Blog

Pear

shane - January 13, 2017 - A-Z Plant Maintenance, Fruit Trees, Trees

Pyrus ussuriensis

P. ussuriensis ‘Early Gold’

P. ussuriensis ‘Golden Spice’

Pear is one of my favourite trees for the Prairies.  It has an excellent flower display in spring, dark, glossy green foliage througout summer, and outstanding fall colour, which varies according to conditions in the fall, but often in the oranges, peaches, and reds, and purple hues.  It take them many years to reach mature height, and their size and form are appropriate for today’s size of residential landscapes.

Pears are uncommon, especially compared the apples, crabapples, and the ornamental crabs.  They are supremely hardy and deserve more attention.  We plant them regularly, when they are available.  Pears are useful in commercial plantings, where an upright oval form is preferred to a broad, or circular tree form.  We use them at condo-type plantings because they are less likely to be mutilated by the lawn maintenance contractors.

Fall colour in Sylvan Lake. S. LePage photo.

Structural pruning is a must on young trees, for several years after planting.  Pruning a pear effectively, without leaving 90 degree angled cuts, is a challenge, simply due to the growth habit of the tree.  As with most trees, pears perform well in a moist, well-drained loam.  They are drought-tolerant once established.  Growth of 18″-24″ per season is not uncommon in good soil with adequate moisture.

We haven’t had much incidence of disease with pears, but like apples, they are subject to fireblight.

Exposure

Full sun

Pruning Time

Dormancy is best (late October – early April)

Pruning

Prune as a central-leader standard, with well spaced scaffold limbs.  Reduce co-dominant stems.

Crown Reduction

A natural form is pest for pears.  Allow a 10′ radius around the plant when choosing a planting site.

 

(c) 2017 Shane LePage, Wild Rose Garden & Tree Service Inc., Red Deer, AB.

Serviceberry

shane - January 13, 2017 - Uncategorized

Amelanchier ‘Autumn Brilliance’

Amelanchier ‘Robin Hill’

A young serviceberry in a mixed planting in my front yard. S. LePage photo.

I really like serviceberry, because it’s basically just a single-stem, saskatoon tree.  Unfortunately, I don’t think it is 100% right for our region, even though it technically is hardy and gets through the winter.  It basically just sits there all season, flowers well, leafs out, barely grows (maybe 1″ in last two years in good soil), sets berries, goes into fall colour, and survives another winter.  The canopy remains sparse.

Despite its lack of vigour, I still think serviceberry has a role to play in small gardens, for the same reason, that it stays small and you won’t have to worry about it taking over the area you first planted it.  Just don’t expect it to grow into the 20′ tall by 16′ wide tree that is advertised at the garden centre.  I think I’ll be lucky to see this tree reach 8′ in Red Deer.  Fellow arborists in Calgary have told me this tree doesn’t work there.  I’d give it a shot in Edmonton.  If you can make it work, it’s a pretty tree.

Exposure

Full sun

Pruning Time

Dormancy is best, and there won’t be much to prune as it doesn’t put on much growth.  It also doesn’t seem to die-back either.

Pruning

Train as a central-leader standard.  Remove dead or diseased wood as needed. Subordinate co-dominant leaders.

Crown Reduction

Not suitable.

(c) 2017 Shane LePage, Wild Rose Garden & Tree Service Inc., Red Deer, AB

Tatarian Honeysuckle

shane - January 12, 2017 - A-Z Plant Maintenance, Shrubs

Lonicera tatarica

Tatarian honeysuckle flowers.

This is a common shrub in older neighbourhoods and boulevards.  It has pretty pale, pink, or reddish flowers, nice leaf shape and grows to about 10′.  It tends to get leggy with age, but despite that can look nice as an accent, surrounded by various perennials in a garden bed.  The flowers are a welcome addition to spring.

Cats love the bark of this plant.  Cutting a few small rounds for your cats to maul will keep them happy.

Tatarian honeysuckle sometimes suffers attack by honeysuckle aphid, which disfigures the growing tips, and leaves the shrub looking terrible.

