February 25, 2013
Our neighbor proceeded with cutting down a tree next door, and we’re a little in shock, a bit in mourning, and struggling to see the silver lining. When I heard the chain saws firing up just as I was preparing to head down to the opening day of the 2013 Northwest Flower and Garden Show, I decided I better stick around and stand guard of anything on my side of the fence. With camera in hand, I watched three guys take the life of a healthy Portugal Laurel next door.
Let me clarify: this was three guys, two trucks, multiple chain saws, one rake, a blower and a stump grinder. None of them or their equipment indicated there was a certified arborist among them. And given the job they did cutting all the low branches off and re-topping suckers on the pear tree in the back garden, I’m fairly confident in assuming this was just a bunch of dudes who know how to fire up power equipment and then kill with it. So, within about an hour they had slaughtered the tree and turned it into a driveway, demolished bird habitat, and completely changed our garden’s exposure. (more…)
February 13, 2013
This morning I was heart-broken to learn that a life of 140+ year old Ginkgo tree was taken – for no good reason. Rather, it was murdered by way of ineptitude.
Yep, by way of The Garden Professors, I read that an amazing Ginkgo tree was cut down by a contractor in Washington DC. (You’ll notice the report doesn’t credit the work to an arborist, let alone even give them a term like “tree worker.” Somebody instead apparently hired this out to somebody with a chainsaw and no good sense.)
A few years ago my sister and I were on vacation in Washington and decided to walk through the city from Georgetown to the Mall. Along the way, a giant Ginkgo tree caught my eye. Although I can’t be 100% certain that this tree is the one that was reportedly chopped down, I’d be surprised if it wasn’t. The tree we saw is pictured to the right, and it was huge and gorgeous. And, yes, it was in the same park/square where they cut down a Ginkgo that likely was the largest and oldest of its kind in the capitol.
Oh, and apparently, they were supposed to cut down sick Ash tree. (Perhaps that’s the very same Ash in green behind me in the photo.) Not sure how in the world a tree professional would mistake one for the other. They’re incredibly different looking trees — even during the dormant months. But, then again, this was a “contractor”. Nobody said anything about hiring a tree professional to do the right job.
And with that, I’ll end my rant with this: Never let someone who isn’t a certified horticulturist with proven plant identification knowledge get anywhere close to your beloved plants. Or, you may lose a treasure that can never be replaced.
November 29, 2012
Several years ago I wrote a post about the Seattle Parks Foundation program that enables donors to give sustainable holiday gifts — a tree, a bench or a park swing. This holiday season, I decided to check to see if the program was still in action. Turns out it is & they’re offering many more gifting options that give back in so many ways. (It also turns out they updated their website & broke my original link. Whew! Got that fixed.)
In addition to accepting donations to plant trees, hang swings or put up a memorial bench, the program now enables you to donate toward restoration programs. And, you can even choose which program your dollars will go toward. For instance, if a salmon stream near your home is being renovated, you can specify that your donation goes to that. Or, if a loved one passed and her favorite bit of forest is being cleared of invasive blackberry, you can choose to give to that program. Maybe your brother donates time building trails on steep slopes. For under $200 you can choose to equip a volunteer, which may ensure your brother gets all the ropes he needs to stay safe as he gives back in his free time.
Or, consider donating $45 toward the procurement of a native plant or $450 toward sponsoring the care of 500 square feet of urban forest. Either of those should assuage any guilt you’re carrying for that decorated cut Christmas tree that goes up every year in the family room.
Don’t have cash? The program accepts just about any kind of money donation. They even take gifts of stock, so instead of taking a loss why not turn something that may have tanked on you into a gift that gives back to the environment?
Whether you choose to adopt-a-plot at just under $4k, give a small recurring gift each month or put up a bench where your family can visit for generations to come, this holiday gift option is one that stays local and is a blessing that goes far beyond the excitement of Christmas day.
And, to be clear, these gifts aren’t just for the holiday season. Donations are accepted year-round! Learn more and give back here.
If your community has a similar program, please let us know in the comments below for the benefit of all.
October 12, 2011
All the time — especially in fall and spring — I get asked over and over again if the mushrooms popping up in gardens are harmful. The answer, in general, is that they’re fine.
Actually, the mushroom you see is just the portion of a larger beast that lives throughout the soil all the time. When you see a mushroom form, the fungi is in the process of reproducing itself by spitting out spores that will eventually become new mushrooms nearby.
Now, to be clear, there are times when seeing the fruiting bodies of fungi (aka the mushrooms) is a warning sign that something not so good is going on. For instance, if shelf fungus forms on a tree, its time (or quite likely past time) to bring in an arborist to check on the health of the tree. These fungi begin putting out fruiting bodies when they’ve eaten up much of the tree already. In most cases, fungi goes for organic material already beginning to die or decay, but when it goes for living plants, that plant is likely on its way out.
