Monthly Archives

September 2016

Stihl Lawngrips shoe review

By | Landscaping, Reviews | No Comments

The Stihl Lawngrips shoes for landscape professionals are great shoes! And yet, it’s ironic that as I finally sit down to  write this review blog post, my latest pair is falling apart. I’ve bought at least ten pairs of these shoes without experiencing any major problems. As a busy landscape professional I “killed” the shoes through heavy use.

My last two pairs, however, suffered from a manufacturing defect. See picture below. My dealer kindly exchanged the shoes and the replacement pair lasted barely two weeks. Then the dealer refused to hand over a third new pair. He called Stihl and their response was that they wanted to see the shoes. Great! I get a refund but I’m without my favorite shoes. I will buy a pair from another dealer and hope they last longer. Stihl will get to examine my shoes.

Having gone through at least ten pairs, I feel qualified to review the shoes. (Disclaimer: I’m in no way associated, compensated or sponsored by Stihl. The opinions expressed here are mine and I stand by them.)


  • the shoes feel great for working boots (light weight)
  • you barely notice they have steel toe and steel plate in sole
  • they really don’t slip on grassy slopes
  • they look good and sport the Stihl logo
  • the retail $99 plus tax cost is good if you compare it to other work boots on the market
  • specifically designed for landscape professionals
  • CSA approved
  • available in shoe and boot style



  • my recent bad experiences make me wonder about the manufacturing quality control
  • as you wear out the sole, you will reach a point where the shoes make “sucking” sounds when on hard surfaces
  • the shoelaces must be double-tied otherwise they come undone
  • many dealers in the Lower Mainland don’t carry the boot version



This was my first-ever hassle with these shoes. Note the crack after only a few weeks.



On the last day….



This is how your Lawngrips will show their age






I love these shoes! Considering my recent hassles, I give them 8/10. If you are a landscape professional you owe it to yourself to test one pair. Good luck.

Develop your landscape eye

By | gardening, Landscaping, Tips | No Comments

Landscape eye

Developing your landscape eye is a critical skill. It takes time to develop but your landscape, bosses and clients will thank you for it. Basically, landscape eye refers to your ability to read a landscape and figure out what’s missing, totally wrong or just slightly off. This usually comes with experience once workers are fully proficient on all equipment.

I started landscaping at a prominent Lower Mainland landscape maintenance corporation we don’t need to name. There, the in-house seminar on “Developing your landscape eye” was delivered by the company owner. Not managers. The owner. That was no accident. Workers with good landscape eye can make corrections which leads to sharper and healthier landscapes. This seminar was a platform for the company owner to train his workers to see the landscape the way he does.

Some obvious examples are weeds, shrub spikes, walkway obstruction, flower deadheading, broken tree branches, tree branches touching buildings, missed blade edging, lawns that don’t look lush, dead plants, garbage, debris, cedar pruning lines, shoddy clean ups, etc.




Obvious weed problem



Ask yourself: how were these weeds allowed to get this big?



A broken Acer circinatum branch: remove ASAP


IMG_6873 (79)ed

Pinus mugo half way across sidewalk: prune back



A broken branch on Liquidambar styraciflua in a high-profile location



Dead cedars



Yucca flower spike can be removed



Mulch volcano: we can’t cover with mulch anything above the root flare or the tree suffers



Very poor tree cuts: the cut below was correct



Hardscape hazards



Tree collisions: to stay on the curb, mowers collide with this tree weekly. Put up a tree guard and instruct workers to avoid all collisions. Repeated abuse kills trees.



The deep edge is fine (90 degrees!) but we can’t leave the chunks. Very poor clean up.



This is common: tree branches touch the building



Remove low branches on trees; we can’t have branches develop this low



Remove suckers off tree trunk (above) and ivy (Hedera helix) below


As you move and work through your gardens and landscapes, pause to take a good look. Does it all makes sense? Is it all healthy and beautiful? Work on developing your landscape eye.

