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Species

Lady Di: Grandiflora Rose

By | gardening, Landscaping, Species | No Comments

I don’t get to work with nice roses very often. Most of the time I have to cut back Rosa rugosa specimens because they are suckering and spreading out of control. Usually it’s raining so my rain gear gets all torn up by its rough thorns.

Lady Di

Recently I got to install Grandiflora rose called Lady Di. That’s more like it. Finally some class!

The potted roses displayed wax on their canes and I had no idea why. That’s how little I work with roses. So I googled it and found out that wax on roses is used to prevent them from drying out during transportation or while they sit on the shelf. No action is required because the wax will eventually fall off.

 

Rose details

 

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Grandiflora rose showing wax on its canes.

According to the tag, this rose variety produces bouquets of perfectly formed soft coral pink flowers. Great. I can’t wait to see them. The glossy green foliage is allegedly also spectacular.

The Grandiflora rose is expected to reach the height of 3-4′ and I hope there is enough room in the skinny front beds where we planted them. Since the rose has strong fragrance it should keep the owners happy.

 

Planting

Our small front beds have trees in them so I expected some push-back from tree roots but overall we managed fine. The one interesting twist is planting depth. To properly plant this rose, you have to make sure the branch union (the big fist-like base from which the canes shoot out) is planted slightly below ground level.

We are also advised to keep the soil moist throughout the growing season. Spacing between roses should be 60cm or 24″. Plant Lady Di in full or partial sun, not in shade.

 

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Ready for planting.

 

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Planted. Note how the branch union is covered by soil. The wax will fall off eventually. Now we just keep it watered and wait for the flowers and fragrance.

Winter plant identification

By | landscape maintenance, Plant Species Information, Species | No Comments

January is the slow season in West Coast landscape maintenance but you can still have some fun by noticing landscape plants around you. They may not look their best but it’s great to examine them in winter. I still remember the shock of noticing the black berries on Black Mondo grass. I knew the plant but I never stopped to notice the berries. And that was just last winter, after many seasons of landscaping.

So let’s take a look at some of the plants I noticed on my strata sites.

 

Lonicera nitida sports nice purple berries but they can be hidden so stop and take a longer look. It’s a neat, evergreen shrub. It’s commonly sheared in tight spaces. My task was to remove ivy that was growing through it.

 

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Lonicera nitida

 

Acer griseum. This is one of my favourite trees because of its cinnamon coloured peeling bark. I never get tired of looking at the bark.

 

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Acer griseum

 

Viburnum bodnantense. This Viburnum is a treat in winter. The white and pink flowers are hard to miss on its bare branches.

 

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Viburnum bodnantense

 

Hamamelis mollis. Like the Viburnum above, these yellow flowers are a treat to see in winter. I normally hate spiders but the five spidery-looking petals look awesome.

 

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Hamamelis mollis

 

Cornus mas. If you can identify this tree from the picture below you are doing really well. It’s Cornelian cherry. The edible summer cherries can be turned into jam. I usually just buy jam at Superstore. At this particular site, the residents consider the trees “messy” because people and pets step on the ripe cherries. I would never call a tree “messy”.

 

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Cornus mas

 

Nandina domestica.

 

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Nandina domestica

It’s obviously planted for its ornamental berries (pictured above). The summer white flowers are also nice. This common landscape plant will be featured in the next blog.

 

Ophiopogon planiscapus.

 

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Black plants make me laugh and I’m glad they exist. Black Mondo grass is one of them. It’s a nice clumping border plant with ornamental berries. One fun project is seeing what plant combinations work with it.

 

January isn’t exactly my favourite time of the year to be in the landscape but if you stop to look carefully, you can find some colour. Take pictures and identify the plants you don’t know. Then think of spring.

E-book

To help strata owners and new landscape workers with basic plant identification, I’ve put together an e-book picture guide: Common Strata Plants. The point of the guide is that the plant list comes straight from strata sites. Once you learn the plants, they will repeat over and over on your other strata sites. I’ve done the basic listing for you. You can see my e-book details here.

