©2008-2016 Poole Consulting Group. All Rights Reserved.

 The Red Oak - A New Coal Miner’s Canary

            In days gone by not so long ago, the death of a coal miner’s canary was a warning to the miner that gasses accumulating in the mine had reached unsafe levels.  The message was clear:  “Get yourself to safety!”  The little yellow birds gave a clear and unmistakable reading of the environmental climate of the underground shafts in which so many husbands, sons, and fathers spent their days. 

            Here, above ground on planet Earth, the state of health of our trees is sending us a similar message - a message to which we must respond.  The latest great, almost ageless, family of trees to be suffering rapid decline are the Red Oak family.  In a short 20 years, a period of time that is but a blink of an eye in the history of these particular trees, something has gone terribly wrong, and these grand beings are sliding quickly into the evening light of what has been an almost timeless presence. 

There have been many complete losses and severe declines among our arboreal friends in a short century of biological time.  In many of our trees’ tribulations and losses the hand of man was clearly evident as introducing the causal factors for which these trees had no natural defense.  What we witnessed were great unintentional losses that came from plucking at the threads of nature’s fabric.  In the case of the Gypsy Moth, the goal of producing cheap silk by importing these insects was never realized, but millions of acres of eastern hardwoods and evergreens took the fall.  The decimation of the grand American Elm trees occurred as a cousin of the native American Bark Beetle, the European Bark Beetle, hitched a ride to our shores on timber products from Europe.  These beetles proved to be pernicious vectors of the fungal agent that is the cause of Dutch Elm Disease.  So, too, were problems imported with the introduction of the Asian Long-horned Beetle and the Emerald Ash Borer that are currently wreaking havoc on the trees of our streets, parks, and forests.  In these instances of ruinous losses we could point to what went wrong, and we could all agree to learn something from it.  We can point to specific actions that precipitated the onset of these diseases.  But among the many losses and rapid declines of great trees the specter of Bacterial Leaf Scorch in the Oaks may elicit the loudest cry of concern to date.  It is said that the bacterium that causes this devastating illness has always been present in the environment, but now, quite suddenly, it is of contagious proportions.   Although we are currently able to inject antibiotics into the vascular systems of trees afflicted by this ailment, much in the same way as antibiotics are administered to people to combat infectious agents, this appears to be but a stop-gap measure.  There seems to be no cure in sight.  We have the technology, but we have very little hope.

            In spite of our awareness of the many catastrophic tree blights that have occurred in recent history, a close look at the imminent loss of the Red Oak family is still startling.  The Pin Oak, one of the most popular of the Red Oak family of trees, is suffering and dying in frightening fashion.  In the Midwest and West the rapid and mysterious decline of the Quaking Aspens may be a second loud cry of concern.  The reason this matters is that another long established resident of the Earth is leaving us, and the cause is as mysterious as the ailment.  We can’t accuse the arboreal beings of not being able to manage their lives.  Over centuries they have shown us they do this quite well.  They are the largest and longest lived of all life forms.  So what is going on here?  We can surmise that conditions surrounding these trees have become so unfavorable that they can no longer withstand a pathogen that has forever been in their environment.  Simply put, they are no longer capable of adapting to the world we are handing them.

            It may be too late for our grand Oak and Aspen trees.  If we can’t heed the warning being echoed by these very troubling losses of some of nature’s most wondrous life forms, it may also be too late for us.  Are we already following them and just not seeing the consuming black hole that we are allowing into our living world.  If we are to benefit even a little bit (other than through abundant firewood), it might be by agreeing that difficult choices regarding how we live with our world need to be made.  True and courageous leaders, political or otherwise, must stand up and acknowledge the obvious.  The canary has fallen ill, and we must initiate the necessary directives that will place restraints on our bottom-line imperatives.  We need to be pushed, kicking and screaming if necessary, back to the top line of life, where living is a testimony to our caring, and the Earth is treated as the sacred vessel that it is.


                                                                                    ~ Stephen W. Redding



Deer in the Suburban Landscape

Deer damage to ornamental plants is increasingly a suburban problem.  Deer populations in neighborhoods have increased rapidly due to abandoned farms, hunting restrictions and suburban sprawl.  And they are dining on expensive suburban landscapes.

In some areas, deer damage peaks in winter when snow cover reduces the food supply.  Most areas with overpopulated deer herds experience problems year round.  The availability of natural food sources and the taste preferences of individual deer make deer-proofing a difficult task.

Deer will eat ANYTHING if they are hungry enough, so additional measures are needed along with careful plant selection.

A fence is the most effective control against deer damage.  An 8-foot fence is generally sufficient to deter deer, and lower fences can work if they slant away from your yard.  Tree protectors or shelters prevent deer from browsing on young trees.  Netting made of polypropylene tubing, plastic tree wrap, or woven wire mesh cylinders can be used to protect individual or group plantings. 

Repellents may help to deter deer, but they do not eliminate damage completely.  Homemade repellents include rotting eggs (mix two eggs with a gallon of water and spray the mixture on ornamentals).  The eggs rot on the plant and repel the deer.  Human hair or bars of strong smelling soap hung in mesh bags on the outer branches of the tree about a yard apart make a simple repellent.  Repellents containing predator urine or spray-on, soap-based mixtures will last a few weeks depending on weather conditions.

