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Events

Risking arrest for California’s Eucalypts

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This past August I found myself in Lake Forest, California because of my son’s soccer tournament. It was yet another sunny morning and it was getting hot. It was too hot for the boys to have a serious soccer practice. So I left the team at the tennis courts and walked across the street.

 

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Private property!

My target was a nearby line of beautiful and huge Eucalyptus trees. It was like Christmas for this arborist. The trees looked awesome and as I took more pictures I drifted onto a church parking lot. There I shot many other landscape plants. I was having a fantastic California morning until a voice woke me up from my plant trance.

 

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I love these Eucalyptus trees.

 

“Can I help you? This is private property!” Immediately I thought oh, shit, was this an open carry state? Then I mumbled something about visiting California and loving their church landscaping. “We get all kinds here!” was his reply. So I apologized and told the dude I was leaving. No need to call the police. He then wished me a pleasant visit and I wondered what the Sunday sermons were like.

 

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Note the security camera.

 

Trees in Paradise

I have since learned that Lake Forest used to be an Eucalyptus plantation. Now it’s a master-planned community with beautiful landscaping. I was blown away by the landscaping so much, I walked into the nearest bookstore desperate for some sort of plant guide. And I found a door stopper gem there called Trees in Paradise by Jared Farmer. (I will review this excellent book in a future blog.)

Farmer devotes a one hundred page chapter to Eucalypts and it’s a wild ride. The trees were imported from Australia and became very popular in California. And then it all swung the other way. Eucalyptus plantations in San Francisco were abandoned and the trees were allowed to go wild.

One glitch stands out from this book chapter. Californians wanted to reproduce the success Aussies had with their fast-growing Eucalypts. But what they didn’t notice was that the Aussies were processing old growth Eucalypts.

The new growth Eucalypts in California were extremely difficult to process because the young trees behave badly when they’re run through saw mills. Farmer does a great job of explaining this. Basically the trees break apart at the saw mill so it’s hard to get the nice straight lumber saw mills wanted. Bummer.

I think the Eucalypts I saw in Los Angeles looked great. I can’t wait to see them again in August 2020 but I will be more mindful of private property lines. “Canadian pro blogger dead in California” would be an unfortunate headline.

 

 

Take this step before challenging the Red Seal exam

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Hort Education BC is putting on a preparation course on Saturday, November 23, 2019 at the UBC Botanical Gardens. If you have 7, 920 documented hours in the horticulture industry (roughly four seasons) you can challenge the Red Seal exam. This preparation course is an excellent way to increase your chances of passing. Here is why.

Egan Davis

Egan Davis, the instructor, teaches at the UBC Botanical Gardens and he is super experienced and knowledgeable. He is a plant geek. You can ask him lots of questions but not about actual exam questions. Those are kept secret. You have to earn the Red Seal qualification; there are no short-cuts. The exam tests your knowledge and experience.

Egan sports a booming voice and excellent delivery. I doubt you will forget spending a day with him. He helped me pass in 2014 and I will forever be grateful to him.

2014

When I took this course in 2014 I was in a rush because up-coming municipal jobs required Red Seal papers. And the preparation course was very new and evolving which is why it was free. Now it will cost you $90 but trust me, it is money well spent.

I took the full day course, studied for a few weeks and took comfort in the words of my municipal gardener boss. She told me I would do well based on listening to my comments in the field. This definitely encouraged me. The rest was all work experience from fifteen seasons in the field and landscape industry certified studies.

I did not smash the test but I passed! Now the ITA Red Seal diploma hangs on my wall and I am proud of it.

The key

All attendees received a thick manual which focused on areas where people struggle most. See, I told you, money well spent. I have no idea if attendees still receive manuals or what is in them but I bet it is something similar.

If you have any questions, call or e-mail Bill Hardy, he will help you: bhardy@horteducationbc.com or 604-430-0422.

Red Seal Landscape Horticulturist qualification is a nice trade paper to have. It identifies you as an experienced professional and should, in theory, lead to better pay. It also allows you to take on new apprentices.

If you are thinking about challenging the Red Seal exam in landscape horticulture take the preparation course first. Ninety dollars is a steal. Trust me.

