Monthly Archives

January 2021

One fail from 2020

By | Company News | No Comments

Taking stock

Landscape install projects are great because they break up the monotony of routine landscape maintenance work and they generate extra revenues for landscape companies. I also love working with plants so it’s very good fit for me.

It’s also a great idea to take stock of your completed landscape install projects and see how it all went. And while 2020 went really well, without any disasters or client complaints, there is one fail that bothers me.

Doomed Christmas trees

In one project this season we installed two expensive spruce trees along with Sedums and shrubs like Spireae and Berberis. It was all fun and games except for the trees. You know you’re dealing with spruce trees when you touch the foliage and feel the stabbing pain in your skin.

The planting went well. I dug a hole with the correct dimensions and removed the wire cage. Then I carefully back-filled the tree and went in search of water.

You should always water-in your installs.

The spruce trees were labelled as drought-tolerant but it’s my humble opinion that they must first get established.

Because the trees were situated in no-man’s land it took a while for the residents to start watering. I think this delay doomed the trees.

Others think that over-watering did them in and it’s plausible that the residents would over-compensate with over-watering.

Several weeks later, both trees were suffering. One went down hard; and the other one pushed out new growth which gave me some hope. When I visited the site next, both trees were gone, replaced by native Western Red Cedars (Thuja plicata).

Water

Plants need water to function properly. This is especially true for newly planted specimens.

Over-watering can also be deadly because excess water displaces oxygen from the soil and the tree suffocates. For this reason it’s important to stick your finger in the planting hole and check for moisture levels.

This is extremely hard for busy residents to pull off.

This one failure from 2020 will be haunting me for a while. I always feel responsible for the plants I install. Like they were my kids. It’s unfortunate that I can’t do the watering myself. I do the install and pray.

How was your year? Did you experience any failures in your gardens?

Best books, one awful year

By | Books | No Comments

Books I recommend

It’s been an awful pandemic year but I did read many books in 2020, most of them in audio format as I worked in the landscape. Here is a list of four books I especially enjoyed.

Mancuso

Stefano Mancuso’s latest book “The incredible journey of plants” is a fun read. It’s not as serious as his “The revolutionary genius of plants” so it will appeal to more people.

Mancuso covers plant migrations with incredible tales of plants, like the ones that survived the Hiroshima bombing and Chernobyl.

You will also learn a new specific epithet: callipyge, which means “women’s buttocks. There is a sea palm which produces massive seeds-the biggest in the world-and they look like a woman’s buttocks. Now why would a plant produce seeds this big?

Sea palm seed!

If you like plants, you will enjoy this tour of the world. You can easily finish this book over two evenings.

Dial

The adventurer’s son” is a memoir by a scientist about his life and his son. When his son disappears in 2014 in the wild Pacific Coast of Costa Rica, a search is organized. Of course, before you arrive at this point, you get the full father-son back story. And they do a lot of fun stuff together.

As a father myself, I ask the same question: do you introduce your son to new experiences or do you shelter him to protect him? I introduced my own son to mountain biking and now I worry about crashes.

Because there wasn’t a happy ending, we get to enjoy this memoir. All fathers will enjoy reading this memoir, even if the search part of the book was long and complicated.

Stuart-Smith

The well-gardened mind” is THE book on the connection between our brains, health and gardening. Period. I’ve read a lot of stuff on the connection between health and nature and this book covers a lot of ground, in detail.

The author’s husband is a well-known garden designer and together they have created their own garden.

Well-recommended.

Urbina

The outlaw ocean” is a stunning book, full of crime, over-fishing, slavery and craziness on the high seas. Ian Urbina is not a journalist putting together a story from foreign reports. He actually hits the high seas and gets dirty.

This is an eye-opening book on the last untamed frontier. It’s hard to believe what really happens on the oceans of the world.

Workers are recruited and then kept on ships for many months as slave labor. Captains demand sex; and the lucky ones get paid for their labor. Many perish.

This is a wild book. You won’t forget reading it. Stunning.

Nature prescriptions in BC, first in Canada

By | Education, health and safety | No Comments

Good news! Yes, really

Finally some good news during a pandemic. Nature prescriptions are now officially available in British Columbia, the first province in Canada to pull this off. And it makes perfect sense to launch PaRx in Super, Natural BC. The project is a collaborations between health care providers and the BC Parks Foundation.

I had no idea this was coming to British Columbia. I only found out about it when I opened my Globe and Mail newspaper last week.

Now, I’ve read about US doctors prescribing nature to patients in places like California. This is how it works.

Imagine a chubby boy from a poor neighborhood coming to see his doctor. The doctor could prescribe him pricey pills for his anxiety; and expose him to various side-effects while she pockets her Big Pharma perks. But this is a good news blog post so our doctor prescribes time in nature. Say, two hours per week spent in a local park.

