Slab Mania

Technically, what is a slab? According to ICPI [ICPI Concrete Paver Installer Course book, 8th Edition, pg. 90], “slabs generally have an aspect ratio greater than 4:1, a minimum thickness of 2″ and a size larger than 10″ x 10″.” As contractors we must remember that paving slabs perform differently than regular pavers.

The aspect ratio is extremely important in selecting the right paver/slab for your job. Aspect ratio measures the unit length to its thickness. When this ratio exceeds 4:1 the units generally cannot be used for vehicular applications. I have seen projects where contractors used slabs that were a combination of 6″ x 12″, 12″ x 12″, and 12″ x 18″ x 2 3/8″ thick, and observed how many of the pieces’ cracked during compaction in to the bedding sand, or cracked from the loads they were required to carry. When I teach the NCMA Level 1 Certification class I say repeatedly that you don’t want to ask the wall block that you are using to do something it was not designed to do. The same can now be said about paving slabs. Don’t install them in applications where the loads are too great for the product.

ICPI is currently performing tests on slabs and working with manufacturers to help establish industry specifications for slabs. As of right now, manufacturers have few specifications to meet on the manufacturing end. With pavers, manufacturers must meet specific psi tolerances, water absorption rates, and material deterioration specifications. Slabs do not have any of these specifications to meet at this time.

When installed correctly, paving slabs offer an opportunity for increased production rates. We do all of our slab installation with our Pave Mor suction tools. The tools not only speed up production but save knees, backs, and fingers. We use the one-man tool for smaller slabs 50lbs and under, and the two-man tool for larger slabs. Our patio production rate is about 275sqft per hour for three men. The important thing is that that rate stays the same all day, day after day, because we are not fatiguing ourselves by installing by hand. Most of my patios average about 500sqft. My two-man prep crew will take about 5 hours to excavate, infill, compact, and level a 500sqft area. Then the install crew will take about 45 minutes to level screed pipes, and install our bedding sand. I estimate two hours of laying pavers, one to two hours of cutting depending upon the curves, circle packs, etc., one hour to install edge restraint and sweep in the polysand, and one hour of loaming and seeding the disturbed areas. Including travel time, set up, and clean up, I estimate about 40 man hours on a 500sqft slab patio install. For the same size patio installing Hollandstone pavers I would figure 46 man hours.

Using slabs, the embedment compaction process can be tricky. Many manufacturers say not to use a vibratory plate compactor when embedding slabs in to the bedding sand. We use the Weber VPR700 Roller Compactor to do all of our embedment of slabs and pavers. There are no worries about cracking, scuffing, or chipping the slabs when using this roller compactor. It is also extremely important to vibrate the polysand in to the joints of the slabs. Phil Graves, Techniseal’s Director of U.S. Sales, told me that “studies have shown that with compaction on the surface of pavers and slabs you get 12% more sand in to the joint. This not only helps with vertical interlock, but also results in a 20% increase in the strength of the polysand.” This is important for the long term viability of the system; that all components be as strong as possible.

Be diligent in your paver slab selection process, install efficiently, use the proper tools, install all the components that make our system strong and long lasting. As Phil Graves says, “the customer wants the best finished result possible. Using the best materials, tools, and processes is the easiest way to guarantee the best finished product and safeguard against costly call backs. It’s a very easy recipe for successful installation.”

— by Bill Gardocki, past president of NHLA (1994 & 1995), now a hardscape educator. This article is reprinted with permission from Hardscape Magazine


Scholarships Awarded by NHLA and by the Pearson Scholarship Trust

Ruth E. and Leon E. Pearson Scholarship Recipient
by Alan Anderson, Chairman of the Ruth E. and Leon E. Pearson Memorial Scholarship Fund

The Ruth E. and Leon E. Pearson Memorial Scholarship for 2022 was awarded to Sydney Hussey, who attends the University of Massachusetts Stockbridge School of Agriculture. Leon Pearson, an alumnus from there, would be proud of her.

The scholarship amount for 2022 was $8,000.

Sydney entered the Stockbridge School in 2019 and earned an associate degree in horticultural science. She is continuing her studies there toward a bachelor’s degree in sustainable horticulture. She has been on the dean’s list several times and received her associate degree Cum Laude.

Congratulations Sydney, as that is no small feat to achieve. Sydney’s greatest career aspiration is to be an educator. She says, “Educating and producing great employees is essential to ensure our industry’s future.” Sydney certainly has a good handle on paving the way for our future generations, giving them a model to aspire to.

On behalf of the Pearson Memorial Scholarship Fund the Pearson Committee would like to congratulate Sydney and wish her the best as she moves forward in the horticulture industry.

The current Pearson Committee members are:
Chuck Simpson, Simpson Landscape; Peter DeBrusk, Tuckahoe Turf Farm; Andrew Pelkey, North Point Outdoors; Jeff Toomey, Toomey Landscaping; and Read Custom Soils ;and Pearson Committee Chair, Alan Anderson.

NHLA Scholarship Recipients
by David DeJohn, NHCLP, NHLA President

At the bottom of every NHLA renewal form is a section that allows members to add a little extra towards a scholarship fund. This fund goes towards a deserving student, or students, looking to educate themselves and start a career in some aspect of the horticultural and landscaping industry. This year, thanks to you and your generosity, we have awarded three students $1000.00 each to help with their expenses. These three recipients — a student working towards becoming a landscape architect, a former graphic designer, and an art history major and educator — were drawn to careers in the landscape industry as they they’ve seen the effects of climate change, urban sprawl, and the loss of connection with the natural world.

As an art history major Emily Karmen is now using her artistic talents in the landscape design certification program at NHTI. With experience in conservation and environmental issues, as well as having received her master’s degree in education, Emily has a strong desire “to educate people and instill in them a wonder for nature.” Connecting children with nature, conservation and protecting wild places, and designing and creating natural spaces in urban settings are just some of the possibilities in Emily’s future. Emily graduates from NHTI in 2024.

For Minnue Uhm, a current student at Cornell University and studying to be a landscape architect, it was an early interest in art and the environment that led to pursuing his desired career. Once in college and seeing the possibilities that art and architecture have to address climate change, social justice, and food sovereignty he knew he had made the right choice. Minnue looks forward to gaining a better understanding of landscapes within the “built and political environment” and how landscape design can inspire environmental stewardship. Minnue graduates from Cornell in 2025.
Taking her experience as a graphics and user experience designer Janelle Maynard is now enrolled at NHTI and looks forward to “creating sustainable and low maintenance public spaces” that can be used for outdoor markets, fairs, and fundraising events as well public food and sensory gardens. At NHTI Janelle is learning about the importance of native plants, proper site planning, and ecological design solutions to improve the environment and to make neighborhoods more resilient. Janelle graduates from NHTI in 2024.

These three students are committed to making a difference in the landscape industry, and your generous donations to the Scholarship Fund helps to make that possible, so thank you again to everyone who donated. You are helping to bring in the next generation of landscape designers, landscape architects and plant growers. If these three are any indication then the industry will be in good hands. We look forward to seeing Emily, Minnue, and Janelle at future NHLA events!

Why Get Certified? The Employee’s Perspective

We all know the main reasons to become certified, right? The echo chamber repeats “better pay…increased credibility…employee retention…” and so on. These reasons may be falling on deaf ears, not because they are untrue, but because they are tired, overused, or are just plain unrelatable.

I’d like to look at it from a different perspective, something more personal, as a recent NHCLP myself (as of 2020). Why was becoming a New Hampshire Landscape Professional worth it to me, as a person with over ten years’ field experience and a five-year stretch with my employer? I think that the benefits reach across a wide net of positive outcomes that contribute to a better quality of life for individuals who decide to take the plunge.

Wealth and employment are two of the big-ticket indicators of quality of life. The relationship between these contributors and the topic at hand is clear, as one generally begets the other. When we look at some of the other indicators, the view becomes less clear. I would like to look at how professional development (ahem – becoming an NHCLP) can contribute to other areas of an individual’s life that are often credited with influencing the measure of one’s quality of life: social belonging, education, and mental health.

Certification supports a better quality of life for individual employees, which in turn supports the success of the employer. I’m going to run through some possible scenarios that explore how expanding your education and skill set can lead to a better quality of life for employees.

Feeling Valued by Your Employer Leads to A Sense of Belonging
Scenario 1: Your employer inquires where your interests lie in the industry and shares ideas for career paths and opportunities that fit your interests. The company invests in you and your interests by enrolling you in the Plant Identification course through NHLA. You feel seen and valued by your employer and, in turn, are more likely to reciprocate the commitment. You become a human plant-cyclopedia and spread the wealth of knowledge to your colleagues, starting a contagious zest for plant knowledge that spreads throughout the company that inspires your coworkers to follow your lead. This leads to a positive evolution in the company’s culture.

Scenario 2: Although you have been working in garden maintenance, you express interest in stonework, specifically dry-stacked stone walls. You are switched over to the construction division to gain experience and are introduced to opportunities offered by The Stone Trust. You become one of the students in a Basic Level class [more info at: thestonetrust.org/7-7-2022-cont-intro-nh/] and bring that knowledge back to the field to continue to enhance your skill set on the job, eventually to demonstrate enough new skills to warrant a pay raise.

Continuing Your Education is Good for Your Mental Health
Scenario 1: As you learn more about your craft—whether it be in irrigation, turf management, garden bed maintenance, pruning specialist, design, sales, hardscapes—the value of your work becomes more and more clear. It’s important to take pride in your work. As you learn more about the ins and outs of your specialty and/or profession, you’ll come to appreciate the final product, and the value of your expertise, that much more.

Scenario 2: You, a hardscape salesperson, find yourself in a conversation with your cousin at Thanksgiving about plants. They want to know why their hydrangeas aren’t blooming. You don’t work with plants often and before you took the Plant ID course and got certified you would dread these types of encounters. Thanks to your certification through NHLA, you have enough plant-cyclopedia in you that you can carry the conversation and offer solutions or resources that may help your cousin. Helping people makes you feel good about yourself, and you have developed more self-confidence.

How New NHCLP’s Contribute to their Employer’s Success
Scenario 1: You are training a new employee, and they comment on your skill set, wondering how long it takes to get to your paygrade and level of expertise. You reply accordingly and tell your trainee how your employer supports professional development for their staff, using your own story as an example. The wheels in your trainee’s head begin to turn as they ponder their own future in landscaping. This encounter leads to another staff member who is engaged in his or her trade and takes care in providing a good product and/or service. This level of support and engagement increases employee retention for the company, and the resources the company spends on recruiting can now be directed elsewhere.

Scenario 2: You are an account manager in a conversation with a customer about how a patio installation went. They share how happy they are with the end result, but how the best part of the experience was the interactions with your crew members, commenting specifically on their ability to problem-solve quickly and answer any questions the customer had about the work in a way that was easy to understand. Later you find that this customer has left a positive review of the company online. Future customers who see positive reviews like this one online find it easier to establish trust in your company’s credibility. You find that your customer base is expanding not only because of the positive reviews, but because your happy customer has also referred you to folks in the community who are looking to get similar work done at their own properties. You feel great about your crews’ work as well as your own work in facilitating the successful projects that have led to more business for your company.

I hope that reading this article sheds light on the fact that the benefits of becoming an NHCLP go deeper than just being able to get a raise and retaining employees. It’s important to think about the reasons behind the obvious benefits that may have a lasting effect on an individual’s quality of life. Having an employer that supports an individual’s own professional success and encourages them to follow their interests leads to a sense of belonging both within the company and within the community of NHCLPs. More education leads to more career opportunities and skill sets, and greater pride and self-confidence in one’s work.

These changes may influence the company’s success through a positive company culture, increase in employee retention, high quality products and services, and customer satisfaction. I’m sure you’ll agree that those are all key elements in having a successful company.

– by Daisy Chinburg, NHCLP

Failures… Let’s Give Them the Boot!

For those of you who do most of your work in the softscape end of our business, what does a failure on the job site mean? I’m not talking about not getting paid in full, but something like having 30% of the plant material die, or that picky customer not liking the color of the mulch, or the drip irrigation system not getting all the plant roots watered. Thankfully, these are things that can be fixed or replaced.

Now think of a failure in hardscaping. A 4′ retaining wall that falls over in the homeowners back yard can kill a child, pavers that sink along the edge of an install can cause a trip and fall hazard. These can be catastrophic failures – not only for the homeowner but for you as the installer.

