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A Tribute To A Majestic Tree

A tree’s days like those of all life are finite. The loss of a tree can evoke many of the same emotions as the death of a human and a beloved pet. Just last week, our

Birchcrest tree crew removes Pittsford copper beech.

arborists had to remove one of the most majestic trees in the Rochester, New York region.

Surely you heard about the copper beech tree in Pittsford. News of its impending removal reached the four corners of the globe, thanks to the Associated Press. I even read the story in the New York Times.

That majestic tree had stood in the same spot since the early part of the 19th century. Its graceful branches spread out over the village as if protecting it. Its beautiful copper-colored leaves gave a unique hue to the park that the village built around the tree

Imagine what that tree witnessed over its lifetime of more than 200 years. The settlement, the growth and the development of the village and the town that surround it. But alas, all good things must come to an end. In this case, the copper beech’s decline was caused by a microscopic fungus.

The cooper beech was so beloved by Pittsford residents that it was incorporated into the town logo. And, the night before our crew was scheduled to take the tree down, the town invited resident to join in a ceremony to say good-bye to it.

While the rot fungus, Kretzschmaria deusta, ate away at the tree from the inside out like a cancer, the forward thinking town leaders had healthy cuttings taken from high up in the tree. These have been rooted and are now about a year from sapling size. Once they reach sapling size, these clones, which will have the same exact genetic footprint as the parent tree, will be ready for planting at various locations around town. One place they can’t be planted, however, is in Copper Beach Park where the original tree stood. That soil is contaminated with the fungus.

It is my hope that the story of the copper beech and how Copper Beech Park got its name is written into any local history curriculum taught in Pittsford schools. Then, hopefully, some local official won’t come along years from now and question why the park is named Copper Beech Park when there’s no copper beech there…and move, with no opposition, to change the name. That would prove the truth to what Spanish poet and philosopher George Santayana said, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

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Arbor Day This Friday

This Friday, April 27, we observe a holiday that could be considered “Gift of Life” day. It’s Arbor Day. Although Arbor Day is set aside to plant trees, it’s also a day on which we should consider the tremendous gifts trees give us.

Sure, trees are beautiful and they provide shade in the summer and protection from wind and snow in winter, but they also provide us with the very oxygen we breathe. Trees also take in the harmful carbon dioxide we exhale.

Plant one or more trees this Friday. If you make it a family affair, you can turn it into a learning experience for your children. Have everyone take a deep breath when you’ve finished planting and then thank your new tree and all the rest of the trees in your yard for their contribution to your life and health.

If you can’t celebrate Arbor Day on Friday, fear not. Saturday or Sunday will be just fine. Trees don’t know the difference.

Arbor Day can be a great family outing. Decide where you’re going to plant your new tree before you go to the garden center to buy it. Take note of the conditions in that location. Is it full sun, partial sun or shade? Are there power lines nearby? Is it in the path of the wind? Is it at the top or bottom of a hill or grade? When grown, will the tree hang over your house, pool or other structures? All of these conditions determine the species of tree you should plant in that location. All of the tree’s preferences should be listed on the nursery tag attached to the tree. If you have any questions about the information on the tag, talk to one of the horticulturists at your nursery or garden center. That way, you’ll be sure that you’ll be planting the right tree in the right place.

Right tree – right place is the landscaper’s mantra. If the tree isn’t happy where it’s planted, it will be very high maintenance. I guess it’s just like people who aren’t happy where they are. In the case of trees, however, high maintenance can mean frequent pruning and annual or twice annual fertilization. If the tree isn’t happy, it will show stress and its health will decline. This attracts insects and diseases. All this can be avoided if you do a little research and plant the right tree in the right place.

Join families all over the country who will make their trip to the garden center and tree planting experience a fun family outing to celebrate a holiday that dates back to 1872. Happy Arbor Day…and remember the mantra, Right Tree – Right Place.

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The Future of Your Ash Tree

Photo: Howard Russell, Michigan State University, Bugwood.org

Soon the tiny, metallic green emerald ash borers (EAB) will make their annual appearance. Seeing these tiny insects is rare because of their size. Their sole purpose is to mate so a new generation of larvae can continue the damage the adults began last year. And, they do this dastardly deed high up in the tree.

