Monthly Archives

September 2015

Newspaper as Mulch? Really?

By | Arborist Insights, Education, Landscaping, Mulch | No Comments

Earlier this summer my buddy, who runs a small landscaping company, called me up and asked me to help him install new soil at a strata site. Sure. It sounded easy. Then he surprised me on site by having me put down newspapers first; both main pages and inserts. I consider the newspaper inserts a minor distraction for all male workers because, inevitably, I would get distracted by ladies underwear sales and bra pictures. Now back to science.

I understood the main idea- weed suppression- but I wondered what my hero, Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott (see July 24, 2015 blog) had to say about it. According to Linda (1), newspaper mulching has been used successfully in agriculture but what about strata complexes on the Westwood Plateau? There isn’t much research but we know that:

  1. newspapers can look ugly when exposed
  2. they can become pest havens
  3. they can become hydrophobic when they become dry and water simply runs off instead of percolating through
  4. wood chips are more effective at preventing weed growth
  5. winds can dislodge the newspapers, especially on the Westwood Plateau
  6. if used on wet, poorly drained soils, they can create anaerobic conditions where an impermeable barrier is formed to water and gas exchanges
  7. additional labor is required compared to straight wood chip application

Summary: Newspaper mulches can be effective in gardens where the soil is continuously worked and irrigation is applied. On less maintained sites you might want to use free or cheap wood chips.

(1) The Myth of Paper-based Sheet Mulch, Linda Chalker-Scott, Ph.D., Washington State University Extension, www.puyallup.wsu.du

More information:


Good quality, weed-free soil is a must, same for good Contractor wheelbarrows


Before picture with newspaper showing


After picture

Mundy Park World Record Weed Pull

By | Education, Events, Landscaping | No Comments
Here is your chance to participate in a world record weed pull attempt, help take out invasive weed species in a local park and improve your resume! Mundy Park is a great place to walk and run. My running club, Phoenix Running Club, holds weekly runs in the park.
I will be there on Sunday October 4. Can YOU come?

Woody Vegetation Chontrol….

By | Arborist Insights, Education, Resources, Tips | No Comments

What do you do with deciduous trees that continue to re-sprout and regrow from cut stumps? What if those trees are located in areas where harsh ( but effective) chemical herbicide use is restricted? Think urban areas and community watersheds.

As I recently found out while visiting a water quality pond, you can use a bio-herbicide called Chontrol Peat Paste.


The procedure is fairly simple. Apply a thin layer of the paste to freshly cut stumps from late summer to fall. The pictures below show our native alders, Alnus rubra (Betulaceae family). The trees are interfering with the water quality pond whose function it is to prevent sand, coarse silt and other contaminants from entering environmentally sensitive streams; and to help maintain the flow required to support aquatic life.

The product is only available commercially and it will be interesting to see effectiveness data come in.

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Fresh stumps on Alnus rubra

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Chontrol Peat Paste after application to freshly cut stumps

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​Four years after application

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Water quality pond where alder forest would interfere too much

Book Review: The Gardener of Versaille

By | Arborist Insights, Books, Reviews | No Comments

This French best seller, written by Alain Baraton, gardener-in-chief at the palace of Versaille, is fantastic! It will appeal to all gardeners and green professionals. Baraton offers us an intimate look at his career path and the history of the famous grounds. His job is not easy. Working under him are eighty gardeners, and they manage 350,000 trees, flowers and plants, plus thirty miles of walkways on 2,100 acres of land. No more enthusiastic amateurs; all new gardeners are required to pass standard government exams.

The gardens have been frequented and loved by kings and queens. Baraton includes many paragraphs on young French kings and their many escapades. Versaille is frequented by lovers looking for secluded spots and this leads us to an interesting quote: “A garden capable of attracting lovers is a success”.
Totally unexpected were the hordes of grandmothers making secret cuttings to take back home.

I was personally fascinated with the details of a gardener’s life and the many great gardeners who worked on the grounds before Baraton. If you like French history or just good stories, you won’t be disappointed. The absolute best story, well worth the price of the book, is that of Louis XIV and his new Superintendent of Finances, Fouquet. Fouquet created an amazing garden at the chateau Vaux-le-Vicomte and threw the party of all parties. Some guests received horses as door prizes! In one account, the young king Louis XIV got very jealous and poor Fouquet was stripped of all of his possessions. Court judges wanted him exiled but that was too mellow for the young king. He threw Fouquet into prison and he died there! Another account says Fouquet was set up. It was his predecessor who abused the treasury.
I highly recommend this book. Five stars.

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Get Inspired!

By | Arborist Insights, Education, Events, Landscaping | No Comments

The Inspiration Garden run by the City of Coquitlam is a fun place to visit for all home gardeners and green professionals. I often bike by and stop to brush up on my plant identification skills. And I visit one of my favorite tree species, a specimen of Albizia julibrissin. Its flower fragrance has to be experienced. I can not describe it. It is blooming right now….

There are Ask the Gardener sessions on Thursdays from 6 and 8pm; the iGarden is staffed on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays.

If you find yourself in Coquitlam or have some spare time on Saturdays, stop by for a visit. It is located in Town Centre Park, on the corner of Guildford Way and Pipeline Road. Bring your questions, walk through the garden and test your plant knowledge. Or just sit down and relax.

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Living wall, a developing trend

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Wisteria floribunda (Japanese wisteria)

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