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The city of Casper estimated that tens of thousands of trees died because of the record-breaking freeze that occurred on November 13, 2014. Elm trees appeared to have suffered the worst, but many other species of trees were also severely damaged. Thousands of these damaged trees are still standing throughout the city and now is the time to decide what should be done with them. Unfortunately, this is easier said than done.
Earlier this fall, I spent a few days studying the issue of damaged trees, under the tutelage of Jeremy Barrel, an internationally recognized expert on the subject. Jeremy has spent much of his adult life studying and preserving damaged trees. He has worked with multiple groups to protect the oldest tree in England and has also worked to keep high value trees in Thailand from being damaged on a construction site. During my week with him, Mr. Barrel took myself and others to a 100-year-old estate in Sheridan, WY where we studied and analyzed a variety of damaged trees. My goal in analyzing these trees was to come up with a solution to deal with damaged trees in such a way as to continue their life cycle for another 20-25 years. After spending the week immersed in scientific case studies, I have good news to report!
It is possible to preserve the damaged trees of Casper, and the Rodolph Brothers have now begun to do so successfully.
We examined dozens of case studies that focused on trees that were damaged just as severely as the trees in Casper. These trees were successfully pruned and treated in a way that will preserve them for another 50 years. The lesson to be learned from this is that pruning damaged trees properly can mitigate risk and conserve large portions of said tree. This will help the tree regain foliage and, ideally, once again become the beautiful specimen that it once was. There are a number of viable techniques to achieve the desired result, none of which are better or worse than the other but the point is this- the damaged trees of Casper will be able to continue to live if they are given just a little bit of professional attention.
As I work throughout the city, I see that there are still a great many damaged trees here in Casper that have not been pruned effectively or even cut down. When I see this, a multitude of thoughts run through my head, such as:
- "Are people waiting for these trees to just heal and come back to life?"
- "Do people think their tree is too difficult to access and to work on safely?"
- "Is nothing being done simply because people think the cost is too high?"
- "Or maybe, just maybe, do people simply refuse to give up hope on a once beautiful tree?"
My biggest thought, really, is simply this- why is your damaged tree still standing?
Well, as the old saying goes, inaction is an action so now is the time to do something about your tree because you cannot afford the risk of your tree or even part of your tree falling down and hurting something or, even worse, someone.
We can help.
The damaged portions of the trees that haven't been able to grow for 2 full seasons now are NEVER going to grow. Most damaged trees have utilized some incredible biological tools to wall off those dead branches, instead concentrating their energy on the viable growth elsewhere in the canopy. However, those damaged sections that have begun to decay will fail soon if you do not remove them.
The solution is this:
Remove all portions of the dead branch from the tree and analyze what is left to ensure that the tree itself will not fail. At Rodolph Brothers, we are often removing over half of the structure of the tree and up to 70% of its canopy. Admittedly, this sort of pruning is never recommended on a healthy tree, but in the case of a damaged tree, this course of action can save its life. The damaged tree will regrow over the next few years and eventually you won't even be able to notice that its size was so drastically diminished. Your tree will be much smaller, but it will still be a viable tree. This is a win/win for all parties involved; most especially the tree.
In conclusion, pruning a tree is a lot like making a New Year's Resolution and sticking to it- you are getting rid of the bad, even if it takes some time and energy, to make room for even more good. Your tree, just like yourself, wants to grow, wants to live life to the fullest, wants to radiate beauty, inside and out. As you spend the next year continuing to develop into the person that you want to become, please take some time to properly prune and maintain your trees. Feel free to give us a call to schedule a consultation, because at Rodolph Brothers, we are constantly doing what we love, and we want to make sure that, when it comes to your trees, you love them too.
Well, we made it through a wet spring without seeing an outbreak of leaf blights in our landscapes. These blights are caused by various fungal pathogens that thrive in the cool May weather. Now that Summer is here, temperatures will become consistently warmer, and these blights will no longer be able to attack your landscape plants.
However, the lack of hard frosts this spring which made for an amazing showing in our blooming plants has been the cause of an abnormally large insect population. Most of the leaf eating insects suffer population setbacks when we get late frosts. Their emerging eggs and immature young cannot tolerate harsh weather, so it takes much longer for their populations to build up after frosts decimate their colonies. With the absence of these natural controls, we will see an extended season for insects to build up large, destructive populations in our Casper landscapes.
