Thursday, June 15, 2017

Mild Winter = Bugs Every Where! Look Closely!

With this past mild winter, our wet early spring and now the heat and humidity; bugs are reproducing rapidly.

So far, I've seen aphid clusters by the thousands:

 Mealy Bugs:

Viburnum Beetles:

 Hydrangea Leaftier Moth Larvae:

Rose Plume Moth Larvae:

A positive note: whenever there are years of plague like proportions, remember there are natural controls, like this Lady Bug larvae feeding on aphids below. Please look carefully. Beneficial insects are in full force - fighting the good fight. Instead of using chemical sprays, use high pressure water controls, pruning techniques and boosting the health of the plant. Save beneficial insects like Lady Bugs and their larvae, as well as parasitic wasps, lacewings and the birds. We NEED them! Chemicals are not the answer.

We may complain about our harsh winters here in Ontario, but I welcome them. The severe cold kills many overwintering insect adults and eggs. And that, we need!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

Pet Peeve - Mulched Trees (aka the Coned Volcano)

So many new trees are going to be planted in the next few weeks.  I wonder how many will be mulched like this disaster:

This may be a harsh opinion, but it's warranted. Not only has the tree been planted too "proud" (meaning not level to the soil), but not only do we have the "cone" flared up mound, but we have red dyed mulch. Notice something else?  The plastic tree guard at the base of the tree is also nearly buried.

What happens to the tree trunk when mulch covers the bark?  Think about this comparison. What happens to your finger when you wear a bandaid wrapped around?  Your skin becomes soft, wrinkled and sometimes when you wear it a long time, the skin peels - right?  Well, the same thing happens to bark. Moisture, insects and possible mould will perpetually be in contact with the young bark tissue and possible suckers may develop.  Not what you need to establish a young tree.

Years later, the tree will continue to need mulch to cover this mound, like in the photos below.

To me the roots and the base of the tree would better be suited at grade - so that water can pool and collect during the heat of the odd summer shower. Snow melts quicker on these cone mounds.  Also the suns rays will bake the soil beneath quicker. Needless stresses; if only a proper planting and placement of mulch was achieved from the onset.

Below are better samples of tree plantings.

Here's why:

  • Using natural shredded bark mulch knits together. It suppresses weeds and keeps the roots cool - protecting them from the elements
  • Creating a crater in the middle ensures mulch doesn't touch the bark of the young tree

The mulch is spread to the width of the canopy of the newly planted tree. Granted, the tree will grow wider and thus the high edges (surplus) can be raked further out when the tree starts to branch out further. This is called the drip-line.

  • The crater not only helps keep the mulch away from the trunk, but when you fill a water bladder (the green bag) it helps to stabilize it. This is fantastic. If you are watering a tree on your own property, you can localize the water in the crater without it running off.
  • A lawn mower or string trimmer is unlikely to cause tree trunk damage when the tree is mulched well.

Here is a diagram resource as to how we are to mulch trees:
Diagram by: Arbor Day Foundation
Another resource:

Diagram by: Harvest Power
With all the info available, I still can't understand why mulching is still done in the volcano-cone style.

Please be aware,

Sunday, April 30, 2017

Toronto's High Park - Native Plant Sale: May 7th, 2017

If you live in the Toronto area and would like to know more about and to buy native plants  - please visit High Park's Native Plant Sale. Sunday May 7th, 2017

Here's their info and website:

High Park Stewards Native Plant Sale

Sale Location: In front of the High Park Greenhouses. (Plants for sale are subject to availability.) For more information go to or

"The plants in this sale are grown in the High Park greenhouses by volunteers as part of the High Park Stewards program. They are sold to encourage the use of native plants in home gardens and are perennial, except where noted. You can learn about the plants in the rare black oak ecosystem in High Park, and help restore its ecosystem by joining High Park Stewards events. This list is subject to plant availability."
What's available:

Plants for sun, shade, wet name it!
Link --->


Some restrictions: " For fairness, the maximum number of plants available per person before 1:00 pm is restricted to small orders. After 1:00 pm, larger orders can be filled, depending on the number of plants available. " 

Sign up to volunteer!

Help our gardens and pollinators flourish! Please go!

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Heidi, What's Wrong with my Hinoki Cypress? It's going brown!

Growing Hinoki Cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa nana) in Southern Ontario can be a challenge at times, considering we get whopper winters occasionally. So when I was asked this question - I was hesitant to think winter damage.

From far, yeah, the cypress was quite brown. Don't jump to conclusions, but rather take a closer look.

No browning was coming from the inside of the plant, but instead on its tips.

These are in fact pollen cones.

Conifers fall under a classification known as Gymnosperms. They don't have flowers like other classifications (Angiosperms). They instead bear cones within their scale leaves which later develop seed for reproduction.

What you are seeing, are swelling cones borne at the tips of the scale foliage of the cypress. They will age brown but for now are almost reddish pink.

I will update in a week or so, when the pollen is ready to be released.

Not to worry, this plant is happy and ready to reproduce - bearing seed cones later in the summer.

It's a good time to mulch beneath the plant and water if rains are infrequent. Overall - a happy plant. Nothing wrong. Just the plant doing its thing...
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