Monthly Archives

May 2019

Bonsai response in plants

By | Plants | No Comments

Bonsai” response is a term I learned from my mentor Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott. It happens when plants are under stress. In this blog post the stressor is lack of water but it could be something else.

The plant sends out new shoots from the base, trying to bonsai itself in response to the stress.  I learned this while going through Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott‘s new Great Courses course “The Science of Gardening“. You can read my blog post review of the course. All I will say here is that it’s highly recommended, if you can get it on sale. The regular price is brutal so forget it, unless you have deep pockets.

Site example

As soon as finished the course, I ran into a perfect example from one of my work sites. I normally float around amongst our work crews, helping and training. But, in 2018, we needed someone to take care of a small site so I did it once a week.

In spring we installed new beds on opposite corners. We planted Berberis thunbergii, Sedums, Pennisetums, Carex, Spireas and Japanese willows (Salix integra); and everything got mulched with river rock.

All of the plants developed nicely and the river rock kept weeds in check. But then summer hit and the differences were clearly visible. On the left corner lives a home gardener who waters regularly. On the right corner lives a busy family. Both have garden hoses close by. Let’s talk about the right side.

The tips of the Japanese willow shoots were turning brown so I watered the bed every week. My boss doesn’t normally like to do this but, hey, he wasn’t there and I have research to do for my blog posts.

Then I started noticing new shoots developing lower on the main stem. This was clearly the plant’s bonsai response to water stress. The left bed specimen didn’t do this because the home gardener watered regularly

I didn’t prune off the bonsai shoots until winter 2019. We will see what happens in spring.

 

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Salix integra watered by home owner. Stem and crown look normal.

 

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Salix integra ignored by home owner. Note the stem growth in response to water stress.

How I cheated on my work boots

By | Reviews | No Comments

I always buy my work boots from Stihl because I love my Lawngrips. They’re designed for landscape professionals: they look great, they have anti-slip soles for lawn surfaces and they cost just over C$100. I normally buy at least two pairs every season. You can read my review of the boots from April 2017.

The unthinkable

This past January I did the unthinkable: I bought a different pair of boots. I walked into my neighborhood work wear and safety store to see if they had any sweatshirts on sale and then it hit me. I was wearing the cheapest Wal-Mart rubber boots because my Stihl boots had lots of cracks. That’s not good.

As landscape supervisor I have to set a good example and look good for our crews and clients. My cheap rubber boots didn’t have steel-toes and cracks in my boots were unacceptable.

Then I saw  JB Goodhue Guardian 14202 boots on sale for C$69. What a steal. I tried them on and bought them because they fit my winter budget and they were right there, ready to come home with me.

 

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The Lawngrips are harder to buy because they’re only available from Stihl dealers and I have to travel much farther to get there. Assuming, of course, they have my size. But, if you love the boots like I do, you will overlook this.

In January I was a busy soccer Dad budgeting for an international soccer tournament in Las Vegas. If I had to cheat on my favourite work boots to save some cash then so be it. I did feel strange walking away with different boots.

Review 

The biggest surprise is how soft my heel strikes are. I’ve had work boots before that were super stiff but not these. When I walk, the heel strike is soft. I really like it.

The look is fairly plain; I miss my Stihl logo on the side.

I did experience some discomfort above my right ankle for about three days. It scared me because sometimes suspicious boots go on sale. But, as it turns out, I just had to break them in and now, weeks later, they feel fine. Actually, I had no choice but to break them in because of my budget and because I’m a dedicated landscape blogger.

Specs

You can see the specifications for my Guardian 14202 boots on the company’s website.

 

Conclusion

If money is no object and you are a professional landscaper then buy the Stihl Lawngrips. If you enjoy saving money, JB Goodhue’s industrial Guardian 14202 boots are a great choice, especially in winter. The boots kept me nice a cozy last week in freezing morning temperatures.

Note that my Guardian 14202 boots were on sale for C$69. The regular retail price is C$114.99. At that price I would go for the Stihl Lawngrips every time.

Why I love hand-pruning

By | Pruning | No Comments

I love hand-pruning! It’s quiet and usually it leads to soft-looking shapes unlike harsh and noisy power shearing. It also allows you to feel the foliage and think about other issues as you work. Below I discuss two winter hand pruning examples.

Privet shape

I was beaming inside and out when I was asked to hand prune potted privets (Ligustrum japonicum) by two residential tower entrances. All of a sudden, a routine maintenance day turned into joy!

I pulled out my Felco 2 hand pruners and went to work. Incidentally, always try to use good tools for pruning. Cheap hand pruners could produce cheap looking shrubs.

My job was to snip out the light green new growth and still leave the privets natural looking. It’s hard to achieve this with power shears which shred the foliage and make the plant look too tight. A more natural form is preferable in this case.

 

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Note the light green new growth.

 

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All done and still natural looking. This kind of work is like therapy.

 

Laurel fix

Another easy hand pruning job involves fixing laurels (Prunus laurocerasus ‘Otto Luyken’) after power shearing. Because power shears can only work at one level there is always some shredding visible afterwards. Fixing this is another beautiful hand pruning job.

 

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Notice the inevitable shredding that goes along with power shearing.

 

Find the worst shredded parts and hand snip them out so the wood blends in more. Always try to cut just above a leaf node so the leaves cover up the cuts. The laurel will look better than it did post power shearing.

 

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Conclusion

Hand pruning can be relaxing and almost feel like therapy. I love the quiet snipping and the resulting soft shapes. Power shearing tends to be harsh and noisy. When you shred laurels with your power shears, take the time to snip out the ugliest looking stems.