DSC 0282
Here is a wall that has settled. You can see that the level is indicating a 1-inch dip because of poor base preparation.

When I started installing block walls and pavers when they became available in the early 1980s it was like the wild west. Dealers had little knowledge how to install these products because for the most part they were used to dealing only with gray block. There were no NCMA or ICPI certification classes that dealt with installation procedures, specifications, or products. As installers we had to use our best judgement on how to install the new products.

I am the first to admit I had many failures in those early years. Not enough ¾” stone behind and below the block wall, not installing the base deep enough under my pavers, having jointing material wash out from between the pavers causing instability, using cut pieces that are too small to give stability to my install, and the list goes on. In 2001 I decided to learn the proper techniques and materials by becoming a certified ICPI contractor and flew to Florida where the class was being offered. I followed up a few years later with my NCMA certification. The main purpose of certification is to properly educate the contractor on the correct procedures and components of a hardscape project.

The certifications helped end the failures on our job sites. I find it very gratifying to see installations that we did 10, 15, 20 years ago that look the same today as the day they were installed. That is what we should all be aiming for. At the end of a hardscape job I used to joke with my customers telling them that I never wanted to see them again. At least, not until they moved into a new house and needed more hardscaping services.

No one benefits from a failure. Your reputation suffers, the homeowner is not happy and refuses to give you a good recommendation, or worse, someone is injured. Give failure the boot and consider getting certified. Being able to tell a potential client to do a drive by or call a past client who is willing to give you a good referral is what it is all about.

This spring NHLA, with support from the New England Concrete Manufacturers Association, will be offering a half-day program aimed at hardscape installers. It will be a short course on proper wall and paver installation. I have been asked to teach this seminar, and I will focus two hours on paver installation specifications and installation techniques, and two hours on retaining wall specifications and installation techniques. Watch for more information!

— Bill Gardocki is a past president of NHLA (1994 & 1995). He is now a hardscape educator.


Culture is Essential

When talking among industry friends, a common theme since the pandemic and prior, is that staffing has been difficult. As a landscape company owner, I appreciate their struggle, but don’t necessarily share in their difficulties, nor do I feel guilty that attracting and retaining employees isn’t a problem for our firm.

I can say this with conviction because I know the time, resources, and care taken to create an employee-focused culture isn’t easy. When you have a living, breathing, moving employee-focused culture, you have a destination that people want to travel to, and stay… “When you build it, they will come.”

When you think about positive workplace culture you probably think about a Friday cook out for the crew, gift bags at Christmas, coffee and donuts for breakfast, or a company outing. While these are components to successful positive culture, it can’t stop there.

To truly achieve the ideal working place. You can’t start with your goals as an owner, or manager. You need to start with the goals, desires, wants, and needs of your team from the bottom up. This concept can be referred to as “front line focused.” If you can put your team’s needs before yours, they will allow you to reach your goals. But they must come first. Always, without exception.

Fostering positive culture can’t be something you put time to on your calendar once a week or handle in one monthly team building event. It needs to be the platform for each interaction you have with your team and each decision you make.

One of our pillars of culture (out of our 10) is: Create a tone of friendliness and warmth – Every conversation, phone call, e-mail, sets a tone and creates a feeling. Pay attention to every interaction and be sure you’re setting a tone of friendliness, warmth, and helpfulness.

Everyone deserves to feel respected and treated well. Even with a team over 120+ we have maintained this tone of friendliness and warmth. We can do this because each interaction my business partner and I have with an employee is friendly and warm. Our leadership team follows suit, and it flows down to the bottom and then back up.
The familiar saying of “people don’t leave companies, they leave managers” has been true since the beginning of time, but even more so today. Our industry has become less desirable to the next generation along with other skilled labor industries like carpentry, plumbing, or HVAC. I think that society puts a fair amount of blame on the younger generation for being too lazy or not wanting to work with their hands. While maybe some of this is true… I think our industry along with other skilled labor industries are simply missing the boat on positive company culture that industries such as technology or finance aren’t.

What is your first question when someone quits on you? If your answer isn’t “what did we do or not do to make them quit,” you’re searching in the wrong place. Our team is ours to lose or not add to, the responsibility sits with the owners and leadership teams.

Our industry members deserve better. You can be that owner or manager that sets the tone for your company. It doesn’t need to start with money, events, or swag. It needs to start from your heart and the rest will follow. r

— Andrew Pelkey is chief operations officer and co-owner of North Point Outdoors. He is the current NHLA VP.

NHLA Announces Partnership with Greenius

Providing Members and the Industry With Professional Landscape
Safety and Performance Training

NHLA and Greenius, North America’s leading training for landscapers, have announced a partnership to help connect more landscapers to high-quality landscape training focused on safety and employee development.

Greenius is an online training tool and Learning Management System (LMS) for Landscape workers for equipment operation. The company uses live-action video, online exams, and an app-based Field Checklist. They also incorporate an employee lifecycle tool with performance review capabilities. London, Ontario-based Greenius is an industry leader with a proven track record of delivering exceptional employee development tools for landscape professionals. They offer hundreds of courses in both English and Spanish with new courses added every year. Offered courses cover a variety of topics important to the Green Industry, including but not limited to maintenance, construction, snow, safety, equipment, supervisor training, and more.

This partnership will give New Hampshire Landscape Association members the opportunity to access hundreds of Greenius training courses, tailgate talks, job-site checklists, and employee development tools. Many companies in the industry continue to be challenged by skilled labor shortages.

The Greenius platform provides training courses and tools to help develop the skills of new team members and to help retain employees and foster team member growth within their organizations.

North Point Outdoors has been using Greenius for a few years now. They like the consistent training and accountability. Training can be done anytime, even before the employee steps foot in the field.

As a member of NHLA, you will receive 2-months free ($250+ value) as well as free customized implementation ($349 value)!! Please contact Pam Moreau for your referral code.

NHLA and Greenius will be working closely together in the coming months to provide a higher level of standard for safety and performance training to the landscape industry including lawn care, grounds maintenance, snow and ice management, human resources, and business development training. We are excited!

To learn more about Greenius, visit gogreenius.com/how-greenius-works/


Take Advantage of Winter Education

It’s mid-winter. Time to take a break; spend more time with family and friends and think about how you are going to be more efficient and profitable next season. People have different views on how to achieve this goal but for me it really came down to the two “E’s”: Education and Equipment.

As a former teacher, I always embraced the education end. I go to Hardscape North America in Louisville, KY, in October; the Mid-Atlantic Hardscape Show in Atlantic City in December; and the Northeast Hardscape Show (that is in Springfield, MA, this year) in March. We as an industry must be doing something right to have the three biggest hardscape shows east of the Mississippi. Many of the paver manufacturers will be having their free shows this winter as well. I have already received invites from manufacturers like Genest, Techo-Bloc, Nicolock, and Unilock.
You have heard me say this before, many times, over and over — take advantage of these opportunities. And, it goes without saying, our own NHLA provides opportunities not only in the winter but year-round, covering all aspects of the industry. These are great opportunities to learn something new and network with your fellow professionals. I challenge you! Take home one tidbit of information that you can utilize in your business to make you more efficient. DON’T FORGET, EFFICIENCY EQUALS PROFITS.

On the equipment end, it took some hard lessons and convincing from my son Tom, that good efficient tools are extremely important. At one point in my landscape construction career, I had 12 employees. The last few years that I was in business I had 4 employees. We were often more profitable with 4 than 12. And one of the reasons was having proper tools. Think about your wellbeing and the wellbeing of your employees. Let the tools do the heavy lifting and save your back, knees, and fingers. Let’s face it. In this industry it still comes down to back-breaking work. Try to extend your career and your employees by taking advantage of the latest innovations and labor-saving tools.
I hope to see you and your crew at an educational event this winter!

— by Bill Gardocki, who is a past president of NHLA (1994 & 1995). He is now a hardscape educator.

Tightening Up on Pesticide Use

The City of Portland recently issued its first fine for violating the city’s pesticide ordinance. Approved in 2018, advocates at the time called it “one of the strongest pesticide ordinances in the country.” The ordinance bans the use of synthetic pesticides, though there are some exceptions, including plant and pest control when they threaten people’s health and safety, such as poison ivy.

One of Portland’s largest landscape companies (the name will not be mentioned in this article)was fined the maximum fine of $500 for the application of glyphosate (Roundup) to control Japanese Knotweed at an apartment complex. The application was seen and reported by a resident with an organic vegetable plot. The owner of this complex owns over 100 properties with 2700 affordable and market rate units primarily in Maine, but also in New Hampshire.

The pesticide law has been difficult to enforce because city officials cannot go on people’s private properties, even then a violation can be difficult to enforce without documentation. The violations have to be similar to this one where people are “caught in the act.”

The city originally made a few exceptions, including Hadlock Field, home of the Portland Seadogs baseball team, and the city owned Riverside golf course. At one time these two areas were planned to eventually be totally pesticide free, but it is my understanding the quality of the turf just couldn’t be kept up to the required level without some treatments. Dutch Elm and browntail moth treatments were also put on the exemption list. Since Emerald Ash Borer had yet to be found in Portland, there was no mention of and exemption for its treatment, but I’m sure it is now allowed.

Since Portland’s new pesticide laws were in the planning stages and then actually went into law, I’ve had mixed opinions about the regulations. Most of the run-off of the entire city ends up in the ocean, therefore I feel careful application practices are needed. On a state level, pesticide regulations have tightened up significantly in the past 10-15 years. Should the City have different laws than the State?

Often people I’ve seen on some of these boards or committees are not those I consider knowledgeable enough about pesticides. Here in the Town of Yarmouth a board was set up to “observe” pesticide use, thinking they may want to tighten or set up regulations in the future. From what I could tell, only one person out of the 6 or 8 board members was a licensed pesticide applicator. Seems to me more board members should be from a type of business that is actually applying pesticides or at least working in the Green Industry. Fortunately this was just a committee that was only observing pesticide use, and as of now they have yet to set any new regulations.

The company in Portland was sloppy by not following the regulations. I’m not sure if they were ignorant about the regulations or felt they could get away without getting caught. The point is, if you don’t like playing by Portland’s rules, don’t apply pesticides there. At the same time, some of the Portland officials may need to have their properties overtaken by bittersweet before they realize a minimal amount of control of some invasives is needed.

Time will tell if the whole pesticide application rule process gets changed in the future.

— by Phil Caldwell, a past president of NHLA (1989) who now lives and works in Maine.  

Plan for your Future

I started in this industry 46 years ago at the ripe age of 15. By 16 years old I was a typical young person carting around my tools in the back of my 1971 Ford Maverick. Little did I know I was getting in on the ground floor of an industry that hadn’t been named yet. When I first heard J.C. Henry use the term “hardscape,” I thought he was crazy, but cool!

Gail and I started our business in 1980 after graduating from college. We had a used Bolens tractor and an assortment of hand tools. I recall very well purchasing our first skid steer in 1988. The salesman had to give us a good sales pitch to convince us it would be worth the investment. That one sale opened my mind to just how valuable an investment in the right tools is.

My son, Tom, started working for us when he was 10 years old in 1997. By then we had purchased two more skid steers, a backhoe attachment, a loader, four dump trucks, two pickups, two trailers, a laser plane, compactor, three cut off saws and two computers! By 2019 our job descriptions had not changed a whole lot, but how we worked certainly had. Cell phones for instant communication, social media for marketing, and equipment laden with technology all made our jobs easier and time more productive.

We are fortunate that our son had a keen interest in our line of work. I asked him recently what the pluses and minuses were of working for his parents, you know, the older generation. He noted that we have a harder time adapting to new technology (yes), and we are often stuck in our ways of doing things (what?!). It is not easy to convince us to try something different (he has many times). But growing up in a family owned business, Tom learned all aspects of running a business sitting at the dining room table each night as Gail and I discussed work. He learned from our mistakes. He learned to take responsibility. He learned about planning, organization, perseverance, how to talk to customers, tracking and understanding expenses, and money management. All these tools and skills are just as important as the physical equipment we invested in.

About the time Tom was born we decided we needed help with planning for our goals in life. We knew Tim Riley, a fellow University of New Hampshire alumnus who had started his own financial planning company called Harbor Group in Bedford, NH. Tim examined our situation and has since advised us with our savings, insurance, investments, children’s college savings plans, and retirement plans.

The first order of business was to get disability and life insurance. This is something a lot of young people don’t think about. Look at my case though. Out of nowhere I had a stroke and was out of work for an entire season. Thank goodness I had disability insurance and savings (and a very capable son) that helped us through that time.