Good luck!

 

Remembrance Day

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Today is Remembrance Day, a day to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom today. Unfortunately, I had to work today but I did stop at 11 a.m. to remember those who made their ultimate sacrifice.

A new bed

In 2014, while working for the City of Coquitlam as a park labourer, we created a new bed for Remembrance Day at Blue Mountain Park. And now I drive by the park weekly so I remember fallen soldiers all year.

In subsequent years the municipality redesigned the front planted bed but the plants in the back remain. And I’m glad they do because I planted them with my city gardener boss. We planted yews (Taxus), Astilbes, maples (Acer) and one dogwood (Cornus).

 

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I planted all of the back plants in 2014 with my city gardener boss. They all look fine.

 

First bare-root planting

The dogwood planting was very special because it was my first bare-root planting. Bare-root planting is recommended because when you wash off the root ball you can clearly see the tree roots. This then allows you to arrange them so they look like spokes on a wheel before planting. We want all roots to run out and get established, not keep running in circles. Feel free to prune out any rebel roots.

When you wash off the root ball, hold on to the mud you create. You will use it to plant the tree after your roots are nicely arranged like spokes on a wheel. The mud anchors the bare-root tree in the hole. At the time I didn’t know this. Keeping mud in the back of the truck seemed crazy.

The procedure is to install the muddy soil in phases: soil and water go in and then you wait for it to settle, and repeat the procedure until the hole is filled. The mud cements the tree in the hole.

When we did the planting in 2014 the lawn and soil were wet so I got very muddy but it didn’t bother me. I loved the new experience of bare-root planting.

2019

Now, five years later in 2019, I finally stopped by to take a picture of the dogwood and it looks healthy. I gave it a quick wiggle test by moving the trunk back and forth. The base felt solid which means the tree is established. Yay! Success. The other plants look fine as well.

 

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The dogwood in the middle was planted bare-root in 2014.

 

It feels good to know that my work will be on display for many years to come. I have since done one solo bare-root planting project and I hope to do many more. You should try it next time, too.

I hope you had a great Remembrance Day!

 

 

 

Don’t miss CanWest 2019

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Don’t miss CanWest 2019 Horticulture Expo, Western Canada’s Premiere Horticulture Trade Show. If you read this blog frequently-and I hope you do!-you will know that I harp on this every year. The show runs from September 25-26, 2019.

 

Why I attend

 

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Landscape pro Vas planning his CanWest lecture line-up.

 

Yes, thanks to the generous support of my company, I get two paid days off to hang out at a trade show. But it’s not about escaping from work. It’s about learning and collecting education credits. And this year looks very promising.

As an ISA certified arborist I attend the full day Urban Foresters Symposium on Wednesday; and this year two lectures look interesting: tree planting and installation; and tree diseases affecting Pacific Northwest trees. There is usually enough time after the symposium to take the plant ID test on the trade floor.

Then, on Thursday, there are short courses available. This is my proposed list.

  1. Renovation pruning of an Old Garden, 8:30-10am
  2. Garden zombies: horticultural myths, 10:30-12:00, Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott
  3. Pruning fruit trees, 1:15-2:45

CanWest rock star!

Note that the second course is taught by my online mentor Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott from the University of Washington. I have most of her books and I bought her Great Course. All of them are great resources. Not only is there science behind Linda’s work, she’s also local. If you’re not familiar with Linda, now is your chance to correct that frightening omission. Thank me later.

 

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Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, don’t miss her lectures and learn from her work.

 

Lots happening

There is lots more happening at CanWest than lectures. The trade floor is covered by booths, there is a job board, arborist demo zone, bug zone and pest ID challenge, and truck and trailer safety.

You can also reconnect with old co-workers and meet new people to build your network. This trade show is awesome for a professional landscape blogger like me. And some of my work will appear on this Proper Landscaping blog.

Don’t miss this year’s CanWest. If you see me there, please say Hello and give me feedback on this blog.

Learn. Connect. Grow.

