Monthly Archives

July 2016

European chafer beetle battles: more lawn, really?

By | Education, gardening, Landscaping, Lawn Care | No Comments

So your lawn has been damaged by animals looking for European chafer beetle grubs. Now what? Do nothing and look at the mess? Get more grass? Or give up and go for alternatives?

I have clients on the Westwood Plateau who last year witnessed black bears digging through their back yard lawn looking for chafer grubs. Their lawn was weak: areas covered by trampoline were mossy, there was no regular irrigation or fertilization. Chafer beetles laid eggs in it the previous June.



Heavy animal damage as they look for tasty grubs


I came to install mulch and prune their evergreens. Could I fix the damage? Yes, of course. Do regular lawn maintenance? With pleasure.

Client wants more grass

There are home owners who love, LOVE, their green grass. This particular home owner wanted more grass. He installed a new irrigation system, paid for my fix and ordered nematodes. The lawn will be cut bi-weekly and higher than in previous seasons.

Step 1: cut the lawn short and remove lawn chunks




Step 2: power rake the lawn, rake up the debris and mow it again

Step 3: install good lawn and garden soil and rake it in

Step 4: overseed, gently rake in seeds, add starter fertilizer, roll it with a pin to level any bumps and to ensure soil-seed contact; and water

Step 5: check for germination after 7+ days and overseed any obvious open spots

Step 6: order nematodes in June and apply them to the lawn in late summer/fall

Step 7: cut higher, irrigate and fertilize as required



Mid-July 2016 lawn fixed, regularly irrigated, nematode application pending


Clients who love their grass can repair their lawns, maintain them well, and apply beneficial nematodes in the third week of  July. There are no guarantees with nematodes but this home will be a good test site. More on nematodes in a future blog.




July colors rule!

By | gardening, Landscaping, Plant Species Information | No Comments

Summer color

Summer colors rule! It’s a lot of fun working in July landscapes. These are the days I dream of on cold November days. Those dark wet days when I have miles of cedar hedges to prune and the only source of heat is the gear case on my shears.

Mass-planted Rudbeckias are very warm and hard to miss; lilies are everywhere; and Liatris spicata demand attention. My favorite silk tree, Alibizia julibrissen, smells so great I get close enough for its silky flowers to tickle my nose. I even snipped off a few flowers, sealed them in a bag and brought them home so my kids could enjoy the scent.

Below are plants I encountered while working in the landscape. The Hosta flower picture is my first ever. Until now I never photographed an individual Hosta flower.

Plant identification

Summer is the best time for plant identification work. As you move through your gardens and landscapes look around. Can you name some or all of the species? When you encounter your favorite plant, look it up. Most plants have their own stories and interesting details.

Can’t name some? Take a picture and research them. Better yet, buy some plants and plant them in your garden. That’s the best way to remember them.

Plant tag thief

When I install plants I always keep the tags. When I find discarded plant tags, I keep them. I also take pictures of tags in clients’ gardens. I try to stay away from garden centres because, inevitably, some tags of plants I didn’t know will end up in my pocket. That’s when teenage garden centre assistants roll their eyes and search for the manager. Lesson is over. I head for the exit.

What are your summer favourites?









Liatris spicata












Asclepias tuberosa



Yucca filamentosa






Lobelia x speciosa



Eupatorium dubium (Dwarf Joe Pye weed)



Lilium (Tiger lily)




Million dollar homes

By | gardening, Landscape Industry, Landscaping | No Comments

Multi-million dollar homes have been in the news for a long time. Foreign buyers come in, flush with cash and locals are priced out of the market. Or so one story goes. I am not an expert on real estate. Nor am I in a position to buy one of these Vancouver homes. But, I am qualified to work on them.

When my buddy recently asked me to help him upgrade his Vancouver home, I jumped at the chance. Not only was the compensation generous by BC landscape wage standards, it was also consistent with my personal mission. The mission being to constantly seek out new experiences, both in my personal life and work life.