Tim had us work on building up an emergency fund after we had our insurance in place. You never know when you may have a slowdown in work or a need to have some money to fall back on. We learned that people should start saving money with their first job no matter how young they are. This is super important. Set a target of putting 10-15% of your income aside. Be disciplined and the process of compounding will reward you.

And start thinking about retirement and how you will pay for it now, if you haven’t already. Most of us contractors are self-employed. We started our retirement savings by taking advantage of the tax-free growth of a Roth IRA. A goal should be to be debt free by retirement. Try to have your mortgage, kid’s school bills, and all your large miscellaneous debts paid off.

Think about your future expenses and plan. Work with a financial planning expert. They can help you plan and calculate needs taking in all aspects of your life and goals. Many of us know how to install hardscapes, not how to invest our hard-earned money. It is important to remember that at some point you will want to retire. The longer you wait to start planning for it, the longer it will be before you can. Save as young as you can and as much as you can. Savings will give you flexibility in your future. As Tim says, “It doesn’t happen by magic”.
There are few people my age who have concentrated on installing hardscapes for their career. We are approaching the first generation of retirees from this field.

The younger generation of installers has grown up with new technology, tools, and installation techniques that make this such a great and competitive industry. I know it’s not easy convincing us older folk to try something different, but I am hopeful that us older folk have convinced you to invest in training, education, the latest technology and techniques in our industry. Just as important though is to invest in yourself. I wish all of you every success for the future. I hope to see you at future industry events!

originally published in August/September 2019 Hardscape Magazine
by Bill Gardocki, Hardscape Educator

I Didn’t Know That! Let’s Get Dirty Workshop a Success

If you didn’t know that only the quarter-inch tip of your mowing blade is really the only thing that needs to be sharp, you missed an opportunity to learn about how to maintain most of your small equipment at the first “Let’s Get Dirty” workshop.

North Point Outdoors in Derry hosted the hands-on event that gave the dozen participants insights into the most common equipment problems – and their solutions.

Chris Baker, fleet manager, and his assistant Andrew “Junior” Giampalo, led the group around the shop examining several pieces of equipment in need of repair or maintenance.

“The biggest villain for most engines in any fleet is ethanol gasoline,” Baker said. “Ethanol separates from the gasoline after 30 days and turns to a solid.” Ethanol also attracts water, therefore keep your equipment entirely filled when is use, then empty the tank entirely at the end of the season. For large equipment, such as mowers, use a fuel stabilizer in a full tank if it will be stored until next season. Then turn off the fuel and run the engine until the fuel line is empty to avoid carburetor problems.

Giampalo took apart several small two-cycle engines, showing the various small filters that need regular scrutiny if the engines falter or fail to operate at the highest levels.

“Every engine needs three things: air, fuel and sparks,” Giampalo said. “If your engine isn’t running, it’s most likely one of those three things. Check your filters and replace them.”

Both mechanics suggested putting together a simple tool kit for road repairs: air and fuel filters, spark plugs, and the tools that come with every piece of equipment.

They said most cutting equipment also needs regular sharpening, especially pruners and mowers. North Point mowing crews sharpen their blades three times a week.

After a few hours in the shop, attendees had pizza, salad, and soft drinks in the North Point office and enjoyed a free-wheeling conversation about maintenance and business practices.

Benjamin Gibbs of TNT Landscaping of Epsom summed up the workshop: “Know the process – and just do it. Every time.”

by Mike Barwell



Apply Now to these Scholarship Programs

Two scholarship programs are available for horticulture and landscape design and construction students. One is through NHLA, and the other through the The Ruth E. & Leon E. Pearson Memorial Scholarship. Grants for each are made annually.

The Pearson Memorial Scholarship applications must be returned no later than December 1, and the NHLA Scholarship applications by December 15.

The NHLA scholarship is available, but not restricted to: 1) NHLA members and their employees enrolled or enrolling in full or part-time college programs that are related to the landscape industry. 2) High school seniors enrolled in agriculture education and/or horticulture classes related to the landscape industry. 3) College students already enrolled in two- or four-year landscape related majors.

The Ruth E. & Leon E. Pearson Scholarship was established in 1993 by Mrs. Ruth E. Pearson of Concord, NH, to provide financial assistance in the form of scholarship to horticulture students at the Stockbridge School at the University of Massachusetts and NHTI, Concord’s Community College. Scholarship applicants must demonstrate an interest in the field of horticulture by satisfactorily completing the equivalent of at least two semesters of full time college level study in a related field and must hold a 3.0 GPA.

Please go to nhlaonline.org/scholarships for more details about the scholarships and the forms to apply.

Like Chucky in The Horror Films: I’m Back!

Many of you know that back a year and a half ago I sold my business. Forty-eight years doing landscape/hardscape installations was enough for me. I decided to keep my membership in NHLA as I still wanted to stay in touch with all that is happening in the industry, and I still travel all over the country teaching my list of hardscape seminars and the ICPI and NCMA certification classes.

This winter I look forward to teaching at Hardscape North America (HNA) in Louisville, KY, the Mid-Atlantic Hardscape Show in Atlantic City, the Minnesota Nursery and Landscape Show in Minneapolis, and the Northeast Hardscape Show that will be in Springfield, MA, this year. I have had the honor to be asked to be a judge in this year’s HNA hardscape awards. There are some incredible projects being installed around the country. To see what some contractors are doing with hardscapes gets my juices going. New products and innovations are coming out at a rapid pace. I love traveling to industry shows, talking to contractors, hearing their stories, helping them achieve their goals, and just the camaraderie that comes with hanging out with industry folk.

Back during the summer, Jim Moreau asked if I would teach a hardscape seminar at the NHLA Field Day at Shaker Village. I said yes, and we had about 30 attendees in the hands-on seminar. At one point I asked the attendees how many are ICPI or NCMA certified? Only one hand went up. I then asked how many do hardscape installation? Meaning, retaining walls, patios, outdoor kitchens, pool decks, seat walls, front walkways, etc. Every hand went up. Everyone in the seminar either installs or oversees people who install hardscapes. That’s when I said to Dave DeJohn and Pam Moreau, that some type of hardscape education, articles, information, anything was needed in the NHLA Newsletter.

I also did another check. How much of the advertising in the NHLA Newsletter was from hardscape suppliers or manufacturers? I found that in almost every issue about 50% of our advertising space is sold to hardscape supply companies. The growth in the hardscape industry over just the last 10 years has been tremendous. Look around our state now- there are many companies calling themselves “hardscape contractors,” which was not the case just a few years ago.

So what is the bottom line? For about eight years I wrote monthly articles for Hardscape Magazine from the perspective of the contractor. I have offered, and it was accepted, that I would update these articles and submit them to the NHLA Newsletter. So for better or worse, you will have to deal with me for a little while longer. Starting with the next issue of the Newsletter, I will be writing about hardscapes.

I look forward to any of your thoughts and comments, and I hope that some of my 49.5 years of experiences helps you out.

—  by Bill Gardocki, gbgardocki@gmail.com

NHLA Field Day a Huge Success

First NHLA Field Day A Success
by Mike Barwell

Beautiful weather, engaging speakers, helpful vendors, and eager attendees made the first Field Day a successful venture. Canterbury Shaker Village, with its historic buildings and grounds provided the perfect late summer venue for more than 150 participants.

Highlights of the day included a well-attended demonstration about how to incorporate drone technology into landscape design by Graham Pellettieri and co-workers from Pellettieri Associates.

Long-time NHLA member Bill Gardocki gave a hands-on demonstration about building walls and patios while Andrew Mauch of Millican Nurseries did a workshop about best plants for fall plantings.

Jonathan Ebba of UNH Cooperative Extension provided a workshop about using soil testing equipment and Jeremy Delisle, the Cooperative Extension’s fruit specialist, gave a tour of the Shaker Village 1917 orchard and talked about pruning, fire blight mitigation, and grafting historic trees at the village.

The business side of landscaping was present when Greenius presented a program about its on-line training platforms that are being offered to NHLA members at discounted rates.

Likewise, representatives from the National Automotive Road Fuels Associates (NARFA) shared information throughout the day about how to attract and retain employees through benefits and other programs.

Vendors offered a myriad of products, including the newest equipment, landscape products, plants, and technology.

State Police from Troop G., who monitor and enforce laws about safe road equipment, were on hand to answer questions and engage with landscapers.

Other popular workshops included First Aid in the Field, Irrigation Tips and Tricks, and Building Credentials with the NH Certified Landscape Professionals. Demonstrations throughout the day included small engine repair and chain saw safety.

Overall, most attendees thought the event was a success, with a good location, interesting workshops, and good food from vendors.

It Takes a Village,
by Pam Moreau, NHLA Business Manager

Our first Field Day was a huge success! The weather was a little windy, but otherwise an amazing day. An event this size takes a village to make it happen and run smoothly. We had a great deal of help! I would like to thank everyone who helped, starting with Canterbury Shaker Village. It was a beautiful venue for this event, and we were able to offer a tour of the gardens during lunch.

Next, I would like to thank our SPEAKERS. We could not have done it without them! They were fantastic!

  • Laura Faubert, Greenius: Introducing an Online Training Platform
  • Abby Zuidema, Mosaic Plant Design and NHCLP Coordinator: Building Credentials with the NHCLP Program
  • Graham Pellettieri and Celynn Siemons, Pellettieri Associates, Inc: What can you do with drones in landscaping?
  • Jonathan Ebba, UNH Cooperative Extension: Soil Testing w/ Affordable Instruments
  • Bob Taylor, Windham Firefighter/EMT: First Aid in the Field
  • Joe Conlon, Northeast Golf & Turf: New Hydro Mulch Technology and Seed Varieties
  • Bill Gardocki, Hardscape Educator: Proper Paver and SRW Retaining Wall Installation Techniques
  • Jim Moreau, Northeast Turf & Irrigation: Irrigation Tips & Tricks
    NARFA, Vinnie Daboul and Andrew Gresenz: How can NARFA help you?
  • Andrew Mauch, Millican Nurseries: Best Practices for Fall Planting
  • Chris Baker and Andrew Giampalo, North Point Outdoors: Basic Small Engine Repair Q & A
  • Mike Gagnon, UNH Cooperative Extension: Chain Saw Safety Q & A
  • Jeremy DeLisle, UNH Cooperative Extension: Small Fruit Production Q & A
  • Trooper Magoon and Trooper Trattoria, Troop G – NH D.O.S: Inspection Safety Q & A

A special thank you to our SPONSORS. They made it possible to keep our event affordable for all our attendees. We appreciate your support!

  • Drop One Portables for donating the portable toilets.
  • Read Custom Soils for donating the voice amplifiers for the speakers.
  • Northeast Turf & Irrigation for donating the lunches for the speakers.
  • Gilbert Block for donating the hardscape material for the paver installation demonstration.
  • Dig Safe for donating hats, bags, manuals, magnifiers, stickers, and post-its.
  • North Point Outdoors and the Cafua Management Group for donating the coffee and donuts.

A special thank you to all our VENDORS. We were very fortunate to have a variety of dedicated professionals. They demonstrated many new products and equipment. One of my personal favorites was the excavator, from Chappell Tractor.

Agresource, Inc,
Bigelow Nurseries, Inc.
Central NH Trailers
Chappell Tractor Sales
Donovan Equipment Co.
MacMulkin Chevrolet
Medford Nurseries
Millican Nurseries, LLC
Northeast Nursery Inc.
Pellettieri Associates, Inc.
Pierson Nurseries
Read Custom Soils
Squared Landscape Equipment
The Yard at Pleasant View
UNH Cooperative Extension
United Ag & Turf
Vermeer All Road

A very special THANK YOU to the NHLA Board of Directors and Committee Coordinators. They spent many hours planning and executing this event. Thank you to Dave DeJohn, Andrew Pelkey, Maria Rainey, John Crooks, Cori Cahow, Ben Huntington, Annette Zamarchi, Mike Barwell, and Pam Moreau.

I would also like to give a special THANK YOU to several people who came early to help set-up and stayed late to help break down. Thank you to Jim Moreau, Scot Flewelling, Chris Baker, Giampalo, Kristy Youmell and Riley Pierce. We could not have done it without you.

Finally, THANK YOU to all our attendees. We value your commitment and support to NHLA and the industry. We hope it was a great day for all and you learned something new. Your thoughts and ideas are important to us. Please email us with your ideas!

