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?


Can West Hort Show 2016

By | Education, Events | No Comments

Can West Hort Show is again returning to the TRADEX in Abbotsford, BC, this year from September 28 to 29, 2016.

Registration opens on July 22. If you have never been to the show, check it out this year. It’s the biggest horticulture show in BC and well worth the entry fee. Landscape companies get lots of free passes. Ask around.

Personally, I attend the day-long (9-3pm) Urban Forestry Symposium every year. The $200+ fee is an investment in my education and includes lunch. My employer might have budget for this. I will ask nicely. We will see. You can do the same. Just ask nicely. Don’t forget the ISA will give you CEUs for the five hours. Same for the CNLA, if you are Landscape Industry Certified.

The lectures are all tree related. It’s also a chance to mingle with people from other companies and municipalities; meet new people and reconnect with old acquaintances. Last year one of the lectures was delivered by the ISA president and university professor on “Trees and drought.” Very topical. Sadly, when I walked over to pick up a copy of the lecture notes, I missed meeting journeyman horticulturist Todd Major by a few seconds.

Once the lectures finish, I walk around the trade floor checking out the booths. Inevitably, I will run into someone I haven’t seen in ages and we’ll talk. My pockets will be full of candy and bag full of catalogues.

The best booth to visit is the Landscape Industry Certified plant ID station. It is set up like a test station with actual live specimens and you have to match them to the list on your sheet. Why not test yourself? You could win a prize.

The show also features general sessions and power clinics. Pick one you like or attend them all. Collect CEUs.

There is lots of free parking in front of the Tradex building. The show opens 10-5pm.

(visit for details)

See you there!



If you see Vas in orange, say Hello



SOL garden opens at Douglas College

By | Education, Events, gardening | One Comment

The SOL (Sustainable Outreach Learning) garden at Douglas College in Coquitlam is now officially open. The creation of  new gardens is always good news! I attended the June 20, 2016 official opening of the garden. Free refreshments also helped after a long day at work.




Built one year ago, the garden was officially opened after speeches and grass ribbon cutting. It features research beds and native planting at the entrance and on the edges. How many native plants can you name? I spotted Gaultheria shallon, Rubus spectabilis and Polystichum munitum.



This ribbon almost required power shears



How many native plants can you name?


The key point is emphasis on beneficial insects. I love plants and openly confess to outrageous ignorance when it comes to insects. I know bees are fuzzy with friendly faces; wasps are smooth with mean faces. I have lots to learn. But I know how important pollinators are. They are responsible for pollinating something like 80% of the food we consume. We must therefore care for them by providing food sources and eliminating harmful chemicals.

One interesting research plot is full of nursery cultivars which lack pollen and nectar. The insects are tricked but not for long. They know what the good stuff tastes like and fly off to search for it.






Study the tags and improve your plant ID



Verbena bonariensis






Note insect traps



Feel free to visit and pick any ripe strawberries. Once local black bears catch on……



Delicious dessert, no pollination required


The garden is located on the south side of the Douglas College campus in Coquitlam. Feel free to visit. Check for ripe strawberries and study the plants. The college has a gardening club you can join, you can volunteer and, if your pockets are deep, you can donate cash. Cash is required for tables and a storage shed.

I saved the best for last: there are plans for seminars and educational programs which is very exciting. For now, you can pick up handouts on insect and plant identification.

Final cut: remembering arborist Jody Taylor

By | Arborist Insights, Events | No Comments

Cherry blossoms are bittersweet. They are beautiful but they don’t last very long. Like life. Out on a walk with my kids one day, I snapped a photo of  spent cherry blossoms on top of moss and the bittersweet idea popped up again.




Then the news broke. The City of Vancouver lost one of their most experienced arborists in a work place accident. I never actually met Jody Taylor (1974-2016) but I know people who had worked with him for years; and they are sad. Devastated. He was a total tree professional. The City of Vancouver arboriculture department will never be the same. As a certified arborist I feel their pain. It’s a tragic loss for all green professionals.

Sometimes a cut can go wrong. I don’t fall trees personally but let us say there are two cuts to make. The front notch and the back-cut which drops the tree. When everything goes well, the trees falls over and crashes to the ground. Done. Next.

But as I recently found out, when the cut goes badly the tree can “barber-chair“. When the back-cut is nearing completion, the tree cracks and splits, sending the back end violently up. The tree then snaps at the end of the initial crack and who knows where it falls.

Speculation was that Jody’s back-cut didn’t go well. Pruning Catalpa trees in an elevated bucket, it would appear, from what I heard, that Jody’s branch was most likely too big. It didn’t fall down, it barber-chaired, the back end shot up, the branch snapped and rolled down the bucket arm all the way to the bucket. It crushed Jody in the bucket. He was rushed to hospital but succumbed to his injuries. He leaves a ten year old daughter. I believe there was a fund established to help her pay for future schooling. Contribute if you can.

When you go outside to work remember Jody and stay safe. Municipalities have regular safety meetings; private sector companies are encouraged to conduct regular tail-gate meetings to discuss safety. Sadly, sometimes things go wrong.