Does this mean your ash tree is doomed? Yes, if you don’t have us treat it. Even then, it’s an ongoing process with no guarantees. However, the cost to have your tree treated for a considerable period of time is less than the cost of having a mature tree removed and replaced.

Ash trees with a half or more of their foliage remaining are good candidates for treatment. They have a good chance of surviving. Those with less than 50 percent are doomed.

EAB can be prevented. If your ash tree shows no EAB symptoms, we can apply a preventive every two years. It’s the same material that we apply to infested trees. However, infested trees have to be treated annually.

Applications, whether for treatment or prevention, have to be made systemically. This means injecting the material directly into the tree because the EAB spends most of its life inside the tree. It literally destroys the tree from the inside out.

Systemic materials strong enough to control the EAB are sold only to trained, licensed professionals. A diluted, consumer version of several products are sold in garden stores but I don’t recommend them. They’re just not strong enough to do the job, and doubling up on the amount you apply won’t make up for the reduced strength.

Anytime is a good time for us to apply preventive but shortly after the adults emerge from an infested tree is the best time for us to apply a treatment. That’s because newly hatched larvae are smaller, weaker and more vulnerable, increasing the ability of the product to control this insidious pest.

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Did Your Lawn Suffer From Winter Damage?

When your lawn has greened up for the season, you will be able to see any damage that it suffered over the winter. That’s the time to determine the cause and make any repairs. All lawn damage is mechanical, chemical or disease damage.

Mechanical damage is usually confined to the edge of your driveway or the road, and it’s usually caused by a snow plow. When the grass is firm enough to support you without leaving footprints, you can replace divots just as you would lay a new sod lawn. It’s done by roughing up the bare soil with a rake, cutting the divots so they fit together like a jigsaw puzzle, placing them on the bare spots, walking on them to make contact with the soil and, finally, watering them in.

If the divots are damaged and unusable or you can’t find them, seeding is the most economical alternative. Begin by roughing up the soil. Then, spread compost or fertilizer, followed by seed. I suggest taking a small sample of your sod to the garden center so you can match up the seed composition with the rest of the lawn. After you’ve seeded, rake in the seed, and water your new planting. Keep watering until the new grass has become established.

Most chemical damage is caused by road salt. Sodium chloride melts snow and ice and mixes with the resulting water. This is very toxic to plants. Passing vehicles then splash it on to your lawn. Chemical damage is usually confined to the grass in your tree lawn (the area between the curb and sidewalk), although splash can cause damage further into your front yard. This repair is made the same way as the seeding repair from mechanical damage. I recommend a hardy seed mixture that can withstand salt water for your tree lawn. It would be a good idea to overseed the whole tree lawn with the hardy mix as a preventive measure.

Several fungal diseases attack lawns in winter, leaving patches of dead grass. Some have interesting shapes and colors. The thing they all have in common, though, is that they kill patches of grass. The most common reaction is to apply a fungicide. Resist the temptation. Fungicides won’t help. Instead, rake the dead grass out and throw it away. If the dead area is small, the healthy grass will fill in the area. If it’s larger, you’ll have to reseed, using the same method as you would for chemical damage. If mushrooms are present, manually remove them, especially if you have pets or small children, since these fungi may be poisonous. When reseeding, use a fungus-resistant seed variety. Overseeding the whole lawn with fungus resistant seed will help keep your whole lawn fungus-free next winter..

If you need help nursing your lawn back to health, talk to of our lawn care professionals.

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Spring’s The Time To Cut Back Ornamental Grasses

All winter long, your ornamental grasses have endured the wind, ice, snow and cold weather of winter. Spring is the time to reward these hardy plants with their annual hair cuts. This ritual isn’t just to make them look nice. It’s also necessary for their health.

Other colorful plants may bloom around the trimmed ornamental grasses and hide them while they begin to grow new leaves. Soon the grass leaves will overshadow the companion plants and you’ll be ready to watch the fall and winter ritual of plants dying and going dormant for the winter while the ornamental grass begins to assert itself and tower over the planting bed.

This annual ritual of cutting ornamental grasses back nearly to the ground each spring lets light get into the area where seeds are germinating to grow into new ornamental grass plants that will provide you with nice color this winter.

The brown sheaths of grass you see above the snow each winter are actually dead, or more accurately, spent. Last spring, those sheaths were nice and green as they grew to their extended height. Seedheads then formed on the tips and the mature seeds dropped to the ground. So, you are actually making way for new plants when you cut the old ones back.