Temporary Agricultural Employment of H-2A

On October 12, 2022, the U.S. Department of Labor (Department) published the final rule, “Temporary Agricultural Employment of H-2A Nonimmigrants in the United States”, effective on November 14, 2022. This final rule amends the Department’s regulations governing the H-2A program to improve program protections for workers and enhance enforcement against fraud and abuse, while modernizing the H-2A application and temporary labor certification process. This final rule strengthens protections for U.S. workers and H-2A workers; enhances program integrity and enforcement capabilities of the Office of Foreign Labor Certification and the Wage and Hour Division; modernizes the prevailing wage determination process; and provides clarity to employers and other stakeholders.


Millican Nurseries awards $10,000 in Scholarships

Millican Nurseries, LLC, of Chichester, NH, has distributed scholarship awards to six of their college students/employees. The nursery awarded the recipients a share of their $10,000 2022 Millican Nurseries Scholarship Fund in recognition of their hard work and dedication towards furthering their education.

Millican Nurseries extends its gratitude to its loyal customers, who made this scholarship possible.

The Scholarship recipients are:
• Madeline Apgar, University of New England
• Peter Apgar, Keene State College
• Calvin Michael, University of New England
• Jack Milligan, Thomas Aquinas College
• Matthew Wagner, New Hampshire Technical Institute
• Bailey White, Lesley University

Inflation Reduction Act Gives Tax Credit for Commercial Grade Mowers

The Inflation Reduction Act was signed by President Biden on Aug. 16, 2022, and this new law includes a tax credit for electric vehicles. Within the definition, large commercial grade lawn mowers are included.
The tax credit is 30 percent per vehicle/lawn mower, with a max of $7,500 per vehicle/lawn mower. The credit is available for sales made beginning Jan. 1, 2023, and the credit sunsets in 2032.

The interpretation of commercial mowers counting as mobile machinery was confirmed during a discussion on the Senate floor.

The parameters for these mowers must be less than 14,000 lbs. and have a battery capacity of not less than 7-kilowatt hours. This is significant because the parameters limit this tax credit to solely commercial-grade electric lawn mowers.

“To be able to get that credit per piece of machinery, I think, is a tremendous incentive to want to start to transition your fleet over to electric,” says Andrew Bray, VP of government affairs for the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP).

NALP, along with key equipment manufacturers, previously worked to have this language included in the Build Back Better legislation. When those efforts stalled, NALP continued to explore other options and had discussions with some offices about a play in the omnibus.

“When the Inflation Reduction Act came together quickly last week we were pleased to see this language intact,” Bray says. “I’d like to give specific credit to efforts of Stanley Black and Decker who helped secure Sen. Van Hollens remarks and also to John Deere for playing a critical role to include ‘mobile machinery.’ This was a great outcome for the landscape industry.”

The IRS will issue further guidance before tax filings for the 2023 year.

“It is still our mission to look for additional funding through tax credits at the federal level or rebates at the local and state level to also assist folks in making the transition with all of the electrical equipment including batteries, leaf blowers, all the other stuff,” Bray says. “That’s still a top priority. We’re not done yet, but this was a great first step.”


NHLA Field Day Coming Up on Sept. 14

Get ready to learn and get ready to grow when you attend the first NHLA Field Day on Wednesday, Sept. 14, at Shaker Village in Canterbury.

Whether you’re new to the Green Industry or an old pro, a one-horse show or a large company, you’ll find workshops and vendors to help expand your knowledge and business abilities.

Canterbury Shaker village web
Canterbury Shaker village

Do you have clients who want to see what you have in mind for their project? Graham Pellettieri of Pellettieri Associates will demonstrate how you can incorporate drones and virtual reality design software into your designs using state-of-the-art equipment and programs that may whet your appetite to move into 21st-century gardening. He’ll do a morning workshop and be around all day to demonstrate the equipment and answer your questions.

Concerned about global warming? Sean Tumblety of Eco-Smart will talk about the benefits and challenges of using all-electric tools in the Green Industry. Some clients are increasingly concerned with the noise and pollution of gas-powered equipment. And California and other states have legislation that will eventually eliminate traditional gas tools. He’ll talk about why migrating to all electric may be a smart move.

What’s the best way to train new employees, especially those without experience? The Canadian company Greenius, in partnership with NHLA, will offer a workshop about their on-line training programs for workers, managers owners, and other staff. This is a great opportunity to move into consistent training about basic practices, worksite safety, and other training issues.

Wondering how to offer quality benefits to attract and retain workers? Our new partners with the National Automotive Road Fuels Associates (NARFA) will give a workshop and be available all day to talk with you about how to tailor an affordable, attractive benefits package for yourself and your employees.

What’s the best way to lay down a walkway or patio? Bill Gardocki will provide hands-on demonstrations about the latest best practices in flatwork.

There will also be workshops and vendors offering job site first aid, how to safely use chainsaws, and how to become a New Hampshire Certified Landscape Professional. Vendors will showcase the newest equipment, including remote mowing. Several affinity groups will meet during lunch, which is on your own. We’ll have two food trucks offering a variety of fare. Or you can bring your own.

Affinity groups include:
• How to Succeed as a One-Horse Operation
• Challenges of Growing in a Competitive Market
• How to Use Greenius to Train Employees
• How to Use NARFA to Offer Benefits
• Tour the Shaker Village Gardens with Cooperative Extension experts

We’ll also have a brief NHLA-member business meeting and a ballot vote to adopt several bylaw changes that will help membership grow.

The day will open at 7 am when vendors and exhibitors arrive to register and set up. Each outdoor exhibit area is 25 feet wide and 20 feet deep for a reasonable cost of $400. Vendors provide their own tent, table, and chairs.

General admission registration opens at 8:30 am with fees of $25 for individual members and $40 for non-members.

Vendors can contact NHLA leaders Jim Moreau (jimmoreau@northeastnursery.com) or Scot Fleweling (scotf@dirtdoctorsnh.com) for exhibit space information.

Don’t miss this opportunity! Vendors and participants can register here.


The School of Hard Knocks

When I first started doing landscaping work in Maine, in 1978, things were a bit different from today. I had been employed for the previous 18 months at a garden center/landscaping firm in Connecticut. Sometimes I was on the mowing crew, but mostly planting, pruning, or hardscape jobs. Most customers had fairly deep pockets.

In Maine several customers were elderly folks living on very limited incomes and who were accustomed to paying a local high school kid five or ten bucks to mow their lawns. It was hard to request too much cash from people who lived in houses that you knew they were struggling to maintain. I guess I was too soft hearted and should have just passed on these jobs and left them for the kids. I certainly wasn’t making a profit on them, but I felt sorry for Mrs. Johnson. Her husband was in a wheelchair and had been in WWII.

Other accounts were also with elderly folks who were not quite so financially stressed, but just plain cheap or set in their ways. Irma Sawyer, or Miss Sawyer as I always called her, was a woman who lived in the house her family had owned since the 1800s. She had trouble understanding why I didn’t mow the lawn exactly the way she had for 60 years. If I showed up a couple of days late, due to a backlog caused by the weather, sure enough, she called my mother looking for me.

Across the street from Miss Sawyer’s house was Mrs. Jones. She was a sweet lady who had a rather lengthy privet hedge. At least once a year I trimmed her hedge and edged the border around it. Mrs. Jones always made a point of telling me that she wasn’t going to bother me when I worked because she knew what a pain in the neck Miss Sawyer was, always telling me how to do things. Mrs. Jones wasn’t that type. She always insisted that I give her a bill before I left, rather than mail it to her, just in case she died before it came in the mail! I knew she was in good health and told her I’d take the chance and just send it, much against her will.

A couple of accounts were small businesses that were not interested in anything fancy, just a basic maintenance job with a spring clean-up and then keeping the grass cut and fairly presentable. Foundation plants were pretty much non-existent other than three or four yews. In the fall leaves were cleaned up. One was a former warehouse that the owner was easy to deal with, paid a fair price, and never complained.

Mr. Clark was an interesting customer. He and his wife, Poody, both knew my folks. At one time he had worked in the trust department of a large Portland bank, but then had some sort of consulting business working from his home office. He had told me he didn’t want a fancy job done, just kind of a more natural mowing appearance. I did the usual spring clean-up of all the beds and lawn area and then as mowing season approached, I started to mow as it was needed. Quite often he would come running out of the house and ask me to wait on the mowing, he didn’t think it was time to mow yet. If I waited the 4 or 5 days he requested, the lawn got so long I had to mow it twice or in narrower swaths, both taking much longer time and more of a mess to clean up. I’m sure he could realize it took me more time to complete the job this way. Since Mr. Clark was a New Jersey transplant, their house wasn’t far from the water, and I’d heard he’d married Poody for her money. My conclusion was he was just plain cheap! He once saw my mother at a cocktail party and told her he wished I did work at different degrees of quality (and I’m sure cost) because he wasn’t as fussy! I guess I was supposed to put a sign at the end of his driveway while working there to notify neighbors that this was a substandard job!

I’d managed to find a couple of books about estimating jobs, but most of my pricing was done by guess work, and I had joined what was then called the Maine Nurserymen’s Association to learn a little bit more. Computers were nonexistent at that time. I guess from a financial standpoint I was lucky enough not to be married and my living expenses were minimal. Evening work at a local restaurant probably paid most of my rent and got me through winter months. After getting tired of pinching pennies, but deciding that landscaping was actually something I wanted to pursue, I began to explore colleges. A couple of the nursery people in Maine had told me about the Stockbridge School, at U-Mass, that had a two-year landscaping program. Oddly enough I was accepted.

After several years in the landscape and nursery business, my mother happened to mention to me her opinion on my start in the industry. I had worked for one season in Connecticut prior to moving to Yarmouth, and she felt that I was about 10 years too early to start a business in Maine. People were not yet ready to pay a realistic price for work, they were still under the mindset of having the kid next door mow their lawn for 10 bucks despite living in what was one of the state’s more well-to-do areas. Looking back at it, I think she hit the nail on the head.

Please note: although most of the people mentioned in this article are probably long gone; names have been changed to protect the innocent.

— by Phil Caldwell, a past president of NHLA (1989) who now lives and works in Maine.    

NHTI’s Landscaping Roots Run Deep

Did you know that NHTI – Concord’s Community College is the only college in New England that offers certificate and associate degree programs in landscape design?

NHTI has been a leader in offering educational and training opportunities for the landscape industry for over 34 years. The school’s interest grew from strong community support of a non-credit evening course started in 1978. The course, “Landscaping Your Home,” was taught by Robert Pollock, a landscape architect and planner with the City of Concord. The DCE administration recognized an opportunity and reached out to Bob to develop the curriculum for a landscape certificate geared towards entry-level skills for those interested in the landscaping field or continuing education for those interested in a broader range of knowledge in the industry.

Under the direction and assistance of Pollock, the curriculum for the 2-year certificate in Landscape Design was created, offering 8 credit evening classes. This model allows students flexibility with work commitments. All faculty in the program have years of experience and are (or have been) actively employed in the landscape or design industry. Since inception, this certificate has served the needs of the landscape industry and the community by providing educational opportunities to the residents of N.H. and surrounding states.

In 2005, DCE recognized that there was an interest and need to provide an educational pathway; this vision resulted in the addition of NHTI’s Landscape and Environmental Design associate degree, which targets those interested in pursuing an education and/or career related to the natural environment such as forestry, landscape management and design, wetland science, landscape architecture, urban planning, environmental technology or natural resource management. The first student accepted was in the fall of 2007. Since then, enrollment has continued to grow and compliment the certificate degree.

NHTI’s reputation for rigorous academic requirements and practical knowledge is known throughout the state. Students can collaborate with industry partners (plant material nurseries, landscape construction, management, landscape design, golf course management, etc.) and engage in internships and part-time employment while in school. Employers regularly seek graduates from this program for full- and part-time positions. Graduates have found success in starting careers or businesses of their own. NHTI has an articulation agreement with the University of Rhode Island, where graduates can enroll in a bachelor degree program in Landscape Architecture transfer almost all the credits and graduate after only two years.

Students at NHTI also benefit from our strong relationship with the New Hampshire Landscape Association (NHLA). The Association supports students by offering two significant scholarships worth up to $4,000, student membership, and reduced or free attendance at educational conferences. This collaboration has been a huge benefit to the students attending NHTI.

I have seen firsthand the positive impact the landscape programs at NHTI have had to the green industry in N.H. There is no greater joy for me than to cross paths with graduates who have successfully found careers in the landscape industry. The roots of both the certificate and associate degree grow deep and with perseverance and the dedication of faculty and industry partners it will continue decades to come.

