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Events

New climate-change driven landscape requests

By | Events, health and safety | No Comments

New AC

The owners sacrificed a healthy Camellia for a new AC unit.

This winter I’ve been getting a lot of new requests involving shrub clearance around buildings. By itself, that’s nothing unusual but many owners are now installing air-conditioning units. Aha, that’s our twist.

To understand it, you’d have to know about the unprecedented, anywhere on Earth, heat dome we experienced in June 2021. For weeks we head super high summer temperatures and according to provincial reports, 595 people died as a result of the oppressive heat. Seniors are especially vulnerable so they’re getting ready by installing air-conditioning units. If there are boxwood hedges or flowering shrubs in perfect health in the way, so what. Summer safety comes first.

The actual physical work was easy. I had to prune away sections of boxwood which looked ridiculous until the AC unit got installed. And the elderly owner was super happy. If we get another summer heat dome, he’ll ride it out inside.

And the workers?

And what about the workers? I’m currently working on a second edition of my e-book “How to become a landscape professional” and now I wonder if it’s right to recommend landscaping as a career. It could be a mess with global warming driven changes.

The heat dome was oppressive, to put it mildly. One complex provided us with water coolers and a misting station but that was a rarity. For weeks, we suffered and went home early. Most of the professionals on staff managed; most of the hypochondriacs on staff bailed early and this time they didn’t need any elaborate excuses.

People were actually dying from the heat in the Lower Mainland of British Columbia; mostly seniors, sick people and the homeless. Five-hundred and ninety five heat-related deaths is 595 too many. Welcome to climate change. It’s very real.

Some clients care about their landscapers.

2022

With the pandemic continuing, I fully expect another eventful summer. If we get hit with another heat dome, we’ll get through it. And so will the seniors who invested into new AC units, sacrificing perfectly good shrubs to stay safe. Here we go. Bring on summer.

Foreshore Equipment location opening soon on the North Shore

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There to help you

Here’s some great news for 2022: Foreshore Equipment is opening a new location in North Vancouver soon. That’s great news for professional landscapers, company owners, municipalities and homeowners. Especially homeowners because they’re busy.

Homeowners like Monica, who found me online this past fall. Her lawn desperately needed a final cut but her mower wouldn’t start. Could I help?

Now, I’m always ready to help but when you ask me to help with your machines, it’s clear you don’t know me well. I struggle with small engines which is why it’s great news to have a new sales and service location open in the Lower Mainland.

Antiques

As it turned out, Monica’s old mower worked fine. The gas was turned off! But, the mower blades were original and, most likely, never sharpened. Dull mower blades is a common problem. Also, her plastic filter cover was missing. There is a reason manufacturers put it on there. One call to Foreshore Equipment and your problem is solved.

Red Seal Vas can tell you why it’s a bad idea to mow for 7 years with the original blades still on but he can’t sharpen them for you. For that you have to visit one of the Foreshore Equipment locations. Sharp blades make clean cuts through your grass blades and force the clippings into the bag nicely. Once the blades get dull, the mower starts to clog up and the shredded grass blades suffer. I would suggest buying brand new blades.

You will need replacement blades. Call Foreshore Equipment.

Why Foreshore Equipment?

So, what’s so special about Foreshore Equipment? Well, the mechanics are top-notch, which means you will get your fixed machines back in great time.

The mechanics are also experts at answering my questions. Like, why won’t my edger start after refueling? Answer: there’s air in the line so just hit the primer a few times.

Pro tip: Recycle the antique mower that came with your house and buy something new. The cost of repair labor makes this a no-brainer.

Professionals also constantly need new parts and tools. That’s why I am personally a happy customer at Foreshore Equipment. Even my small, side-hustle operation needs supplies and tools. It would be hard to succeed without good support from your local, trusted dealer.

Foreshore Equipment offers a great selection of machines and tools; and they will help you get set up. Visit one of their locations and tell them Red Seal Vas sent you.