Why I never miss the CanWest Hort Expo

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I write this blog post every year because I firmly believe that all landscape professionals in British Columbia should make time for the CanWest Hort Expo. I’m luckier than most in that my employer sponsors my CanWest visits by covering both my work time and the expo fees. But, whatever your circumstances may be, make time and budget to attend the 2019 expo.

Why CanWest?

Urban Forestry Symposium

What’s so special about CanWest? Well, let’s see. I attend the event because I want to learn new things, collect CEUs (education credits) and pump out blog posts out of it. I usually spend the entire Wednesday learning at the Urban Forestry Symposium which leaves me a little bit of time to check out the trade booths.

The symposium covers three to four lectures and many times the speakers are Ph.D. experts in their field. I fill up my notebook with notes and marvel at how articulate the presenters are. There is always a gem, one big idea or aha moment in every lecture. It’s money well spent.

Lunch is included so try to mingle and network. I often steal extra pens and notepads. Take extra handout copies for your employees. And sign the CEU sheet for credit from the ISA.

 

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Short courses

Last year I attended three short seminars which is all I could squeeze into my Thursday. You can pick whatever seminar topics interest you and go to those. There are usually several concurrent seminars going on and they all give you CEUs.

Plant ID contest

This is the best booth at CanWest. Yes, you can put your passing score paper in for a draw prize but I do it for the challenge. Usually it comes down to the last two specimens. So, visit this booth and take the test. You could win a prize. Check out my blog about last year’s plant ID booth.

Trade booths

Walk the floor and see what’s available for sale from tools and machines to nursery plants. This is another great opportunity to talk to people and network. Last year I ran into my ex-municipal foreman boss which was fun; and into some former co-workers. Always stay in touch with industry people. You never know.

Fun

You can eat and drink alcohol at CanWest and there is live entertainment. I don’t normally care about this aspect of the show but some people get excited about tailgate parties.

Jobs

If you need workers or a job, there is a huge job board at the expo so stop by. The industry always needs good workers.

The 2019 CanWest Hort Expo is on September 24 and 25. Don’t miss it. See you there!

 

Company wellness plan: trail race edition

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Companies don’t need costly, formal wellness plans for their employees. It can be done informally. One good example is a trail race from November 2018. The company boss ran his first trail race with one of our fastest foremen. It was a gruelling off-road half marathon and also in the field were the famous- now retired- Vancouver Canucks Sedin twins.

 

Short course 12.5km

 

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Not a bad race course!

 

The boss generously sponsored six other employees in the short 12.5 km course race. And the game was on because I was the oldest in the group and they were all gunning for their supervisor. Fools.

The North Shore morning sun was extremely pleasant but it was still cool in the shade. I was careful not to over-dress and I was the only runner in our group to warm-up. Remember, you should get to the starting line sweaty.

One of the runners in our group, let’s give him a fake name like Stan, took off fast but we stayed close to him. Once he started walking in the first 3km, I knew I’d take him; and I did. Stan would later pollute the forest trails with his vomit. Four times!

I felt surprisingly well, well enough to notice the morning mist spilling out of the forest and on to the open trail. It was an amazing effect, as if the forest was breathing.

Once I passed Stan, nobody would come close to me and I crossed the finish line two full minutes ahead of one foreman. He considered it a success but I noted to myself that I’m old enough to be his father. The others finished well behind me but they finished!

We took a team photo before I had to run off. Later at home I checked the results and I was ecstatic with my number one placing in age category. I still got it, I thought, but then I scrolled up and noticed that my boss had entered me in the 60-69 age group. Very funny.

 

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Landscape pro Vas (949) competing in the Gunner Shaw XC on December 1, 2018. This time I was sponsored by my Phoenix running club.

 

Success

With a small investment my boss got seven employees to run a trail race in the woods on a sunny November morning. All of us finished and there was some team bonding happening. The boss even took them out for lunch.

Next is the 2019 Sun Run, Canada’s largest 10 km race, which we will enter as a team in the corporate division. I think we’ll do fine.

All companies can design informal wellness plans for their employees. It’s good for the company and for the workers.

 

CanWest Hort Show 2018 September 26 & 27

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I make it a point to attend the CanWest Hort Show every year and I’m lucky to have a boss who gives me time off and support. I am convinced that all professional landscapers, horticulture students, career changers and landscape company owners in British Columbia should attend this two-day event.

