Monthly Archives

July 2023

Don’t wait, take action!

By | landscape maintenance, Pruning | No Comments

Lists, really?

I like lists. I make them because I have lots to do in my personal life but I dislike them at work. I prefer to take action immediately or as soon as possible. Big tasks that require approval from bosses and strata people must be recorded but small tasks, not so much.

It happens more than I like to admit. When I show up on a site and the foreman or landscape worker tells me about simple tasks they have been thinking about doing, I cringe. Why wait? Take action!

Just last week, while filling in for a dude on vacation, his regular helper told me about a dead cedar they’ve been thinking about pruning out. It was brown, dead and (horror!) visible from the road so yes, let’s prune it out. I picked up a hand saw and made literally two cuts. That’s not even a warm-up for a certified arborist.

One part of the native cedar (Thuja plicata) was still green and healthy so I left it alone; I hauled away the other two dead parts. Done! In minutes! No lists.

After pruning, only the green healthy cedar remains.

Classic obstruction

This second example was even easier. Again, while I was filling in for the regular foreman, I discovered cherry tree branches touching the wall of one unit. This makes insurance agents upset; and homeowners often wonder what the noise outside is when winds kick up at night and branches slam into their unit.

So, I carefully jumped on the wall and used my snips (always on my hip!) to make three to four cuts in like one minute. Problem solved! No emails from owners to strata to bosses; no lists, no time wasted. Just quick action, the way I like it. Be like Red Seal Vas. Take action.

Before pruning, cherry tree branches on the building.

Summer blow job strategy

By | landscape maintenance | No Comments

Hot weather clean-up

When I was blowing yesterday I could see the man on the patio from the corner of my eye. Hands crossed over his chest, he stared down at his convertible collector car as I approached with a blower on my back. In my dreams people like this rush down and raise the roof on their car so I don’t have to stress. But this was Langley, BC and the man wasn’t about to leave the protection of his awning.


Many homeowners know that clean up blows are sketchy on hot, dusty days. It doesn’t make sense to chase every leaf and create dust clouds. Some homeowners are more anal so we educate them.

What really scares me are AI look-alike landscapers who blow dust clouds all the way down the block. Of course, I’m not one of them. As soon as I cleared the convertible classic car, the wind changed direction. Ok, no problem. The noisy machine usually drowns out my bad language. Then, when I finally made it to the end of the road, people were moving stuff into their mover truck. It wasn’t my day. So you give up on perfection and leave it for next week. No big deal.

The key is to use your head and not behave like a robot. Yes, I would love to pick up every dry leaf off the site but in dry, dusty conditions it doesn’t make sense. By the way, this approach works with everything else you do in your garden. You’re bound to run into exceptions; sometimes you just have to let it go and relax.

Landscape testing

This blog post shows the advantage of going through landscape testing. One of the practical stations I had to pass was on blowing. In that fake scenario, the site was littered with garbage (pick it up first, before you blow), there was an expensive car nearby and the fake walkway was covered with high schoolers in uniforms. Obviously, we leave the car clean and we stop for every passerby. Use your head. It doesn’t make sense to anger people.

Man operating a heavy duty leaf blower: the leaves are being swirled up and glow in the pleasant sunlight

Lawn jockey meets Berberis

By | Plants, Pruning | No Comments

Plant ID

As often happens, full-time lawn care dudes get asked to do extras, such as pruning. They like the extra cash but it’s a bit scary when you don’t even know what the shrub is. Identification is the first step. In step two you can Google it or go on Facebook to ask your lawn care buddies. That’s what the dude who snapped the picture did. And good for him, he isn’t afraid to ask for help. So let’s help him.


In our BC landscapes we often plant Berberis thunbergii which has the same burgundy color and sports light prickles. They are sharp enough to remind you that peeping into people’s windows is wrong but not stiff enough to draw blood and cause swelling. For that we have Pyracantha.

They also do well in hot weather which is important as July 2023 marks the hottest year on record globally since record keeping started. And they also flower which is a nice bonus; and the fall colors are fine, too. There’s lots to love about Berberis.

Pruning Berberis

The specimen in the picture doesn’t look like it requires pruning. It’s doing its thing sending out shoots and splashing them on all sides. Now if the owners insists on clipping it, do it lightly, especially in summer. I don’t like hot weather pruning because it just increases the stress on plants.

Of course, Berberis is very forgiving. If your shave it hard into a ball it will recover by sending out new shoots. Personally I prefer to keep Berberis shaggy which gives it a softer look. I’m not a fan of tight formal balls.


Even as a Red Seal journeyman horticulturist with years of experience, I find that there is lots always to learn. I like how the lawn care dude went online to ask his buddies for help. Additionally, it’s a good hint for him to learn more about plants. It looks like it might be good for his bottom line.

Because the dude lives in the United States I didn’t offer him a copy of my e-book on the first 100 landscape plants you should know if you live and work in the Pacific Northwest. Check it out on Amazon Canada.

Berberis is a great plant. Use it in your garden if you get a chance.