Friday, February 20, 2015

Hunker Down?

In Colorado we never know if the weather forecasters get the storm right until it's happening, or not.  If we get the several inches (three feet...really) they are predicting over the weekend, it makes sense to have a game plan for your landscape, pets and state of mind.  Below are some tips from past Denver Post Punch List columns with a few new ones added.

Tallie, our first dog in '06
  • It’s okay to very gently brush off heavy snow loads on smaller trees and shrubs. 
  • Use a soft-bristled broom, not a shovel and very gently brush off the snow starting at the top.  Do this every few hours if needed.  
  • Truth be known, I'll set my alarm and get up a couple of times during the night to brush off snow loads (yes, tree geek I am...just want to keep the trees happy)
  • If snow piles up on trees or conifers, don't be tempted to shake them. A limb might snap back at you (ouch) when relieved of snow.
  • Shaking a tree may result in damaged limbs or branches, not to mention a pile of cold snow possibly landing on you.
  • If branches are frozen, let them melt on their own.
  • Call your certified arborist next week if you experience severe branch breakage to schedule a consulation (it's time to prune anyway). 
  • Shovel walk ways often when it's easier on you and your back. Shovel every couple of hours if needed (hopefully you're not out driving in this, might as well shovel). 
  • Not a shoveler, call a neighbor kid NOW to be in his/her queue first.
  • Ice-melt or deicer products are generally effective on sidewalks and driveways (they won’t work well in extreme cold temperatures).  When overused or applied improperly they can do harm to surrounding plants, lawns and concrete. Magnesium chloride and calcium magnesium acetate (CMA) products are considered more environmentally friendly.  Sandbox sand works too, but needs to be reapplied after each snow storm. Be sure to sweep it up in the spring so sand doesn’t collect in storm drains. 
  • More on deicers - Is there a safe deicing product for sidewalks and plants? 
  • Keep your pets inside, safe, warm and dry with you.  If the snow piles up you might have to dig out some paths for your four-legged friend (s). 
  • When the snow lets up continue making more paths and play a fun game of fox and geese, just like when you were in the second grade.
  • No need to mention loading up on basic food provisions, you're probably at the store now maneuvering for a parking spot.  Be nice out there!  
  • Use left-overs and on-hand canned goods to make a big pot of chili, stew or soup (Rachel Ray calls them stoups), works for me.  
  • While riding out the storm why not pull out your garden plans and catalogs and get ordering! 
Pictures from past storms - 

February Snow 2015

Raised beds after a big storm, early 2000s
Might as well get some exercise and chase the broom!
Late snow storm 2014, garlic just laughs it off!

Monday, February 16, 2015

Check your Straps

Trees, love mine and no doubt you appreciate yours too. They increase property values and enhance a landscape more than a new gas grill or a donsy of gnomes.  We have over thirty trees in our landscape. One of our linden trees is on life support, something is causing the decline. Maybe it happened years ago (we didn't plant it) or perhaps it went through years of drought stress. Our arborist checked it for girdled roots, plus it has been tested for verticillium wilt, the test was negative.  We've had city foresters and other tree experts take a look and no one seems to know what's wrong with the tree. Other than keeping it watered, we've done what we can. At some point we'll remove the tree.  But I digress, the main reason for this blog is to remind you to check your trees that are staked with posts, wire and straps.

Linden Tree in Decline
Three years ago we planted five HOT WINGS® Tatarian Maple, Acer tataricum ‘Garann’ trees. Four are single stem with one large clump type.  We adore these trees.  They are part of the Plant Select® program which means they have been tested and chosen to do well in our area.  Plus their summer bright red samaras are a sight to enjoy and very welcome that time of the year when most trees are just hanging out being green.  As they describe on the Plant Select® website, it looks like Christmas in July with the pretty red helicopters decorating the tree. 

Photo by Pat Hayward
One of the smaller single stem trees was hit hard with snow a year ago, so we staked it with one nylon strap to help it straighten up.  Ordinarily these trees don't need staking, all the others are doing fine, but this one was planted on a slope near a fence and it just needed a temporary helping hand.  Here's what happened.  In just one year the strap dug pretty deeply into the tree trunk and I didn't even notice it until my tree professional spotted it as we walked the property a few weeks ago surveying what needed to be pruned.  

