Monthly Archives

May 2017

Field sales call survival

By | Arborist Insights, Pruning | No Comments

Spring. It’s a time of renewal and, as the Tri-City News reminded me recently, it also brings out salesmen. But don’t worry, you don’t have to let them in. And you have thirty days to change your mind if your purchase is over $50. Good to know.

I was thinking about this after I had a salesman visit me in the field. The guy simply drove by my work site and saw my piles of branches. My goal for the day was to thin out Robinia pseudoacacias. So he stopped and searched out the sweaty arborist. Normally, I brush salesmen off but in this case, I was very happy to talk to him. As it turned out, he had lots of ‘toys’ in his truck.

Arborist ‘toys’

Doug pulled out a telescoping pole saw which was awesome. It’s a bit heavy but the telescoping is nice. The hand saws had me drooling. I especially liked the hand saws that attach to your leg for easy access. One day, when budget allows, I will invest in one.

Right now I am happy with my Samurai hand saw I purchased in Japan for about $35. Always get good quality steel. Having a nice, sharp saw is critical. I still remember a seminar I took at the UBC botanical garden years ago. They had an arborist doing a demonstration in a tree and his hand saw was gorgeous. Light reflected off the saw and it made a beautiful sound when it cut through the wood. I wanted one like that ever since.

Later on, the same arborist pointed out that his hard hat is worn to separate himself from landscapers. Aha! I was insulted and too shy to interrupt the demonstration. Hard hats are for safety. There are many professionals like me who are both ISA certified arborists and landscapers. Skilled, total professionals. My focus is on good quality work, not on separating myself from anybody. Remember, be so good so they can’t ignore you!

Sales details

I am very happy to plug a green salesman in a blog post. Always help others succeed. Unfortunately, many companies have go-to dealers so it’s up to the salesman to spin his magic and develop new relationships. Saws get dull and abused. You will need new ones.

Doug Cox of Calmac Saw & Supply can be reached at 604-816-6915 or Please tell him you found him through this blog. Perhaps he can demonstrate his saws for you.



Doug Cox’s beautiful saws. Always use sharp saws when you work.



Landscape maintenance without discrimination

By | landscape maintenance | No Comments

Good landscape maintenance dictates that we periodically cover the entire site. On small sites this can be accomplished weekly. On larger sites, you can work out a four-week rotation. But the goal should be complete coverage without discrimination.

This was going through my head recently when I was asked to prune and clean up many parking stall inlets on a large site. This wasn’t a new idea; the work was on the site to do list for quite some time. But because the parking stall inlets are lower profile, they get pushed back. It’s not sexy work.

I am convinced we have to fight this discrimination. I treated every single parking stall as I would the main entrance and clubhouse areas. That’s what professionals do.


Parking stalls




Take a few minutes to examine the picture above. It’s hardly an inspiring area. You can see how workers would gravitate toward a clubhouse area with nice grass and plants. So the boss sent me in. Supervisor Vas on the case. No big deal. I don’t discriminate.

Step 1: set out tarps on the river rock because once cedar clippings get stuck in the rock they are extremely difficult to clean up. Raking is brutal and blowing is effective only up to a point. The clippings will get lodged in the rocks. Definitely set out two tarps to avoid headaches later.

Step 2: shear the hedges like you normally would, tight on top and lighter on the sides. All signs must be clearly visible. Once a year should suffice. Twice is OK.

Step 3: clean up and cultivate at the base of the cedars; try not to remove too much bark mulch. Also check the river rock areas for weeds. I found one that required extra time for weeding. Again, aim for complete coverage. Never discriminate. Even low profile parking stall river rock areas should be weed-free. The last thing we want is weeds producing seeds.

Step 4: watch for parked vehicles so you don’t cause any damage. You can always come back later.

Step 5: gently blow off all edges when you do your site courtesy blow.


Discrimination by design

Some landscaping companies give their workers tight deadlines so they have no choice, they have to discriminate. When this is the case, most maintenance tends to happen at high-profile areas like entrances and clubhouses.

Again, this is a bad idea. Very bad idea. Good landscape maintenance is done without discrimination. I’ve seen this at a Burnaby site that went downhill fast. Two low-budget European workers had exactly two hours to spin their magic. And there wasn’t much magic.