Make a KIVA loan, change a life!

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Helping to change a life

I scheduled this post for Christmas Eve because right now, even during a pandemic, life is pretty good in Canada. My family is healthy, the fridge is full of food and there are presents under the tree. As of today, I’m happy to report that I also have plenty of work, both regular and side-gigs. (Knock on wood!)

But there are many people in the world who need help. This is where KIVA comes in. The organization facilitates loans to people who are unable to secure loans from local sources. This is a beautiful idea: donors lend money which is then repaid. So my $25 “donation” will eventually return to me.

As a landscape professional, I have a soft spot for farmers who need money for their projects. Some years ago I lent $25 each to two farmers and their loans were 100% repaid! So, this is better than straight donations. You allow people access to money so they can run their projects. And the loans are to be repaid.

To be honest, $25 isn’t a big deal. Even if I didn’t get it back, it would be fine. All three people I lent money to in the past repaid their loans.

How to change someone’s life

Step one involves registering with KIVA. Once you register, you can search for loans that interest you. Personally, I check out agriculture. That’s how I learned about Karina from San Gabriel, Ecuador.

Source: KIVA.org

Karina is a single 21-year-old student who works in agriculture to finance her education and help her parents. Sounds good to me.

Karina is asking for a $1,000 loan for the purchase of organic agriculture supplies so she can grow broad beans. I think she is at 65% of the loan amount. I hope she makes it.

Kiva loan projects come with expiry dates. So, when some people log in at KIVA they automatically go to loans that expire soon. You can do that, too.

Change a life

If you have $25 available to lend out through KIVA, try it out. You could change a life! And count your blessings if you live in the Pacific Northwest where life is pretty good.

Happy holidays!!

Risking arrest to see California’s Eucalypts

By | Events, Trees | No Comments

This past August I found myself in Lake Forest, California because of my son’s soccer tournament. It was yet another sunny morning and it was getting hot. It was too hot for the boys to have a serious soccer practice. So I left the team at the tennis courts and walked across the street.

 

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Private property!

My target was a nearby line of beautiful and huge Eucalyptus trees. It was like Christmas for this arborist. The trees looked awesome and as I took more pictures I drifted onto a church parking lot. There I shot many other landscape plants. I was having a fantastic California morning until a voice woke me up from my plant trance.

 

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I love these Eucalyptus trees.

 

“Can I help you? This is private property!” Immediately I thought oh, shit, was this an open carry state? Then I mumbled something about visiting California and loving their church landscaping. “We get all kinds here!” was his reply. So I apologized and told the dude I was leaving. No need to call the police. He then wished me a pleasant visit and I wondered what the Sunday sermons were like.

 

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Note the security camera.

 

Trees in Paradise

I have since learned that Lake Forest used to be an Eucalyptus plantation. Now it’s a master-planned community with beautiful landscaping. I was blown away by the landscaping so much, I walked into the nearest bookstore desperate for some sort of plant guide. And I found a door stopper gem there called Trees in Paradise by Jared Farmer. (I will review this excellent book in a future blog.)

Farmer devotes a one hundred page chapter to Eucalypts and it’s a wild ride. The trees were imported from Australia and became very popular in California. And then it all swung the other way. Eucalyptus plantations in San Francisco were abandoned and the trees were allowed to go wild.

One glitch stands out from this book chapter. Californians wanted to reproduce the success Aussies had with their fast-growing Eucalypts. But what they didn’t notice was that the Aussies were processing old growth Eucalypts.

The new growth Eucalypts in California were extremely difficult to process because the young trees behave badly when they’re run through saw mills. Farmer does a great job of explaining this. Basically the trees break apart at the saw mill so it’s hard to get the nice straight lumber saw mills wanted. Bummer.

I think the Eucalypts I saw in Los Angeles looked great. I can’t wait to see them again in August 2020 but I will be more mindful of private property lines. “Canadian pro blogger dead in California” would be an unfortunate headline.