The goal

The goal was to upgrade the landscaping very quickly so the house could be put on the market. All new flowers had to look good for the next three months or so.


photo 1edit

The home is built on a man-made hill


photo 2edit

The view! Note Cedrus deodara tree on the left, the topic of an earlier blog; it sports huge upright cones visible from the house



Basic tasks


  1. weed the front garden
  2. prune rhododendrons
  3. remove patio crack weeds
  4. prune plants off upper stairwell
  5. expose house numbers obscured by Cotoneaster
  6. push back ivy from main entrance area
  7. remove dead shrubs
  8. prune Forsythia spikes
  9. install new soil
  10. install new plants
  11. line trim wild looking lawn
  12. cut out cherry suckers
  13. clean up blow



Hebe ‘Hinerua’



Achillea millefolium ‘Strawberry seduction’



Hebe and Yarrow covering what was a bare slope


The main entrance beds were planted with three new roses, Dianthus ‘Kahori’, Hemerocallis ‘Scottish fantasy’, petunias and cacti. I helped with the install; not the design and plant selection. The only tricky part was planting the Yarrow because the tall stems can break off.



Fluffy organic garden blend soil Overkill at $50/yard since the home is about to be sold


After two work sessions the house looked much better. I can’t wait to see how quickly the house sells and for how much. What’s the chance the new owners will require maintenance help? It would be fun to work here again.



Stihl power shears maintenance

By | Landscaping Equipment, Strata Maintenance | No Comments

Mid-season pruning can be extremely taxing on landscape companies. Shrubs and hedges need to be clipped back into shape. Things like walkway and window obstruction need to be addressed. Tree branches can hang too low, touch gutters and building envelopes, which gets insurance companies excited. Some residents don’t want any pruning because of concerns with privacy; some residents want their yards pruned ASAP.

All this on top of regular maintenance work.

Mid-season pruning is also very taxing on equipment. But with some love and attention your machines will run well. Last week I took the time to service my Stihl power shears.

A) blades should be lubricated after every use, especially on rainy days

B) gear cases should be greased periodically, depending on frequency of use

C) blades will require frequent sharpening for nice, clean cuts

D) check all nuts and bolts


Let us examine this Stihl model. It’s more homeowner than commercial which means it is light, it has a smaller gas tank and decent power. Commercial power shears have more power which means they are heavier and their gas tanks are bigger. They also cost more.




Machines usually have grease nipples which require grease guns with grease cartridges. This model sports a black rubber button. Remove it gently.



Look for grease nipples or openings



Carefully pop the black rubber button



Don’t be fooled, there was little grease under this opening



Always use good quality grease

You don’t have to use Stihl grease but make sure it is good grease. The same goes for the blade lubricant.



Lubricate your blades after every use before you pack up and go home. This is a crucial step on rainy days.


Having rusty, dull blades and seized gear cases on your power shears is not fun. Always take some time out of your busy pruning day for equipment maintenance. Your machines will run better and you will be more productive.

Line edger maintenance basics

By | Edging, Education, Lawn Care | No Comments

Let’s talk about basic line edger maintenance. An earlier blog discussed the importance of line edger head lubrication. Now we consider the spool and smooth line feeding.

July 1st Canada Day is prime fun time but sometimes the schedule demands a little bit of work. Like all work on stat holidays, the directions are mow-blow-go. Get the basics done and bail. Overtime is costly and residents would prefer to enjoy their holiday without noise and exposure to small engine exhaust.

So imagine my frustration when the line edger was not feeding new line. Normally you bump the head -gently!-on a hard surface and the line advances. Not this past Friday. It was very hard to make progress like this, especially when the directions were to get it done quickly.

There could be two problems with the line.

A) The line is about to run out and is too short to feed out

B) The line is crossed or otherwise stuck in the spool

I changed the line carefully and still the line wouldn’t advance properly. Then it hit me. The spool in the middle of the head was worn out. (I don’t normally use this machine.) Worn out is an understatement.



worn out spool



pop the head



replace spent spool, carry spare parts in your truck



might as well install new line



much better!



re-fuel and bring spare line


Before you resume your line edging work, re-fuel your gas tank and put correctly pre-cut spare line in your pocket. Maximum efficiency dictates that you have spare line ready to go if you should run out far away from your truck. Extra walking is the enemy of production.

Ear protection, safety goggles and long pants are all mandatory for safe line edging. Make sure residents are at a safe distance from you. Little boys love watching machines.

Your line edger is a workhorse so take care of it.


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.