THE WEEKLY POST
February 10, 2014
Moving into the Country
How does one do that? Be aware of the key elements of the wild landscape that existed before you became a resident of your new home. For instance, many locations in the greater Houston area were once tall and midgrass prairie, or some variation of an oak/pine savannah. Other areas were characterized by tall, closed canopy forests that lined many of the bayous, creeks and sloughs of the coastal plain. And yes, loblolly pines and eastern/southern red cedar were sometimes major components of these forests. Contrary to belief of many people, loblolly pines are perfectly happy growing in many locations south of I-10. The term loblolly comes from the Old English term for mud puddle or other wet areas. It was assigned this common name because early settlers found it growing in the flood plains of creeks and bayous, along with eastern/southern red cedar and deciduous giants such as cottonwood, sycamore, sweetgum, hickory and pecan. Southern magnolias were also found in these woods. All of these species joined by oak, hackberries and other native trees in periodic assaults on the prairies long before Chinese Tallow and other non-native, invasive species became a problem.
"All of that is interesting, but I cannot have a 40 acre tall grass prairie, or a closed canopy forest on my suburban lot in Clear Lake City , Pearl;and of the Heights." That is certainly true. But you may be able to have a tall oak or pecan, or a pine or cedar if they are placed well. There are also many small trees that could be planted that would provide elements of the original landscape. Several species of hawthorn fall into this category, as does an arborescent blueberry commonly known as Farkelberry. Cherrylaurel is a broadleaf evergreen and provides cover and shelter for birds during our brief bouts with winter.
Many different species of native grasses could find a home somewhere in your yard, either, as say, a small 10'X12' "meadow", or as individual groups here and there in little-used corners. Throw a few native wildflowers in either scenario, and you have a butterfly and dragonfly garden. Certain species of native grasses provide a very pleasing alternative to the sterile and mundane bark mulch that is all too common in our area.
I have barely touched the surface. The biodiversity on the Texas Coastal Plain is as diverse and as significant as California's redwood groves or the rain forests of Washington State's Olympic peninsula. It takes some work to discover the secrets of our local landscape, as its features are undeniably more subtle, and less dramatic in scale. But the beauty and diversity are here, and rewarding for those who make the effort to find them.
COMMON DESTRUCTIVE TREE CARE PRACTICES IN HOUSTON & S.E. TEXAS
Hurricane Pruning - Severe thinning of tree canopy, often resembling a practice called Lion's tailing. A very damaging activity. It produces a forest of water sprouts, weakens branches and the root system, and will not prevent storm damage. Sunscalding often develops on areas suddenly exposed to sunlight. Such damage often leads to serious disease and insect issues.
Overmulching - a.k.a. Volcano mulching and/or mounding. Often leads to choking roots, hides root flare problems, increases potential for insect and disease issues, and increases potential for windthrow.
Crape Myrtle Butchery -Severe cutting back to control size or increase number of blooming stems. Most of what is done is just plain lousy work from a tree care perspective. There are more biologically sound and productive ways to do both.
Call if you would like an assessment of your tree and landscape needs. Estimates are free. There are situations that require extensive investigation and lab work. Charges for these services will be established and agreed upon before any implementation of such services. I look forward to caring for your trees!
Phil Coker, Certified Arborist, Owner, Madrono Tree Services
Madrono Tree Services provides
Professional pruning services for your oaks, maples, elms, pines and other valuable trees.
Tree root surgery for compromised root flares and organic fertilization services to promote plant and soil health and better resistance to insects, diseases, and hurricane damage.
Tree centered landscape renovations.
Madrono Tree Services was started in 1989 and is owned and operated by Phillip R. Coker.He is a graduate of La Porte (TX) High School and has a B.Sc. from TAMU/College Station. His major areas of study were arboriculture and parks and natural resource management. Before starting MTS he had experience with various Houston area landscape companies and nurseries, the grounds crew at Texas A&M University(CS) and University of Washington (Seattle) and was a volunteer guide at the Houston Arboretum and Nature Center (Memorial Park) from 1975-1980. He looks forward to helping you care for your trees.
Building a Green Foundation
Madrono Tree Services specializes in not only helping owners with their trees and landscaping issues but also in educating people on 'natural target pruning' or in layman's terms -'how to trim trees and shrubs', a system of pruning developed by Dr. Alex Shigo, former Chief Scientist USDA. Madrono Tree Services is located in Southeast Houston, TX and services Galveston County, Harris County, and Brazoria County. Other services provided are:
Root Flare Excavation
Tree Care and the Environment Classes - Owner Phil Coker would enjoy the opportunity to provide classes to Homeowners Association members, Garden Clubs, Landscaper's Organization, Rotary Clubs, Chambers of Commerce and other member organizations interested in learning correct tree care and environmentally friendly landscaping techniques. Have a need or suggestion for a class? Make a class suggestion.
Madrono's services center around restoring and promoting the health of your landscape by the use of proper pruning techniques, re-establishing grades, and the right mulch regimen around plants, trees and shrubs. Madrono Tree Services also suggests getting away from 'weed & feed' products that bring on rapid growth to using organic based products that promote soil health - not excessive plant growth. One such product is MicroLife - a biological, organic fertilizer developed for soil and plant health. Most insect and disease problems can originate or be prolonged by poor cultural practices. (See our Green Care page) Rather than immediately applying pesticides, Phil prefers to work with homeowners and property owners to develop a management plan to reduce the need for pesticides.
|Volcano mulching, a common yet insidious landscape practice.||Excess mulch and soil against the trunk and root flare sometimes hide old injuries and extensive decay like that found at the base of this pine.
The common, yet traumatically incorrect, practice of 'volcano mulching' is a constant battle for Phil and his team. As seen in the picture on the left, the damage occurring to this tree cannot be seen. Hidden conditions such as deteriorating bark and girdling and choking roots may progress to the point that the health of the tree is compromised. The same is true for your shrubs and plants. Mulch can be very beneficial when correctly applied. The mulch should never touch the trunk, and only be about 1 - 2 inches deep - there is no need to mound it. Proper mulching preserves the 'root flare integrity' of the tree. Mulch could be applied to the tree below to suppress the grass growth as long as the mulch wasn't mounded up over the root flares. (Root flare indicated by white arrows.)
Environment & Landscaping
Dr. Alex Shigo May 8, 1930 -October 6, 2006
Dubbed the "Father Of Modern Arboriculture", Dr. Alex Shigo, tree pathologist, educator and author, spent most of his adult life studying, lecturing, dissecting and writing about trees. "A tree is much more than a chunk of dead wood," exclaimed Shigo. "Trees are alive; they live all year 'round, not just for a short time in the summer. They work during the winter, too. Many people spend time on what goes wrong with a tree; I wanted to study what goes right." Shigo found that trees respond to injuries by sealing the wounded area through the process of "compartmentalization". This theory of "compartmentalization of decay in trees" was Shigo's biological brainstorm, leading to many changes and adaptations in the tree care industry. Instead of healing like human skin, the tree responds to injury by 'walling off' the affected area; effectively compartmentalizing the injured area so that other parts of the tree are not affected.