Monthly Archives

March 2016

Mowing 101: pilot errors crush tree wells

By | Education, Landscaping, Lawn Care | No Comments

Spring is finally here – a bit early this year – the grass is shaggy and mowers are coming out. Strata members wonder when the lawns will get mowed Properly. So we send our workers out and, inevitably, blogs are born! Consider the mistakes that were made in the field today.

How many problems can you list?



  1. Mowers don’t belong in tree wells, period! Go around the tree well instead of forcing the mower into a narrow spot. Line trimmers were designed to hit tight spots, so use them. This is a horrific way of saving time.
  2. Scalping is a huge, HUGE, problem. The brown zone in the photo has been scalped and will require repair; most likely over seeding. Seed is expensive and extra time will be required for repairs. Remember: grass grows from meristems located about a third of the way up a blade of grass. Grass blades don’t regrow from underground roots, they grow from meristems. This is why a scalped area will likely stay bare unless we over seed.
  3. Soil compaction is another problem. The tree well is there to channel water and nutrients into the root zone. Weekly soil compaction with mower wheels will make it difficult for fine roots near the surface to move through the soil; water will also most likely pool up and run off instead of penetrating into the soil.
  4. The mower destroys the ninety degree tree well edge we so diligently established in winter.
  5. The wheel marks are unsightly.
  6. The tree well also exists to eliminate tree v. machine conflicts. The most likely outcome of any collision is bark destruction. Open wounds invite pathogens which the tree has to fight by compartmentalization and that uses up precious energy reserves, thus reducing health and growth. Wounds also affect xylem cells which means water transport is temporarily interrupted thus compromising function and growth. Collisions with machines also cause stress and reduce growth. If the tree dies and has to be replaced we face direct replacement costs and loss of ecosystem services.

Summary:  Never run your mowers through tree wells. Navigate around the edges carefully.

European chafer beetle damaged lawn alternative, volume 1

By | Landscaping, Lawn Care | No Comments

Many Coquitlam home owners, and elsewhere, are struggling with lawn damage caused by the European chafer beetle. The grubs feed on grass roots. Birds and animals dig up lawns to feed on them. My friends in Port Moody video taped two black bears in their backyard flipping turf over and feeding on chafers.



Westwood Plateau lawn damaged by animals searching for chafer beetle grubs


So your lawn has been damaged. Now what?

Some local residents are turning to lawn alternatives. The example below is interesting because chafer beetle damage was the last straw for this resident.





  1. The owner had very little time and inclination to “baby” her lawn
  2. The large spruce tree shaded out the lawn and rained down needles on top of it
  3. dogs abused the lawn with urine
  4. foot traffic compaction


  1. dig up the lawn (this was my humble contribution to this project!)
  2. install wooden border
  3. install stones
  4. decorate with rocks and pots with succulents (low maintenance plants)



pots with low-maintenance succulent plants




Problem solved! No more mowing, no more chafers, very little maintenance required aside from needle clean up and weed control.


Canadian Gardening ceases publication!?

By | Education, Magazines | No Comments

Excited, I picked up my March 16, 2016 issue of Canadian Gardening magazine only to discover a letter attached to the back. The letter informed me that with the current issue the magazine is ceasing publication. Really? Too bad.

My remaining issues will be substituted with Canadian Living magazine-“the magazine that will inspire you and motivate you to live your best every day.” I can’t wait. What about my garden?

Published by TVA Publications, this was their statement, published online here.

“TVA Publications has decided to concentrate on its strongest brands and will allocate the required staff and resources to keep strengthening their positioning. In that context, we will cease the activities of the Canadian Gardening magazine. The final issue will be the Spring 2016 issue (hitting newsstand on March 21, mailed to subscribers on March 8).
This consolidation strategy is the best way for the company to optimize the reach of its flagship titles in a fast-changing market. TVA Publications will maintain a strong presence in every segment of the industry – fashion, beauty, home decor, cooking, celebrities & entertainment. We remain fully committed to print magazines as a core component of TVA Publications’ business strategy while continuing to develop its brands on other platforms.”
My question is, why drop gardening? With the death of Gardenwise magazine, we are left with the excellent magazine Garden Making. I wonder for how long. All I can do is subscribe and cross my fingers.

How to have fun with landscape edits

By | Landscaping, Species | No Comments

Editing existing landscapes can be lots of fun. Landscape maintenance can become routine so it’s always fun to install new plants in spring and fall when temperatures are favorable for proper plant establishment.

Landscapes are not meant to be static; plants grow and mature, home owners change, some plants die or wear out their welcome. Sometimes extreme weather events force changes. In the example below the Rhodos wore out their welcome, the strata president did not care for Hydrangeas and there was a push for site look consistency: low evergreens with Azaleas in behind them.

The bed below required major editing.





Task list:

  1. remove large Rhodos and Hydrangeas
  2. reposition large Taxus to the back of the bed
  3. move two ferns (Polystichum munitum) to the back
  4. divide Hostas and replant closer to both entrances
  5. install new plants as specified by strata



photo 3



photo 2


New plant species

Front line: Pinus mugo ‘Mughus’

Middle: Azalea japonica ‘Girard’s crimson’

Back line: Rhodo ‘Anna Rose Whitney’

One final step not shown here is bed top-dressing with quality weed-free soil for an instant sharp, dark look. The new plants also appreciate the new soil addition. This should be a standard last step for all plant installations.

Notes for beginner plant installers:

  1. Always use the existing soil to backfill your planting holes. Using new soil sounds attractive but water will migrate into your planting holes and your plants will become joysticks. Avoid this headache by backfilling with existing soil.
  2. Don’t be afraid to rough up the plant roots so they can stop circling and grow out.
  3. Gently water your new plants in.

Your home or business should be an inspiring place to live or work in. Edit your landscape as required. Get professional help if you have to. Look for Landscape Industry Certified landscapers who are committed to their trade.


landscape industry certified technician (1)




Tree lessons from a mall parking lot

By | Arborist Insights, Landscaping | No Comments

Visiting your local shopping mall can be a fun green experience. This past weekend I dropped off my son at a gym for a friend’s birthday party and headed to a nearby mall Starbucks. While my wife enjoyed her first latte macchiato, I was more interested in the parking lot trees.

First, the good news.

The newly planted Sorbus aucuparia ‘Rossica’ (Russian mountain ash) is a beautiful specimen tree suited for cooler climates. It has ash-like leaves but actually belongs to the rose family. It’s a pyramidal tree with lobed leaves that turn orangey-red in the fall. In mid-spring white flower clusters emerge; and in winter we get clusters of red berries. The berries attract birds and they always remind me of mountain ashes.


Sorbus berries



Sorbus aucuparia ‘Rossica’


Sorbus aucuparia has year-round appeal and likes full sun which it will get in the middle of a mall parking lot, plus plenty of reflective heat as the pavement heats up.

Now, for the bad news.

Take a closer look at the tree install. The fresh mulch is great for the tree because it keeps moisture in (soil water retention) but why the classic mulch volcano? Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott writes  that piling mulch too high creates a dark, wet, low oxygen environment to which above-ground tissues are not adapted. Fungi love these conditions and are likely to infect the tree; pests can also use the moist conditions to enter the tree bark.



horrific mulch volcano


Do not create mulch volcanoes. Instead taper the mulch to almost nothing as you get close to the trunk. This creates a donut  shape which protects the soil environment and above-ground tissues. Remember: donut shape!

Still thinking about mulch volcanoes, I picked up my son at the gym where young cheerleaders ran around in VAS t-shirts. My kind of gym! Vancouver All Stars.