And, just because a mushroom isn’t doing damage to your garden doesn’t mean it won’t do damage to you or your pets if you decide to nibble on them. I won’t even begin to try to tell you how to tell an edible mushroom from a toxic one.
Fungi comes in all sorts of forms from wiggly jelly cups to puff balls to cascading beards to varieties that eat and grow over other mushrooms to barfy looking technicolor piles to the traditional forms we all (pretty much) recognize from the grocery store. And, yes, there are many more forms as well. But, knowing which are edible and which are not is a deadly game if you aren’t trained. So, unless you’re absolutely certain you know what you’re picking, don’t even think about eating them. Some will make you sick right away; others can take days to destroy your internal organs – permanently. Even it if looks like a squirrel already nibbled on a ‘shroom cap in the garden, don’t think that means you can eat it!
If patches of mushrooms are popping up in your garden beds or your lawn, odds are they’re not doing any damage. If you enjoy seeing them appear, know they’ll probably disappear just as quickly after they spread their spore and go back to growing underground as mycelium where they live all the time. And as they’re growing, they’re helping process toxins, assisting vascular plants in taking up soil water and nutrients, and aiding in the decomposition process that converts decaying material nutrients into forms that your garden plants can use and thrive upon.
Want to learn more about mushrooms and even get to go picking edible varieties with people in the know? Consider joining and taking classes with a local mycological society like Psms.org. Groups like this also often assist communities with identification of mushrooms found in home gardens, and they can provide help should you suspect mushroom poisoning has occurred.
September 27, 2011
The Cornus genus encompasses a fantastic array of plants ranging from the minute, spreading groundcover C. canadensis to yellow & red, shrubby, twiggy C. sericea to a number of trees that have been cultivated in landscapes around the world.
When I was in horticulture school, struggling to memorize common names, botanical names, bloom time, size, disease and all those other things that go with each plant we learned, I often had to make up crazy stories to keep things straight. Its strange how the brain works — make up a convoluted, nonsensical story, and suddenly information sticks. Now, whenever I see a dogwood tree — especially a Pacific dogwood tree — my brain kicks into gear with the crazy memorizing story tool I made up.
And that’s exactly what happened when we rounded a bend during our hike around Lake Siskiyou just below Mount Shasta where we camped for a few days recently. There, on one of the shadier slopes, not many feet from a stand of Manzanita in hot baking sun, were a number of Cornus nuttallii — covered in coloring clusters of this year’s fruit beside naked flower buds for the coming spring and clothed in leaves showing first hints of red fall color.
How’d I know it was actually C. nuttallii? Well, key ID study from school told me so. And, my crazy little memorizing story helped as well.
Fair warning: if you read on, you may never look at a dogwood tree quite the same again.
Once I’ve determined a tree is indeed a Cornus, the story begins to tell itself in my head…
Cornus nuttallii…that’s the one that comes from the Pacific, like California, where all us “nutty” people live. Yeah, nuttallii…okay, and those crazy, nuttii people in California well, they run around naked (aka naked buds) in all that warm California sunshine. And, yeah, they’re the ones that bloom first in spring — flower power…San Francisco…yeah, nuttii people running around naked and leading the way of the flowers.
I think I’ll leave it at that. You really don’t want to get the whole Cornus florida and Cornus kousa stories. It just gets worse from here on out. I may be just a little bit crazy. But, really, I am pretty good at my plant ID — whatever the cost in getting me there.
Oh, and no, I don’t run around naked all winter. I’ll leave that to the natives — um, to the native plants that is.
August 19, 2011
Earlier this year, Garden Mentors® decided to support a pair of tree guys and a camera crew in their journey to traverse a grove of endangered White Oaks in Oregon.
Their plan: traverse the trees in a particular grove over the course of about a week without any assistance from the ground and without touching the ground the whole time. Yep, they had to carry their lives on their backs, sleep in the trees and figure out how to get from one tree to the other — all without help from below & without leaving the grove for even a moment. Along with another 106 backers who, together, gave over $8000, we contributed what we could to their Kickstarter campaign and were thrilled when the project met its funding requirements. (Actually, their goal was $5000, and donors topped that!)
Recently, as donors, we received an invitation to attend the September 2011 world premiere of their film documenting this journey. Unfortunately, we won’t be able to attend. But, if you’re near Portland, Oregon and this adventure captures your soul the way it does ours, please make the journey. Pay the $7 to get in and enjoy! (Where, when & other details below.)
Here’s a glimpse via the Treeverse trailer, courtesy of Uncage the Soul productions. (What a great name, right?)
Where, When and Other Details:
Where: Mission Theater: 1624 NW Glisan, Portland, OR 97209
Cost of Admission: $7 – proceeds go to NW Documentary’s education center
Time: September 2, 2011: Doors around 7pm, show starts at 8pm. DIY Doc films from 8:15-9:30 & Treeverse from 9:30-10
Other Details: After-Party 10pm until the beer is gone (yes, that means this is a 21+ event)