 

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Holiday landscape clean-ups: my day with Coreopsis

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So you have one last service before the Christmas holiday. Now is a good time to double-check everything, especially the key ‘beauty strip’ zones like clubhouses, front entrances and mail boxes. This is the worst time to start pruning projects. Just make sure the site looks great because residents are bound to receive visitors over the holidays.

Coreopsis

My task on one site was to cut back all remaining spent Coreopsis perennials. Since the foliage was turning brown to black it was time to flush cut all of it and leave it until next year.

Coreopsis has fine foliage and beautiful yellow flowers that are hard to miss. It doesn’t require any maintenance other than some water and end of the season flush cut. That’s it. And for all that we get a great show. Year after year.

Most of the Coreopsis clumps are placed in narrow front entrance beds or so called ‘finger’ beds. They work very well in these locations.

 

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Coreopsis

 

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Show is over

When the show is over, you can treat Coreopsis like most perennials by flush cutting the spent foliage. This was actually a great task for a frosty December morning. I helped with finesse bedwork but my job for the day was to eliminate spent Coreopsis. I also cut back other perennials like Ligularias and Rudbeckia stems which I considered unsightly. You can read my Rudbeckia cut back blog here.

If you have a small patch of Coreopsis you can do the work with hand snips easily. Just grab a handful and cut it as close to the ground as you can. In my case, I had lots of large patches to take down which required the use of power shears.

Remember to always use good protective equipment and try not to stick your blades into the soil.

 

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Spent Coreopsis in a finger bed.

 

 

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Coreopsis

 

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This one Ligularia also had to get cut back.

 

Corepsis vs. Horsetail trick

Also, Coreopsis can help you cover up areas invaded by Horsetail. Instead of fighting the Horsetail, which is a basty weed, you can plant Coreopsis around it because both plants have similar fine foliage and the yellow Coreopsis flowers naturally draw your eyes in and away from weeds.

You can read my blog about this trick I learned from municipal gardener Tracey Mallinson.

If you don’t have any Coreopsis in your garden then perhaps you can get some for 2018. I find the yellow flowers very warm. And when the show is over, all you have to do is flush cut the spent flowers. Give it a try.

 

 

Frosty plant identification

By | Species, Trees | No Comments

It was fun to observe some of our common plant species covered in frost. How many of them do you recognize? I suggest you look up any that are new to you and learn more about them.

 

Acer ginnala (Amur maple)

 

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Viburnum davidii

 

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This is a common landscape shrub in the Lower Mainland. The berries are attractive. Hand prune when required. When it’s this frosty, just enjoy the view.

 

Skimmia japonica

 

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Symphoricarpos albus (Common snow berry)

 

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This is a native species and birds love it.

 

Imperata cylindrica (Japanese blood grass)

 

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Hydrangea

 

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Some people deadhead their Hydrangeas and use the flower heads in vases; some people leave the spent flowers on so they have something to look at in winter.

 

Crocosmia ‘Lucifer’

 

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This perennial should have been flush cut at ground level weeks ago. I don’t find it attractive, even when it’s covered in frost.

 

Gaultheria shallon (Salal) 

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Liquidambar styraciflua (Sweetgum)

 

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This is a common landscape tree and a nice alternative to maple trees.

 

Parrotia persica (Persian ironwood)

 

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This is an attractive landscape tree with great fall colours.

 

Cotoneaster salicifolius var. floccosus (Willow-leaf cotoneaster)

 

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Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’   (Black Mondo grass)

 

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What plants did you notice on your walks and in your own gardens?

Some landscape installs come with challenges: yew privacy screen install

By | Landscaping, Species | No Comments

We already know from my recent blog posts that fall is a great time for landscape installation projects. Cooler temperatures and moisture in the fall are good for plants; and the fall is a bit slower once we get over the maximum leaf drop on our sites and in our gardens.

