Monthly Archives

April 2016

Surviving annual winter landscape tasks

By | Landscaping, Strata Maintenance | No Comments

Landscape maintenance work is normally a lot of fun. You get plenty of sunshine and color, plant installs break up any monotony, and the lawns are green and beautiful. But sometimes we face the dark side; annual tasks that are not very pretty and are attempted during the slow winter months. (Or in summer: see my 8/21/2015 blog on summer annual cuts). One just has to stay safe and survive them. Consider the site pictures below. The wild buffer zone has to be kept in check. It’s overrun with Himalayan Blackberry (Rubus armeniacus) and other weedy species.

Complicating this annual landscape task is the unknown amount of garbage, rocks, metal and small animals hiding in the weeds. Staying safe and looking out for the safety of all passersby is of utmost importance.

For the worker, steel-toe boots, good work pants, gloves, goggles and face shield are all mandatory. The idea is to aggressively cut as low to the ground as possible without getting injured or destroying the metal disc by getting stuck on a piece of rebar hiding in the weedy mess. Properly mixed gas should be kept close by in a jerry can; along with small tools. The rotating disc works very hard and can come loose if it is not checked periodically. This was the case with this particular Shindaiwa machine model.

This annual task can also be a good training exercise for new workers not yet proficient on small machines. Proper demonstration and safety talk are mandatory before proceeding.



check the disc to make sure it is tight; on this machine it would come loose after a while



head protection and gas close by for quick re-fuelling



face your fears!

We need proper balance here: aggression towards weeds and safety for the worker!



after picture

This area will not be touched again until winter 2016.




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.




PlantSomethingBC initiative

By | Education, Landscape Industry, Landscaping | No Comments



The PlantSomethingBC initiative was launched at the recent BC Home and Garden Show. It is run by the BC Landscape and Nursery Association (BCLNA) and the BC Government’s Buy Local program. I’ve been buying plants from local nurseries for years so the idea is nothing new to me but it’s well worth plugging in this blog. Promoting the sale and use of BC grown plants helps everyone; it supports BCLNA members and non-members in the landscape industry from landscapers and growers to garden centers. Getting listed on the PlantSomethingBC website is free for BCLNA members. Non-members have to pay $150. You can also purchase your annual BCLNA membership. The fee is based on your company’s revenue. Check out the list of member benefits.


Key points from the PlantSomethingBC website:

  1. Live local, buy local:  People who live in BC have intimate knowledge of our local plants, how to grow them and take care of them, what diseases affect them
  2. Feel better: Green environments are great for people, they reduce stress, lower blood pressure and calm nerves. Gardening leads to healthy eating habits and active lifestyles. Not convinced? Read this: 518GHfv0+cL__SX329_BO1,204,203,200_
  3. Chill out: Planting trees on the south and west sides of your house can reduce your air-conditioning costs by up to 30%
  4. Air: Plants can clean your indoor air, trees produce oxygen-for free!-and add value to your property
  5. Money: A Properly landscaped yard may increase your home value by up to 20%. Hire Proper Landscaping for your strata complex; for residential work hire Landscape Industry Professionals

All of the recent projects I worked on involved locally sourced plants. Usually the nursery-landscaper relationships are deep, benefitting both parties.



Pieris japonica



Pinus mugo






Prunus lusitanica

I also had some fun on my patio, planting up pots with the kids with BC grown perennials.



Armiria maritima

Support your local growers, garden centers and landscape professionals by using locally-grown plants on your next project! It makes a lot of sense. You’ll be glad you did.


Feeling happy with spring color

By | Education, Landscaping, Seasonal, Species | No Comments

Spring is here and it feels fantastic to leave winter behind. Walking home with my son from Menchie’s- side trips we don’t tell mom about- I noticed my favorite Doronicum flowers by the liquor store. The yellow is very warm and happy. These are the earliest flowering daisies. They are herbaceous perennials growing from a rhizome (underground stem). I first discovered them as a municipal worker by Como Lake.


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Cherries (Prunus) are everyone’s favorites even though they are bittersweet: they are beautiful but, like life, they don’t last very long. A side-note on cherries. When I lived in Japan, I got a chance to visit a revered old fuyu-zakura or winter cherry. I was blown away with the whole idea: winter flowering cherry? Really? It was true. There it stood in the middle of a snowy open field with its gorgeous flowers. Protective fencing ran around the drip line. We already know from an earlier blog what soil compaction does to trees.


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This past week I discovered deep red colored Magnolias at a mall parking lot in White Rock. The effect is stunning. It’s impossible to miss the parking lot trees.


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Camellia japonica flowers totally dominate gardens at the moment.






Tulips and Daffodils are perennial favorites. Tulips are good for one or two shows and then best replaced. Daffodils can be naturalized and they will keep on wowing you every spring. One such event happened in 2014 at Como Lake in Coquitlam, BC. Volunteers were recruited to plant bulbs in fall on the west side of the lake.  Many were ESL students and recent immigrants; this was the first time they planted anything. I hope they got to see the result of their work.

Bulb planting tip: look at your bulb height, double it and plant it that deep. Keep the planting depth consistent, otherwise your bulbs will emerge unevenly.

What color have you noticed lately?

Why you should fall in love with blade edging

By | Edging, Landscaping, Lawn Care, Strata Maintenance, Tips | No Comments

Blade edging is a great landscape maintenance tool. It gives our sites definition, it’s relatively easy to learn, and it can be done bi-weekly on standard BC strata sites. The only downside is the cost of replacement blades. (Always recycle your used blades.)

Incredibly, not all landscape maintenance companies use blade edgers to maintain nice, sharp edges on their work sites. That’s too bad. I personally love the sharp, clean look.

Let’s consider my work from mid-March 2016 on a Maple Ridge site.

Tired looking strip




This boulevard strip lacks definition. Grass is growing over the curb and it obviously gets line trimmed which does not do anything for definition; it simply rounds off the edges which is not our goal.

Key idea: the mower, line trimmer and blade edger should work together by meeting to create a nice, sharp edge.

Show time

Let’s take a blade edger with a fresh blade and see what happens. Pants, safety goggles and ear protection are mandatory. No discussions. Always let passersby go. Try not to do this work as kids walk to school!



Neglected boulevard strips like this will require some “drilling”. Keep your blade edger at ninety degrees and stay stubborn like me. You might have to run over the entire line twice. It depends. Once the edge is re-established, regular maintenance will be a breeze. Bi-weekly blade edging will suffice. Some high-profile areas like club houses can be bladed weekly.

Clean up


Obviously, this will require some cleaning. Remove all grass and dirt chunks before your clean up blow. The lawn area must be clean. Don’t go cheap here. The machine can generate black earth balls. Even one left on the lawn will detract from your presentation.

Final result


Carefully, run your blower along the entire edge. You can also blow the street assuming it can be done safely. Put on a safety high-visibility vest and do it quickly. Avoid rush hour traffic times.

No contest!

I know which picture I prefer. What about you? And your clients?


blade1 blade4

Don’t stop at boulevards. Edge your tree circles, grates and metal covers and soft bed edges. You will be glad you did.