 

 

Take this step before challenging the Red Seal exam

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Hort Education BC is putting on a preparation course on Saturday, November 23, 2019 at the UBC Botanical Gardens. If you have 7, 920 documented hours in the horticulture industry (roughly four seasons) you can challenge the Red Seal exam. This preparation course is an excellent way to increase your chances of passing. Here is why.

Egan Davis

Egan Davis, the instructor, teaches at the UBC Botanical Gardens and he is super experienced and knowledgeable. He is a plant geek. You can ask him lots of questions but not about actual exam questions. Those are kept secret. You have to earn the Red Seal qualification; there are no short-cuts. The exam tests your knowledge and experience.

Egan sports a booming voice and excellent delivery. I doubt you will forget spending a day with him. He helped me pass in 2014 and I will forever be grateful to him.

2014

When I took this course in 2014 I was in a rush because up-coming municipal jobs required Red Seal papers. And the preparation course was very new and evolving which is why it was free. Now it will cost you $90 but trust me, it is money well spent.

I took the full day course, studied for a few weeks and took comfort in the words of my municipal gardener boss. She told me I would do well based on listening to my comments in the field. This definitely encouraged me. The rest was all work experience from fifteen seasons in the field and landscape industry certified studies.

I did not smash the test but I passed! Now the ITA Red Seal diploma hangs on my wall and I am proud of it.

The key

All attendees received a thick manual which focused on areas where people struggle most. See, I told you, money well spent. I have no idea if attendees still receive manuals or what is in them but I bet it is something similar.

If you have any questions, call or e-mail Bill Hardy, he will help you: bhardy@horteducationbc.com or 604-430-0422.

Red Seal Landscape Horticulturist qualification is a nice trade paper to have. It identifies you as an experienced professional and should, in theory, lead to better pay. It also allows you to take on new apprentices.

If you are thinking about challenging the Red Seal exam in landscape horticulture take the preparation course first. Ninety dollars is a steal. Trust me.

Good luck!

 

Remembrance Day

By | Events, Trees | No Comments

Today is Remembrance Day, a day to remember those who gave their lives for our freedom today. Unfortunately, I had to work today but I did stop at 11 a.m. to remember those who made their ultimate sacrifice.

A new bed

In 2014, while working for the City of Coquitlam as a park labourer, we created a new bed for Remembrance Day at Blue Mountain Park. And now I drive by the park weekly so I remember fallen soldiers all year.

In subsequent years the municipality redesigned the front planted bed but the plants in the back remain. And I’m glad they do because I planted them with my city gardener boss. We planted yews (Taxus), Astilbes, maples (Acer) and one dogwood (Cornus).

 

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I planted all of the back plants in 2014 with my city gardener boss. They all look fine.

 

First bare-root planting

The dogwood planting was very special because it was my first bare-root planting. Bare-root planting is recommended because when you wash off the root ball you can clearly see the tree roots. This then allows you to arrange them so they look like spokes on a wheel before planting. We want all roots to run out and get established, not keep running in circles. Feel free to prune out any rebel roots.

When you wash off the root ball, hold on to the mud you create. You will use it to plant the tree after your roots are nicely arranged like spokes on a wheel. The mud anchors the bare-root tree in the hole. At the time I didn’t know this. Keeping mud in the back of the truck seemed crazy.

The procedure is to install the muddy soil in phases: soil and water go in and then you wait for it to settle, and repeat the procedure until the hole is filled. The mud cements the tree in the hole.

When we did the planting in 2014 the lawn and soil were wet so I got very muddy but it didn’t bother me. I loved the new experience of bare-root planting.

2019

Now, five years later in 2019, I finally stopped by to take a picture of the dogwood and it looks healthy. I gave it a quick wiggle test by moving the trunk back and forth. The base felt solid which means the tree is established. Yay! Success. The other plants look fine as well.

