Don’t miss CanWest 2019

By | Education, Events | No Comments

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



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.



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

By | Education, Events | No Comments

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.




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.


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.


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

By | Events | No Comments

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



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.



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



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

By | Education, Events | No Comments

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.






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.




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.



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

By | Events | No Comments

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.



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.


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.


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.




Coquitlam rose

By | Events, Species | No Comments

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.




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.




Equipment rodeos

By | Events | No Comments

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. 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.

TreeFest 2016 in Coquitlam, BC

By | Education, Events | No Comments

TreeFest 2016 is a great family event. When I worked for the parks department at the City of Coquitlam, I got a chance to drive through the Riverview Hospital grounds briefly. I got to see the awesome trees that live on the grounds. Now, finally, it looks as though my Sunday September 11, 2016 will be free of any commitments and I will be able to attend one of the free tree walks. In the past there was always some interference in my schedule.

The tree tours start every hour from 11am until 3 pm. Usually they are led by local arborists. That should be fun. I can learn about trees and, as an arborist myself, enlarge my network. You should do the same this coming weekend. The tree tours promise to introduce you to significant and unusual trees. I can’t wait.

The TreeFest 2016 is a free event. There is also plenty of free parking on the grounds at 2601 Lougheed Highway, Coquitlam. There are plenty of other activities aside from the tree tours. Check out the event website for more details.

Speaking of significant and unusual trees, this is a good chance to mention my Japan 2016 trip from which I returned this week. I managed to run into many interesting trees on the West Coast of the big Honshu island. One I won’t soon forget is the Japanese chestnut Castanea crenata. It sports huge spiky cupules which develop from female flowers. Inside are 3-7 sweet, edible chestnuts. I love the way the cupules dominate the tree look. I became an instant fan.



Another interesting specimen is Lagerstroemia indica. Normally, I avoid the hot humid Japan summers by travelling in spring. That means I miss the flowers of this tree. Not this year. I had to take my pictures in 35 degree heat and it was worth it. The tree shows up in public parks and private residences.

The bark is smooth which explains why the Japanese common name is saru suberidai, or monkey slide. See for yourself.




Visit the TreeFest 2016 event in Coquitlam and make your own tree discoveries. See you there.



How to easily score education credits (CEUs)

By | Education, Events, Landscape Industry, Resources | No Comments

Hunting for education credits (CEUs) is one of my favorite activities. The idea is to force you to upgrade your skills by continually learning through reading, attending seminars, symposiums and taking quizzes. ISA (International Society of Arboriculture) requires me to collect 30 CEUs in one three year re-certification period. The re-certification renews on the date of your certification. June in my case.

The Landscape Industry Certified program in North America requires 24 CEUs every two years. Certification expires on December 31, every two years. In Canada, the CNLA will send a friendly reminder. There is a form to fill out and mail back.

To re-certify:

a) will cost you money but it’s cash well-spent. If you ask your employer nicely, it won’t cost you anything. The cost of not re-certifying is much higher. Re-certify!

b) normally one hour spent in class or reading equals one credit. By completing my eleven hour audiobook “Lab girl”, I will be eligible to claim eleven hours; a one-page book report is required.

So what does a West Coast landscape pro do to stay certified and up-to-date? Take a look at the picture for clues.




Arborist News

Arborist News magazine is published bi-monthly by the ISA and every issue has one CEU article for you to complete. You can fill in your answers and mail the form in or complete it online. The ISA will automatically add the credits to your file.

The magazine also advertises various books and manuals you can complete for CEUs. Get whatever interests you or where your knowledge is the weakest. There are tons of choices.

Can-West Hort Show

This is the premier horticulture show in British Columbia. I will attend the Urban Forester’s Symposium. Five hours of lectures equals five ISA CEUs. Lunch is included. ISA sign up form will be provided. Bring your certification number.

The CNLA will also credit me with five CEUs for this symposium. Then I have two more seminars on the following day. 1.5 hours x 2= 3 CEUs for a total of 8 towards my CLT.

The best part of this event is the plant ID contest booth. No CEUs are given here but you can win a prize and outscore your friends.

Also, it’s a great event for creating new contacts and maintaining existing ones. Some people I will only see once a year at this horticulture show!


As mentioned above, the CNLA will credit you for every hour spent reading green industry related books. Trees: their natural history by Peter A. Thomas was the one tree book recommended by Dr. Hope Jahren in her book “Lab girl”.I can’t think of a better way to collect CEUs.

Collecting CEUs for re-certification is not a pain. It’s a fun investment of your time and money. Stay current in your field and deliver great value to your company and clients.



Garden freestyle

By | Education, Events, gardening | No Comments

As reported in the CNLA Newsbrief  (spring 2016, vol.25 issue 2, page 4) Garden Days are Canada’s Annual Celebration of Gardens and Gardening. It all starts with National Garden Day, always the Friday before Father’s Day. June 17-19 this year. That’s easy to remember for fathers.

This is basically a three-day freestyle celebration of gardens. People can visit their favourite gardens, work in their own gardens or stop by a garden centre for some inspiration. Some businesses organize barbecues, fundraisers, festivals or special sales. Lovers can enjoy a walk through botanical gardens.

This is what I did with my kids.

  1. We watered and checked our patio plants, a mix of annuals, perennials and plants that are being “parked” for the time being. The most interesting pot is a mix of wildflowers I received as a gift from my kids. I simply dumped the seeds out into a new pot and waited.
  2. When my son showed me his Minecraft house creation, I helped him improve the landscaping by adding more flowers. Virtual gardening. I said this was freestyle.
  3. On the way to soccer we walked by the Port Moody recreation centre and identified local trees, like cottonwoods which have a tendency to self-prune by dropping branches.
  4. Instead of my usual “fake” bedtime story, I told the kids about my audiobook “Lab girl” by Dr. Hope Jahren. In it she mentions resurrection plants; plants so brown and dead it’s hard to believe that with moisture they come back to life. They are the only plants that have figured out how to grow without being green!



Wildflower mix, a gift from my kids.



Extras from work: Begonias and Geraniums



A salvaged Bergenia



I always wanted to have my own Rudbeckias



We added more flowers to my son’s Minecraft creation


Did you get a chance to celebrate Garden Days?