Viburnum tinus: problems and solutions

By | Landscaping, Species, Strata Maintenance | No Comments

We briefly considered Viburnum tinus in an earlier blog. Now is a good time to re-visit the shrub. I was asked recently to plant 15 Euonymus alatus compacta plants for a strata council member. When I arrived at her unit, I realized we had pulled 15 Viburnum tinus specimens because they were full of holes. Holes which resulted from Pyrrhalta viburni beetles feeding on their leaves. Normally it’s a nice looking shrub with flowers and berries. Once the beetles attack, it’s over fairly quickly.

I remember once shearing a weak hedge of Viburnum tinus and getting covered in annoyed beetles. The adults are difficult to control. They can fly away or drop to the ground. In organic Port Moody, British Columbia, there weren’t any chemical controls for the larvae or adult beetles.



Healthy Viburnum tinus



Attacked by….. (Note skeletonized look)



….Pyrrhalta viburni; Adults and larva feed on the plant


When this happens you have two choices:

  1. flush cut the Viburnum and let it grow back
  2. replace it with another shrub

The strata council member opted for option number two. Since the site already sports many healthy specimens of Euonymus alatus compacta, the decision was easy; and budget allowed for it. The whole operation took me about an hour. ( The boss was working directly across the street at another site.)



Replacements ready to go; Space out the pots properly before planting



watch the planting hole depth



done, just add water



All done! Plants are watered in and sidewalk is hosed off to avoid upsetting the owner


Instead of looking at stumps or worrying about chemical controls, consider replacement. It is a neater option. If your shrubs are suffering with skeletonized leaves, plant something new. Change is good! Edit your landscape and have some fun with it, if budget allows. It might be a minor blessing.

The Hidden Life of Trees

By | Arborist Insights, Education | No Comments

The Hidden Life of Trees .

German author Peter Wohlleben will appear at the Writer’s Fest in Vancouver this coming October. This sounds very interesting. The Writer’s Fest run from October 17-23. The book will be published in English this September! I can’t wait. Greystone Books.


The Hidden Life of Trees



Tuesday October 18, 2016 10-11:30 a.m. Waterfront Theatre.

Peter Wohlleben spent more than 20 years working for the forestry commission in Germany before leaving to put his ideas of ecology into practice. He now runs an environmentally-friendly woodland in Huemmel, Germany, and also teaches and writes about woodlands and nature conservancy. His latest book, and English-language debut, is the international bestseller The Hidden Life of Trees, a collection of fascinating stories, supported by the latest scientific research, that reveal the extraordinary world of forests and illustrate how trees communicate and care for each other.

Peter Wohlleben’s appearance is made possible by the Goethe-Institut.
For tickets visit or call 604-681-6330

A love letter to my Honda mower

By | Company News, Landscape Industry, Landscaping, Landscaping Equipment | No Comments

My trusted friend, season after season….


This Honda mower is incredible! It deserves its own blog post. Every spring it starts without fail. That first puff of exhaust signalling our reunion for yet another season. It always blows me away, considering how little maintenance I perform on it. It must be the combination of shed storage and mild West Coast winters.

When one of my former employers decided to change his entire mower fleet to Lawn boys, I scored this well-used mower for $120. It was well worth it. I use it bi-weekly during the season for side work. It’s a simple machine. It has a choke/speed lever and a pull cord. Dual blade system. No bells or whistles. My trusted friend. Bravo Honda.

Yes, it’s showing its age. The front wheels will have to get replaced; the bag has a slight tear, and one of the pins holding the bag in place tends to come off periodically. The deck below sports blemishes.

I change the air filter, add oil, and stock new pull cords.  Both blades get changed at least once a month. I have two sets. They have seen better days but they will do for now. Sharp blades are critical! Dull blades tear up grass blades. What we want is one clear cut. Always change your blades. Do it carefully by first unplugging your spark plug.

Eventually, I will upgrade to a newer model. I know it. But for now, we work together to satisfy clients and keep my kids fed. It’s a good partnership.

This Honda mower is incredibly reliable. You can not go wrong by purchasing a Honda mower. I would. I might.