I have already found many trees here in Casper that were completely covered by Aphids, Plant Bugs, or Spider Mites in high enough populations to cause serious damage. These insects rob enough nutrients from the tree that the leaves will begin to lose their ability to produce energy for the tree and fall off. This weakened state causes the tree to become stressed, and then it is highly susceptible to a host of other diseases.
The key to keeping your landscape thriving is to take some time every week to go into your landscape and make some observations. There are several other insects that I haven't found in high populations yet but they will likely appear over the next couple weeks. You will need to help find them.
1. Sticky substances on the patio furniture, vehicles, or on the leaves of plants below them. These secretions are being produced by the insects sucking on the leaves of your plants.
2. Leaves falling off. This is usually a sign of a severe infestation.
3. A subtle yellowing or mottling of the leaf surface. Finding this will require some studious observation. If you find some leaves that resemble this you should hold a white sheet of paper under the branch and shake it vigorously. Then examine the paper closely to find some mites the size of a speck of dust. You will see them when they start moving.
4. Holes in the leaves. There are numerous plant bugs that will eat some holes in the leaves which is not too alarming as long as the leaves don't get so many holes that 1/3 of the leaf is consumed.
Most of these insects that cause these four symptoms are easy to control once they are found, but if they are left unnoticed the consequences can be devastating. Controlling these insects rarely requires spraying and most often can be done by injecting a medicine directly into the cambium tissue (bark) thereby killing only the insects that are damaging the trees. This type of application gives all of our beneficial insects the ability to continue do their good work in our landscape.
Call or email us once you find some destructive bugs and we will help you control them so that your landscape can continue taking advantage of this nice, long, growing season.
I am sure thankful that our poor landscapes didn't suffer any catastrophic weather events in 2015. I don't think we could tolerate another storm or weather event destroying our suffering landscape. Unfortunately, there are still a great many consequences from the storm named Atlas in October 2013 and the freeze of November 2014 (I am not sure what they named it, but many unkind words have been used to describe it).
We are entering the second spring season after the freeze that killed so many trees and this should be a good year to determine the final outcome for most trees and plants affected by that weather event. If your tree doesn't have many live branches, you need to have it removed ASAP, because if you don't, it will only become more dangerous as it decays.
The quandary exists in the many trees and shrubs that are not totally dead. It is difficult to know if those few tufts of lively branches are going to be enough to sustain the tree's root system enabling the tree to grow past the dead and regain vitality. Obviously at some point the large dead portions will need to be pruned out because those dead branches pose the same hazardous characteristics of decay and failure as the completely dead trees. It will take some more time to determine if the tree has enough viable tissue to sustain life after the obvious dead is pruned out. You (the homeowner) must decide how tolerant you are of the "standing ugliness" in your recovering trees. There is no right answer or prescribed equation that can be applied to every tree.....many have said "if half the tree is dead then you must remove it" and this is categorically not true. There are too many variables to expound in this publication that will ultimately decide if your tree will regain its former beauty, but I can assure you that many will return to healthy form.
Nursing your tree back to health will require patient observation and some careful strategy to ensure the best outcome. First, you will need to have an experienced holistic arborist (one who doesn't want to cut your tree down) observing your tree to consult you through the process. You will need to help provide water and nutrients to the tree because it cannot survive this unless you provide it the ideal circumstances. Fertilizing your tree in the spring and fall will provide the nutrients that the tree roots cannot get from the dead branches. Remember, the freeze didn't affect the root system, only the branches, so replacing those lost nutrients will provide energy to the roots that later translates into new branches. Second, you will need to protect the tree from pests and disease. These trees are very vulnerable to pests and disease much like a weak cancer patient and you must protect them throughout their recovery. Third, you need to be patient and observant. It will take 5-10 years for things to really turn around and your participation will be required every step of the way. Obviously, there is some liability to consider here and you will need to be vigilant as you ensure that dead limbs and dead trees are removed before they fall on something or someone.
Lastly, remember that there were no trees here 100 years ago. However, many visionary community folk refused to stand around lamenting the abundant sage brush so they defied nature and planted thousands of trees that still resonate beauty here in Casper. So, while you nurse mature trees back to health for the next 5-10 years, take the time to plant some more; because in 10 years they will have grown notably and in 100 years you will be applauded for your courage to make our city beautiful.