What’s interesting is that patients actually did it when they got a prescription from their doctor. They trusted their doctor who handed them a prescription with a map of the nearest park.

It works!

We know it works. Spending time in nature works for all sorts of ailments and medical conditions. And all side-effects are positive, like longer life and more energy.

This PaRx launch is actually well-timed during a pandemic because many people are stressed out. Many people have lost their jobs and their social connections have been severed. But going outside to your local park is safe and good for you.

I’ve written blog posts about forest bathing and its many benefits. PaRx takes it a step further because your family doctor prescribes time in nature for you. It’s good for you and for the planet.

2021

Let’s hope the PaRx program grows huge as many more health care providers sign on. In the meantime consider making a donation to the BC Parks Foundation. Anything over $20 will get you a tax receipt.

Now get outside and enjoy nature!

Red Seal Vas enjoying mall plants and coffee in Irvine, California.

Lessons from municipal parks

By | gardening, landscape maintenance | No Comments

Go stress-free

There is something to be said for municipal landscapes in late fall. I noticed how stress-free municipal park maintenance is. Unlike commercial strata maintenance where grooming and control are the norm.

Now, I know that municipalities have set annual budgets and during a pandemic there probably wasn’t enough cash to groom every public park.

Strata owners pay hefty monthly maintenance fees and expect to see well-groomed landscapes. Still, there are lessons you can learn from public parks and apply them in your own gardens. Let’s take a look.

Perennial cutback

In strata maintenance, spent perennials are cut-back as soon as possible. But you can leave them standing in your own garden. Covered in frost, perennials can look great; and birds eat their seeds or hide in them.

Don’t rush to cutback your perennials.

Astilbe produce gorgeous flowers in summer and I don’t mind this look. If you touch the brown stalks, they will break off in your hand.

The leafy layer protects the soil and shelters tiny life forms. Of course, in strata landscape maintenance, this kind of bed isn’t tolerated. It’s groomed!

Enjoy the December holdouts, like this Rudbeckia. Don’t rush to cut them back. Walking by today, this reminded me of warm late summer days.

Grasses

In strata maintenance, when ornamental grasses like this Miscanthus flop over even a little bit they get power-sheared into low mounds. Why the rush? Like your spent perennials, it’s OK to leave your grasses standing in winter.

Pennisetum should be left alone until spring. I quite like this look, as opposed to a harshly shaved mound.

Mexican feather grass (Stipa tenuissima) is supposed to look like this all year. Don’t shear it. Maybe run your fingers through it in spring. It looks fantastic when it moves in the wind.

Conclusion

Learn from your public parks and stop rushing to cut everything back. Ornamental grasses look great in late fall and when covered by frost in winter. Pennisetums should be cutback in spring.

Look at your garden and experiment. Take one winter and don’t cutback all of your perennials and grasses. Leave it for next spring.

How landscapers die on the job

By | Landscape Industry, Lawn Care, machines | No Comments

Danger!

Whenever people work with machines there is potential for accidents. This is especially true with ride-on mowers. So, let’s get the worse part of this blog post over with.

Ride-on mowers are big beasts that cover lots of lawn in short amount of time. I’ve been trained on one but I wouldn’t want to use it all day, all week. It’s a bouncy and often dusty ride.

And you can die when you get too close to edges. I know of two true incidents from the US where both operators got too close to the edge and crashed, strapped to their seats.

One dude drove too close to a creek and flipped his ride-on mower over into the creek. This poor dude never had a chance. He got crushed on the creek bed.

The second dude got too close to a pond but he had a chance to unclip and swim out. Except he wasn’t a swimmer and he panicked, drowning as his mower sank into the pond. I learned about this in a Facebook group from his boss. It’s pretty sad.

Sadly, the operator drowned in the pond.

Missing digits!

This next story involves missing digits and it comes from my home province of British Columbia. Now, when I first heard it, it sounded a bit sensational. After all, modern mowers come with safety features like bars that stop the blades when disengaged. Let go of the bar and you should be fine.

Except here we had two dudes who made poor choices while wearing headphones. One (very efficiently) offered to hold the power bar while the other emptied his mower bag and reached in to clean the chute. And that’s when the digits on his hand went missing in a flash.

Shocked, the dude screamed his ass off on site, causing a massive, and bloody, scene.

This used to happen with early push mower models where the blades didn’t stop when the operator did. New mowers are super safe.

How to stay safe

Yes, you can stay safe in the landscape.

Get as much training as you can and respect all machines and tools on your work truck. Learn to use all of them safely. Ask questions and practice. And watch out for your team mates.

The same applies to homeowners. Before you let your kids mow your lawn, train them well and watch them.

Ask about and identify potential hazards on site and at home. Especially if it’s your first visit to the site.

Don’t wear headphones while you work.