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Keep Landscape Color Vibrant Until Fall

Spring bulbs are starting to fade, even though many of them bloomed late. Spring flowering shrubs, like lilacs, also were delayed by the weather but will soon lose their colorful flowers. Then they will spend the rest of the season as attractive foliage plants. How can you extend the bloom of these plants?

The answer is that you can’t extend the bloom periods of the plants mentioned above, but you can supplement them with plants that bloom later and/or whose flowering life can be extended by deadheading*. The two categories of plants to consider are herbaceous perennials and annuals.

Mixing different types of flowering plants in the same bed can assure you of season long color. For example: Plant annuals among the spring flowering bulbs after the bulbs have finished their colorful show. That way the annuals won’t interfere with your enjoyment of the tulips, daffodils, etc. But by planting them at this time, their flowers will draw the eyes away from the yellowing bulb foliage. You should leave bulb foliage until it’s totally dead before cutting it away. The chlorophyll is busy making food to be stored in the bulb to provide the energy it needs to flower next spring.

No matter where you plant annuals, deadheading extends their flowering season. Then when they finally finish flowering, it’s inexpensive and easy enough to change them out for fresh plants. If your annuals are hardy enough to continue flowering until September, you can replace them with chrysanthemums (mums) for fall color almost until the snow flies.

Around the perimeter of your flowering shrubs, you could plant more annuals or herbaceous perennials like hosta or Echinacea (coneflower). The height of the spring flowering plant may influence what else you plant with it. Annuals tend to grow low to the ground and might get lost when paired with a tall shrub. Echinacea are tall and long blooming. They will flower from early summer until well into fall.

Hydrangeas are also popular summer and fall color plants. A popular variety is called “Endless Summer.” It is a moptop that can flower pink or blue. The color of the flowers can actually be changed by changing the soil pH. Acid soil (low pH) yields blue flowers; alkaline soil (high pH) yields pink flowers.

The possibilities for enjoying color in your landscape from early spring to late fall are endless. You just have to think creatively and do a little research into what’s best for your landscape. If you want the color without the work, our landscar designers and plant professionals are available to help to any extent that you want.

* Deadheading is the term for pinching or cutting fading flowers off the plant before they go to seed. Deadheading encourages the plant to direct energy to making more flowers rather than seeds

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Memorial Day Official Start Of Growing Season

Any experienced farmer or gardener in western or central New York knows that Memorial Day is the time to plant. I’m sure that’s why the folks in Waterloo, who began the tradition that turned into the holiday, picked the end of May to put flowers on the graves of Civil War veterans.

We can plant early some years and get away with it but I hope you didn’t try it this year. The last hard frost was less than a week ago. Meteorologists are assuring us that those were the last of the season, so planting on Memorial Day this Monday should pose no problem.

This Memorial Day will be like no other. Most of the parades and other public ceremonies have been canceled. So a day of beautifying your yard would be an appropriate family activity before topping the three day weekend off with a cook-out.

Garden stores are among the businesses that are now open so you can shop for plants. Just remember to wear a mask and practice social distancing. If you still aren’t ready to go to stores yet, check with your favorite garden centers to see if you can order by phone or online for curbside pick-up.

You can get a lot planted in the three day weekend if you work together, even while observing social distancing. One person can plant flowers while another plants veggies. You can do this in the same bed and still maintain the proper social distance.

Mark out your bed on paper before you go to the garden center. You’ll then know how many of each plant to buy and exactly where they’ll go in the garden. Make one planter responsible for flowers and the other for veggies. Each starts at opposite ends and works toward the center. As you close the gap at the center, one of you can take a water break until the other is finished. Then switch and finish the bed.

I mention mixing flowers and edibles in the same bed because it’s a new movement. As long as we’re all doing things differently these days, why not give it a try? And what are the kids doing while you are planting beds? Buy extra plants and they can plant them in containers. Maybe you could hold a friendly competition to see who can design and plant the most creative container garden.

All in all, that sounds like a great way to spend quality family time in this year of challenges and restrictions. As for the results – the holiday was originally called Decoration Day. This year you can use the occasion to decorate your yard.

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Time For Emerald Ash Borer Treatment

Spring is the best time to protect your valuable, majestic ash trees from the insidious emerald ash borer (EAB). It’s this invasive pest that’s to blame for all the dead and dying ash trees that we see around town. If you have an ash tree, it’s a sure bet that it will become a target for the EAB sooner or later.

Here is an example of the damage caused by the Emerald Ash Borer.

In May, the adult borers emerge from pupation inside the tree and begin eating the leaves while looking for a mate. With the courtship successful by the end of the month, females will deposit their eggs in indentations they make in the bark. As soon as the larvae hatch, they start boring their way into the interior of the tree, where they carry out their destructive task for nearly a year.

We are starting our spring treatment with a very effective product called TreeAge. The application requires special training and equipment to place the product
into the tree trunk. Consequently, it can only be applied by a state licensed/certified pesticide applicator. TreeAge is placed directly into the tree’s vascular system where it can be carried to where the EAB larvae are feeding. The borers are small, weak and more vulnerable in spring. So, spring treatments are more effective.