Privacy screen

Privacy is a common problem. New owners move into their unit just as we remove dead cedars (Thuja occidentalis ‘Smaragd‘). Now their windows are exposed just above a walkway and we have a problem. The husband is a nice guy but the wife can compose letters to strata that would make a construction worker blush.

So a quote is submitted to strata council and approved quickly so the problem goes away. I was the lucky installer on a sunny fall day. It just so happened that the site was a challenge.

 

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It’s not perfect cover for windows yet but give it some time.

 

Cedars vs Yews

The heat waves our landscapes have been subjected to in recent summers have been hard on our cedar hedges. Most strata owners are too busy to water their plants and regular weekly landscape work visits don’t allow for watering.

Thus, the switch to yews (Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’) which are considered hardier. They make nice hedges and sport red berries. But they are more expensive than cedars so it’s a strain on strata budgets when many cedars die.

Access

I got a bit sweaty walking the thirteen potted specimens up the back walkway and I loved it. It served as training. Access is another common hassle. Same for soil conditions. Since the soil closest to the edge was mostly clay, I was forced to off-set the yew row just a bit. Not that it’s a huge problem.

The soil was very wet and I had to be careful with irrigation pipes. Another challenge was soil volume. As soon as stuck my shovel in, I hit landscape fabric. Not good. I had to make adjustments.

Planting

 

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Not the best conditions: soggy soil, clay edge, ledge and low soil volume.

 

One adjustment involved removing the yews from their pots and cleaning off soil from the bottom of the root balls. This allowed me to plant the yews in their somewhat shallow planting holes. Also, don’t forget to rough-up the roots before planting so they stop circling.

The second adjustment involved moving in some soil. There were at least two specimens with exposed root balls so the extra soil levelled everything off nicely. Remember, when backfilling your planting holes, always use the existing soil. A very common mistake is backfilling planting holes with new soil. It looks great but water will find it easier to move into the new soil. It will then cause soil saturation and your yew will turn into a joystick. Who knows which way it will fall?

Remember the soil we cleaned off from the bottom of the root balls? I saved it and used it to top-dress the finished yew line. It gave it a nicer look.

One last step: blow off the muddy ledge below the yews. Always clean-up as best as you can. Weekend rain will water the yews in nicely. I wish them well. I always feel responsible for the health of my plantings.

 

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This is a nice change from brown cedars. I hope all of these yews survive and thrive.

Improve your site appeal with fall planted bed changeover

By | gardening, landscape maintenance, Species | No Comments

Fall is here and chances are if your planted beds are still full of annuals, they don’t look their best. And if they still do, think about changing them over soon. At one site, a strata council lady wanted us to plant winter annuals in amongst the old summer annuals; AND move some of the summer annuals around the complex. No way is that a good idea. Give it one cold day and summer annuals like begonias will turn to mush.

Time to switch

The simplest switch involves pulling your old summer annuals. And do it well. Dig up every single plant and rake out all broken flowers parts. Try not to remove too much soil as you do this.

If you have access to a rototiller, this is a good time to use it. Yes, tilling destroys soil structure but it’s Ok. Remember we’re not growing crops. The idea is to prepare your beds for easy planting. The softer the soil is for planting, the better it is for your wrists. When I worked at the City of Coquitlam our beds were so fluffy we didn’t need trowels!

If you don’t have a rototiller then just cultivate your bed nicely. That’s what I had to do last week and it was fine because I only had to work with six flats.

 

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Pulled summer annuals and cleaned up beds.

 

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Lay it out nicely to make sure the bed looks decent.

 

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Before you plant, remove the weak leaves at the base. Ornamental kale.

 

 

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Winter pansy.

 

 

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All done!

 

Don’t forget the critical last step: a courtesy blow. I had to remind my crew members to blow along the curb gently. Otherwise you risk getting debris blown in thereby ruining the show.

One extra twist

If you were planting spring bulbs, they would go in first. Obviously. Then the annuals would go on top. In spring, when the bulbs pop up, you remove the winter annuals. Then you sit back and enjoy your spring display. That’s called delayed gratification and after months of waiting, you deserve it.

