Thursday 13 December 2007

Healthy Holidays

December 12, 2007,

At this time of year it is the custom to bring plants that are typically outdoors inside.
Natural trees have many advantages over their petroleum based imitators, you can add one more to the list .
Spruce, pine and fir are generally non toxic. Their taste and texture will usually stop a curious toddler or pet from eating more than a nibble. While there is little chance you would eat a spruce tree or make a salad from your fir, there are a couple of plants you should watch out for. Holly and mistletoe are two holiday favorites that should be kept out of reach.
(Ilex opaca) with its glossy foliage and bright red leaves makes an excellent focal point on a wreath and adds a colorful accent to garlands. Unfortunately the berries are toxic to cats and dogs. Holly contains illicin, and triterpenoids, if your pet eats a small amount they may get sick, a large amount, and a trip to the vet will be in order. Keep in mind that a small pet needs only a small amount to become quite ill. The custom of kissing under the mistletoe, (Viscum album) dates back to the days of the Vikings and figured prominently in the death of the Norse God Baldur. This ancient plant has been bestowed with mystical properties. One not so magical property is its toxic potency . If pets eat mistletoe in any amount call your veterinarian immediately for advice on treatment.While I'm being a Grinch on holiday traditions, poinsettia sap can be a potent irritant to your pets mouth. Fortunately carefully washing the affected area is usually all that is needed to alleviate the discomfort.

Tuesday 4 December 2007

Winterize Your Landscape !

Photo C. Ashcroft

November 30, 2007,

Many people take the time to prepare their vehicles for winter. Few people take simple steps to help their trees through the icy blast!

The first step in being prepared for winter storms is to take a quick inventory of your trees. Evergreens and large deciduous trees have different requirements when frigid weather arrives.

Evergreens should have been well watered right up to freezing. Cedars, arborvitaes and junipers may benefit from an application of anti desiccant. Trees have difficulty replenishing moisture in needles and leaves when the ground is frozen. Anti desiccants form a waxy coating reducing the likelihood that foliage will be dried out when winter weather turns suddenly warm and windy.

Some winter guests may become pests. Deer, rabbits and mice can make your

landscape into a veritable salad bar of winter survival foods. Repellents can be effective in reducing foliage browsing by deer, but mechanical barriers work best for mice and rabbits. Whether a little, or a lot, hardware cloth can keep most rodents on the run and looking elsewhere for a meal. Limit the amount of leaves and debris a the base of shrubs and trees. Debris will act as cover and encourage rodent activity.

Do your own storm damage assessment by walking around the large mature trees close to your house. With the leaves gone you can see branches and damage that may have been hidden in the summer. Look for branches that are at odd angles, generally most living branches grow upwards. Broken branches may be hanging dangerously, over paths and driveways.

Inspect cables that have been installed previously with binoculars to make sure they are not overgrown or frayed. If they were installed more than 5 years ago you should have them professionally inspected to make sure they are not rusted and are up to modern standards.

Are there any unusual cracks? Is bark falling away from the tree? Both of these signs could be indications of larger problems inside.

Visual clues are not the only ones to look out for.

I have had clients call in the dead of winter because their trees are making strange noises. Winter climactic extremes can open up cracks that become groaning creaking monsters when winter winds blow. A quick inspection from an I.S.A. Certified Arborist may put your mind at ease. It will also reduce the chance of a unexpected failures.

Trees and shrubs are a substantial investment, accounting for up to fifteen percent of your property value. A few steps to winterize your landscape can guard your investment and protect your home. Be wise – winterize, your landscape!