Trees that have not been attacked yet need to be treated only every two years. Those that have been attacked need to be treated every year. Not all attacked trees can be effectively treated, however. Those in which the EAB has killed more than a third of the tree are not good candidates for treatment.

When advising tree owners on whether or not to treat, we look at the aesthetics as well as the percentage of the tree that’s still alive. EAB destroys trees from the top down so we determine if we can prune the tree so it still has the distinctive ash tree shape or whether it will look like a topped tree no matter what we do. For trees that are completely dead or have more than a third of their crown destroyed by the EAB, we will provide an estimate for our trained, experienced, fully insured arborists to safely remove it.

With eight NYS Certified Pesticide Applicators and 13 Certified Arborists on staff, we can respond in a very timely fashion.

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The New Month Signals A New Beginning

The calendar said April and that should have been the first full month of spring. Here in Western New York, though, it seems that Ole Man Winter didn’t look at the calendar. We had cold days and enough snow that Rochester rose to the top of the Upstate New York cities that vie for the dubious snowfall championship. Well, it’s a new month and we can expect it to be spring like. As you venture outside to begin gardening or landscape maintenance, may I suggest that you begin with spring clean-up?

I doubt if you could get away without doing spring cleaning inside, so why not clean the outside, too? After all, more people see the outside of your home than the inside. To make the job easier, here’s a checklist to help you get started:

Pick Up Litter. Begin your clean up by walking your property, picking up debris that has accumulated. You’re sure to find twigs, paper and other trash that blew into your yard. It may be on the ground, under shrubs or even caught on branches. While doing this, note other items that need your attention.

Rake Up Leaves. If you missed any leaves last fall or if they blew into your yard during the winter, they should be raked up and thrown on the compost heap. This is especially important if the leaves are matted on the lawn. They could be trapping moisture and drowning the grass.

Mulch. When there’s no more chance of a hard frost, rake the mulch to the edge of your beds and let the soil dry. If you added mulch for the winter, it’s time to remove it for the summer. If you lost a lot to decomposition, add enough to bring it up to 3 inches.

Trim. Pull out dead annuals, trim back dead branches on perennials and cut ornamental grasses back to a level just above the ground so they can grow new grass.

Repair. If your hardscape suffered winter damage, now’s a good time to repair it. This includes walks and patios, fences and furniture. At least, hose them off to get rid of winter grime.

• Repair or replace damaged plants. Try re-standing any small, toppled trees. If that doesn’t work, replant them. If all else fails, consider replacing them. This doesn’t include large trees. Leave them to our professional arborists.

This checklist is just a starting point. As you get into the project you will, no doubt, find more things that have to be done. Add them to the list. But if you want a nice clean yard without lifting a finger, we have well trained, experienced landscape technicians who would be happy to do the job for you at a reasonable price.

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Landscaping and the Current Crisis — We’re Still Here for You

We are living in scary times, and landscapers are affected, even if not as deeply as some other industries or individuals. Nature is oblivious to the current medical crisis affecting daily life all around the country — spring has sprung and your landscape or garden has needs that won’t wait until the coronavirus is contained and life goes back to normal.

Like many businesses, some landscapers will have to reduce their workforces or even close their doors while efforts are made to control the coronavirus. In response, members of our industry are petitioning state governments to be designated as essential so our employees can continue to work and provide services to our customers. Colleagues who are sole owners/operators of landscape businesses are exempt and may stay open, at least for now. While landscaping might not be quite as vital as medicine, safety and security, the media, and a few other services, we do feel we are important to the health and daily life of both our customers and your landscapes.

Some states and smaller jurisdictions have already included landscaping as an essential service so such businesses can keep going despite stay-at-home orders and similar restrictions. New York State guidelines for businesses can be found here: https://esd.ny.gov/guidance-executive-order-2026

Birchcrest Tree and Landscape will stay open and continue serving our customers as long and as much as possible. One way that landscaping businesses are staying in business is by offering curbside pickup of plants and supplies, along with online sales and local deliveries. We are still performing tree work and landscape care while following CDC protocols.  Please be assured that our employees are taking every precaution to stay healthy and protect the health of our customers. Check back here to see how we can keep your garden going and growing despite this scary time.

In the meantime, we encourage you to continue taking physical, mental and emotional comfort in tending your garden or landscape. Some things never change, and the value of interacting with the Earth and its bounty is one of them. Working in the garden is great exercise for both body and soul. If you have to tackle some landscaping tasks on your own, so be it; we should be able to help in case you need to redo or undo anything that happens now.

We wish everyone the best of luck and health as we all learn to cope with the challenges of the coronavirus and its impact on our daily lives — and livelihoods.

