Posts Tagged ‘hazards’

A. p. 'Seigen' LF2 momI have a handful of stories from professional practice where soil or plant pathology testing should have been performed but wasn’t.  I personally believe that soil should always be tested before any fertilizer or amendment is added, and follow-up testing should be done every couple of years to see how the soil health has changed.  Not testing soil or sick plants before spraying or amending the soil is like prescribing medication without knowing what disease you are treating.  You wouldn’t do that to your body, so why do we do this to our biggest investments (your home or commercial property) ?!

Thankfully, getting lab tests done is not difficult if you take the few minutes needed to do it right.  Most soil and plant pathology labs are easy to work with, they’ll tell you what to do and how to send it in, and will provide you with a report explaining their findings.  Bammo – diagnosis!  Proper treatment!  Hooray!

A. p. 'Koshibori Nishiki' LF1 momNow for my cautionary tale:

Years ago I was working for a firm in San Francisco and we had a client with a mature beloved Japanese Maple.  It had a nice shape, and was reportedly absolutely beautiful in the fall.  Their project involved building an underground garage underneath this tree which required that we dig the tree out, box it, crane it off-site, and have it cared for while the garden was re-made in a new design on the roof deck of this garage.  The tree would be the centerpiece for the new design, and I thought how lovely that they were willing to spend tens of thousands of dollars to have it salvaged and brought back when a new tree would be so much cheaper.

Before we started demolition, the client called and said that the tree wasn’t as leafy (this was mid-summer) as it had been the year before.  We called a couple of arborists out to the site who took a good look at it, tested the trunk with a densiometer, and decided that it needed a little more water – we had just gotten through a few unusually warm weeks, so we all thought no big deal.  The gardener was asked to provide it with some nice deep watering and we waited to see how it would respond.  It repaid us with a flush of tender new leaves and we delighted in this result.

I wish I could remember how this next step was decided on – we asked the gardener to fertilize it.  The gardener was a well-meaning fella who had done a good job so far.  His English was not great, but nobody had a problem with that.  He fertilized the tree and within a week, WHOOMP!  Naked tree.  It dropped every single leaf.  We could not understand why – it was just recovering!  We finally sorted out that the gardener had mis-understood the label on the fertilizer package and used 10x the recommended amount!  That tree was sitting in a toxic wasteland of salts and chemicals.  Rather than wait for his next visit, I was dispatched to put soaker hoses around it and try to water the fertilizer out of the soil.  I left those soaker hoses on for hours, they were coiled around and around under the entire dripline of the tree.  We had the gardener follow-up, soaking the soil thoroughly on his next couple of visits, and we hoped that the excess fertilizer had been literally washed away.

You can imagine how glad we were when it repaid us with a second flush of new leaves…. only there was something different…. these leaves were smaller, slower, not quite right.  Nobody knew what to do; we just kept watch and hoped for the best.  About a week later, it was dead.  Dead-dead.  All those new leaves fell off and you could feel that it had passed all the way on.

This was such a disappointment for the Owners and for us – after-all, here we were, a team of arborists, landscape architects, and the well-meaning gardener.  It sure looked like we killed it.  This is when we did the first intelligent thing:  we had the tree and the soil tested.  We took samples of the leaves, the branches, some root clippings, and the soil, and sent it all off for analysis.  Care to guess what we learned?

That poor tree had a raging infection of some kind of pathogen with a long name I’ve long since forgotten, and the lab said that this infection had likely been there for a couple of years already to be this bad.  The tree was doomed from the start; our screwups just pushed it over the edge.  In a way, this nightmare saved the Owners a bunch of money, but that didn’t make anyone feel any better.  We’d spent so many billable hours trying to figure it out, they ended up wasting a lot of time and money paying us to professionally accidentally kill their beloved tree.

So you know, the lab that we used was Soil and Plant Lab.  They are my favorite lab because their people are helpful and knowledgeable and their reports are thorough and easy to understand.  It isn’t so expensive to do, and one test can save not only your money, but your peace of mind and the health of your investment.

BTW, I took the photos at Momiji Nursery in Santa Rosa back in 2006 when I was working on this project.  They sell beautiful Japanese Maples.

A. p. 'Shishio Hime' LF momThank you for reading, as always, I look forward to your comments!


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OW, mommy, HOT!

I have a general dislike of “lifelike” bronze statuary. I am so tired of bronze children playing in fountains, bronze horses, bronze people on park benches, bronze wildlife, bronze memorials, you name it, someone has made (and displayed) it. Most of these works are not at all clever, though there are (rare) occasions when I like one of these “artistic statements”. I live near South Shore Towne Center and I like the little bullfrog under the roof drain scupper.  A note to maintenance: the scupper has garbage behind the wire mesh now (this picture is a few months old).

scupper frog sculpture

scupper frog bronze sculpture

However, I was recently walking to Panera in the morning for a latte – a warm summer morning, but not hot.  A little girl walked up to this deer (one of two in the shopping center, both are kid magnets) and reached out to pet the deer. She said, “OW, mommy, HOT!” Aesthetics aside, as a designer, I will forevermore think twice before putting a metal kid-magnet in any position where it could get hot and potentially hurt someone. Luckily, the other deer is in a spot where this is far less likely to be a problem.

dangerous hot bronze deer statue

Talk about dangerous; I don’t need to explain all the many reasons I think the frog fountain is a failure, do I?

Food for thought in public spaces….and private ones!

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Aqiulegia vulgaris 'Burnished Rose'

Aqiulegia vulgaris 'Burnished Rose'

There are more ways to waste money needlessly than there are to save.  I say that based on my years of experience seeing clients do things that I could not have made up.  Truth IS stranger than fiction!!

If I had a nickel for every time I turned to a co-worker and said “No, really.  I didn’t make it up!” ….

Let  me tell you a story:

I once spent many hours developing a planting plan for a large, historic tudor home owned by a couple who’s only comment on the firm’s written questionnaire was that the wife didn’t like the color orange or roses.  I left messages and sent several e-mails asking for a quick phone call to try to narrow down what she did like so that I had some direction from them on the design.  I presented the drawings in a few meetings with the husband having never heard back from the wife.  Finally, after a couple of months, she attended a design meeting.  She came into the room and plunked down a stack of magazine clippings of images that she liked, plants she was drawn to, etc.  She had heard all my messages, and wanted to respond, but didn’t let me know that she was doing anything at all on her end.  As it turned out, she had a strong preference for white flowers and chartreuse foliage.  In fact, she didn’t like much that wasn’t chartreuse or white.   Never mind that the quality of the light at their home was too harsh for white and chartreuse without something else to set it off (like a nice deep green).  She also noted that she likes shrub roses, but not hybrid teas.  Had this client spoken up sooner, they would have saved thousands of dollars in design fees and I would’ve saved a lot of time.

The one thing they did right in this story was to speak up before we were under construction.  It is far less costly to change directions on paper than it is in the field.

Rosa 'Iceberg'

Rosa 'Iceberg'

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