Grasses should be cut back to just inches from the ground. The tool you use is up to you. I’ve used manual hedge clippers, power hedge clippers and even pruning shears. If the snow pack has caused the grasses to flop over, tie them back upright with rope or twine before cutting them.

Don’t wait too long to cut your ornamental grasses back or you may cut off some new growth. You may not be able to see new growth through the old growth, but small green leaves are starting to push up among the old sheaths. Once trimmed, you’ll be able to see the new growth in the remaining stubble.

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Plan Your Planting Beds For Non-Stop Color

When discussing flower gardens, the term “seasonal color” is used often. Although some may interpret that to mean only spring or summer, it can also mean four- season color. Plants bloom in fall as well as spring and summer. However, you shouldn’t limit yourself to just one kind of plant. And in winter you need to depend on plants’ other color attributes. This means mixing woody shrubs, perennials, bulbs, annuals and even trees.

Spring is here, according to the calendar. Soon, the bright yellow blooms will appear on forsythia. The crocuses push their way up tnrough snow if there is any. Absent the white stuff, they just push up through the soil and announce that spring is here. Crocuses are followed closely by daffodils, tulips and hyacinths. Hellebores also bloom in the early spring.

After the spring bulbs are through flowering, shrubs like azaleas, rhododendrons, peonies and, of course a Rochester favorite, the lilac bloom. Then, in summer, roses begin to bloom, as do hydrangeas, cone flowers, spireas and other perennials. Depending on the variety, you can expect viburnum shrubs to bloom in either spring or summer.

Knowing the blooming time of these shrubs and perennials, you can plan which annuals you want to plant to supplement and complement them. Pansies are early bloomers here. And their flowers last for a long time. As spring becomes summer, you can plant the better known annuals like petunias, marigolds, geraniums, begonias, and the list goes on.

As summer fades into fall, perennials like asters bloom, as do witch hazel and such sedums as Autumn joy. And then there’s the iconic chrysanthemums (mums), a symbol of fall. You can also enjoy fall blooming bulbs like fall crocus. Plant them in September and they bloom a few weeks later. Many people do a double take when they see these flowers, one of the first to welcome fair weather, also bidding farewell to summer.

When winter arrives, your sources of color transition from flowers to colorful tree bark, conifers’ green needles, ornamental grasses and holly berries.

Our designers can help you with the planning process and our installation professionals can help you with the planting to any extent you want.

Enjoy!

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Does Your Hardscape Need Repair?

The greenscape aspect of your landscape is enjoying a well deserved winter dormancy. But your hardscape isn’t. Walkways, decks, patios, retaining walls and other hardscape items are all out there in the elements year round. The constant pelting with ice, snow and road salt can take a toll on concrete, landscape pavers, stone, wood and other hardscape material. Hardscape repairs can be made on the nice, warm days that we should start getting soon.

Some of the repairs you’ll have to deal with include filling cracks and potholes in asphalt driveways, Concrete driveways, walkways, pool decks, and even some patios, can experience cracking and chipping. Landscape pavers can sink or heave, break, or shift. Wood deck surfaces can become rough and the protective coating can be worn off.

You can do all of these repairs easily. Home centers sell asphalt and concrete patch that can be poured into cracks and holes and then troweled to a nice, smooth finish. To repair chipping and cracking, concrete patching material can be spread as a surface coat. Extensive repairs, such as leveling an entire patio and repairing a retaining wall, are best left to a professional mason or driveway contractor.

If landscape pavers are broken, they have to be replaced. If they sink or heave, the stone dust or sand base has to be adjusted. Base material has to be either added or removed to make it level and then the pavers can be replaced and new stone dust or sand swept between the affected pavers and those surrounding them. If the whole patio is wavy, you’ll have to pull up all the pavers, level the base and replace the pavers. It can be a daunting job if you’ve never done it before. But our hardscape professionals can do what’s necessary to make your patio look like new. They can also handle concrete repair of small areas like sidewalks and pool decks.

Repairing wood decks usually involves sanding down rough spots and re-applying the protective coating. Our hardscape professionals can also do this for you.

If you check your hardscape now, you can begin preparing to do the job, whether it’s DIY or done professionally, and that concern can be behind you. Then, when the soil dries and it’s warm enough, you can begin your planting and landscape maintenance.