By Mike Allen
Written for the Winnipeg Free Press April 9th, 2008
A reader of my Tree Care articles called me up and asked why do I focus the content of my articles on problems with trees and shrubs rather than the benefits? The reader’s point is well taken. In my business when there are no perceived problems with trees or shrubs in the yard, I do not normally hear from the owners. People get in touch with me when they have concerns. Having said that I do want to stress that there are many benefits of having healthy vegetation of all kinds on one’s property. Trees provide beauty and many functional purposes around our homes. Shade and wind protection are very obvious benefits. Well placed trees can save energy costs associated with air conditioning and heating. Deciduous shade trees on the south and west sides of the home provide cooling through shade during the heat of summer. Coniferous evergreen trees on the north-west and north sides of the homes in our area can reduce the force of cold winds making the house more comfortable in the winter thereby lower heating costs. Urban trees and shrubs provide places for birds, small mammals and desirable insects such as bees, butterflies, dragon flies and others with food and places to live. In some cases vegetation in our yards provide suitable habitat for frogs, toads and snakes. Of course I know not everybody is completely happy with some creatures of the animal and insect world.
If you have a suitable space you might want to consider planting a tree this spring. If you do plant please avoid overcrowding the trees and shrubs in your garden unless you are planning to grow a dense forest. Crowding always increases the risk of diseases and undesirable pests. Garden aesthetics for most people means having a balanced landscape of trees, shrubs, flowers, vegetables perhaps, ground covers and non-living ornamental things. The selection of plants and how they are use is entirely up to the owner of the yard.
Looking at the other side of the landscape coin, my most common complaint from people who have trees is related to pests and diseases of larger coniferous evergreens such as spruce, pine, fir and cedar. For years I have advocated that owners of these evergreen trees have them assessed in the winter. All the serious issues on these trees that will be of concern are apparent during the winter to the knowledgeable tree expert. The earlier the diagnoses are made in the lives of these evergreen trees, the more effective will be the treatment controls that can be initiated in spring.
In my 38 years as an urban and environmental forester and arborist I have assessed many thousands of trees and even a greater number of shrubs across Canada and various places in the world including South Korea, Nigeria, Denmark and Cameroon. Nearly every yard that has mature trees in southern Manitoba have or will have at least one problem with a tree or shrub. Most people have accepted this reality and are quite prepared to live with this. Many people do not realize they have serious problems until it is too late. Many people know they have tree problems but have been frustrated in trying to get them resolved. Each year I help many hundreds of property owners but even I can only be spread so far. I do this through garden visits, adult education courses I give on tree and shrub care, occasional phone-in radio shows, magazine articles and public appearances.
Beautiful yards and gardens usually do not happen by chance. They are the result of careful planning, attention to detail, and an understanding about how to take care of all the plants including the trees.
I will be available in person at the following public events:
Arbor Day in Assiniboine Park on June 15th by the Lyric Theatre: Arbor Day activities are being organized by the Coalition to Save the Elms from 2 to 8 pm. (Call 832-7188 for more information). The Coalition reminds people who have put up Tanglefoot bands on trees to refresh them with a new application of Tanglefoot as soon as possible. This will help stop the spring cankerworm female moths from climbing over the old bands most of which have lost their stickiness.
Jane’s Walk (part of a national event) in the Kingston Crescent area: I will be part of the walking tour talking about trees and shrubs in the area on May 4th at 1 pm. The walk will start at B.D.I. on Jubilee Ave. Local event activities are being coordinated by the community headed up by Lorraine Thomas (Call 231-5156 for more information)
Michael Allen is a consulting urban and environmental forester and certified I.S.A. arborist and owner of Viburnum Tree Experts. He makes house and garden visits to assess tree and shrub problems. He can be contacted by calling 831-6503 or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. Questions can be mailed to Michael Allen, c/o Newsroom, Winnipeg Free Press, 1355 Mountain Ave., Winnipeg, MB, R2X 3B6. His web site is www.treeexperts.ca