a new annual ring.

Heartwood is the central, supporting pillar of a tree. Although dead, it will not decay or lose strength while the outer layers are intact. It’s comprised of cellulose fibers bound together by a chemical glue called lignin, which makes it stronger than steel. The Arbor Day Foundation says that a cross section of wood 12” long and 1” by 2” set vertically can support a weight of twenty tons!

Leaves make food for the tree, and their shape influences their food making ability. For example, the narrow needles of a Douglas fir can expose as much as three acres of chlorophyll surface to the sun.

The lobes, leaflets and jagged edges of many broad leaves have their uses, too. They help evaporate the water used in food-building, reduce wind resistance and even provide “drip tips” to shed rain that, left standing, could decay the leaf.

So, you can see, trees are very unique and complex organisms, worthy of the care they require to maintain their majestic beauty.

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Whose Tree Is It Anyway?

When you first moved into your home, you planted a tree just inside your property line. So, it’s your tree, right? Maybe. It depends on how much it has grown and whether any of the trunk is now in your neighbor’s yard.

In most cases, a tree positioned on a property line is considered common property. As such, it’s owned by both property owners. This usually means that the tree cannot be pruned, destroyed or altered without both owners agreeing to the changes. Sometimes this requires them to have a written agreement on the terms of care for the tree.

According to a book, entitled Arboriculture and the Law, published by the International Society of Arboriculture and written by lawyers Victor Merullo and Michael Valentine, the courts apply this joint ownership principal even when a tree begins life on one person’s property and grows on to another. So, if it started out as your tree, you are forced to share the decisions and cost of care with your neighbor. If it started out as your neighbor’s tree, you may be the unwitting co-owner. Of course, you and your neighbor could agree, preferably in writing, that the person who planted the tree will be solely responsible for its care.

Even if you are the sole owner and caregiver of a tree, you have certain responsibilities to your neighbor, and your neighbor has certain rights. In the eyes of the law, you’re responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of that tree. For example, you could be found negligent for failure to prune trees that are blocking visibility from streets, driveways and sidewalks. You’re also responsible for tending to any trees that could cause harm to a neighbor’s home or person.

If the branches and/or roots of your tree grow into your neighbor’s yard, he has the right to remove those portions of the tree extending on to his property. Such intrusions can cause damage to sidewalks, driveways, garages, rooftops, and sewage and drainage pipes.

In Arboriculture and the Law, Merullo and Valentine wrote that courts, in most cases, have decided in favor of a neighbor being able to remove portions of trees that may not be planted on their property but have limbs or roots that reach across property lines. Courts have determined that a landowner owns all the space above and below his property, and if something invades either of those areas, it is his right to remove it. However, he doesn’t have the right to do anything to the tree that would weaken or kill it.

You can’t simply plead ignorance to the condition of trees on your property to escape liability in the case of tree failure. An act of God occurs as a result of “totally natural causes, which could not be prevented against by the actions of any particular individual.” If you could have prevented the damage through regular checks and maintenance of a tree on your property, it is not an act of God and you could be held liable.

One of our 10 Certified Arborists should be your go-to person for tree-related matters. We recommend a hazard assessment to determine if a risk is present. After damage has occurred, our Certified Arborist should be called upon to assess your financial loss, including the cost of removal and repair, for insurance, tax or legal purposes. Our Certified Arborist can also handle repair or replacement.

Finally, we recommend that you document your landscaping investment to help establish its worth. Take photos of your trees and plants so you have before and after examples should you need to establish value.

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Protecting Your Tender Plants This Winter

Do you keep a garden or plant diary as I suggested in a previous blog? Do you know which plants in your landscape are too tender to survive the winter?

If you’ve been keeping a diary, you probably have a list of plants that need extra protection. If you just started keeping one, this will be your baseline year when you will enter in spring those plants that fared well and those that didn’t fare so well.

Different plants have different needs. That’s why you have to track their progress with a diary. Some may appear tender but will survive well under a blanket of snow. However, we may have some very cold weather without a blanket of snow.

Many plants can be protected by adding an extra layer of mulch for the winter. You can apply up to four inches, but be prepared to remove one or two inches in the spring.

Many tender trees, especially young trees that you just planted this year, may need a burlap coat. Just drive poles into the ground around the perimeter of the tree, wrap with burlap and staple it to the poles. Be sure to keep the top open to moisture and sunlight. Usually, evergreens need wrapping since they continue their life functions in winter, albeit at a slower pace. Wrapping may also be needed for both evergreen and deciduous trees planted close to the road to protect them from road salt spray.

Individual or groups of plants can be covered with a breathable, transparent or semi-transparent landscape fabric. The fabric just needs to be held away from the leaves and stems with stakes. You can also buy small hoop houses and garden covers at garden centers and online.