By contrast, we have six workers at a neighbouring site all day! Our work involves a three-week rotation so that the entire site is covered. Parking stalls included. No discrimination.


Cover 100% of your work sites periodically so there isn’t any discrimination. Treat lonely corners the way you would high-profile clubhouses. This will lead to happy clients and renewed contracts.

Dream hedge trimmers for demanding professionals

By | Landscaping Equipment, Reviews | No Comments

Last week I had to do some power shearing and the boss handed me a new unit to try out. Great! It’s always nice to test out new models.

(Disclaimer: we use Stihl equipment at work; I am in no way associated with Stihl. Any review blog posts are just that, my personal reviews.)

The new unit was Stihl’s hedge trimmer HS 82R with a 24″ cutting bar.



Stihl HS 82R


Notes from Stihl

“This professional unit replaces the HS 81 R with the latest in STIHL technology. Equipped with stratified scavenging engine technology that reduces fuel consumption by 20% and fulfils all emission regulations, long life air filter for prolonged engine protection, double-sided, sharpened cutting blades for a high quality cut, adjustable multi-function handle and a tool-less fuel cap. This hedge trimmer is an innovative unit designed with the demanding professional in mind. ”


What I noticed right away

As you shear you notice a certain softness, kind of like riding a full suspension mountain bike after riding a hard tail for ages. I noticed it because this was my first experience with anti-vibration technology. And I loved it.

The Stihl website states that “intense vibration at the handles of power tools can lead to long-term effects on blood vessels in the hands and arms. STIHL has therefore developed an effective anti-vibration system whereby the oscillations from the machine’s engine are dampened which significantly reduces vibrations at the handles.”

This feature alone is worth the retail price of $669.95. Again, get to know your dealer and score some well-deserved discounts. The manufacturer suggested retail price is just that, suggested.




Notes four springs. The anti-vibration system rules!


One problem

Given the 24″ cutting bar, this unit isn’t exactly light. I used a ladder for my shearing work so I wouldn’t have to raise the shears above my shoulders. The cheaper Stihl hedge trimmers are lighter. But hey, if you’re like me, you will welcome the workout for your muscles.

I was blown away by the anti-vibration technology feature. This unit is designed for demanding professionals and it delivers.

Katsura tree with too many leaves

By | Arborist Insights, Pruning, Trees | No Comments

“Every year this tree makes too many leaves.” That is a direct quote from the strata owner whose patio looked out on a nice Katsura tree specimen (Cercidiphyllum japonicum). I almost laughed. The tree makes too many leaves every year? Really? I talked to her politely and agreed that some thinning cuts were in order. But too many leaves? That deserved a blog post.

Thinning cuts

On a multi-stemmed tree like this one, thinning cuts are totally fine. Just pick a branch that rubs or crosses with others and remove it. You should be able to create some openings in the crown while still preserving a natural tree look. I didn’t have any trouble with this. It was easy to see crowded spots.

Just remember not to go too crazy. You can always come back next year. I made a few cuts on every tree and assessed it before taking more. And I will assess it again once the trees leaf out.

Too many leaves

This is a joke. Trees know what to do. We can’t tell them how many leaves to produce. What’s the big deal with leaves?

Trees use leaves as factories to make food from sunlight through photosynthesis. This is a free service which produces oxygen for us and removes carbon dioxide from the air. This process also releases water which affects local climate. Without leaves the tree can’t survive.

Once the food is made it is distributed throughout the tree. Upper branches can act as storage sites which is why pruning during drought can starve a tree. Under drought conditions, leaf openings called stomata close to prevent moisture loss. This, in turn, means that carbon dioxide can’t enter therefore food production stops. Then, here comes a landscaper with strata orders to prune trees. As he removes some of the upper branches, he removes food that was stored in them. Boom. Starvation ensues.

Leaves also serve as food for various animals and they act as cover for birds. For example, caterpillars munch on young leaves and are in turn eaten by birds.

Leaves also look great in the fall as they turn color. This katsura tree is no exception.

Too many leaves? Not likely. Let the tree do its thing.