If you’re interested in taking courses or enrolling on the certificate and/or associate degree program offered by NHTI, please contact our Admissions Office at NHTI admissions@ccsnh.edu or contact Susanne Smith Meyer at ssmithmeyer@ccsnh.edu.

— by Susanne Smith Meyer, a graduate of the Rhode Island School of Design and practicing licensed landscape architect in Concord. An adjunct professor at NHTI, she has been teaching, advising, and mentoring students there since 1988. She is a past-president of NHLA and of the Granite State Landscape Architects (GSLA).

NHLA and State Police Troop G Host Vehicle Safety Day

“We’re not here to make your lives miserable,” Sgt. Kenneth Phoenix of the NH State Police Troop G told participants at the opening of the NHLA’s Vehicle Safety Day on March 26. “We’re here to make sure you are safe, that your workers are safe, and that people you pass on the road are safe.”

More than 125 Green Industry owners and workers gathered at North Point Outdoors in Derry during morning and afternoon sessions to learn from Sgt. Phoenix and Troopers Dan Needham and Kevin Raymond about how to check vehicles every day, how to secure loads, and how to maintain large vehicles.

John Sigmund of Fox Ridge Landscaping in West Epping said he found the program helpful because “last year, some of my landscape comrades were being pulled over on a regular basis and were being detained for hours sometimes. They were being cited for violations pertaining to their trucks and trailers, and we didn’t know where to find help. This workshop did it!”

  • Sgt. Phoenix started off by listing the top 10 reasons you can be cited during a roadside inspection stop:
    • vehicle lamps and signals not operating,
    • no fire extinguisher or three reflective triangles
    • no inspection sticker
    • driver does not have a medical certificate
    • driver not wearing a seat belt
    • speeding or failing to obey traffic devices
    • package or equipment not properly secured
    • failure to perform a pre-trip vehicle inspection
    • obstructed windshield or broken mirrors
    • driving under the influence.

If you use your vehicle for commercial purposes, you must follow all State and Federal Department of Transportation rules and regulations. Every landscape and green industry motor vehicle operator in the state is subject to these rules. Every vehicle should be clearly marked with your company information and if you travel out of state you need DOT registration numbers.

  • Among other common infractions:
    • failure to have a valid driver’s license, registration and inspection stickers
    • failure to stop at an interstate weigh station if your vehicle is more than 10,000 pounds
    • overweight vehicles and loads
    • cell phone usage while driving
    • carrying unsecured gasoline cans, which are considered hazardous materials
    • amber light usage when plowing

The larger groups divided into three smaller groups and Troopers reviewed a one-ton truck vehicle with a box trailer; a truck with an open trailer with three mowers on it; a one-ton truck with a large flatbed trailer and skid steer; and a mulch-blowing truck with air brakes.

Sgt. Phoenix said a daily inspection of every vehicle is essential. Before you leave your shop check your emergency brake, trailer hitch, lights and turn signals, windshield and mirrors, wiper fluid, and tire pressure on all vehicles and trailers. To be legal the tread on your truck must be at least 4/32 and 2/32 on your trailer and the inflation of all tires must be 50% of the suggested PSI or it is considered flat, a violation.

Unsafe hauling of equipment in or on a trailer is an often-cited offense.

Gear in the bed of your vehicle must be secured, including gas cans. Even in the bed of the vehicle they need to be secured and not just wedged in with your other gear. Trailer breakaway chains need to be crossed that attach to truck and the emergency breakaway cable needs to be attached to/through the vehicle not just through the chains
Trooper First Class Dan Needham offered remarks about a large truck equipped with air brakes that had a large mulch spreading machine on it. He explained the differences in a passenger motor vehicle license versus a commercial driver license (CDL) license. You need a CDL if you drive a vehicle with a gross weight rating (GVWR) in excess of 26,000 pounds, a combination of trailer and towing unit which exceeds 26,000 pounds GVWR with the trailer in excess of 10,000 pounds GVWR. Drivers in New Hampshire must have the proper class of license to match the type of vehicle they drive. (See separate news item)

Trooper Kevin Raymond demonstrated a truck and trailer with a skid steer. Trooper Raymond involved the landscapers and had them find the GVW for the truck and trailer. He covered the binding down of equipment and discussed direct contact versus indirect contact and that you need to know how much weight your binder will hold. If the unit that you are towing is over 10,000 pounds, you will need the proper rated chains and binders and secure the unit in four places.

Rules and regulations can be found in Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations Handbook and the North American standard of Out-Of-Service Criteria Handbook.

Troop G offers a monthly review of regulations for commercial drivers at their headquarters in Concord. For more information or to attend a session call (603) 223-8778.

—by Mike Barwell, Interim NHLA Education Coordinator and John Sigmund, NHCLP



Phytoremediation Scaled to a Homeowner’s Property

As a landscaper, you have the opportunity to help your clients stay up-to-date with your skills and interest in making their property a welcoming habitat for birds, beneficial insects (think pollinators and beyond), and manageable wildlife. What’s another way you can do this? You may have already helped clients understand the importance of limiting fertilizers to areas where they won’t directly end up in a water source. You may have already helped clients understand the importance of designing with native plants, replacing some of the annuals and placing annuals in containers closer to a patio or entryway where they can be truly appreciated (and watered more easily.) What can be next on your list of ways to help your company stay in tuned to what is going on in the horticulture industry and the ecological landscape mind set?

Phyto IMG 6495 web
Here, an elevated pathway enhances a small park, designed by Offshoots Inc., Boston-based landscape architecture firm, with expertise in Phytoremidiation. The site is Hood Park in Charlestown, MA, where you see the Hood brick smokestack Schrafts’ former candy headquarters, and Bunker Hill CC as you approach Boston. The elevated park helps block the view of I-95, while trees and plants diffuse noise and absorb airborne participants for all the neighborhood residents and visitors.

Understanding phytoremediation may help in that communication with landscape architects or clients. Plants are used in successful ways, such as creating rain gardens, catching excessive runoff so the erosion is limited and roots in the planting area are absorbing contaminants from paved driveways, streets, or parking lots. Plants are used indoors as we have seen in the work done by NASA to research their purifying properties with indoor air quality. We think of plants such as spider plants or sansevieria as helping air quality in homes and offices – on a larger scale, trees are definitively shown to be able to help air quality and even reduce temperatures on city streets. These are all remediations on conditions caused by human activity where plants (phyto) are involved in improving the situation.

By using plants to absorb contaminants in the air, it doesn’t take much more thought as to how plants can absorb contaminants in soils. This is a technique used on large scale applications, such as brownfields sites, and is shown to be far less expensive than a crew with heavy equipment removing the contaminated soil and capping it at a hazardous waste location. In fact, it’s about 1/10th the cost! Once the plant growing cycle is complete, those workhorse plants are removed, burned, and only the remaining ash needs to be effectively and safely relocated as hazardous waste.

How does this translate to some homeowner properties? Knowing historical or previous uses of the location can offer clues to what might be compromising the soil there. Take a look at the Fact Sheet at www.epa.gov.phytoremediationresourceguide for learn more. In the phytoremediation guide, you will learn more about what this entails, what plants are recommended, and what realistic goals are with the phytoremediation techniques – as shown by long-standing research.

In New England, there are several noteworthy examples of phytoremediation techniques helping to greatly improve landscapes. The Loring Air Force Base in Maine, once it closed, became MicMac tribal property which they had hoped to use for farming. The soil was found to be contaminated with PFAS, and plants were called on for the rescue. The MicMac farming products in other locations included hemp plants, which are excellent candidates for the ways plants can absorb the PFAS contaminants. Hemp grows quickly, has deep, thick root structures, and can grow successfully in an array of light and water conditions. While one cycle of hemp plant growth and absorption of PFAS doesn’t remove all the contaminants, it’s a meaningful start. Since hemp grows quickly, a few cycles can be effective in this scaled situation.

Phyto 2 IMG 6499 web
Storm water runoff is directed to a massed planting, serving to slow the water’s flow and capture some of the pollutants through plants extensive root systems. Photoremediation is significant in mitagating pollution entering the water system by plants working efficiently like this.

That is a downside of phytoremediation – it’s not quick like a crew with heavy equipment moving the contaminated soil, and the phytoremediation only removes contaminants in the plants’ root zones. But, this is a reasonable beginning and has many realistic uses.

Back to homeowners’ sites and situations. Drip lines around garages or sheds with runoff from some roofing material may show compromised soils. Using plants to absorb those from the soil (ensure this area would not be used for vegetables or edibles) could be a way to improve the location for years to come. Various grasses can be used for these type of areas, to help to also detoxify places where pesticide use may have been prevalent or herbicides may have been used previously. Poplar trees, while not usually thought of as landscape design trees, should be given more thought. They grow quickly, and in addition to the ways their intensive root systems can absorb contaminants, they offer great habitat for many types of birds with their branching structure and early leaf out.

Check out the material available on phytoremediation from the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA.gov), and from sources available in the Ecological Landscape Alliance’s article archived by Kate Kennan, “Pollutant Purging Plants.” Plants in our yards and gardens offer beauty, habitat, and work in so many more ways to our advantage. Consider all these aspects of your designs and suggestions, as you include discussions about native plants and pollinators, include ideas about plants’ uses to improve soil, create sound barriers, and clean up the air all at once.

—by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP

Horticultural Enhanced Learning Experience (HELP)

HELP is finally here! What is it? The Horticultural Enhanced Learning Experience is an innovative program to find and hire new employees, and it’s now available for NHLA members. HELP is a cooperative education experience, commonly known as a “co-op,” which may provide academic credit for structured job experience. A co-op is a combination of classroom-based education with practical work experience. Through the HELP program, NHLA members can hire Career and Technical Education (CTE) students, 16 years of age or older, who are enrolled in various CTE programs throughout the state. The goal of this program is to bring young students into the Green Industry and also become the next generation of NHLA Members.

This program provides students with paid experiences, in the real world. Our hope is that this program will provide a new generation of landscapers and a much-needed work force. As an intern, the student must complete certain steps in the program. These steps are known as Educational Learning Objectives or ELOs.

These evaluation forms are simple to use and are based on your student/employee observations. Upon completion of the experience, the school will use the forms to determine high school credits. Students will also receive micro credentials from NHLA in one or more of the following areas: landscape construction, maintenance, fine gardening, landscape architecture, landscape lighting, irrigation and arboriculture.

In order to participate in the HELP program, you must be an NHLA member and registered with the NH Department of Labor. Find out all you need to know to participate on our dedicated HELP Program page.

Halt! What Grows There?

This is the perfect time of year to take a slow, conscientious look at all parts of the properties in your care. By taking a walk around the perimeters of the garden or lawn, you will see what is exposed in the furthest corners of the property. Seeing what may not be evident when the grass is green, shrubs leafing out, trees vibrant or blooming, and lawn furniture focusing interest and attraction on a patio’s hardscape or fire pit, can help you make not only a “to do” list but craft a proposal for work to tackle during the year.

bird nest photo
This is the perfect time of year to walk around your clients’ properties, and see what is going on in the furthest corners and most remote areas of the lawn or garden. With little foliage, you can see things you may not have known before, and your customers may really enjoy knowing. Seeing birds’ nests means you are doing something right to offer habitat welcoming to birds. In turn, their presence offers benefits to the gardens and to the people enjoying those gardens.

You may find some canes of brambles starting, having escaped from a neighbor’s raspberry patch, and need to contain those now. You may see, worse yet, evidence of knotweed or Oriental bittersweet, both distinctive in shapes and colors of growth, that need to be eradicated now in this phase of their growth. You may find things you didn’t realize had taken root, having escaped from a compost pile and need to reorganize how the compost is stored and cared for.

Walking around the properties, you will see what they look like from a different vantage point. Seeing what neighbors see or how a face of the property looks from a less traveled street could mean you’ll pay more attention to planting or pruning to bring those vantage points up to the standard of the rest of the garden you’ve cared for or designed over the time you’ve been with that client.

Too often, we narrow our field of vision by being fond of relaxing in a small area, accessed by a patio slider to the house, and over time, get more lax about other areas of the garden that could effectively increase our appreciation of the property. Seeing the garden now, without the furniture or containers planted by patio walls, could mean you can work with the client to highlight trees (think nighttime landscape lighting) or create secondary focal points in areas of the yard further from the house itself.

