Tag Archives: Trees


What is an arborist and what do they do?

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What is an arborist and what do they do?

Arboriculture is a professional practice that involves a lot more than just trimming and pruning trees. An arborist, also referred to as an arboriculturist, is a professional who studies the biomechanics of a tree including the cultivation, management and growth of trees. Unlike tree service technicians who handle more general work, arborists specialize in different aspects of tree surgery. These are professionals who understand and care about the health of individual trees, shrubs, vines and woody plants.

What do they do?

Trees are an important part of our ecosystem. They are everywhere and provide us with shade, food and even oxygen. Planting trees especially in urban areas helps to maintain a cool atmosphere and prevent issues like soil erosion.

Trees also add an aesthetic appeal wherever they are planted in neighbourhoods, which is why people love to have trees around them. However, these trees need proper care and all the right nutrients in order to stay alive and healthy. An arborist’s job is to ensure that this happens. Their job also includes preventing trees from causing harm in our environment such as overgrowing in power lines or collapsing and causing damage after severe weather.

Arborists maintain trees in different ways including:


Pruning has to be done right depending on the type of tree as well as the issues at hand. With proper pruning, the trees can grow healthy because it helps eliminate any dead wood and keep the insects away.


Tree removal is an important service that can protect property and save lives. An arboriculturist may recommend tree removal after carefully considering certain environmental factors. Additionally, removal shouldn’t be done by just anyone. Arborists come with specialized equipment and have the skill to perform removal safely and effectively.


Tree planting should be done at the right place and in the right way. This is important to ensure the long-term health of the tree. An arboriculturist can recommend the right place to plant a tree and even assist in making sure it’s done properly.

Emergency tree care

Harsh weather conditions such as severe storms and heavy rainfall can easily damage trees. An arborist can come and assess the condition of the tree prior to severe weather and make recommendations to avoid serious emergencies. When tree emergencies occur, arborists can be called upon to handle the situation properly.

Arborists can also take care of other aspects such as fertilization, insect control and lightning protection. They have the skill and experience to be consulted whenever different tree issues arise and help determine which solution is best.

What is their work like?

In most days, you’ll find them working outdoors in different weather conditions. Sometimes they can be called upon in emergency situations to offer a quick solution or simply provide routine maintenance. There is usually a lot more work to do when trees go dormant in those cold months. That is when most trees are pruned and cut hence the arboriculturist should recommend when certain services are necessary. They need to be physically fit and enjoy working in the outdoors.


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Garden Expert: Get Planting

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Garden Expert: Get Planting

The importance of planting the right tree in the right place

A new gardening season is ahead of us: a fresh chapter in the book of life with nature. I recommend that we make the best of it and plant some trees. It is important to plant the right tree in the right place. Here are some considerations when planting trees and my top recommendations:


Small lots and densely populated urban areas are no longer suitable places for large-growing shade trees. Here are my favourite trees that will grow no higher than seven metres and will flower and/or fruit:

DWARF APPLE TREES There are dozens of varieties of dwarf apple trees available. My favourite apple for vigour and strength is Cortland. The tree grows relatively quickly and produces lots of great mid-season eating apples.

PEARS The lowest-maintenance fruit tree out there. No need to look for ‘dwarf’ pears as a standard pear generally grows to about six or seven metres, given enough time.

CHERRIES Sour or sweet, cherries grow reliably in Toronto (zone 6). ‘Stella’ is a great choice for a sweet cherry as no partner is required to cross-pollinate, otherwise you will need two. Sour cherries are self-fruitful.

CRAB APPLE An unfortunate name for a versatile and winterhardy tree. ‘Dolgo’ produces red fruit in the fall that is suitable for canning. Otherwise, plant crab apples for their spring colour and small- to medium-stature.


For filtered shade, which will provide the cooling effect of a deciduous tree (one that drops its leaves each fall) without cutting out all of the sunshine, look for these winners:

LOCUST ‘Shademaster’ is hardy to zone 4 (Ottawa). This variety features horizontal branching, while ‘Skyline’ Honey locust produces a more upright, vase-shaped structure. Both are disease- and insectresistant and grow to a medium height of about 12 to 15 metres.

BIRCH A long-time favourite. They produce filtered shade and the lovely white bark stands out in the winter garden. Look for native birch, like Paper Birch [Betula papyrifera], as they are resistant to the dreaded bronze birch borer, which has wreaked havoc with the European birch species in recent years.


Not all deciduous trees leaf out at the same time. Birch, willow and maples are among the earliest (early May), and Catalpa and Rose of Sharon are among the latest (mid-June). For early leaf cover that lasts late into the season, consider:

MAPLE [ACER] Native sugar maples leaf out in early May and drop leaves in mid-to late October. Norway Maple, while deemed an invasive species, does leaf out marginally earlier and drops in early November. Both produce bright yellow colour come fall.

CHESTNUT [AESCULUS] A member of the orchid family. Have a close look at the flowers come early June and note that the upright panicle or ‘candelabra’ features dozens of gorgeous orchid-like flowerets. I love Chestnut trees but they are susceptible to blight, which may not kill them but creates brown-hued leaves that are not very attractive come late summer.


