Moss In My Landscape

Moss In My Landscape

Backyard Wisdom - June 2019
by: Gilbert A Smith, Master Arborist

What can I spray to get rid of moss in my lawn, or on my tree trunks or my roof shingles and what is causing it to grow so much? Although you can find moss herbicides, I do not recommend it!

It’ s a mistake to think that moss is an alien invader which competes with and ruins trees, roofs, or grass. There is nothing further from the truth. Mosses have been around on our planet for 400 million years, in fact they are the oldest living plants on land, and they've learned to survive and adapt to conditions where other plants cannot grow.

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After Winter Woes

After Winter Woes

Mother Nature’s Moment - June 2019
by: Lesley Bruce Smith

This year Boxwoods, Japanese Maples and honeybees all have something in common. They were all very badly affected by the vicious “polar vortex” freezing temperatures we experienced over the winter. Gilbert and I and our crews have seen more winter kill this spring than we have ever seen before, and for Gil that means in the last 50 years of trimming and caring for trees. It is a sad thing for us and for many of our clients who have lost favorite Redbuds or Japanese Maples or long time hedges of Boxwood. If it is any consolation just know that about 30-40% of the Japanese Maples in our practice were lost through this last winter.

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How Do Trees Heal?

How Do Trees Heal?

Backyard Wisdom, April 2019
by: Gilbert A Smith, ISA Certified Master Arborist

They don’t, at least not the way we think of healing. Damaged tissue in our bodies is replaced by new healthy tissue. Once a tree is damaged, however, it remains damaged for the rest of its life. This is because trees don't grow like people. Maybe a better comparison would be that trees grow like coral, annually adding new living layers on top of old mostly dead structure. We can count these new layers or annual rings to tell us just how many years the tree has been alive. Because of this “layered” growth pattern, no matter how tall a tree grows, the height of each individual branch on the trunk never changes.

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How Do Trees Grow?

How Do Trees Grow?

Mother Nature’s Moment, April 2019
by: Lesley Bruce Smith, ISA Certified Arborist

This last quarter we have taught several workshops that focus on tree trimming. Whenever we have a chance to get in front of people to talk about trees, we don’t miss the opportunity to talk about tree physiology. Now before you click to the next thing with a big yawn, give me a moment to share with you just how exciting this subject can be. Understanding tree physiology helps those of us that live and work with trees to know how to help them live the longest and healthiest lives possible. As an arborist of almost 40 years I can tell you that some of the most damaging practices done to and around trees are done because of the many misconceptions we have about them. Understanding a bit about how trees live and grow helps us to be good tree friends.

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Tree Leaves and Their Long Journey Into the Soil

Tree Leaves and Their Long Journey Into the Soil

Wisdom from the Trees, January 2019, Backyard Wisdom
by: Gilbert A Smith, ISA BC Master Arborist and Lesley Bruce Smith, ISA Certified Arborist

I fondly remember the autumn smell of burning leaves when I was a kid in the 1950s. Our push mower wouldn't grind them up so my brothers and I had to rake all those leaves out to the street and burn them. In the 70’s the environmental movement stopped the burning and it became the responsibility of the villages and cities to haul the leaves away. This month I’ll tell you the story of leaves from the tree’s point of view. It may change the way you perceive this annual ritual of fall.

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Blue Spruce Blues

Blue Spruce Blues

Mother Nature’s Moment August 2018
by: Lesley Bruce Smith, ISA Certified Arborist

This year has been a tough one for the Blue Spruce (Picea pungens ‘Glauca’). More accurately, this year appears to have been a tough one for Blue Spruce because we have been called into a lot of situations to evaluate Blue Spruces that are in terrible shape. The problems that they are exhibiting now began at a minimum of 15-18 months ago.