While wanting to replace the pandemic “stuck at home” mindset with “home is where we love to spend time” mindset, you can take a chance to scrutinize the whole property with an eye on what else could be where on the property. Think about spending time there, and caring for a part of the lawn which could be recreational, such as how to site a bocce ball area, horseshoe pits, badminton or cornhole toss games. The popularity of these games in increasing, and this time of year when people are getting antsy to be outdoors, is the perfect time to see where in a lawn something like that could be possible. There’s a lot of movement to redesign the front lawn in ways we formerly thought unconventional, such as with a space for games like these to a place to grow vegetables!

You have the skills to share ideas with clients, and the professional approach to justify why an investment in a garden game area, raised bed for vegetables, or enhancing a far corner of the property (new term on the scene, “Sit Spot”) can mean more to discuss with your clients. Also very importantly, you’ll see how much more there is to learn about the habitat you’re helping create for the benefit of wildlife, birds, insects to thrive and protect our ecological balance with the overall environment. Get out there and appreciate your work, remembering what it will look like in a several months and see where your vision for the client takes you both!

— by Chris Blackstone, NHCLP

Landscaper or Groundskeeper? There’s More to it than You Think

I kneel in the frosty earth, cutting back amber stems of perennials gone by. I look up at the paver walkway I installed in August. Will the de-icing product we apply this winter kill this autumn’s tender transplants? So many hands are on the salt scoops.

When I was a landscaper, that is, a contractor, I wouldn’t have worried. My guarantee only covered new plants, not divisions. If I had done my job properly, my crew would maintain the divisions in the spring, ensuring their survival.

Here, the odds were not so favorable. I am the sole grounds maintenance technician here, responsible for more than seven acres of landscape, spread over three facilities. With our fourth facility under construction, I am soon to inherit more. For my baby plants, it’s survival of the fittest.
I now work directly for an industrial manufacturing company. When I made the transition from contractor to full time employee, I had no idea how different that would be. The learning curve was steep.

First, I had to become more adaptable. Plans and budgets are 100% required, but at any given moment the priority can change. In the middle of spreading 90 yards of mulch? Wait, “we” have decided that I need to pull the curbing from two parking lot islands, store the granite, transplant the trees, and install two 18 by 18 paver walkways. And yes, this is coming out of my budget. I have to decide what to give up from what I planned. In all honesty, the project makes sense. Who decides a tree in an island should be right in front of a door? The people who made the blueprints, that’s who. Now I have to undo it.
Lesson two stung a little more: the grounds are of low importance. My managers want the grounds to be beautiful, thriving, and ecologically progressive. However, manufacturing is the priority. We do not sell landscapes. If a task that effects production arises (a storage area needs to be turned into cubicles) I must drop everything and help with that. My budget reflects the perceived importance. I must wring every ounce from every resource to maximize every project, but that part is similar to being a contractor.

My third lesson is the one I struggle with the most to this day – slow down. Pace yourself. Do not come in expecting to hustle all day, every day – or anyone else to do so. Yes, management wants productivity, but time is built into every day for communication with multiple layers of co-workers, contractors, and supervisors. Translation: meetings.

I loved my time as a landscaper. The creativity and satisfaction of installations, the quiet routine of maintenance, being outside every day, all of these made me happy. Now, I have traded some of it for an excellent benefits package, and an employer who believes in things such as a “good work-life balance.” I have taken on tasks not related to the landscape, like generator, crane and check valve inspections. With each new responsibility I am rewarded, but also pulled inside more. My “growth plan” has a goal which doesn’t have me outside much at all, but I am assured that I will always have jurisdiction over the grounds. My hands will just be a bit cleaner.

— by Melody Hughes, NHCLP


Labor Issues in the Green Industry

We had a great panel discussion at our Dinner Meeting on January 18, 2022. Together, the panelists had over 100 years of experience in the Green Industry. We discussed the lack of help, increasing employee wages, and how to find new employees and keep current ones.

NHLA would like to thank all of our panelists for their time and expertise: Greg Herring from The Herring Group, a landscape consulting firm; Thomas Morin, owner of Morin’s Landscaping, Inc.; Andrew Pelkey, co-owner and COO of North Point Outdoors; and George Pellettieri, owner of Pellettieri Associates, Inc. NHLA would also like to thank Jim Moreau from Northeast Turf & Irrigation for moderating the panel discussion. Finally, NHLA thanks all of the members that attended. It was a very successful night.
As you all know one of the challenges all employers are facing now is an acute labor shortage. We all know how difficult, if not discouraging, it can be to find and keep the right people to do the demanding work we do each day. Some say, people don’t want to work anymore, especially in jobs that require hard physical labor. Others say that workers are out there, but we just don’t know how to reach them and inspire them to do the work we find personally satisfying and rewarding. There’s something special about creating, designing, and building beautiful landscapes to make our clients happy. We explored the challenges we all face, no matter the size of our company.

We want to share some of the outcomes and ideas from the meeting.

Biggest concerns or challenges regarding their workforce:
• The uncertainty of the H2B program and the changes in the laws.
• We have more work than we can handle with our current staff.
• The retention of employees and rising salaries.
• Be careful not to overlook current staff who are doing really well for the company, before hiring new staff.

Biggest frustration with employees:
• The lack of commitment.
• Common courtesy towards others.
• Time and effort into training, only to have them leave the next day.

COVID impact on hiring:
• It has had little impact; it has been sliding for the past 5-10 years.
• Staff dealing with childcare and remote learning.
• The flexibility to accommodate family schedules.

How wages impact companies?
• Significant wage increases.
• Work around schedules.
• Margins have to stay the same, double-edged sword.
• Unfortunately wage increases are not stopping any time soon.

Where can we look for help?
• The H2B Visa program works well; however, you need to be able to justify the cost. It’s not for everyone. Currently there is a lottery system and prevailing wages.
• Placing signs on telephone poles.
• Contacting family and friends.
• Hiring for experience versus degrees.
• Facebook
• Cold calls

Successful ways for finding and keeping productive employees:
• Employees have a purpose, such as volunteerism. “I can make a difference!”
• Career paths
• Incentives programs
• Profit sharing

How can NHLA help?
• Health insurance
• Employee Assistance Programs
• Education programs
• Learn Everywhere program

Overall, it was a great discussion! The board will plan future meetings and events to meet your needs. Please contact any board member with your ideas. We are here for you!

— by Pam Moreau, NHLA Business Manager


NHLA Members: Send us Your News

NHLA Members: Do you have news from your company you’d like to share with NHLA Newsletter readers but are not sure how to do it? Do you have a new employee filling a key role, or a team approach that could be interesting to other NHLA members? Not sure how to write it up or spread your news? Please let me know (crisablackstone@gmail.com) because I’d love to interview you and help write that article!

We want to include news about your projects or your community volunteer work related to the Green Industry and the horticulture world. We know there are different members who have earned awards or citations for their work, and sharing that news would be really interesting and motivating for others.

You are likely busy, and writing about your work or personnel isn’t “your thing,” but sharing the news and views would be terrific for all of us! Don’t hesitate to let me know, and we can arrange an interview time! I will be in contact with members I may have read about from other sources or newsletters, but hate to think there’s a story out there that should be shared and we might miss it.

This is a feature of NHLA: mutual support and the ability to show we are interested in each other help make this a vibrant organization capable of educating each other and our clients (current and future) about what we do and what membership means. I’m happy to help – no charge – all part of giving back to the organization that holds a firm place in the list of organizations recognized and respected statewide.

Send your notices to Cris Blackstone, NHCLP: crisablackstone [at] gmail.com

Invasives More Evident in Winter

This may be a good time to take note of your client properties to see if there are any invasive plants encroaching the properties with naturalized border areas. There are invasive plants thriving on compacted, disturbed areas in hellstrips or in new construction locations. This is the time of year the distinctive rusty burnt orange color of patches of knotweed are evident, and those are the areas to watch for in the early spring as the fresh green sprouts of this plant will be evident then with the first warmth melting the remaining snow on the ground.

IMG 3957
Knotweed is visible in seasonal die-back now, pointing the way where to look for the fresh green sprouts.

What does this mean for your team and ultimately, your clients? Taking time to train your crew to recognize what the earliest sprouting invasive plants or the earliest leaves on plants such as Autumn Olive or Glossy Buckthorn can mean your eradication plans will be beneficial. Getting these plants hand pulled or even machine-dug can mean you are ahead of their wily ways. Understanding the importance of getting all the roots, and of the proper disposal will be important. This is the time of year to do some training on recognizing the life cycles of the most common invasive plants in New Hampshire so if you are using herbicides, you’ll be effective in managing or eradicating the plant and that also means cost reduction in your payroll costs and your costs buying those products!

How do we learn about the life cycles of the invasive plants in New Hampshire? The first go-to can be UNH Cooperative Extension with their fact sheets or with the USDA and their fact sheets and various videos. Offering your staff paid time for this type of training might be a consideration of yours, to help attract and retain motivated employees. You might also consider offering group training times, by arranging group training with speakers from the Extension service, tailoring a program for your specific region in the state.

Understanding the ways adults learn is important for your training programs to be effective. Offering multiple ways to get the information is essential so you are reaching everyone “where they’re at” and not risking any embarrassment on your part or on the employees. Between language acquisition (imagine learning this type of skill if you were learning a new language!) or different reading abilities in your native language, you can consider offering poster pictures of the plants you are on the lookout for, as well as checking sources for videos to show about the culprits.

When you are looking for web resources, bear in mind that some will be sponsored by companies with financial considerations in selling products – not necessarily a bad thing, but be aware of the sources of some video material. Understand that some people want to see examples and some want to have material to read later on their own. Providing the most access, in many ways, will mean your information is shared equitably AND is showcasing your expectations throughout the season.

Along with training about invasive plants and that service you can offer your clients, your company will benefit from different aspects of an overall recognition of company wellness.

Work in the winter can have its stressors – between your seasonal staff working diligently on snow removal and your upcoming seasonal workers wondering when they’ll be called back in for springtime, you may see a sense of apprehension coupled with anxiety about earning overtime or even getting on the payroll.

Expecting your crew members to care about learning about invasive plants might seem like a priority for your company’s mission and profile or brand, but your crew members’ sense of where they fit in the company brand image is something to focus on.

A well-rested workforce is going to be more important than ever as we wind up the winter workload and enter spring. Coming off two years of pandemic mentality has meant a lot of symptoms of insomnia and the health issues that can cause. Check the National Sleep Foundation for posters and info fact sheets to share with employees to show your care and concern for every crew member’s health, well being and ability to be a contributor to the company. Sharing your appreciation of every employee’s health and sleep hygiene can also result in increased work productivity! There’s plenty of data showing accidents increase with decreased sleep or poor sleep driving the workforce. That means your workman’s comp can be affected when there are accidents on job sites. This can be avoidable if everyone is bringing their best work habits to the job sites.

The New Hampshire Municipal Association’s professional journal Nov/Dec ’21 issue featured a thorough article about workplace wellness and concluded with an important tip: HAVE FUN! “Healthy Selfies” was one suggestion in the article. Create a bulletin board in the community area of your offices where employees share photos of how they had fun in their down time (heck, for our purposes, even at work if it was safe and helpful to the job site with camaraderie) to show you care about them holistically and how they are much more than “employees.”

So starting with keeping an eye out for invasive plants to manage or eradicate from your client properties this time of year, there’s a metaphor here. Keep an eye out for the invasive and disruptive ways poor work ethics can invade your company through employee attitudes reflecting their own stressors or mental health.
Visit your job sites, pay for training meetings, offer awards and incentives to reach goals, and most of all, don’t let things you can actually control invade your company wellness!

— by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP

Printed a Decade Ago, Now With Increased Relevance

Taste, Memory: Forgotten Foods, Lost Flavors and Why They Matter by David Buchanan is subtitled “Restoring Diversity to Our Fields, Markets and Tables.” This is a book relevant to landscapers who can infuse the goals of a healthy garden or landscape within the vision of growing healthy food.

The immediate takeaway is how the book connects our current trend in thinking about container gardens, including some edibles interspersed with the coleus and petunias. There’s a lot of color and texture to be seen in the ways the vegetables grow and produce their bounty in a container garden, usually growing much taller than the colorful flowers chosen for seasonal interest. With so many creative ways to include a trellis or a “found object” to add height and dimension to a container garden, it’s possible to really make a statement with the plants chosen for a container – whether it’s located on a back patio or a front entryway!