The blue number 3 is from my ex-employer’s system; trucks had 3 mowers and we had to keep track


(Disclaimer: I am not sponsored, paid or otherwise compensated by Honda. This blog post is my personal review and opinion.)



TreeFest 2016 in Coquitlam, BC

By | Education, Events | No Comments

TreeFest 2016 is a great family event. When I worked for the parks department at the City of Coquitlam, I got a chance to drive through the Riverview Hospital grounds briefly. I got to see the awesome trees that live on the grounds. Now, finally, it looks as though my Sunday September 11, 2016 will be free of any commitments and I will be able to attend one of the free tree walks. In the past there was always some interference in my schedule.

The tree tours start every hour from 11am until 3 pm. Usually they are led by local arborists. That should be fun. I can learn about trees and, as an arborist myself, enlarge my network. You should do the same this coming weekend. The tree tours promise to introduce you to significant and unusual trees. I can’t wait.

The TreeFest 2016 is a free event. There is also plenty of free parking on the grounds at 2601 Lougheed Highway, Coquitlam. There are plenty of other activities aside from the tree tours. Check out the event website for more details.

Speaking of significant and unusual trees, this is a good chance to mention my Japan 2016 trip from which I returned this week. I managed to run into many interesting trees on the West Coast of the big Honshu island. One I won’t soon forget is the Japanese chestnut Castanea crenata. It sports huge spiky cupules which develop from female flowers. Inside are 3-7 sweet, edible chestnuts. I love the way the cupules dominate the tree look. I became an instant fan.



Another interesting specimen is Lagerstroemia indica. Normally, I avoid the hot humid Japan summers by travelling in spring. That means I miss the flowers of this tree. Not this year. I had to take my pictures in 35 degree heat and it was worth it. The tree shows up in public parks and private residences.

The bark is smooth which explains why the Japanese common name is saru suberidai, or monkey slide. See for yourself.




Visit the TreeFest 2016 event in Coquitlam and make your own tree discoveries. See you there.



01 landscape trucks never die

By | Company News, Landscape Industry, Landscaping, Landscaping Equipment | No Comments

Landscape company owners seem to keep their original 01 trucks around forever. They should be retired but somehow there is always some use for them. I was thinking about this when I showed up for work on a recent Saturday at a company we won’t name. I knew this particular 01 beast was nasty. It couldn’t accelerate, nor climb any hills; and it either didn’t brake or the wheels locked. Shifting to 2 on a steep Burnaby uphill still only got you 35-40 km/h speeds and lots of angry motorists behind you. Luckily they were all obscured in clouds of diesel exhaust.

The boss informed me that he had driven it during the week and it was fine. “Just don’t follow anyone closely, drive slowly and pump the brakes before attempting to brake.” Great. Just what I wanted to hear. The truck needs to get serviced but who has the time during a busy week. Can the company even afford to take it out of circulation?

This just leads to stress. Stress I don’t need. Or want.

One night I had a dream. As I stood in the shop, this same boss handed me the keys to a never-used 2017 truck. I smiled. Then I woke up.

Sadly, I’ve experienced many other 01 trucks over the years. One pick-up truck has wobbly steering and door locks that don’t work. The tail gate no longer opens and it’s just as well. The pins holding the tail gate in place are bent so when it’s down, it slips out. Not fun.

Getting it stolen would be a welcome relief to its owner. But there is lots of nostalgia, too. This was the original 01 beast which started everything. It was there in the first trenches. Now it’s mainly used to shuttle mowers. And for how long?

Sometimes driving a 01 beast is a test. One former employer had a 01 pick-up with a heavy metal box on it. It required very frequent gas station visits. I think I wore out the metal strip on my Petro points card. This beast wouldn’t accelerate. I still remember gunning it at the bottom of the snake hill in Port Moody, afraid the truck would slow down to a crawl. When new employees survived their tests, they were in.

I have given up. Landscape workers must get used to having these original 01 antique trucks around. They will never die.



This beast is a piece of work! A 01 truck all-star.