Exposure

Full sun

Pruning Time

Dormancy is best, so you can see what you’re working on.

Pruning

I prune these shrubs in the same manner as common lilac and American high-bush cranberry.

Crown Reduction

Not appropriate for this species.  Topping this shrub will leave it looking butchered.

Renovation

Strong plants readily sucker back from the cut stump.  Overgrown or neglected specimens can be rejuvenated in this manner.

 

(c) 2017 Shane LePage, Wild Rose Garden & Tree Service Inc., Red Deer, AB

Sugar Maple

shane - January 12, 2017 - A-Z Plant Maintenance, Trees

Acer saccharum

Rare sugar maple in Red Deer. S. LePage photo.

It is unusual to find a sugar maple in Red Deer.  Although listed as Zone 3, I find this species to be marginally hardy, at best, and I think Zone 4+ would be more appropriate.  I’ve looked after only two specimens in the last 15 years, and for their age, they aren’t very big.  That said, they have a nice, round, compact form, beautiful big “Canadian flag” leaves in summer, and outstanding fall colour.  I wish I could confidently plant more of these in the city.  We did a trial on some at Mirror, AB, and they died over their first winter.  So we don’t plant this species, but we do appreciate them when we find them on the landscape.

For people after a more “Eastern” maple, I would suggest the silver maple, or cultivars thereof.  We tried a couple ‘Silver Queen’ silver maples two years ago and they made it through winter very well, although were slow to leaf-out.

Exposure

Full sun, but protected.

Pruning Time

Late spring and summer, while the tree is in full-leaf.  If you cut this tree too early in the spring, it will “bleed” sap from its wounds.  This can be quite alarming, so wait until the leaves are out.

Pruning

I would train a new specimen as a central-leader standard, with well spaced scaffold limbs.  Subordinate co-dominant leaders.

Crown Reduction

It will be hard enough to get it growing, so don’t worry about making it smaller.

 

(c) 2017 Shane LePage, Wild Rose Garden & Tree Service Inc., Red Deer, AB.

Spruce

shane - January 12, 2017 - A-Z Plant Maintenance, Trees

Blue spruce in Red Deer. S. LePage photo.

Picea glauca – White Spruce

Picea pungens glauca – Colorado Blue Spruce

Spruce trees are truly ubiquitous in central Alberta, and the epitome of tree species to many people.  While I don’t share that view, I do appreciate their abundance in the city, as they give year round colour to our neighbourhoods, and truly make the urban forest seem like a forest.  I would never plant a spruce tree in an average residential yard, because of their canopy density, the amount of shade they cast, and the huge footprint that the mature form requires.  I much prefer pines to spruce, as pines allow you to see through the canopy.  Spruce look great on the horizon, or framing a view.  They have plenty of value in parks, natural areas, acreages, and properly positioned in large yards.

There are a variety of smaller cultivars available, which are more appropriate for smaller landscapes, such as Picea ‘Bakeri’, which only grows to about 12′ tall.  White spruce are generally more narrow and less dense than blue spruce.

Many spruce trees find there way into yards when they come home with the kids on Arbor Day.  People take the cute little saplings and plant them 6′ from their livingroom window, or deck, or fence, and watch them grow.  By the time the kids leave home (if they leave home), the spruce is resting on the roof, pushing on the livingroom window, overtaking the front yard, and growing out onto the sidewalk.  Just like the kids, the tree doesn’t stay cute!  And very few people take the mature size of spruce trees into account when selecting a place in their yard to plant them.  The other thing is, once a tree is mature, many people are reluctant to remove them, because they often provide a great deal of privacy to some part of the yard.  At that point, some people seek to contain the tree, and have it shaped every 2-3 years.  The tree then loses its natural form and, unless properly shaped, takes on a blob-like appearance that is often a bit garish in the landscape.