Once deer have visited and tasted your garden, it is difficult to rid them of the habit.  Replacing your current mix of trees and shrubs with plants that are less appealing will help move them along to other sites.  The Tree Care Industry recommends planting trees that have a history of surviving areas of heavy deer activity such as:

Bottlebrush buckeye, serviceberry, shadbush, pinion pine, Chinese paper birch, heritage birch, paper birch, Japanese false cypress, Japanese cedar, and Colorado blue spruce.

Shrubs and climbers:
Larger, tall shrubs tend to withstand deer browsing better than low-growing ones because they have more leaves, making them able to withstand defoliation, and taller plants are out of reach.  The following shrubs are recommended: bearberry, pawpaw, boxwood, caryopteria, American bittersweet, red osier dogwood, Japanese plum-yew, creeping wintergreen, John T. Morris holly, Lydia Morris hollies, leucothoe, European privet, Japanese andromeda, Virginia creeper, common buckthorn, blueberry elder, and Rose of Sharon.

Deer Pro Repellent:  The Longest Lasting Professional Deer Repellent

DeerPro Winter Animal Repellent is a long lasting deer repellent that will last from early October through early spring (approximately 6 months).  It sprays on green and is a strong taste-deterrent that will protect trees and shrubs from deer.  It will continue to work through rain, snow and ice.    It has 30 years of proven success.  DeerPro Winter Animal Repellent is for sale and use by licensed professionals only.

Evergreens Damaged by Deer


Bowman’s Hill Wildflower Preserve recommends the following native plants as being “deer resistant”: 

Herbaceous plants
Monkshood, wild columbine, butterfly weed, New England aster, aromatic aster, tickseed, rose coreopsis, fringed bleeding heart, blue flag iris, blazing star, creeping phlox, black-eyed Susan, golden rods

Trees and shrubs
Maple, birch, beech, hornbeam, ash, honey locust, witch hazel, spicebush, summer sweet,  sweet gum, trumpet honeysuckle, sweet gum, bayberry, sour gum, oak.

Links: Tree Care Industry Association

Bowman Hill Wildflower Preserve


Plant Management Under and Around Black Walnuts

Due to the toxicity of Black Walnut trees most plants will die or do poorly if planted in walnut root zones.  Here is a list of plants that seem to be tolerant of the growing conditions around walnuts:


Japanese Maples

Southern Catalpa

Eastern Redbud

Canadian Hemlock



Vines and Shrubs


Rose of Sharon

Virginia Creeper


Koreanspice Viburnum





Morning Glory











 Fruit trees







Herbaceous Perennials


American Wood Anemone




Crested Wood Fern

Sweet Woodruff



Common Daylily

Coral Bells

Plaintain – lily


Grape Hyacinth

Sensitive Fern

Cinnamon Fern


Summer Phlox

Great Solomon’s Seal

Polyanthus Primrose


Lamb’s Ear


Nodding Trillium

Root and Stem Suckers

Many trees and shrubs are producing multiple, unwanted and unnecessary vegetative shoots at the base of the stem where the tree expands into the root zone.  Trees that do not indicate this flare may be girdled by surface roots or may show evidence of built up soil or mulch.  Once you pull back the soil and mulch to where horizontal roots leave the stem, if you do not see the flare please call us for a consultation.

There are a few causes of this excessive shoot growth that we can do something about.  Perhaps the simplest correction is to keep all the soil and mulch at or below the root flare of the plants.  Covering the stem area just above the root zone encourages dormant buds to sprout through the cambial tissue and initiate this unsightly and unhealthy growth habit.  Another major cause of stem suckers is one more difficult to remedy.  Grafted ornamental plants and trees may not be as carefully selected as they have been in the past, and cellular tissue of the root stock on which the ornamental aspect is grafted often breaks past the union creating vigorous, distorted and unwanted sucker growth.  Inspect your plant material carefully when you purchase trees or bushes, and reject any that show buds or sprouts in the graft union area.  This typically occurs at ground level or three to four feet above it.  Some trees are more prone to developing root suckers than others and include crabapples, Canadian cherries, pears, silver maples and styrax.

What can be done to correct root and stem suckers?  Remove this excessive growth with sharp pruners or handsaws, and be careful not to score or scratch the bark tissue.  This would encourage even more sucker growth.  Cutting these suckers back will not prevent them from returning, but there are a few chemical alternatives that can help.  Naphthalene acetic acid, a growth regulator, can be applied in the dormant season before new shoots are twelve inches long.  Pelargonic acid, or Scythe, is a specific herbicide that can be wicked with a five to ten percent solution on sucker sprouts with a great deal of success without harm to the host plant.  A word of caution, never use a glysophate such as Roundup because it will be transferred into the root system of the host tree and create distortion and general decline.

Feel free to contact our office for advice and prices regarding sucker and shoot control.

©2008-2016 Poole Consulting Group. All Rights Reserved.