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Riverbirch with Falling Leaves

Riverbirch with Falling  Leaves

Mother Nature’s Moment August 2018
by: Lesley Bruce Smith, ISA Certified Arborist

Over the last week or so we have received a number of calls and have noticed with our own Riverbirch that there are a lot of yellow leaves on the ground. This spring we had an unprecedented spring of cool temperatures and lots of rain, and then more rain. All that weather triggered the trees to produce an equally unprecedented number of leaves, or in tree language “food producing evapo-transpirators” which translated means that leaves not only produce food for the tree from the sun’s energy but they transpire water through the tiny holes they have called stomata.

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Hybrid Elms

Hybrid Elms

Tree of the Month May/June 2018
by: Lesley Bruce Smith, ISA Certified Arborist

When I was a little girl, like many who grew up in communities east of the Mississippi River, I lived on a street lined with American Elms. Although it is against every piece of advise we now share, to line streets with the exact same species, I can’t help but think back in wonder at those amazing cathedral like arches that lined so many American City streets in the last century. It is a memory held by so many of us over the age of 50 that it is little wonder that so much hybridizing has been done with the American Elm.

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Tree Planting Tribulation

Tree Planting Tribulation

Mother Nature’s Moment June/July 2018
by: Lesley Bruce Smith, ISA Certified Arborist

This time of year we find ourselves on a lot of properties that have young trees that are struggling or dead. As arborists we are the ones that get called in to diagnose, treat and in the sad cases do post mortem on trees that were installed less than two or three years ago and have just not survived. The reason we get called instead of the folks who installed the trees is because the infamous “guarantee” has expired along with the tree.

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Poison Ivy Primer

Poison Ivy Primer

Mother Nature's Moment
© 2017, 2011 text and photos by Lesley Bruce Smith

This season finds many of us out in our gardens or in local forest preserves, with fall color not far away.  Since we spend a good deal of time in your yards, as well, we know that there is a lot of poison ivy out there, even more with all the rain we have had.  As professionals, we realize that the best way to avoid this often agonizing malady is to be able to identify and stay clear of the plant.

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Give Your Trees a Breath of Fresh Air

Give Your Trees a Breath of Fresh Air

Backyard Wisdom - March/ April 2018
by: Gilbert A Smith, ISA Board Certified Master Arborist

photo credits: Gilbert A Smith and Lesley Bruce Smith
    
Give your trees a breath of fresh air? Normally we think the other way around, that trees give us a breath of fresh air, and they do. Without trees we would soon choke on our Carbon Dioxide (CO2) and die from lack of Oxygen (O2). Thank you trees! But did you know that tree roots breathe just like we do, “in with the O2 and out with the CO2”? Now you can amaze your friends with this myth busting fact. Try it out on your most knowledgable gardening friends. You'll be surprised by how few people, even landscapers, know this.

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Spring Reminder

Spring Reminder

Mother Nature’s Moment, April 2018
by: Lesley Bruce Smith, ISA Certified Arborist

We all wait, not so patiently, for the warmer weather and spring time flowers. It is certainly one of our favorite times of year. The trees and shrubs are ready to explode, having worked very hard last summer, when the sunlight was at its zenith, creating all the buds that are full of sugars and about to burst out into flowers, leaves and eventually fruit. The key here is to remember that this year’s flowers and leaves were created last year, so if autumn or spring clean-up includes “shearing” the outside of the  shrubs, most of the flowers will go away. A sad thing that we see repeated EVERY year.

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Interview With a Tree About Bark

Interview With a Tree About Bark

Backyard Wisdom
by: Gilbert A Smith, ISA Board Certified Master Arborist

I’m speaking with a 60 year old Black Locust, Robinia pseudoacacia, who grows in the village parkway in Wilmette, Illinois.  

Gil: Mr Black Locust I couldn’t help but notice the beautiful flutes and ridges in your bark. I had to stop and talk. Why is your bark so different from other trees, like the smooth bark of a Beech for instance or the white bark of a Birch?  

Mr. Black Locust: Well let me first clear up one misconception you have concerning me.

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Baldcypress, Taxodium distichum

Baldcypress, Taxodium distichum

Tree of the Month October/November 2017
by: Lesley Bruce Smith, ISA Certified Arborist

Baldcypress, contrary to what most Chicagoans realize, is a native Illinois tree. Although it is found naturally growing more readily in the southern parts of our state it can survive and thrive in the Chicago area. It loves wet boggy like soil conditions and its wood is wonderfully resistant to both rot and insects.