 

Symposium

 


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I usually attend the full-day Urban Foresters Symposium because it gives me access to excellent tree-related lectures and it gives me CEUs towards recertification. Lunch is included in the hefty $225 fee but the networking you can do is priceless.

This year there are three speakers and two of them are Ph.Ds. Four lectures:

1.Trees on development sites

2. Professional practice: report writing

3. Moisture stress in the landscape

4. New and underutilized street and landscape trees

 

Last year, a gentleman in the lunch line-up recognized my name; he had read many of my blogs! Now I’m a member of his Landscape Horticulturists Facebook group. Easy.

Once the conference is over, there is usually enough time to go over to the plant ID test booth and take the free exam. This year I hope to make it a third 100% score in a row. I also distribute the blank plant list to our employees.

 

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Short courses

There are many shorter seminars offered as well so pick the ones that interest you and learn. Check out the full course line-up at the CanWest Hort Show website.

 

Booths

Walking the trade floor is a lot of fun. You can see stuff on sale, services offered and nurseries have plants set-up in their booths which is perfect for plant ID work. Most booths offer free candy and I usually help myself.

There is also a job board if you need workers or a new job. You can also buy food and drinks. The Tradex in Abbotsford has tons of free parking and it’s easy to find.

See you there!

 

Why the CanWest Horticulture show is a riot

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I’m so glad I overcame my shyness years ago and approached my employer for time off so I could attend my first CanWest. The CanWest horticulture show is the best industry event in the Lower Mainland.

But before I dive into why this event is a riot, I would be remiss if I didn’t give thanks to my employer. My fees and wages were generously covered and the company was short-staffed this week. Always ask your employer for help.

Urban Forester’s Symposium

This happens on day one and runs all day 8-3. The fee includes lunch which consisted of pasta, lasagna and salads. Two speakers covered three lectures. Guy Meilleur covered pruning after a storm and managing old trees. I had no idea that he was behind the popular “Detective Dendro” articles that appeared in Arborist News. Julian Dunster covered “Field assessment skills for common Pacific Northwest tree diseases”.

I will cover the science part of the lectures in separate blogs. Just let me say that all three lectures were fascinating. The only problem was with the organizers who put two lectures next to each other separated only by a flimsy black curtain. So I got two lectures in one but it was annoying. I can only imagine what the lecturers were thinking.

As soon as I got home I e-mailed thank you notes to both lecturers. I also missed some of the references to extra reading and important people. I hope they can hook me up.

 

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Plant ID booth

As soon as my symposium was over I headed straight for the plant ID booth. It’s a fun way to test yourself. I scored 100% just like last year and, as usual, the last two plants were the most challenging. This year they were Phlox subulata and Andromeda polifolia. You can attempt the test yourself by visiting here. Message me for answers. I will post them later once readers had a chance to attempt it.

Mingle!

This event is also great for mingling because inevitably you run into old bosses, managers and co-workers. Then you exchange business cards and catch up. Of course, some people you’d rather not see but that’s how it goes.

Some people I only see on Facebook so it’s nice to connect face to face. One West Vancouver city worker recognized my name in the food line. He had read my blogs because we both know a well-known journeyman horticulturist. See, it’s a big net. Sales guru Grant Cardone says obscurity is your enemy. All landscapers should be hanging out at CanWest. Mingle and get to know people. Hand out your cards. Hook up on social media.

Booths

Yes, many of the booths have jars and baskets full of cheap sugar sweets but stop by and see what’s available. I found bright coloured succulents and checked out plant tags. A sort of plant ID cool down after my plant ID test.

One lady showed me her new and improved plastic pot and plant tag system. The plant tags stay nice and tight on the side of the pot. I told her that also makes them very hard to steal when I run into a plant I don’t know.

If you get tired you can have a beer or buy lunch inside or from food trucks outside. And if you need a job, there is a two-sided panel full of job opportunities. You can even start an apprenticeship.

If you missed this year’s CanWest, mark your calendar for late September 2018. It’s well worth the price.

