Monthly Archives

November 2022

No escape from desperate homeowners

By | gardening, Landscaping | No Comments

Tracked me down

Yes, of course you can find me on Google. You can search for landscapers in the Tri-cities area, and you should be able to find me. But people still track me down while I work for other clients. And don’t get me wrong, I love meeting new people and helping them.

Yesterday, I was rushing to complete one more residence before daylight ran out. I had roughly four hours left, three with decent light. So, I blew the leaves into piles and picked them up. Then I gave the lawns one last cut. What light remained I used to prune a Magnolia tree and cut down many perennials; all brown and spent, they were ready for cutback. They’ll be back next year. Don’t worry.


As I worked yesterday, my focus was on finishing the garden and putting it to bed for the season. The owners are both facing health challenges; challenges so severe that they can’t do their own gardening anymore. So, I’m happy to help them and every dollar I make helps me beat inflation. It’s also nice to see the owners pleased.

It can be distressing to see a weedy garden and long grass outside when your day is dominated by health issues. Incidentally, this also happened when the pandemic first hit, and people had to self-isolate at home. Seeing their landscapers outside on regular basis brought some normalcy to a crazy time.

Then, just as I was finishing, I saw the man approaching. And sure enough, he wanted me to see his garden. These are bittersweet moments for landscape side-hustlers. My focus is on finishing one house, not on taking more work. Now, I know it doesn’t make sense to cry about extra work walking in without any effort on my part. I am grateful for every single client. But in that moment, it’s bittersweet. I want a finish line, not a new race.

I also can’t say no because I know people need help. In this case, the couple moved into their house last summer and now they needed help. Lots of help.

Typical issues

How can Red Seal Vas help you? Well, there is lawn damage from European chafer beetles to fix, and the wife wants pretty flowers by the door where there are only shrubs and groundcovers. In the back, there is a patch of prickly bramble that will only get bigger; and next to it are three alders that will not stop growing until they’re towering over the house.

The garden wall has ivy, Pieris and junipers trailing over the lawn. And the neighbors haven’t touched their trees in a while so now they’re coming over and must be pruned. This actually gets me excited because tree work can be done in winter, just as regular landscape maintenance work ends.

Let’s do it!

Many homeowners need help with their gardens and I’m happy to help, assuming I can fit it into my schedule. You can find me on Google Maps; and approach me when you see me working in your neighborhood. I’m such a landscape slut, it’s unlikely I will say no.

And it will feel bittersweet all the way.

Can you turn aboriginal youth into landscapers?

By | Landscape Industry, Training | No Comments


Good landscapers are in great demand at the moment. Some of my previous blog posts showed how easy it was for new immigrants to become landscapers. But what about aboriginal youth?

To answer this question, we’ll consider the case of young Nate (his real name: used with permission). Nate is a great young dude with a partner and a new baby to support. He came to us from a Manitoba reserve where there were few opportunities and the weather sucked. So, Nate packed up and hit the West Coast for British Columbia- the best place on Earth! (If you ignore the current brutal housing situation.)

Right spirit

Nate possesses the right kind of spirit: a mix of initiative, playfulness, willingness to learn and can-do attitude. We found that out when Nate joined us for a company weekend getaway at the Wildlings Resort.

Once he got settled into his cabin, Nate launched his rental boat onto the lake, stocked annually with trout, and emerged hours later with a huge catch. All of his work mates observed the two fish limit, and they were stunned. But not Nate. This was his native land and there were no limits. His wide poacher’s grin proved it.

Luckily for Nate, his work mates were all too overcome by alcohol and legal marijuana to report him to the nearest conservation office. By the time they agreed on the correct “poacher” spelling, Nate had the fish gutted and iced with frightening efficiency. He also followed the old native custom of sharing by giving some fish away to his cabin mates.


Now, when your apprentice has the right attitude, it’s easy to train him. Or her. That’s where Red Seal Vas comes in. Journeymen are supposed share their knowledge with apprentices in the field; and enjoy the process. The company gets a better trained, confident employee; and the apprentice gets valuable skills. With the right skills, young Nate can never be unemployed. The new skills are his to keep; better pay and advancement follow.

Now, let’s see how this works in the field with actual examples. Nate had the pleasure of my company for just a few hours, and this is what we covered.

Styrax pruning

We found some crossing branches inside a Japanese snowbell tree (Styrax japonicus), so I got Nate to remove them. When he pulled out a rusted hand saw he found on site earlier, buried in debris, I had to remind him to always use sharp hand saws. If your hand saw blade is rusty, get a new one and replace it. Making sharp cuts is mandatory.

We also reviewed the tree’s botanical name, Styrax japonicus. The specific epithet refers to Japan. Plant identification skills are very important for landscapers.


Mid-November is a good time to deadhead spent lavender flowers. Use good hand snips, carefully grab a handful of flower spikes, and snip them off. The trick is to watch your fingers, so you don’t cut yourself. Don’t rush but don’t waste time snipping single flowers. Grab a handful.


Gunnera is an herbaceous flowering plant with large leaves. We found a cluster of them by a water feature. Since it was mid-November, the large leaves were flat on the ground and fading fast. When you moved the leaves, you could see the plant bases where growth occurs.

So, I showed Nate how the big leaves get flush cut at the base but not discarded with other green waste. Instead, we stack the large leaves on top of the plant bases, to keep them cozy in winter.

Nate cutting back Gunneras


By now the answer to my question above should be clear. Aboriginal youth can definitely be developed into landscape professionals with the right kind of training and support from employers; and journeymen willing to teach people. I’m confident that young Nate will do well in 2023.

Removing leaves from your garden? Not so fast!

By | gardening | No Comments


With low temperatures forecast for next week, today I received phone calls from several panicked homeowners looking to get their leaves picked up. I will squeeze in a few but I rarely work on-demand. I’m too busy with regular clients.

And this afternoon, as I headed to one of my regular residential clients, they informed me that they were keeping all of their leaves in their beds. Working on a garden design across the street, a horticulturist recommended that they mulch their beds with leaves. So, this is the change for 2022: leaves stay in beds so they can insulate the plants against harsh low temperatures. The forecast for this coming week says as low as -14C.

Leaves as mulch

Leaves can definitely be used as mulch in planted beds. A layer of leaves can insulate your plants from low winter temperatures. However, some clients can’t stand the look of their beds, stuffed full of leaves, especially in high-profile beds. Then the wind picks up and it’s a mess. So, you decide.

Insulation is one thing, but quick leaf decomposition that will benefit the plants might be a bit exaggerated. If you expect your plants to benefit from decomposed leaves, then the best first step is to shred them.

Simply pile them on your lawn and run your mower over them. Whole leaves take longer to decompose. And, speaking of lawns, it’s always a good idea to clear leaves off your lawn so you don’t get weird light-colored zones in your lawn as the grass is smothered.

Never shred your leaves on top of plastic turf!

Same old, same old?

I love the idea of clients trying different things. Why not mulch your beds with leaves instead of removing them every year. Are you tired of your perennial bed? Rip out some of your plants and get new ones.

Your garden shouldn’t be static; gardens are never finished: they evolve.

I’m perfectly happy to adjust to different client requests. There is always something to do, like perennials to cut back or broken tree branches to remove.

Enjoy the off-season and make some plans for next year.