The evergreen trees and shrubs throughout Casper were severely damaged on November 9-13, 2014 when the temperature dropped from 60 degrees to 27 degrees below zero. The evergreens were not entirely dormant due to the warm temperatures when this weather event occurred, thereby causing the needles to freeze and die. You may have noticed these dead needles when you saw that some of the evergreens around the city are a reddish brown color. Some evergreens were not affected by this weather event because they were completely dormant due to freezing temperatures previously in October that signaled the evergreens to move toward dormancy. Evergreen dormancy is a genetic determinate that varies from species to species. All evergreens do not go dormant at the same time. It had been so warm up through November 9, 2014 that many trees were not ready for the extreme cold weather, and this is the reason that the needles are now dead.
The damaged evergreen trees are NOT necessarily dead. We will need to wait and see if the tips of the damaged branches (the terminal buds) are dead. If the tips (terminal buds) come out green, then the evergreens will grow out of this damage. The reddish/brown needles will most likely fall off, and the tree will look a little bare for the season, but eventually the terminal bud will grow new needles. Watch for new growth from the terminal bud as we move into May, and then prune off the branches that don’t grow green needles from the terminal bud.
If your evergreens are not dead and begin growing again this season, then there are some extra precautions that you will need to put in place to ensure their healthy recovery. First, you will need to provide adequate water and fertilizer to compensate for the loss of energy producing needles. Second, due to the extreme stress caused by this freeze damage, the trees will be susceptible to disease and insects. Stressed trees will likely need arborist applied treatments to ensure that they remain healthy during recovery. Third, you will need to be patient while these trees don’t look good for a few years as they re-grow new needles.
Spring will reveal some additional freeze damage to our deciduous trees (trees with leaves) and perennials. You may notice dead tips throughout Cottonwood, Elm, Ash, Linden, and Birch trees. You may notice more significant die-back on ornamental trees, fruit trees, and shrubs that are not native to this zone. It has been a difficult time for all of our trees with the limb breaking storm of October 2013 and now the needle freezing storm of November 2014. Many trees, shrubs, and perennials will need a little extra care and pruning to help them overcome this freeze damage. A little care, patience, and persistence will encourage the beautiful trees of our city to thrive again.
May is a month that brings complete uncertainty and the utter scrambling of our emotions as winter loses its battle to the sunshine of spring. The apple trees are blooming and the aroma of lilac and honeysuckle delight our senses, reminding us that this Wyoming of ours is the most beautiful place on earth during the summer. You find yourself dreaming in green colors again instead of the dim grays that have almost permanently impressed themselves upon the way that you view the city. Every single May I find myself shocked yet again by the beauty of life springing up from the ground, although I shouldn't be since the calendar clearly states that May has come and with it SPRING! We have been preparing our landscapes for this grand spring event since March, and we are now ready to embrace the life that comes with Wyoming spring, so let it come. That being said, be sure to stick to your plan no matter what weather this month brings.
1. The blooms will get frosted off our apple or lilac trees somewhere in the city. It is unavoidable. Do not be alarmed, just be sure to keep your garden covered every single night until after Mother's Day and don't plant anything tender before then, unless you plan to cover it.
2. Plant your garden no later than May 15th. Of course you can do it later in the season if you buy bigger plants. The point is this: you need all the days of the Wyoming growing season that are available, so take a day off work (if needed) to plant so that the harvest will come before the fall frostings.
3. The fungus diseases are in full swing during May so get the water schedule set, but monitor it closely. The wild temperature fluctuations of May give perfect opportunity for lawn fungus, leaf fungus (outside the plant), and vascular tissue fungus (inside the plant). Fungal pathogens (seeds of fungus) thrive during May and June. Fungus attacks occur when plants are under stress, and your plants are working really hard right now trying to grow and bloom, so don't let them get drought stressed. Water well, but don't over-water because this moisture can promote fungus. NO WATERING the lawn at night. The grass blades need to be dry during the night so fungus can't attack them during the night when temperatures are favorable to fungal growth. Water early in the morning so the sunlight (which typically destroys fungus) can dry out the grass blades quickly. If you suspect fungus, treat it quickly because the damage is devastating if left unchecked.
Begin now by putting some additional work into your landscape to help things get established and then you can spend the rest of the summer enjoying the fruits of your labor.