As with most tree species, it is important to plan out a suitable spot for it prior to planting, to avoid unnecessary or costly maintenance later on.  Spruce can be nicely positioned on the NW corner of the back yard, which won’t shade the yard, will provide a nice-looking back-drop, and provide shelter from prevailing NW winds.  Planting a spruce on the south side might be good for temperature-control during hot summer months, but don’t allow the heat and light from the sun to penetrate during winter.

A mature spruce takes up a lot of space, and it is difficult or impossible to grow a nice lawn under the tree, unless the spruce crown is raised up so high that the tree looks ridiculous.  Other plants struggle under spruce trees as well.  No wonder, its dark and dry under a thick tree.  Plants need light and moisture to thrive.  People mistakenly believe the only reason plants and grass won’t grow under the tree is because of the acidity of the soil.  This isn’t correct.  If it’s privacy you want, there are better trees to choose from, that won’t take up as much space, and will allow for mixed plantings in smaller landscapes.

We like to create shade gardens under mature spruce groves, particularly those of white spruce.  Proper plant selection is key for the understory, but as long as trees and other plants all get what they need, the garden will do fine.

A shade garden in the Mountview neighbourhood, Red Deer. S. LePage photo.

Exposure

Part-shade to full sun.

Pruning Time

For clearance pruning, anytime of year.  Deadwood removal is best done in the winter months, as it is a dirty, dusty job, and the small twigs break off easily in the cold.  You’ll also want to wear long-sleeved shirt for deadwooding, otherwise your arms will look pretty assaulted at the end of the day.

Pruning

Most spruce pruning in residential yards consist of clearance (from a structure, driveway or sidewalk), width reduction on the lower half of the crown (as the tree encroaches on the yard), and deadwood removal on mature trees.  Deadwood removal is purely esthetic, and really improves the look of a mature specimen, especially if it was placed in a very visible part of the yard or next to the street.

Crown Reduction

I prefer to shape from late summer onward, after the season’s growth flush is complete, and hardened off.  Shaping in September gives a nice shape until the following June.  If you make a nice shape in May, the tree will start looking “furry” again in June.  If you really want to arrest the growth of the tree, pruning while the new growth is expanding works best, although we rarely do this.  We prefer to let the crown expand a few inches after each re-shape.

(c) 2017 Shane LePage, Wild Rose Garden & Tree Service Inc., Red Deer, AB.

Silver-Leaf Willow

shane - January 12, 2017 - A-Z Plant Maintenance, Trees

Salix alba sibirica

Silver leaf willow 2 years after planting. J. Evans photo.

Over the past few years, silver-leaf willow has become one of our favourite shade trees.  While there are a handful of excellent mature specimens in Red Deer, it is still a very uncommon tree in our area.  With the declining population of mature weeping and paper birch in Red Deer, due mostly to bronze birch borer, silver-leaf willow makes an excellent replacement tree.

Mature trees reach about 30′ in crown width and 30′ in height.  Expect a growth rate of 4′ per year in suitable growing conditions.  They are suitable for parks, acreages, and large front yards, taking up roughly the same amount of space as a mature weeping birch.  The leaves are an interesting silver-grey-green, and the mature canopy has a distinct weeping form.  We have not encountered any insect or disease problems on the young trees we’ve planted.  The form and distinct foliage colour add an interesting contrast within the urban forest, and we consider the species highly under-planted.

Exposure

Full sun

Pruning Time

Mid-summer through dormancy for structural pruning.  Anytime for deadwood removal.  As with most species, pruning is much easier, and better for the tree, when the leaves are off.

Pruning

Train as a central-leader standard with well-spaced scaffold limbs, and reduce or remove co-dominant leaders.  It is important to stake new trees for two seasons.  We’ve found that the growth rate is so vigorous, that potted trees require additional staking, otherwise they will take on a significant lean away from the prevailing wind.  Once the root system can support the crown, the stakes can be removed.  Structural pruning is required at least once per season on fast-growing willow.  We generally assess their structure in late June, and again in Fall.

Crown Reduction

Unsuitable.  Allow a 15′ radius around or future growth, when deciding where to place the tree.  Willow readily decays from large wounds.

