Monday, September 19, 2011

Fall planting isn't just for bulbs!

Are you thinking you missed the time to do your landscaping projects this season? Think again.

Fall is actually the best time to plant. Here's why:

-Most root growth happens in the late summer and fall so plants have a time to get well established

- More mild temperatures and more regular rainfall help plants acclimatize

- Fall soil is warmer and more conditioned making root establishment easier

-There are less pests in the fall that might attack young plants

- Plants have a jump start on the next growing season so flower more and look more established next spring and summer

- Plants with an established root system can better withstand the extreme conditions of next summer

Let us help you get your landscaping done before winter. 15% off design services between now and October 31.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Rejuvination Pruning

I have spoken with many of you about rejuvenation pruning recently so I thought I should write an article about it and share this underused practice with more people. If you are like me and moved into a home where the landscape had not been maintained in ~10 years, and well-established plantings bore a strong resemblance to Cousin Itt, then rejuvenation pruning could be your ticket. Rejuvenation pruning is the practice of drastically pruning a shrub to within 6-12” of the ground so as to jump-start its energy into new growth.

BRAVERY: Rejuvenation pruning may seem scary and excessively harsh, but knowledge of these two things can help you move forward: - Perennial shrubs store their energy in their roots so it is all but impossible to kill them by cutting what is above ground - New growth and flowers grow on last years’ wood. This means that if un-pruned, the shrub will get larger and larger every year with the growth only occurring on the outer foot or two; resulting in a dead-looking and leafless interior

TIMING: Rejuvenation pruning can realistically happen any time of the year, but if you prune outside of optimal times you can cheat yourself out of a season of bloom. Prune spring blooming shrubs such as Lilac, Prunus, Forsythis, Mockorange, Amelanchier, Cotoneaster and certain varieties of Spirea as soon as the flowers are done in the late Spring and before much new growth has started. If this pruning is done in the fall or winter you will remove the flower buds that have set for next years’ growth. Summer blooming shrubs such as Coralberry, Oregongrape Holly, Potentilla, Roses, St. Johnswort and Sumac should be pruned in the late winter or early spring before new growth begins. Pruning after growth has started will remove buds for this year’s blooms.

STAGED PRUNING: If cutting back the entire shrub feels too drastic, or doing so would have a negative impact on the visual appeal of your landscape, consider gradual rejuvenation pruning. The same thing can be accomplished over the course of a couple of years, but you will remove all of the branches in stages as opposed to all at once. This method takes longer to accomplish but the shrubs remain more attractive during the rejuvenation process.

Now get out there and hack your shrubs down to the ground! They will be better for it.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Fourmile fire burn zone- Defensible space and Ecological Restoration

While beautifying peoples homes is fun and satisfying, there is something especially interesting about the challenge of re-vegetating 13 acres that have been ravaged by a wildfire. This was the task set upon us this fall after the 2010 Fourmile Fire west of Boulder, CO.

It did not matter how much we had heard on the news or how many photos we had seen on Facebook, when going up to the burn zone via Sunshine Canyon Drive we were struck by the gravity of the fire all over again. The blackness spanned over rolling hills that are usually a deep green from all of the pines. The air was filled with ash even weeks after the fire had been extinguished. The smell was inundating. It was striking to see how houses not 100 feet from a completely intact home, were burned down to a foundation and a few charred remains of kitchen appliances.

The home we are working on was spared but smoke damage meant that the house had to be gutted and remodeled from inside. As with many of the homes in this area, it was built on a steep slope and surrounded by evergreen trees, nearly all of which went up like torches. Void of its stabilizing vegetation, these steep slopes are now left in a vulnerable position for when spring rains come. Our task was to design defensible space around the house so that a future fire would have less impact on the house as well as revegetate the remaining property.

In addition to being exciting the inspiring, this job also comes with incredible challenges:

-Plants: The potential plant palette shrunk with each condition: grows in Colorado, drought resistant, grows over 9000’ and fire resistant. Add the clients likes and dislikes and we have about 22 plants to work with... and by “about 22” I mean “literally 22”.

-Soil: Additionally the “soil” on site mostly consists of crushed granite. At this altitude, with this much wind and with the rock so close to the surface, top soil has very little to cling to. Add to that the fact that in some spots this fire burned the soil to a 2' depth and this further limits where and what can be planted.

Although we have spent this winter inside drawing the plans for this project while our contractor, Rob Phillips of Mountain Man Irrigation has been taking burned trees down, rebuilding walls and preparing the site for construction, life has been starting without us. Many of the plants that were only flash burned have already shown signs of new growth. The dry and windy winter also managed to blow away a large amount of the soot and ash that was covering the soil. It is exciting to imagine what life we can coax out of the site with some careful planting and irrigation. Stay tuned to see our progress.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Mystery Pruner

A friend posted a question about tree pruning on Facebook over the weekend that struck a nerve and got me thinking about the casual way many people approach tree care.

She wrote:
“So I hear a noise on my patio this morning while we are eating breakfast and look out and there is a guy there. Trimming my tree. MY tree. The one I planted on Mother’s Day when I first moved in. Weird! Should I be thankful or defensive?”

In short: Yes! Be defensive! Who was this guy?  Did he know anything about pruning trees? Did he even know what kind of tree it was?  What kind of pruning was he planning on doing?  He obviously didn’t talk about it with the homeowner (it turned out he was from the HOA).  I was still skeptical and had her send me a photo of the final product.

Not many people I encounter in my work understand that tree care is both an art and a science. This is not surprising. After all, where does one learn how to take care of trees?  Luckily, the Cooperative Extension at CSU has a detailed and easily accessible handout titled, “Pruning Mature Shade Trees.”  I suggest bookmarking it for when you need it.

The gist? Improper tree pruning can lead to pests, disease, and even shorten the life of a tree.  Remember, trees are long term investments, and a bad pruning job that leads to pests, disease or death can rapidly turn decades of investment into a liability.

With the stakes this high, pruning should be left to the experts. Here is an overview of what the experts look for when evaluating a tree. There are several different ways or what the experts call ‘objectives’ to prune a tree.  The objectives are: Structural, Cleaning, Thinning, Raising, Reduction, Restoration, Pollarding.  Each results in a different method for pruning a tree, and each method uses different types of pruning cuts (removal, reduction, and heading cuts are some examples).   Consideration also must be given to the objective of pruning: is the goal to improve health, remove of broken limbs, or to shape?

Have I lost you? If the myriad means and ends of pruning hasn’t motivated you to trade those pruners in your hand for a stiff drink, then a discussion of root shoot ratios, loin-tailing, and branch collar probably would. That is why the Facebook post got me all fired up.  My friend’s “mystery landscaper” was altering her special tree in a way that could profoundly affect its health and longevity—all without her permission and without her first being able to ascertain what credentials, if any, he had.

One thing the “mystery landscaper” did right was to time the pruning to the appropriate season.  Late winter and early spring are great times to prune because the tree’s wound-healing capacity is more robust , stress to the tree is minimal, and most pests are hibernating or frozen solid.  

When you are looking for someone to work on your trees, make sure they are certified through the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA).   We are still not sure about the “mystery landscaper” credentials, but he did have a lot of sharp-looking tools…

My recommendation: leave the pruning to the experts or, if you must do it yourself, do plenty of homework first. Be a guardian and a protector of your trees.  They are worth every penny of investment.