By: Aaron Rodolph
March is the month that we all realize just how long the winters last here in Casper. We are all starving for some sunlight and standing on the brink of depression just as March comes with promises of longer days and tee shirts. Every daffodil or tulip that pushes up through a snow drifted bed makes our hearts jump for joy to know that spring has finally come! However, the March rain turns quickly to snow and the temperature drops to below freezing without notice, leaving those pedals frozen in a state of premature death. March can also bring spells of drought carried by warm winds that dry the emerging shoots before they can open. It is important to be ready to adapt quickly as you prepare your landscape for spring.
It was October 14, 1998 and the snow was falling hard and piling up fast. You could stand outside and see the flashes in the sky caused by failing power lines. Many of the streets were completely blockaded by downed trees. It was the most devastating storm that I had ever seen.
Rodolph Brothers had just completed its first season in business, and I was nineteen years old. My older brother Isaiah and I were in complete dis-belief as we rushed to many of our new clients’ homes to help clear their roofs of fallen limbs. We quickly realized that we were completely unequipped to handle the danger involved in treating these precarious situations. However, after purchasing the right equipment, and adapting our rock climbing equipment to the nuances of tree work, we quickly found that we could overcome the precarious plight of storm damaged trees. We worked around the clock for many weeks to clean-up every single client’s home, and through it we developed a love for trees. We are still caring for many of those clients’ beautiful trees to this very day. It was out of that storm that Rodolph Brothers Tree Service was born. We have spent the last 15 years engrossed in learning and developing our Tree Service into what it is today. I have watched those same ugly, storm damaged trees heal and become beautiful again over the last 15 years. It is difficult to see them torn and broken today all over this city, but I am confident that they will overcome, yet again. Here is what they will need:
I ran into a client the other evening while out to dinner with my family, and she told me how amazed she was at the superb growth of her trees that we had planted for her just 3 years ago. She reminded me that her back porch was all too close to the neighbor’s bay window and even her six foot tall privacy fence did not offer enough privacy. We had suggested planting some Austrian Pine Trees, but the access was so limited that we could only get six foot tall trees into her back yard. She was very skeptical at the time because the trees were only as tall as her fence and she assumed that it would take a long time for them to grow up and block the neighbor’s view. We assured her that if she would let us “do it right” then the trees would thrive and grow quickly to accomplish her goal of privacy. She skeptically quipped “what does it mean to DO IT RIGHT?” We explained:
“Failing to plan is planning to fail”
I was recently called by a homeowner named Marilyn who was very distressed saying, “My landscape was beautiful when they installed it five years ago, but now it looks horrible.” I said, “How is it that after five years you are just now unhappy with your landscape?” Marilyn replied, “The beautiful little evergreen bushes that they planted in front of my picture window are now covering it entirely. The quaint little tree that they placed by the corner of the patio is now covering so much of my patio that I cannot even sit out there anymore, much less see the water feature that they installed on the other side of my patio.” I inspected the property the following week and found it to be just as Marilyn described and worse. I asked her who provided her with a landscape design, and she admitted that she did not get a design but instead relied on the knowledge of the contractor to provide her with the landscape that she envisioned. Marilyn said, “I knew exactly what I wanted and I told the contractor what I wanted, so I assumed that they would make it work.” The only solution to this landscape problem was to remove large portions of it and start over, costing thousands of dollars, not to mention the loss of perfectly healthy, mature trees and shrubs that were going to be thrown away because they were planted in the wrong places.
A landscape designer will:
• Measure your property and produce a scaled drawing
• Make a drainage plan and identify any retaining walls that must be built
• Assess the soil and identify necessary amendments
• Give you all of the options of possible plant material and show you where they should be placed based on the growth habits of the particular plant or tree
• Identify all mulch and sod areas and give you the quantities needed to cover adequately
• Specify an adequate irrigation system
• Produce conceptual pictures of what your landscape will look like after it is installed
• Help you obtain estimates and inspect the project during the different phases of construction
A good landscape designer would have saved Marilyn a great deal of headaches and even more money. Typically a landscape designer charges $60- $90 per hour which will equate to $1,500 to $3,000 to complete a residential landscape design. However, the returns on this investment in planning will be:
• Confidence in your plan
• Obtaining fair estimates from different contractors
• Your vision will truly become a reality
• Most of all, a landscape designer will make sure that you are doing it right the first time