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What To Do With All That Plant Health Care Information

If you are one of our Plant Health Care and/or lawn care customers, you probably received a thick envelope full of all sorts of papers recently. This is your 2015 contract renewal packet.

Some people have told us that this looks so intimidating that they just set it aside. If this includes you, please accept our apologies, but every paper in the packet is mandated by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation.

We have to provide you with all kinds of technical information on every material we are apt to apply, and we need your signature on the contract that is also in the packet before we can provide any Plant Health Care or lawn care services.

The benefits of being on a Plant Health Care and/or lawn care program far outweigh the hassle of having to deal with the renewal packet. First and foremost, we have diagnostic responsibility rather than saddling you with it. Our professionals can diagnose problems when they are in their early stages, so we can often treat with less aggressive materials and methods. Second, our service is automatic. You don’t have to call; we visit at the optimum time to take care of each problem.

Don’t be intimidated and leave the health of your valuable trees, shrubs, lawn and other plants to your own untrained eye. Take a few minutes and return your signed contract to be sure you don’t miss any essential treatments.

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How To Make Your Winter Landscape More Interesting

I just looked out the window at my landscape. There’s no doubt about it. Winter is here. As I write this, there’s no snow, although some is in the short term forecast.

There’s not a leaf to be seen, except those Mother Nature piled up in a corner of the patio to await my disposal. Sure, there’s tall, tan ornamental grass blowing in the wind. There are plenty of evergreens and even a couple of river birch with exfoliating bark, but what else can I do to make my landscape more interesting this winter?

Let’s start with the material at hand. I’m actually a leg up on many landscapes. Ornamental grass is probably the number one material used in local landscapes to add winter interest. It turns brown, is often tufted with seedheads and is tall enough to peer above most snowbanks to vary the color from white. The evergreens are a nice touch, but I don’t recommend planting a whole yard of evergreens or that will be as boring as a sea of snow.

Interesting bark on deciduous trees is another nice touch. I chose river birch because it’s not prone to the pests that feast on white and paper birches. You lose some of the color and brightness of the bark (it’s more of a brown color) but it tends to exfoliate more. Other trees with interesting bark include paperbark maple, cherry, sycamore, European hornbeam and shagbark hickory. The bark on these trees is so interesting that you may look forward to fall defoliation so you can enjoy the bark.

Oh yes, I have one big holly with its red berries. Hollies are a symbol of Christmas and the winter holidays. Remember, you need separate male and female hollies to produce berries.

Putting out squirrel-proof bird feeders will also add color and activity to your winter landscape. Placing holiday lights and other winter interest things on your deck and patio can beat the drabness of winter. Select weather-resistant furniture or garden art for your patio. It may have to be a different set from the summer set you just put away. Perhaps an old set that you didn’t get around to throwing away will work.

Finally, containerized winter hardy plants may also add color and interest to your landscape. If some are in terra cotta pots, remember that these pots can break in winter, so wrap them in bubble wrap and pack them in mulch. This is one time when a mulch volcano is OK.

See, when you shed the defeatist attitude and replace it with a little creative thinking, you can really make your landscape look quite nice for winter. Granted, it may not be the grand summer garden that you’re used to, but it will be far from winter drab.

A number of the ideas proposed above can be done now. Those involving plant materials may have to wait for next season. If so, put your ideas in your garden journal now so you can just look them up in spring rather than racking your brain to remember what you were thinking of six months ago.

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How Much Does A Landscape Design Cost?

The answer to the title question is that old standby: It depends. At Birchcrest, the fee varies by the size and complexity of the project, and there are several ways to determine a fair amount. Most residential customers pay a design fee that will be applied to the cost of installation. Occasionally, we have billed the design fee as a percentage of the total job or commission on the products and services purchased on your behalf. For the customer who wants to do all or part of the work, we may charge a straight design fee.

There are times when customers ask why we charge for our designs when some of our competitors don’t. It’s because we provide finished designs prepared by a professional landscape designer. Those who don’t charge give you a quick sketch on a piece of notepaper or lock you into a contract to use their company for planting and construction.

It should be noted that professional designs are copyrighted and that the company that created the design owns the copyright. A landscape designer is the “author” of these creative works, many of which can take a substantial amount of time to complete.

Professional companies like Birchcrest never mail a landscape design to a customer. We always make an appointment and present it in person. Our designer will review the plan with you, get your feedback, and then take your comments back to the office and make any modifications.

We never leave plans with customers until the design fee has been paid. That’s when we exercise our copyright privilege to assign rights to use the design. It also protects us from those few unscrupulous people who would take our plans and shop them around for the lowest bid. In such cases, inferior plant materials and installation can reflect badly on our company when the customer tells friends that they have a landscape by Birchcrest.

If you retain our well trained installation staff, you can proudly, and accurately proclaim that your new landscape is by Birchcrest. You will also have the Peace of Mind of knowing that you have only top quality materials installed by people who are experts at what they do. Best of all, we guarantee the plant material that we install for a full year.

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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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