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Get Tools Ready for Spring — It’s Good for You and Your Property

In the midst of today’s scary health crisis, there is gardening and landscaping, which reconnect people with the Earth and provide a wide range of benefits, both physical and mental/emotional. The emotional or mental aspect benefits involve relaxation, communing with nature, working off stress and focusing on creating beauty. The physical work of gardening builds strength and fitness, and burns off or reduces stress as well.

Giving your landscaping or gardening tools a good checking, cleaning, sharpening and lubricating will get you in the “spirit of the season” and ready to spring into action as soon as the weather lives up to the calendar.

We hope all of our readers, suppliers and customers are safe and healthy, and offer these tips for getting your gardening tools ready for spring so we can all enjoy the benefits of a beautiful home or business environment.

A dull blade is a bad blade. Not only will it do a lousy job of cutting back plants and branches, but it could cause injury. It might not cut you as deeply and dangerously as a sharper blade, but the extra amount of pressure you would need to exert could cause muscle strain and even a dull blade can still cause wounds to hands and limbs.

Take a good (but careful — we don’t want any injuries) look at any of your tools with blades, from pruning knives to lawnmowers. If their edges aren’t as sharp as possible, prepare them for spring use by sharpening them. Replace any removable blades, or entire tools, that are too far gone to be sharpened safely or effectively.

Many landscaping tools require lubrication to work their best and prevent injury to the user or the garden. This is the time to give everything a good dose of elbow grease and real grease or oil, so every tool runs or moves smoothly and functions at its best.

Check with our landscape professional or a garden center for the best product to use on various tools. WD-40 is the go-to lubricant for many of us, and it’s often already in your toolshed, but other products might be better for different items.

Look for signs of rust, which can often be polished away while leaving some tools still usable.

Don’t forget to check four-cycle tools or equipment like lawn mowers, which are likely to need oil changes before you crank them up and put them to work in your spring landscape.

Be sure to do this work in an open or well-ventilated space, especially if you use any spray products. Especially at this time, with an international health crisis underway, a respiratory condition or attack caused by inhaling a lubricant is the last thing any of us needs.

Trade old for new
Ergonomic tools are relatively new to the world of landscaping and gardening, but there are a lot of them and they are well worth investing in. Your old tools might be in great condition and still usable, but they might be contributing to backaches, muscle pain, poor posture and related reactions to using things that were designed for productivity or specific functions, but not for health and fitness.

Many of today’s gardening tools have been “retooled” to be easier and safer to use for your wrists, shoulders, back, knees and legs. Older gardeners are especially prone to such problems, and experiencing them could make you avoid the landscaping work you’ve always loved doing.

You can find pruners with rotating handles, weeders with grips made of natural materials, padded kneelers, long-lasting “bionic” gloves, handle extenders, shovels designed specifically for women, wheeled garden caddies, extended and telescoping tools, lightweight bulb planters … the options appear endless. Your landscape contractor, garden center or favorite gardening magazines can provide product names and sources, as well as tips for doing gardening chores in ways that are ergonomically correct.

Welcome to spring, and our hopes for a safe and successful season.

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Testing One-Two-Three: It May Be Time for a Soil Test

You probably thought you were done with tests once you finished school, but nooo — lawns, gardens and other landscaping areas need soil tests every so often! Luckily, these are easily managed projects with important benefits for the long-term health, vigor, growth and beauty of your landscape.

The why of it
Soil in any landscape, whether it’s a small flower garden or a huge commercial property, can develop a wide range of issues. Either naturally because of your setting or region, or over time due to changing weather conditions, new plantings, fertilizer use, pesticide use, chemical runoff from neighboring properties, organic matter breaking down, etc., the soil in your landscape can lack nutrients that trees, shrubs and flowers need to thrive and look their best. It takes a professional soil test to know if your plants need more or different types of nutrients.

What to look for
The soil in your landscape or garden has to provide a certain level of nutrients and quality for everything living in it to do well. That means an ideal pH — a balance of acidic and alkaline levels in the soil leading to a neutral environment. If the soil in your landscape has issues, your plants will let you know. You might see browning or dying leaves, stunted growth, wilting, foliage turning yellow, and other symptoms of soil that is too acidic.

How it works
Soil testing is pretty straightforward. Our landscape professional will take samples to measure the pH level in various locations throughout your landscape — how acidic or alkaline the soil might be.

While garden and home centers do offer a wide range of tools for doing this yourself, the results will depend on how well the soil sample is taken and assessed, so you might want to use a professional for this process. Even if you perform a soil test on your own, it’s smart to turn to the pros for your next steps.

If the soil in your landscape is too acidic or alkaline, don’t despair: Our landscape professionals can help with remediation. We will look for the ideal soil quality for your area and plantings. With that information in hand, it might be suggested that new planting choices that will be happier in your soil environment should be considered. But often we provide advice about ways to improve the soil quality so your existing plants can thrive as well as performing the treatment.

Passing the test
Once the soil testing is done, you can sit back and let your garden grow. Enjoy knowing that your landscape is healthy and ready to carry you through the next few seasons with your mind at peace.