 

(c) 2017 Shane LePage, Wild Rose Garden & Tree Service Inc., Red Deer, AB.

 

 

 

Siberian Elm

shane - January 11, 2017 - A-Z Plant Maintenance, Trees

Ulmus pumila

Siberian elms in Red Deer, AB. S. LePage photo.

Siberian elms are long-lasting shade trees on the Prairies.  In my 1950’s neighbourhood, the streets are lined with them, and most of them appear healthy.

Beyond their shade-producing capability, I am not a fan of this species.  They are prolific seed producers and the seeds readily sprout all over the neighbourhood.  Many of the planted trees have long since died in neighbouring yards, but the progeny of the local street trees remain, often lurking at the corners of yards, behind a garage, or sharing the space with the trash can in the alley.  I respect Siberian elm like I respect dandelions and quack grass – for their survivability as a species.  From a horticultural perspective, I find them a nuisance.

They are messy, their wood is weak and rots easily, and they can be dangerous for an arborist to climb.  In Red Deer, they are prone to leafminer infestation each spring, which can render most of their foliage brown by late June.

On the flip side, they are resistant to Dutch elm disease and European elm scale, so we will likely see them outperform in places like Calgary or Lethbridge.

This is not a species I would consider planting in an average residential yard, but I would use them on acreages or as a shelter-belt tree.

Exposure

Full sun

Pruning Time

Whenever the chainsaw is sharp!  Actually, these trees should be pruned during the same as American elms, from Oct.1-Mar.31, to prevent the spread of Dutch elm disease.

Pruning

Train as a central-leader standard, with well-spaced scaffold limbs.  Subordinate co-dominant leaders.  New trees are best pruned annually so they develop a strong structure.  On mature specimens, remove dead, diseased, and storm-damaged branches.  Remove badly rubbing or crossing branches, if appropriate, but pay attention the size of cut you have to make, and the growth rate of the tree.  It isn’t worth it to take off a large branch, just for the sake of rubbing, if the large would will allow decay to form in the tree.  Siberian elms readily decay from wounds.  Reduce branches as necessary to clear structures, walkways, and driveways, as needed.

(c) 2017 Shane LePage, Wild Rose Garden & Tree Service Inc., Red Deer, AB.

Sea Buckthorn

shane - January 11, 2017 - Uncategorized

Hippophae rhamnoides & cvs.

Sea buckthorn is a very common and well-respected plant in the eastern part of the world, where it’s used to produce around 200 different products.  The berries are high in Vitamin C and other nutrients.  In the West, it is largely unknown, except to horticulturists, a few specialty berry growers, and a few adventurous homeowners.  It isn’t a common ornamental plant, and rightly so, as it thorny, suckers freely, and tends to take over the area where it’s planted.

It is a useful plant for reclamation and soil improvement projects, as its roots have the ability to fix nitrogen from the atmosphere.

We tried using the thornless cultivar ‘Hikul’ in a couple of residential plantings, but were put off by the massive amount of suckering the following two years after.  I no longer use sea buckthorn in small residential plantings.  They would be useful in shelter-belt plantings, or on acreages where their spread is either desirable, or at least not problematic.  The berries are delicious and very nutritious.  The foliage is a nice silvery-green, which adds nice contrast in a landscape.

Exposure

Full sun

Pruning Time

Dormant period (late October to early April).  Anytime, if only minor pruning is required.

Pruning

On an acreage sitaution, I’d just let this plant do it’s thing. The width might need to be taken in from time to time to keep it in the desired area.  Be prepared for a thicket.  Wildlife likes it.

(c) 2017 Shane LePage, Wild Rose Garden & Tree Service In., Red Deer, AB.

Scots Pine

shane - January 11, 2017 - A-Z Plant Maintenance, Trees

Pinus sylvestris & cvs.

Scots pine in Red Deer. S. LePage photo.

I’m a huge fan of all the pines, especially Scots.  I love the colour and texture of the bark, the random crooks and bends of the trunk, and the way the limbs hold their needles, giving the trees the look of an exotic, oriental garden tree.