 

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Final shot. Notice the courtesy blow. Always leave your work area as clean as possible. After all, this is a high-profile main entrance.

Don’t be shy with Roses

By | Pruning, Species | No Comments

Let me start this blog post by saying that I’m not an expert on roses. I know how to snip them and I know it’s usually done in February. Of course, there many rose varieties and lots of exceptions but on my commercial site I didn’t worry.

When I took the site over there was a lot of work to catch up on before lawn care started in the spring. Weeds were overdue and I also gave the lawns a nice, sharp blade edge.

By far the ugliest aspect of this commercial landscape were the roses. Since it was still technically winter it was easy to see the tangled mess inside the individual rose bushes. This is what happens when you quickly power shear the roses, season after season. Eventually, without good hand-pruning, the dead brown canes accumulate. Obviously, power shearing is quick and convenient. But I had time…..I was in charge now.

Dead canes

 

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This is a tangled mess full of dead canes oak leaves.

 

You will note the many brown dead canes. The dead is pruned out first. Then we move on to ugly twisted canes that rub or touch the ground. This pruning requires faith. Trust in your own work. By spring you will be rewarded.

 

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That’s much better.

 

 

This is the look we should aim for with nice canes pointing outward without crossing or rubbing each other. It looks too harsh at first. Just wait for summer. The rose plants push their available resources into the remaining canes. So for now we wait for the buds to swell and pop.

 

Growth and buds

 

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It’s all green and we have lots of buds. It’s just a matter of time.

 

See, everything is cool. We have new growth and flower buds. Correctly missing is the useless dead wood.

Summer success

 

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Summer success! It almost makes you forget the harsh look from winter.

 

Take a look at the second picture again. The one that made you cringe because it looked too harsh. Except it wasn’t. I would call this summer success. I knew it would work out because I have done it before. So don’t be shy, have some fun with your roses next February 2018 and watch them go.

The roses require some summer maintenance as the flowers fade. You can clip off the spent rose buds but be careful. Always look for upcoming rose flowers. Keep those on unless you’re pruning for shape. It’s OK to lose some flowers when a long cane reaches into the road for example.

 

 

Another Japanese Knotweed fight

By | Species, weeds | No Comments

Japanese knotweed is a nasty invasive perennial plant which destroys habitats especially around water bodies. As soon as I found a patch at a far corner of my site, I was on high alert. The invader probably benefitted from soil disturbances as condominium construction happened on both sites.

 

Headache

 

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Japanese knotweed (Fallopia japonica)

This is bound to be huge headache because our site is on the right and nobody is maintaining the area on the left. Since knotweed spreads by roots this will be a constant fight. Knotweed roots can extend for 20m from the parent plant and 3m deep. Definitely call or click before you dig. I hope the landscape maintenance company next door takes action soon.

 

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We didn’t have time to dig but we flush cut the hollow bamboo-like canes as close to the ground as possible. Some people are tempted to pour illegal substances on the stumps under cover of darkness. I know many municipalities use heavy chemicals that would be illegal for residents to apply. That’s how desperate it has become.

 

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One small clump generates lots of foliage and shade.

 

 

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City of Coquitlam, BC. This is a common roadside problem. The city sprayed this patch to keep it in check and off the roadway.

 

Knotweed details

The flowers on knotweed are actually attractive. They are small, white and grow in showy, plume-like, branched clusters along the plant stem and leaf joints. How can you make sure you’re dealing with knotweed in the absence of flowers? Look for the zigzag pattern in which leaves are arranged along the plant stems.

 

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Leaf and flower detail.

 

Knotweed isn’t the only bad boy invading our landscapes. There is a long list of others. Learn to recognize them and try to plant sound alternatives. Visit the Invasive Species Council of BC. They also have volunteer opportunities. But education is key.

Learning to recognize weeds is actually an important skill. New landscapers struggle in this department because machine use comes first. But once they do finesse-type work they need to recognize unwanted weeds from good plants. This takes time just like plant identification skills. Fortunately, there are only so many key weeds in our landscapes.