 

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The dogwood in the middle was planted bare-root in 2014.

 

It feels good to know that my work will be on display for many years to come. I have since done one solo bare-root planting project and I hope to do many more. You should try it next time, too.

I hope you had a great Remembrance Day!

 

 

 

Don’t miss CanWest 2019

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Don’t miss CanWest 2019 Horticulture Expo, Western Canada’s Premiere Horticulture Trade Show. If you read this blog frequently-and I hope you do!-you will know that I harp on this every year. The show runs from September 25-26, 2019.

 

Why I attend

 

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Landscape pro Vas planning his CanWest lecture line-up.

 

Yes, thanks to the generous support of my company, I get two paid days off to hang out at a trade show. But it’s not about escaping from work. It’s about learning and collecting education credits. And this year looks very promising.

As an ISA certified arborist I attend the full day Urban Foresters Symposium on Wednesday; and this year two lectures look interesting: tree planting and installation; and tree diseases affecting Pacific Northwest trees. There is usually enough time after the symposium to take the plant ID test on the trade floor.

Then, on Thursday, there are short courses available. This is my proposed list.

  1. Renovation pruning of an Old Garden, 8:30-10am
  2. Garden zombies: horticultural myths, 10:30-12:00, Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott
  3. Pruning fruit trees, 1:15-2:45

CanWest rock star!

Note that the second course is taught by my online mentor Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott from the University of Washington. I have most of her books and I bought her Great Course. All of them are great resources. Not only is there science behind Linda’s work, she’s also local. If you’re not familiar with Linda, now is your chance to correct that frightening omission. Thank me later.

 

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Dr. Linda Chalker-Scott, don’t miss her lectures and learn from her work.

 

Lots happening

There is lots more happening at CanWest than lectures. The trade floor is covered by booths, there is a job board, arborist demo zone, bug zone and pest ID challenge, and truck and trailer safety.

You can also reconnect with old co-workers and meet new people to build your network. This trade show is awesome for a professional landscape blogger like me. And some of my work will appear on this Proper Landscaping blog.

Don’t miss this year’s CanWest. If you see me there, please say Hello and give me feedback on this blog.

Learn. Connect. Grow.

Why I never miss the CanWest Hort Expo

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I write this blog post every year because I firmly believe that all landscape professionals in British Columbia should make time for the CanWest Hort Expo. I’m luckier than most in that my employer sponsors my CanWest visits by covering both my work time and the expo fees. But, whatever your circumstances may be, make time and budget to attend the 2019 expo.

Why CanWest?

Urban Forestry Symposium

What’s so special about CanWest? Well, let’s see. I attend the event because I want to learn new things, collect CEUs (education credits) and pump out blog posts out of it. I usually spend the entire Wednesday learning at the Urban Forestry Symposium which leaves me a little bit of time to check out the trade booths.

The symposium covers three to four lectures and many times the speakers are Ph.D. experts in their field. I fill up my notebook with notes and marvel at how articulate the presenters are. There is always a gem, one big idea or aha moment in every lecture. It’s money well spent.

Lunch is included so try to mingle and network. I often steal extra pens and notepads. Take extra handout copies for your employees. And sign the CEU sheet for credit from the ISA.

 

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Short courses

Last year I attended three short seminars which is all I could squeeze into my Thursday. You can pick whatever seminar topics interest you and go to those. There are usually several concurrent seminars going on and they all give you CEUs.

Plant ID contest

This is the best booth at CanWest. Yes, you can put your passing score paper in for a draw prize but I do it for the challenge. Usually it comes down to the last two specimens. So, visit this booth and take the test. You could win a prize. Check out my blog about last year’s plant ID booth.

Trade booths

Walk the floor and see what’s available for sale from tools and machines to nursery plants. This is another great opportunity to talk to people and network. Last year I ran into my ex-municipal foreman boss which was fun; and into some former co-workers. Always stay in touch with industry people. You never know.