Probably one of the most distinctive characteristics of this beautiful and majestic tree is the fact that it is a needle bearing, cone producing deciduous tree that drops its leaves in the fall after a brilliant show of autumn color. Another unusual identification feature is its propensity to grow “knees” under its branch spread sticking up out of the ground looking much like supporting buttresses. 

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Suckers Suckers

Suckers Suckers

Backyard Wisdom, October/November 2017
by: Gilbert A Smith, ISA Board Certified Master Arborist

Sixty years ago when I was a young sprout, my mother taught me to remove all of the little shoots that came up around the base of our French Hybrid Lilac so it would flower well. The lesson from her was that suckers “sucked” the “juice” out of the Lilac. Many old fashioned landscapers still do this.  

When I was being trained as an arborist fifty years ago I was taught to remove all the suckers from the root crown, trunk and branches of the trees because I was taught it is healthier for the tree and that it looked better.

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Fertilizing Facts and Fiction

Fertilizing Facts and Fiction

Mother Nature’s Moment, October/November 2017
by: Lesley Bruce Smith, ISA Certified Arborist

This time of year we often receive calls from individuals requesting to have their trees fertilized. Fertilizing one’s trees seems like such a good thing to do for them, and yet there are so many misconceptions about tree fertilizer that, as arborists, we often are trying to bring clarity to this area of tree care.

The first thing we need to understand about fertilizer, or the first fact, is that it is NOT tree food. Trees make their own food from the energy of the sun!! This is actually science we learned in the second grade but many of us have forgotten it, or at least, have forgotten the ramifications of that fact.  

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Ginkgo biloba

Ginkgo biloba

August/September 2017 Tree of the Month
photos and text by: Lesley Bruce Smith

The unusual leaves of the Ginkgo tree are both lovely and familiar due to it’s many unique traits.  It’s leaves are unlike those of any other existing tree, although fossil records are plentiful of this ancient tree, which even predates the conifers, of which they share many important characteristics.  The Ginkgo biloba is also known as the Maidenhair Tree because its leaves are similar in shape to the fronds of the maidenhair fern. 

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Anthocyanins

Anthocyanins

Backyard Wisdom - September 2017
Gilbert A Smith, ISA Board Certified Master Arborist

Can you see the red color of the spring foliage on this Burr Oak? It looks like fall color and in fact this is the same dynamic that goes on every fall. The color is a pigment called anthocyanin, which is responsible for red and purple fall color. But what is it doing in the young spring leaf tissue? Red Anthocyanins are one of the 3 plant pigments.Carotenoids providing orange colors like carrots and chlorophyll, which we all know, is green. These three pigments are present in leaves all the time but the green from chlorophyll usually dominates. 

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July / August Tree of the Month • Burr Oak

July / August Tree of the Month • Burr Oak

Burr Oak Quercus macrocarpa

by: Gilbert A Smith, ISA Certified Master Arborist

The Burr Oak, or Quercus macrocarpa, is one of our absolute favorite trees.  It’s magnificent stature is a real stand out in the native Illinois prairie. It has a really thick, sometimes several inches, tough craggy bark that just can’t be mistaken for any other species and that same bark makes it able to survive the prairie fires that raged across the Illinois plains in earlier days.

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Selecting the Right Person to Trim Your Trees

Selecting the Right Person to Trim Your Trees

Mother Nature’s Moment - July/August 2017
by: Lesley Bruce Smith, ISA Certified Arborist

A few weeks ago a friend of ours who lives outside our service area asked me about how to choose someone to trim his trees. His inquiry came in like this…

We’d actually like a filtered referral. A couple of years ago a friend at church hired a tree trimer and afterward felt that both he and his tree had been scalped. How do we decide if a big franchise or landscaping company will do any better or worse than a man with a rope and a chain saw? What questions should we ask?
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