There are some trees that do not fit neatly into a single classification but are amazing for their own reasons. Here are my favourites:

LINDEN [TILIA CORDATA] related to native Basswood. Provide lovely, cool, dense shade. Produce fragrant (green) flowers that attract pollinators (and make great tea). Lindens are winter hardy and disease-resistant. They feature a formal ace-shaped structure that fits neatly into relatively tight spaces. There is a promenade of Lindens on the east side of the Royal Conservatory, and west side of the Art Gallery of Ontario, that will sell you on this species, if nothing else will.

JAPANESE TREE LILAC ‘IVORY SILK’ [SYRINGA RETICULATA ‘IVORY SILK’] Ivory Silk is an oval- shaped, compact tree (great for smaller lots and spaces) that blooms reliably each Father’s Day in mid-June. ‘Ivory Silk’ is winter hardy and resistant to disease and insect problems.

OAK Any oak is a great oak, but I like native Red Oak [Quercus rubra] and Pin Oak [Quercus palustris] best. Red Oak (so named as the wood is red) grows into a large 18-metre giant. There are heritage Red Oaks in High Park that are amazing. Pin Oak is narrower and more suitable for the tight spaces of urban life.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, member of the Order of Canada, author and broadcaster. Get his free monthly newsletter at markcullen.com. Look for his new best seller, The New Canadian Garden published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCullen4 and Facebook. markcullen.com


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Garden Expert : Spring Check List

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Garden Expert : Spring Check List

Ensure a bountiful garden this summer with Mark’s step-by-step guide in early spring

It’s time to get growing. As you contemplate your options in the yard, allow me to help you get organized. It is always more effective to approach a project with a plan.


It might surprise you that this is an excellent time of year to start a vegetable garden. Don’t wait until the May 24th weekend to get started. By then you will have missed the best time to sow many of your favourite crops including: peas, carrots, onions, lettuce, broccoli, cabbage, Brussels sprouts and garlic (though fall is better for garlic).

With cool April temperatures, this is a great time of year to prepare the soil of your garden by spreading three to four centimetres of Bio Max manure (or reliably high quality compost). You can turn this under the soil or plant right in it.


Sow tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, leeks, zinnias, asters and the like now. With five to six weeks until our last frost date, your timing will be perfect. Come late May/ early June, you will be ready to plant in warm soil and your transplants will take off.

Use a quality seed starting mix (I use 10 parts Pro Mix with one-part worm castings. Magic!) All seedlings need plenty of light to grow properly: sunlight or fluorescent lights work best.

Lawn Care

My recipe for the best lawn on the block:

  • Rake lightly with a fan rake to remove winter debris.
  • Fertilize with a quality lawn food. One that contains slow-release nitrogen and chelated iron. The nitrogen for a long-lasting green colour and the iron for the deepest possible green. I use Golfgreen Iron Plus on my lawn.
  • Where weeds occur or thin spots exist, spread lawn soil four centimetres thick and rake smooth. Broadcast quality, Canadian grass seed at the rate of one kg per 100 square metres. Rake this smooth (again), step on it with flat-soled shoes and water until germination. Keep reasonably well watered until new roots are established (about four to six weeks).
  • When you are ready to cut your lawn, set your mower at six to eight centimetres high. Any lower allows weeds to establish and weakens your lawn. Use a mulching mower.


All of the winter-hardy stock that you find at garden retailers this time of year can be planted in the garden, unless it has already flushed new, soft growth: an indication that it was forced in a greenhouse and is now frost-tender. All woody plants that are dormant at the time you purchase them are ready to plant this weekend.


This is a great time of year to dig up perennials and divide them into sections to replant around your yard or give away to friends and neighbours. Hosta, monarda, daylilies: you name it.


Whatever you plant, be sure you prepare the soil well before you place your newly acquired plants in the ground. Ninety per cent of your success depends on it. If you are making a new garden in clay-based soil (common in southern Ontario) be sure to remove existing soil 30 to 40 centimetres deep. Replace it with triple mix, mounded 10 cm higher than the current grade, as the new soil will settle. If you are planting in an existing bed, add four to five centimetres of new, quality soil and either turn it under or let earthworms do it for you.

Look for composted manure that is certified by the Composting Quality Alliance. I spread four centimetres of well-composted manure over my entire garden each spring. I also use worm castings whenever I plant: one part to 10 parts soil. Earthworm castings are nitrogen-rich and teaming with a concentration of nutrients and mycorrhiza. I can see the difference in plant performance when I use worm castings.


And finally, after you have returned your garden furniture to its summertime place, be sure to sit on it. Enjoy the bird song (put out feeders and nesting boxes), the wind and the sunshine. It has been a snowy, cold winter and you have earned a break from the indoors.

Mark Cullen is an expert gardener, author, broadcaster and Order of Canada recipient. Get his free monthly newsletter at markcullen.com. Look for his new best seller, The New Canadian Garden published by Dundurn Press. Follow him on Twitter @MarkCullen4 and Facebook. markcullen.com


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