For NHLA members and guests who attended the summer Twilight Meeting arranged by Mike Barwell at the Canterbury Shaker Village and featuring Jeremy DeLisle, UNH Cooperative Extension, this book might offer a strong appeal after learning about the heritage apples and the restorative pruning project in the Shaker Village remaining orchard specimen trees. For anyone interested in great flavors, or reminiscing about how great fresh vegetables taste as we’re blanketed with frost and snow this time of year, or going back further in memories of apples or peaches on a relative’s farm visited as a child, this book will kindle a deep interest in what it means to be a heritage apple or fruits pre-pesticide use. Thinking back on fruits we enjoyed as a kid, we might really focus on how they were not necessarily uniform in size or shape, since machine harvesting had not yet demanded those characteristics.

This book is also a page-after-page, chapter-after-chapter fascinating conglomeration of facts and intrigue. Buchanan travels far and wide to learn about the diversity in our familiar fruits and vegetables, with a description early in the book of his trip to Pullman, WA, to the USDA Western Regional Plant Introduction Station which is a gene bank for basic crops gathered from around the world. Reading this chapter, “Seeds of an Idea,” led me to think of the various shapes and sizes and even colors of beans I have seen in different regions of the US, or in different countries. Imagining what plant specialists and agro-specialists think about the climate affecting plant growth and natural mutations in response to climate and growing conditions, leads to a lot of intrigue about how to prepare for those changes and provide food for a growing population.

Not to spoil a big surprise that came straight at me as I read the book, I hope you’ll be as impressed when you read about Buchanan’s visit to Portsmouth, NH, to visit Evan Mallet’s Black Trumpet Bistro bar and restaurant. With an increased appreciation for local foods, and now the Slow Food movement, the connections this book can make with the landscape profession becomes evident. On the smallest scale, doing what we can to help everyone no matter what property they own or call home, there’s an opportunity to grow food – to realize the health benefits we have heard more about during the pandemic, and to feel the sense of accomplishment knowing something in the salad or salsa was from your own work and attentiveness to what that plant needed!
David Buchanan raises our awareness of the importance of the heirloom fruits and vegetables when he writes about the Slow Food International Foundation for Biodiversity, based in Italy. With a focus on economic viability and commercial value, that might be the strongest gateway to seed-saving and promoting the original shapes, colors and most of all, flavors of the vegetables and fruits they consider including.

There’s even an overtone throughout much of this book about economic and social justice and accessibility to fresh fruit and vegetables, with a strong connection to how we think of food production and where there’s an intersection between manual labor and machine harvesting. Environmental considerations are woven through the book, no surprise, and for many readers, you’ll remember when strawberries were a seasonal treat available only during a particular window of the calendar year and how research (although well-meaning) found ways to store, freeze, and market strawberries for use throughout the year. Now, there are more conversations about “real strawberry flavor” and uses of frozen strawberries are for many more types of recipes than on a homemade shortcake or biscuit with real whipped cream.

Again, that’s a connection landscapers can make between topics in this book and the work done throughout the year for clients to realize the role their lawns and gardens can play in the overall ecological health of their neighborhoods and for the planet.

Chapters cover David Buchanan’s experiences with hoop houses, greenhouses, and cold frames and what veggies are appropriate for each growing environment. Reading this book kindled an interest for me in learning more about the heritage flavors I could appreciate from different peppers, for instance, but that may have been influenced by the late January snowstorm.

You can take up this book for a quiet winter read, and not focus on the actions you can take with clients to encourage biodiversity in their gardening decisions. His writing style is very conversational, and his reflections feel accurate and not enhanced by being overly sentimental. He writes with a factual approach, based on his own rich and varied experiences. I think it’s a particularly satisfying book to read since he is now focused on his working farm outside of Portland, ME, with a connection to a cidery, so the book felt relevant to me with a similar growing region and a definite interest in cider apples!

I recommend this book for these reasons: information to share as you plan spring and summer gardens for clients; including biodiversity and edibles with the plant choices; and encouraging seeking out original plant species for the area. I can also recommend this book for a relaxing read, to enjoy learning Buchanan’s trajectory from Princeton to the Pacific Northwest and then to Maine. With adventures in plants, food, and growing things, it’s easy to identify goals to restore a healthy mindset about our expectations for our gardens and landscapes.

— by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP

A Step Beyond Plant Blindness

With an eye on the birds in our gardens and landscapes, being able to identify many types of native plants is useful. Knowing the plants’ names is essential whether you are a NH Certified Landscape Professional or an accomplished landscaper who hasn’t gone for that designation. Knowing the next step in conversing about the native plants we revere is important to share more knowledge and offer more suggestions about healthy lawns, gardens, and ecospheres in public gardens too.

The Audubon Society suggests, in an October 2021 Audubon magazine article by Carlyn Kranking, Editorial Fellow, ways to discuss and understand the importance of twenty common types of native plants. The most important part of this article, aside from the list of the twenty plants, is ,“With a little work and planning, you could be rewarded with an iridescent Ruby-throated Hummingbird drinking from tubular columbine, or a group of Cedar Waxwings nibbling on serviceberries.”

In summary, here are the plants suggested by the Audubon Society, and a quick overview of what each offers.

Oaks (Quercus spp.)
Recently the topic of Doug Tallamy’s newest book, we learn that Oak trees are at the center of biodiversity in our lawns and gardens. With nearly 600 types of caterpillars of butterflies and moths making their homes in oaks, these are the backbones of healthy ecospheres.

Pines (Pinus spp.)
Evergreens, offering year ’round canopy shelter for birds and animals avoiding prey, also offer bird food in the pinecone seeds.

Dogwoods (Cornus spp.)
Of botanical interest, because of the way the dogwoods take calcium from the ground, absorb through their leaves, and return the calcium as soil amendments when the tree drops the leaves, these trees offer the drupes as nourishing food for 35 species of birds.

Willows (Salix spp.)
With native varieties such as black willow (S. nigra) and pussy willows (S. discolor) you’ll see several types of birds feeding on the insects that these blossoms attract. Small nesting birds also use the catkins for nesting material.

Milkweeds (Asclepias spp.)
We’re familiar with the importance of this native variety for the Monarch population but consider what the milkweed can offer our bird population. Birds which eat insects will be attracted to these plants for the caterpillars living in them as well as, again, the milkweed silky material in the persistent pods being safe and healthy nesting material.

Coneflowers (Echinacea spp.)
With year ’round interest, coneflowers offer hummingbirds nectar and more than ten other species of birds, including goldfinches and cardinals, nourishing seeds in late fall and through the winter.

Black-eyed Susans (Rudbeckia spp.)
Black-eyed Susans attract a multitude of butterflies and moths. You’ll find chickadees, nuthatches, and sparrows in feeding frenzies with these thickly seeded flower centers.

Sunflowers (Helianthus spp.)
Perhaps one of the most familiar flower faces in our New Hampshire gardens, the sunflowers’ famous seeds are food for dozens of species of birds both large and small. Sunflowers left to feed birds offer interest and benefits to the migrating birds as well as those overwintering here.

Sages (Salvia spp.)
Audubon notes on the sage include a particularly fascinating aspect of pollination. Hummingbirds feeding on sage nectar stab the stamen releasing the sage’s pollen. Sticking to the bird’s head, hummingbirds help pollinate the next sage plant where they choose to feed.

Blazing Star (Liatris spp.)
The seeds in “gayfeather” are bird magnets, for the way they attract goldfinch, buntings, and chickadees as well as birds who prefer insects; liatris flowers with their long bloom times, host many insects and butterflies for the insectivors in the bird world.

Columbines (Aquilegia spp.)
A particular favorite of our hummingbirds, the shape of the columbine is ideal for a hummingbird’s long beak.

Goldenrods (Solidago spp.)
Insect larvae living on goldenrods offer a smorgasbord for several types of birds in our area and the seeds are beneficial to small songbirds.

Asters (Symphyotrichum spp.)
Since our native asters bloom in September and through autumn, they are extremely beneficial to fall migrating birds.

Beardtongue (Penstemon spp.)
Ground feeding songbirds are attracted to the native penstemon seeds.

Serviceberries (Amalanchier spp.)
One of the favorite nesting habitats for cardinals, tanagers, vireos, robins, and other birds, the Serviceberries are also excellent berries for birds because of their nutritional value. As a native, they are not as sweet and that means there’s more nutritional value for the birds feeding on them.

Elderberries (Sambucus spp.)
Gray Catbirds are among the many birds who will feed on the berries and make nests in this plant when it’s at a mature height. It’s interesting that raw elderberries are poisonous to us but favored by birds!

Blueberries and Sparkleberries (Vaccinium spp.)
Sparkleberries don’t grow in our area but are included in this family of plants as interesting for the many, many birds who feed on the berries. In our area, there are small songbirds who would nest in blueberry bushes, adding to the interest in an edible landscape.

Honeysuckles (Lonicera spp.)
There are many types sold in garden centers, so we need to watch for natives; trumpet honeysuckle (L. sempervirens) or yellow honeysuckle (L. flava). There are birds relishing the berries in fall and through winter and other birds feeding on nectar and seeds when they migrate early in fall.

Switchgrass (Panicum spp.)
For its seeds and vegetation, which provides shelter for small birds, switchgrass is a premier choice in our landscape plantings with the birds in mind.

Muhly grass (Muhlenbergia spp.)
Leave it standing for the delicate seed heads which are gorgeous with light frost on them and for the dead stems to be nesting material for small birds; those seed heads are beneficial food for sparrows and finches.

With these twenty types of plants you have additional information to share when you are considering the importance of helping our bird populations and understanding the ways birds are important for healthy landscapes. It’s important to keep considering the native plants in your designs and in the work you do with all types of clients, whether they are customers for mowing and snow blowing, or customers with gorgeous containers on decks and patios. The additional information about why the natives are important for bird habitat and healthy avian populations is important for us all to share as we work toward landscapes that keep “two thirds for the birds.” The 234birds Instagram site and website are further sources of information about the importance of birds in our ecosystems. Check those sources for more information to use and share.

Our local Audubon Society chapters in NH offer many online resources for landscape and bird connections as well as webinars and in-person birdwatching events. Make 2022 your year to add the birds to your library of professional development and gardening mindsets.

—by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP. — Cris is a member of Newmarket Conservation Commission; a Supervisor on Rockingham Conservation District; Board Member for NH Association of Conservation Commissions; and member of the Garden Communicators International Sustainability Committee. 

Many Winter Professional Development Opportunities Available

New Hampshire’s premier winter event of interest to landscape professional might be the Farm, Forest and Garden Expo, Feb. 4 & 5, at the Center of NH, Manchester. This event joined countless other events during the nearly two full years of pandemic hiatus. With more understanding and science available about the Coronavirus transmission, and vaccine/masking and social distancing now common practices, it’s back as an in-person event midwinter. The organizers are building on the addition of “gardening” to the theme of the Expo and have offered NHLA a prime location in the central display and demonstration area on the Expo floor. We’d like to thank Kelly Bryer, as the Executive Director of the Garden State Ambassadors, for her role in creating the exhibition’s floor plan lay out, and for ensuring NHLA, along with other organizations directly related to the green industry, plants, and hobby enthusiasts, have a safe and secure showcase area for sharing their information during the two-day event.

Along with the central demonstrations, visitors to the Expo will have an outstanding array of exhibitions to visit. The number of visitors will be limited this year, along with added space in the walkways which lead through the floor plan. The two-day schedule includes many presentations as it has in the past, so look at the schedule and see which may pertain to you, or your crew, or serve as a relaxing informative hour where you may be introduced to something new. Recertification credits are available, for volunteering your time at the NHLA display or for attending workshop sessions – contact the Education Committee for information on earning your credit in those ways.

If you are interested in on-line learning opportunities, the Great Grow Along Virtual Garden Festival, March 11-20 (greatgrowalong.com) can offer you a bargain of education and exposure to new research, new techniques and presentations by nationally recognized authors and experts for the $29.95 registration fee. From Doug Tallamy on his work with trees, importance of tree health and pollinators, to trending influencers on indoor plant care and experts on soil health and amendments, or gardening with vegetables in containers, you will find over forty hours of informative sessions during the ten-day festival. This is a great opportunity for you to learn things your customers may be learning about from their online experiences also. In the past decade, we’ve learned a lot about what NHLA’s professional approach means for customer retention. Being aware of the solid research, trending decorative fads, and updated landscape techniques and sharing that information with clients, goes a long way toward the word-of-mouth referrals which are so important.