I felt terribly, first because I should have been on top of how tight the strap was and how much damage it was causing. It was also positioned too high on the trunk of the tree. This is why it is so important to walk around your landscape through the year checking for trouble spots. Dave, my arborist suggested moving the strap down, but keeping it in place through the rest of the winter. I moved and corrected the strap immediately, it took me less than five minutes. Please, don't let this happen to your trees. Had I kept the strap on much longer the tree trunk could have been further damaged or girdled to the point of causing tree death.  Always use nylon grommeted straps, do not use hoses with wires, rope or anything that will dig or cut into the tree or bark.  

Check out these fact sheets for additional information on staking trees -

Tree Staking

The Myth of Staking

Tree Strap Damage (it left a mark and was digging in to the bark)

Moved strap down where it should have been

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

For the Record - Valentine's Day

Internet Photo
Combine luck, legend, romance, gift-giving and the beginning of the bird mating season and you have Valentine’s Day covered. This time of year writers and bloggers delight in penning about its origins and traditions. Many stories trace back to ancient Roman and Christian practices plus some folk legends. I mainly just want to get to the flowers but learning the history is fun.

A story from the third century refers to one of the three Catholic Church’s martyred saints named Valentine who continued performing marriage ceremonies in secret, defying the Roman Emperor Claudius II’s ban. Evidently the emperor felt that single men made better soldiers, the married ones with families must not have been as focused on their soldiering career.  When Claudius found out about the secret marriages he had Valentine put to death (probably by the hand of one of the single guys).  

The ancient Romans observed ‘Lupercalia,’ a pagan fertility festival dedicated to the Roman god of Agriculture – Faunus.  After a full day of animal sacrifices woman placed their names in an urn (hats probably weren’t invented yet) and their names drawn by the bachelor men.  You can guess what happened next, either the couples ended up in marriage, or tried their luck again the following February. Pope Gelasius in the 5th century banned Lupercalia for its unchristian like conduct and re-named February 14th St. Valentine’s Day.  

The “From your Valentine” expression may be from a letter written by one of the priests named Valentine who was in prison for helping Christians escape Roman prisons, where life wasn’t so grand with all the beatings and torture. Supposedly Valentine wrote a farewell letter to a young woman who visited him while in prison (he may have even had a crush on her).  This particular Valentine became very popular by the Middle Ages being associated with his heroism, compassion for others and his romantic letter to his sweetie.

Who can forget the commencement of the bird-mating season in mid-February, first written about by four English authors, Geoffrey Chaucer being the most famous.  In 1382 he wrote Parliament of the Fowls in honor of the engagement between England’s Richard II and Anne of Bohemia, daughter of the Roman Emperor Charles IV -For this was on Saint Valentine’s day, when every fowl comes there his mate to take...”

The oldest known Valentine poem was written in 1415 by Charles, Duke of Orleans to his wife while he was imprisoned in the Tower of London after the battle of Agincourt. You can actually read this poem in the British Library in London. Today there are over 150 million Valentine cards exchanged each year.  E-Valentine cards are quickly gaining in popularity (sorry, just not the same as written cards).

'Kordes Brillant'

Cut flowers, roses and all the various types of bouquets surely are the true measure of ones' feelings toward another. Charles II of Sweden in the early 1700s introduced the language of flowers where entire sentiments, practically whole conversations could take place based on the type of flowers that were exchanged. The red rose takes top billing as the symbol of beauty and love. Pink is a close second to red roses signifying appreciation, gratitude and love. White roses are associated with marriage, new beginnings and spirituality. Ah…orange roses…passion and enthusiasm while yellow means good health, joy and friendship.  
You can’t go wrong sending roses for Valentine’s Day, but other cut flowers, even plants, score meaningful points too. If roses aren’t in the budget or lacking availability try tulips, chrysanthemums and carnations which also say I love you. Violets convey affection or give an orchid to communicate delicate beauty and charm.  Forget-me-nots are synonymous with, well you know… forget-me nots.
Spanish Lavender

Flowers and plants can evoke negativity too.  Give someone a lavender plant to say you don’t trust them or you’re devoted to them (you choose the sentiment).  Willows indicate sadness, receiving narcissus means you’re selfish or your love is unrequited.  And careful on what you bring to a potluck, basil, the main ingredient in pesto means hatred!  No worries, in other circles basil means love and well wishes.  

Enjoy Valentine’s Day this year by saying it with a handwritten card and flowers. Keep Valentine flowers fresh. And if you’re concerned about sending the wrong message you can’t go wrong with a box of chocolates!