 

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Coquitlam rose

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I love the idea of one city buying the naming rights to a rose variety. But having said that, I’m not really a great fan of roses. Their fragrances are intoxicating and I love the feel of their petals. But it’s unlikely you will ever see me joining a rose society. I personally prefer trees and forests; and wild plants. Roses with their prickles were always associated with some princess getting pricked and falling asleep for a hundred years. And yet, the idea of having my own rose variety is appealing.

Coquitlam rose

As a landscape blogger I had to be there for the official unveiling of the Coquitlam rose. It happened at the beautiful Centennial Rose Garden at the Dogwood Pavilion. Incidentally, I have good memories from the adjoining parking lot. I visited many farmer’s markets there; and I maintained the green spaces when I worked for the parks department there in 2014.

The rose garden is well worth the visit. If you are in the area definitely stop by.

 

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Having elected to not return to the City of Coquitlam, I hung back until the officials cleared out so as to avoid any awkward moments. Then I took as many pictures of the new Coquitlam rose as I wanted. And I surveyed the bowling green next door for chafer damage since I got to witness nematode applications there the year before.

The rose

The Coquitlam rose is salmon-colored and locally bred. It’s hardy, disease resistant and long blooming. That’s a nice list. The official unveiling took place at the Centennial Rose Garden at the Dogwood Pavilion. The Coquitlam rose is also planted at city hall and at the Inspiration Garden.

You can watch a video on the Coquitlam rose by Jennifer Urbaniak who runs the fun activities in Coquitlam parks. Jennifer also sat the Red Seal challenge examination with me at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. Our fear of failure and embarrassment pushed us in the right direction. We both passed! She snagged a sweet full-time job and I became a landscape senior supervisor in the private sector. Both Red Seals win!

Go visit the Coquitlam rose in 2017 and see what you think.

 

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Equipment rodeos

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Equipment rodeos irritate me because deep down, I’m not a machine guy. I prefer working with living plant material. So when private companies and municipalities organize machine rodeos, I laugh and shake my head in private.

Training rodeos

Just today I ran into a rodeo report on social media. Totallandscapecare.com reports that various LandCare branches in the United States ran machine training rodeos. Basically, new and returning workers use machines to negotiate various obstacle courses. In one example, two workers with backpack blowers attempt to blow tennis balls into garbage bins.

It’s a fun way to train new workers. Allegedly. I would disagree. I prefer to train new workers on actual work sites where I can guide them through actual work situations. Then, I observe them and use them to create new blog posts. It’s still fun but mostly for me. The workers get the pleasure of my company.

Real training

Instead of machine rodeos which create noise and air pollution we have come up with a better way to train new workers. Starting this season, we will take new guys to commercial sites and let them practice under my watchful guidance. These are real sites with real clients. The only difference is that minor mistakes will not be as critical as they would be on large strata sites. It’s a win, win situation because the workers get training and extra paid weekend shifts. When we send them out to our foremen they should be ready for lawn care and bedwork. Easy!

Ultimate rodeo

I experienced my first equipment rodeo when I worked at the City of Coquitlam. Several equipment operators were diverted from field work to create a machine “dance” complete with a music soundtrack. Since the city was competing in the Communities in Bloom competition, the idea was to take the judges and let them take in a unique equipment rodeo at the end of the tour.

And unique it was. With music blaring, several tractors and front loaders filed out onto the baseball field. There they danced and raised their buckets, nicely synchronized with the music. When a concerned tax payer voiced his disapproval of the spectacle I quietly laughed. None of the dozens of workers witnessing the rodeo would dare speak up. After all, it was the idea of a high-ranking manager. I can write this post now because I am no longer employed by the City of Coquitlam.

At the time I thought it was a crazy idea. I think so still. We all enjoyed the easy afternoon because once the rodeo was over, nothing much happened.

Happy ending

In the end, Coquitlam won! Unlike the equipment rodeo, the Communities in Bloom Canada competition is a brilliant idea. Judges tour cities and evaluate them on several categories like cleanliness and urban forestry. Competing cities are forced to examine and improve their urban environment. I just wish equipment rodeos would go away.