We are fortunate in Red Deer to have a lot of green spaces in the older neighbourhoods, with a lot of Scots pines in large, mixed, woody planting.  They stand up well as a specimen or accent shade tree, but look equally natural and appealing in a grove or shelterbelt.  One of the nicest shelterbelts I’ve seen is on an acreage between Sylvan lake and Bentley, consisting entirely of mature Scots pines.

Scots pines are available in a range of cultivars, from dwarf, to columnar, to specialty forms.

Exposure

Full sun

Pruning Time

Pruning is rarely required, so long as the tree is placed properly at planting.  For deadwood removal and clearance pruning, anytime of year would be fine.

Pruning

Remove deadwood if desired.  Clear back branches from sidewalks and structures as required on mature trees.

‘Water’s’ Scots pine. S. LePage photo.

Crown Reduction

Scots pine is a good candidate for Niwaki, or specialty pruning.  It is slow-growing, so creating an interesting specialty form will take many years.

For a good introduction to specialty pine pruning, look for the book Niwaki, by Jake Hobson.

 

(c) 2017 Shane LePage, Wild Rose Garden & Tree Service Inc., Red Deer, AB

Saskatoon

shane - January 11, 2017 - A-Z Plant Maintenance, Fruiting Shrubs, Shrubs

Amelanchier alnifolia & cvs.

Saskatoon is one of my favourite plants.  I have fond childhood memories of berry-picking with my mom, in the northern BC woods.  Besides bearing tasty fruit, saskatoon is a great ornamental plant, with beautiful white flowers in spring, and excellent fall colour.  The many available cultivars allow you to choose the form you want, from the 5′ tall ‘Regent’, to the common Saskatoon, to the ‘Standing Ovation’ variety, which grows to about 14′ tall in a columnar fashion.  We like the idea of using the columnar form as an alternative to the over-planted Swedish columnar aspen.

Saskatoon is a close relative to the serviceberry tree, but much hardier.

We like to use saskatoons in a mixed planting with other fruiting shrubs, to form small Prairie orchards that will fit into an average-sized residential yard.  Who doesn’t enjoy fresh fruit straight from the tree in summer?

Saskatoon is prone to several diseases, including leaf spot, rust fungus, cytospora canker, powdery mildew, and fireblight.  I’ve found that good plant stock, properly planted, and grown in fertile soil with enough water and adequate air flow, will prevent most incidences of disease.

Exposure

Full sun.

Pruning Time

Anytime if up to 10% of the canopy is to be pruned.  Otherwise, it is best to wait for the dormant season (late October – early April).  It is nice to prune these shrubs when the leaves are off, and you can see what you’re looking at.

Pruning

This somewhat depends on the variety, and the intended purpose of the shrub.  If saskatoon is planted in a grove on an acreage, I would say that less is more, and I would suggest simply deadwood pruning each year, and removing the odd major crossing/rubbing stem.  The same would go for an orchard-type planting, where the only pruning might be to reduce the width of the rows at some point.

More intensive pruning is necessary when the shrubs are place in ornamental shrub beds, or in mixed ornamental/fruit garden plantings, where a cleaner-looking specimen is more desirable.

I would prune common saskatoon in a similar manner as common lilac, or high-bush cranberry.  With the shorter cultivars, I would focus mainly on dead and diseased wood (important to keep the shrub disease-free), and remove redundant branches and badly crossing limbs.

We often get called in to prune saskatoon shrubs after they have been either brutally topped a few times, or neglected for many years.  At that point, the crowns grows like a bird’s nest, and attempting to undo that mess could result in a very leggy and flimsy plant.  With neglected specimens, I would advise staying out of the top of the crown, except to cut out disease.  Focus on the lower half of the plants, removing deadwood, and improving the overall shape of the clump of stems.  Of course, the best cure for neglect is not to look after your plants from the time of planting.

(c) 2017 Shane LePage, Wild Rose Garden & Tree Service Inc., Red Deer, AB