Fun

You can eat and drink alcohol at CanWest and there is live entertainment. I don’t normally care about this aspect of the show but some people get excited about tailgate parties.

Jobs

If you need workers or a job, there is a huge job board at the expo so stop by. The industry always needs good workers.

The 2019 CanWest Hort Expo is on September 24 and 25. Don’t miss it. See you there!

 

Company wellness plan: trail race edition

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Companies don’t need costly, formal wellness plans for their employees. It can be done informally. One good example is a trail race from November 2018. The company boss ran his first trail race with one of our fastest foremen. It was a gruelling off-road half marathon and also in the field were the famous- now retired- Vancouver Canucks Sedin twins.

 

Short course 12.5km

 

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Not a bad race course!

 

The boss generously sponsored six other employees in the short 12.5 km course race. And the game was on because I was the oldest in the group and they were all gunning for their supervisor. Fools.

The North Shore morning sun was extremely pleasant but it was still cool in the shade. I was careful not to over-dress and I was the only runner in our group to warm-up. Remember, you should get to the starting line sweaty.

One of the runners in our group, let’s give him a fake name like Stan, took off fast but we stayed close to him. Once he started walking in the first 3km, I knew I’d take him; and I did. Stan would later pollute the forest trails with his vomit. Four times!

I felt surprisingly well, well enough to notice the morning mist spilling out of the forest and on to the open trail. It was an amazing effect, as if the forest was breathing.

Once I passed Stan, nobody would come close to me and I crossed the finish line two full minutes ahead of one foreman. He considered it a success but I noted to myself that I’m old enough to be his father. The others finished well behind me but they finished!

We took a team photo before I had to run off. Later at home I checked the results and I was ecstatic with my number one placing in age category. I still got it, I thought, but then I scrolled up and noticed that my boss had entered me in the 60-69 age group. Very funny.

 

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Landscape pro Vas (949) competing in the Gunner Shaw XC on December 1, 2018. This time I was sponsored by my Phoenix running club.

 

Success

With a small investment my boss got seven employees to run a trail race in the woods on a sunny November morning. All of us finished and there was some team bonding happening. The boss even took them out for lunch.

Next is the 2019 Sun Run, Canada’s largest 10 km race, which we will enter as a team in the corporate division. I think we’ll do fine.

All companies can design informal wellness plans for their employees. It’s good for the company and for the workers.

 

CanWest Hort Show 2018 September 26 & 27

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I make it a point to attend the CanWest Hort Show every year and I’m lucky to have a boss who gives me time off and support. I am convinced that all professional landscapers, horticulture students, career changers and landscape company owners in British Columbia should attend this two-day event.

 

Symposium

 


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I usually attend the full-day Urban Foresters Symposium because it gives me access to excellent tree-related lectures and it gives me CEUs towards recertification. Lunch is included in the hefty $225 fee but the networking you can do is priceless.

This year there are three speakers and two of them are Ph.Ds. Four lectures:

1.Trees on development sites

2. Professional practice: report writing

3. Moisture stress in the landscape

4. New and underutilized street and landscape trees

 

Last year, a gentleman in the lunch line-up recognized my name; he had read many of my blogs! Now I’m a member of his Landscape Horticulturists Facebook group. Easy.

Once the conference is over, there is usually enough time to go over to the plant ID test booth and take the free exam. This year I hope to make it a third 100% score in a row. I also distribute the blank plant list to our employees.

 

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Short courses

There are many shorter seminars offered as well so pick the ones that interest you and learn. Check out the full course line-up at the CanWest Hort Show website.

 

Booths

Walking the trade floor is a lot of fun. You can see stuff on sale, services offered and nurseries have plants set-up in their booths which is perfect for plant ID work. Most booths offer free candy and I usually help myself.

There is also a job board if you need workers or a new job. You can also buy food and drinks. The Tradex in Abbotsford has tons of free parking and it’s easy to find.

See you there!