Especially sensitive plants should be dug up, replanted in nursery pots and put in a cold frame. Cold frames can be built out of wood and glass, or you can buy them at garden centers or online. Some are rigid and others are more flexible. Mine is like a tent. It’s plastic on a metal frame. There are zippered panels in front and back to let in air and bigger zippered panels for tending to the plants. It folds up for the summer and in winter is just spread into an “A” frame and staked in the ground with tent pegs.

If you use either a fabric covering or a cold frame, plan to water the plants whenever the temperature gets above freezing for a few days.

Really sensitive plants like succulents should be taken inside for the winter. If you’re shaking your head and wondering where you’ll find the room, you’re not alone. Hardy plants, like yuccas, can be left outside in a sheltered spot, brought indoors or put in a cold frame.

If you have tender plants, you won’t have to wonder what to do with your green thumb all winter. You’ll be following the suggestions above and tending to your tender plants. Good luck.

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You Can Breathe Easier If You Have An Attractive Landscape

Previous blogs have dealt with the economic benefits of a well landscaped yard, but now the U.S. Forest Service has confirmed the health benefits as well.

The Forest Service recently released its first national study on the broad-scale impacts of pollution removal by trees. Researchers found that trees are saving more than 850 human lives a year and preventing 670,000 incidences of acute respiratory  symptoms. They value the human health effects of the reduced air pollution at nearly $7 billion every year.

While the research centered on trees, all green plants reduce pollution to some extent, especially those with pubescent or fuzzy leaves. Trees just take on a greater percentage of the burden due to their size and the fact that woody stems sequester more carbon than smaller herbaceous plant stems. When designing a landscape, however, it’s important to balance aesthetics with health benefits and all other considerations. Plant aesthetics are what give us the enjoyment and serenity from our gardens. This requires a balance of woody and herbaceous plants. Otherwise, you would have a forest instead of a landscape.

Speaking of forests, it seems reasonable that pollution removal would be higher in rural areas than in urban areas. The researchers agreed with this point, but noted that the effects on human health are substantially greater in urban areas than in rural areas. They also noted that pollution removal equates to an average air quality improvement of less than 1 percent, yet the impacts of that improvement are substantial.

Health effects related to air pollution include impacts on pulmonary, cardiac, vascular and neurological systems. In the United States, approximately 130,000 particulate-related deaths and 4,700 ozone-related deaths in 2005 were attributed to air pollution.

Study researcher David Nowak concluded, “In terms of impacts on human health, trees in urban areas are substantially more important than rural trees due to their proximity to people. We found that, in general, the greater the tree cover, the greater the pollution removal, and the greater the removal and population density, the greater the value of human health benefits.”

Applying these statistics to our own properties, surrounding ourselves with plants can reduce the pollution within our personal environments substantially. As you rake leaves and prepare your landscape for winter, survey your plant material from tree canopy all the way down to the ground cover to determine if it’s doing the job for you and your family. If it isn’t, use the winter wisely to meet with one of our designers to see what can be done to put your landscape to work removing pollutants and creating a healthy landscape for you.

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Buying Firewood This Winter

WoodCordIf you have a wood burning fireplace or heat with a wood burning stove, how’s your firewood supply? If it’s low and you’re shopping for a firewood supplier, these tips are for you.

The first tip is to buy locally. Regular readers know that I firmly believe that buying locally is best, especially for plants. But, when it comes to firewood, I’m even more adamant. And, I’m backed up by the law on this one.

In New York State, it’s against the law to transport untreated firewood more than 50 miles from its source or import it into the state. Also, firewood sellers are required to provide you with source documentation for the firewood they sell. This is to minimize the migration of deadly, invasive insects like the emerald ash borer and Asian longhorned beetle.

Even with the law in place, I’ve seen truck and trailer loads of ash wood going down the street. However, I urge you to obey the law, especially if you have ash trees in your yard.

Treated wood is defined as having been heated to 160ºF for 75 minutes. It can then be labeled as “New York Approved Treated Firewood/Pest-Free” by the producer. Even if you cut and transport your own firewood, you cannot legally transport it more than 50 miles or bring it into the state without a “Self Issued Certificate of Origin,” which can be downloaded at http://www.dec.ny.gov/docs/lands_forests_pdf/selfisscert.pdf.

A second tip is to be sure you know how much wood you’re buying. While we usually see ads for face cords, that’s not a legal measure. Your receipt or bill of sale needs to list the fraction of a cord you bought. A cord, which is 8 feet wide by 4 feet high by 4 feet deep, is a legal measure. A face cord that is 12 inches deep is a quarter cord, and that’s the way it needs to be sold.

A third tip is to be sure the wood is seasoned and, preferably, hardwood. Green wood doesn’t burn well due to its high water content. Green wood is tan in color, while seasoned wood is more of a gray color. Hard wood is preferred because soft woods have more resins and impurities like creosote that can adhere to your chimney walls and start a fire.

That old rule of thumb that says if a deal looks too good to be true it probably is applies to firewood. Unlike many such deals, however, buying undocumented firewood can result in legal problems as well as an insect invasion of your valuable, standing trees.


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