Chinese windmill palms on the West Coast

By | Arborist Insights, Species, Trees | No Comments

I love palms! They remind me of tropical locations we all love to visit. So when the August 2017 issue of Arborist News featured an article on palms, I finished it on the same day. It also gave me one credit towards my recertification.

This blog post features a palm we see in the Vancouver area. I learned about Chinese windmill palms (Trachycarpus fortunei) after they got absolutely hammered this past winter at a client’s place. The lady was clearly distressed because the fronds were all beat up and brown. Plus, her palm was situated near her pool and outdoor kitchen. So I did the only thing I could; I pruned off the brown fronds. When my client retreated into her beautiful home, I snapped a photo of the palm tag and made a reminder to myself to check the species online.

 

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This poor palm didn’t make it. All growth originates from the top and clearly, not much is happening there. But perhaps there is hope. See the next picture.

 

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We almost gave up on this palm but look at it now!

 

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This specimen survived the winter nicely.

 

Winter hardiness

Trachycarpus fortunei is the most tolerant to cold temperatures of all palmate palms. But remember, our last winter in British Columbia was the harshest winter in thirty years. My boss almost lost his juvenile Chinese windmill palm this year. See the second picture above. And it just so happens that my boss and my client both live in an area which held on to snow the longest.

The other complication is that mature Chinese windmill palms handle cold better. Younger specimens are most susceptible.

Details

The Chinese windmill palm is a solitary fan palm with a slender trunk. The key distinguishing feature of this palm is a messy layer of brown fibers that turn gray with age.

 

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Note the messy fibers.

 

The palmate fronds are up to two feet (0.6m) wide and deeply divided into one inch (2.54cm) wide, stiff segments. The petiole is 1.5 feet (0.5m) long and armed along the base with blunt teeth. Yes, the teeth are blunt but weeding around this palm is still unpleasant.

Mature specimens can reach 25 feet (7.6m) in height. This species is a good selection for small gardens.

 

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All brown fronds should be pruned off.

 

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This is a picture after pruning.

 

What palms grow in your home area?

 

References: Arborist News August 2017 volume 26, number 4, pp. 12-21. This is an excellent article. If you are ISA certified you can earn 1 CEU credit.

Pachysandra terminalis comeback

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Water plays a crucial part in life. Humans and plants both need it to survive. And as the Lower mainland in British Columbia stays hot we are reminded of the importance of water in the landscape. Which brings me to a site in Surrey.

Take a minute to examine the picture below.

 

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What do you see? Left to right, Hemerocallis, Pachysandra terminalis groundcover, grasses and Berberis thunbergii. That covers the plant species. Now, let’s back-up to last season.

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This high-profile bed next to a busy sidewalk was completely bare except for some struggling islands of Pachysandra terminalis, a slow-growing groundcover that flowers. Towering above are beautiful native Douglas firs (Pseudotsuga menziesii).

The strata council wasn’t very happy with this arrangement so they asked for a quote to put some plants in. And so we did. Closest to the sidewalk we put Hemerocallis ‘Stella d’Oro’, a much used perennial which flowered beautifully.

 

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Hemerocallis

 

Then came grasses and Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii). Both species are tough once they establish. The purple Berberis foliage is attractive.

 

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Berberis thunbergii

 

 

Once we finished the install, we had to water the new plants and irrigation was checked and improved to protect them.

Comeback

Now back to the first picture above. Remember, we didn’t plant any Pachysandra terminalis in this bed. As irrigation came on, this groundcover came back. And furiously, considering that it’s a slow-growing plant. It’s now spreading throughout the bed as if it was reclaiming its bed from the new plants.

As it turns out, the groundcover simply didn’t have enough water. If the irrigation had been working properly all along, the new install wouldn’t have happened. I’m glad it did because it was a billable extra project; and it was fun because I worked alongside my boss.

If your plants struggle in the landscape check on them. Perhaps they just need extra care.