A third place to look for professional development is the Cornell Ornithology Lab, for information about landscaping habits to enhance habitat for birds. Habitats for pollinators are not distracting from the surging interest in our bird populations, rather they are gaining tandem visibility and importance. Learning about some bird identification techniques may at first sound a bit further from your landscape profession than you think is needed, but if you consider what you may be asked to plant or different directions in your care and maintenance of your customers’ properties, you will appreciate learning about the importance of birds in our environment. Knowing which birds may be nesting in short, thick shrubbery may mean you suggest certain plants (think Bridal Veil Spirea, or Mockorange) to offer nesting habitats. Knowing when to mow large expanses of fields or open areas will mean you won’t disturb ground nesters such as Kildeer. With some knowledge of birds and their requirements for nesting, food and foraging and protection from predators, you will help your clients understand some of the ways we are changing best practices for mowing, fertilizing, applying herbicides or choosing new plants to establish or rejuvenate an aging garden. With a full library of topics about everything you can imagine related to birds, the home page, www.birds.cornell.edu can be a go-to where you’ll start your professional development to include birds in the mix of things you consider helping your clients develop gardens for four-season interest.

These are just three suggestions for your winter review and use. Keep in touch with UNH Cooperative Extension and UMaine Cooperative Extension – being on their email lists will give you more info on their webinars and events. Here’s wishing everyone lots of success reviewing your past year in the landscape business and include continued education and meaningful growth in the field you can share with your crews and clients.

— by Chris Blackstone, NHCLP

Emerald Ash Borer Affects More Than our Landscapes

As Emerald Ash Borer (EAB) becomes more of a reality, we have to think of not only the loss of ornamental value absence of ash trees will create, but also the effects the lack of the harvested wood will cause. Ash is used for many purposes included flooring, snowshoes, oars, baseball bats, tool handles, and hockey sticks, just to name a few. The wood is strong, yet lightweight, and resists shock. These products are usually made from white ash, Fraxinus americana.

A far less common ash is brown ash, sometimes called black ash, Fraxinus nigra. Often found growing in swamps,or other wet areas, brown ash is native to the Northeastern U.S. and Eastern Canada. This ash is threatened with near total extinction due to EAB.

Brown ash is unique to all trees in North America in that it does not have fibres connecting to the growth rings of each other. This is a useful property for basket makers. By pounding on the wood with a mallet, the newer spring wood layer is crushed, allowing the tougher and darker summer wood layer to be peeled off into strips. The strips are trimmed, cleaned, and used in basket weaving.
Maine’s Wabanaki people, indigenous to the region, have used the ash baskets as part of their culture. An arrow was shot into a tree and “out of the tree came the people.” I think this is certainly an indication of significant cultural importance! The fact that EAB creates not only great horticultural risks, but also a major threat to a native culture, the State and the USDA are putting a bit more attention into EAB now that they realize the issue is a reality. Many of the baskets, made by various Wabanaki people, are really considered a valuable art form and as a result some have been priced similar to many museum pieces. It will be a shame when this priceless art is no longer able to be made.

The damage EAB is doing to our landscapes goes far beyond that of ornamental trees in our yards.

— by Phil Caldwell, a past president of NHLA (1989) who now lives and works in Maine.  

New Zealand’s National Bird of the year is… the Long-Tailed Bat!

New Zealand’s National Bird of the year is… the Long-Tailed Bat! Yes, this is a fact. Annually the New Zealand conservation group “Forest and Bird” conducts this contest which raises awareness of the natural beauty, environmental concerns, and habitat preservation on the island nation. Native species threatened by loss of habitat or other actions are highlighted in this annual contest and the publicity surrounding it.

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Trees such as shagbark hickories offer great shelter and multiple safe roosting places for bats in our neighborhoods. Bats will be able to fit handily under the raised bark, 12′-18′ or higher, off the ground, avoiding disturbance or predation from other wildlife in our yards and gardens. Consider these types of trees as important habitat for the benefits bats bring to our ecosystem when you are pruning or climbing the trees. Providing enticing habitat for the bats will help keep them outdoors and not seeking roosting places in garages, garden sheds, or through entry to attics in homes. Wildlife experts can help your clients identify even the smallest entry to an attic if there is ever a bat-in-residence in your client’s house.

Nearly 60,000 voters participated in the contest and learned a lot about the Long-Tailed Bat during the publicity the contest stirred up. While listening to this story reported on the radio, as I drove to get some photos of a pollinator garden sporting the first frost on leaves, stems, and remaining petals of flowers, I was reminded of the importance of bats in our ecosystems. I thought the bats we know in New England could use the publicity the New Zealand Bird of the Year generated in its radical move to include bats in the election process, while educating more people about the role bats play in the ecosystem.

We often speak of bats as important pollinators, and we learn they are doing this important work during the night, as do many moths. Perhaps it’s the fact they do this important work during the darkness that contributes to their mystery and association with spooky stories. In the US, nighttime pollination work by bats only occurs in the desert Southwest, with large pale or white flowers which measure 1″-3.5″ and are associated with the saguaro cacti and agave, for instance.

Why do we care so much about the nighttime pollination work bats accomplish? Worldwide, their pollination is responsible for a variety of food! We have bats to thank for our bananas, guava, cashews, dates, figs, sugar, corn, agave, and cacao. Besides pollination, bats around the world are helping fertilize acre after acre of fields and agricultural areas by their guano, or bat poop. Another benefit of a healthy bat population we need to be mindful of and respectful of is the way they eat half their body weight in insects every night.

EVERY NIGHT! Imagine the ways we feel about battling against mosquitoes, and now imagine if there were no bats helping keep that population in check. They are a natural mosquito abatement program, so that’s where landscapers can play an important role in educating about the beneficial aspects of bats in our yards, gardens, landscapes, and environment. The US Department of Agriculture has estimated more than $25B savings to the ag industry because of the way the bats help control insect populations, including various beetles and other insects, so crops are not destroyed. Bats devouring hornworms and other pests related to those save the large tomato production facilities – another example of the benefits they bring to our tables, if not our gardens. On the major scale, such as the vegetable production sites, bats are indispensable – so imagine how your garden benefits on its scale with a healthy bat population at work while you relax or sleep.

You can help draw attention to bats as indicators of a vibrant and healthy ecosystem by learning more and sharing more about bats. For instance, while they can carry rabies, far fewer bats have rabies than racoons, squirrels, chipmunks, and skunks combined. Those mammals are more likely to come across you gardening or leave behind contaminated traces of rabies on your shovels or gloves than any bat would.
Share facts about bats such as bat excrement serves to provide healthy medium for forests and gardens – without any fillers, it is 10% nitrogen, 3% phosphorus and 1% potassium. It has long term residual effects in soil, providing an environment for healthy breakdown and microbial growth in our forests.

Like any critters in our gardens, they need food, water and shelter. The food part is handily taken care of by the abundance of insects they feed on. Water should be provided for many creatures in our gardens, so check bird baths for fresh water in the mornings as bats may have visited your bird bath in the night.
As for shelter, adding a bat house to your clients’ garden décor is an easy option. Fastening this shelter to the south side of a building, tree or designated pole will offer a home gathering warmth from the sun. With a preferred height of 12′-18′ the shelter will be safe from most predators.

Plenty of shelter is offered by certain trees, too! If there are shaggy barked trees in the vicinity, there’s a good chance bats are roosting under the peeled bark on a regular basis. Trees which appear dead offer great habitat too, in the hollow areas that are dying naturally and the decaying process evolves. If a snag tree is safe, suggest to your customers they be left standing so various wildlife, mosses, and compost processes can live healthfully and vibrantly on that trunk. If it’s safer to drop the tree, consider leaving a portion of it in place, to slowly decay and offer those same benefits to the environment and natural habitat creation process.

Customers can have a lot of concerns about bats on their property which you can help dispel, but when bats take up residence in a home, garage or garden shed, that’s a different story. There are laws protecting bats which are stringent and clearly protect bats for all the reasons listed in this article so far. Exceptions include when bats are a threat to health or safety of residents. Check with wildlife removal experts about what to do to exclude bats from properties in those instances. The wildlife experts (including Fish and Game, along with private businesses with that specialty) know the times of year they can strategically create barriers to entry for the bats, among other considerations. Working in tandem with people with that expertise can be a great benefit to your customers with you as the landscaper offering yet more insight, understanding, and expertise about their home and gardens.

Where to go from here? Learn what you can about bats and share that knowledge when it comes up in discussion with your clients. Easy to access information is available from the US Department of the Interior, the US Forest Service, and the association Bat Conservation International. Check those on the web for fact sheets, informative videos, and articles on current research about bats and our ecosystems and human health. Reading about research on bats as vectors for diseases such as SARS can help you understand the realities, data, and dispel myths about ways diseases are spread alongside the reality that more diseases are being spread, perhaps, zoonotically (pathogens jumping from animals to humans.)
Bats in our neighborhoods, gardens and landscapes, let alone on farms and ranches, deserve our toast to a healthy environment the next time we enjoy many tropical fruits, nuts, or . . .a margarita made with tequila, thanks to the agave!

— by Cris Blackstone. Cris Blackstone, NHCLP, is a member of Newmarket Conservation Commission; Supervisor on Rockingham Conservation District; Board Member for NH Association of Conservation Commissions; and member of Garden Communicators International Sustainability Committee.


Enhance Your Landscapes: Paint With Light

There’s more to landscaping than lawns, flowers, shrubs, and trees according to Eric Mitchell, the Landscape Lighting Specialist, who spoke enthusiastically about painting with light at the November 9 NHLA Dinner Meeting in Manchester.

“Lighting can determine how you view the world personally,” Mitchell told the 46 attendees. “Lighting is the absence of darkness,” he said as he recited a brief history of outdoor lighting from the mid-20th century. We’ve come a long way in adding light to our work, he said.
    Reasons to light a landscape include safety and security for the homeowner, as well as enhancing the design effects for plants, trees, walls, buildings, artwork, and water features in your landscapes. He showed samples of his work, including backlighting, up lighting, grazing, silhouetting, cross lighting, down lighting, and reducing glare from bad standard house lights.
    “Light needs darkness to be successful,” he said, noting most of his sales calls with clients are after dark. “What we see is the light that is reflected off of objects. It is the absence of darkness.” Landscape lighting can draw the eye to evoke human emotions of warmth, safety, and calm.
    Mitchell went through quick lighting physics, speaking about the Color Rendering Index (CRI), the Kelvin scale to achieve the correct warmth of lights — 2700k to 3000k is the ideal yellow warm light to evoke fire and warmth – and the attributes of low voltage and LED lights.
 “LED lights, invented almost a century ago in Russia, have changed lighting forever,” he said. There are many bulbs for many jobs and every landscape and every object can have a special light.

He encouraged landscapers to include lighting in all of their projects to make their designs more attractive and appealing to clients.

Future NHLA Dinner Meetings in January and March include Facing Employment Challenges in the Landscape Industry and Migrating to Electric Power for Landscape Work.

— For more information about lighting, contact Eric Mitchell at Northeast Lighting Supply, 8 Dearborn Road, Peabody, MA 01960.  Email: emitchell@northeastnursery.com. Phone: (978) 376-9542 (cell) or (978) 864-4417 (office) Website: www.northeastnursery.com.

— by Mike Barwell, Perfect North Lawncare, NHLA Interim Education Coordinator

The Wonderful New Street Trees

Last spring construction finally started for Phase 1 of what is supposed to be a lovely new Main Street sidewalk project here in Yarmouth. Probably about three years in the making, numerous meetings with residents, businesses, State transportation people, and several types of planners had come up with what was considered to be the best for pedestrians, handicapped access, traffic, as well as aesthetics. Obviously costs had to be taken into consideration as well. Main street is a fairly busy thoroughfare, not just a little village street like it was 30-40 years ago, despite what some people wish to think. Main street is also Route 115, a state road.

Many of the retailers, once located on Main St., have now moved to busier and larger locations on Route 1 that are easier accessed and have much more exposure. Destination type businesses that don’t rely as much on traffic flow, such as professional practices, are scattered amongst a few specialty eateries, like Espresso and Gelato places, a couple of high-end restaurants, and some of the nice old homes are now the image residents attempt to maintain for the “Village Affect.” One of the larger businesses that is still on Main St. is Hancock Lumber, a major lumber and building supplier. Although the Hancock site was once owned by another company, I assume it was built at this location because of railroad access in the center of town back in the day. Two or three banks still have offices as well.

So let’s create a “quaint little village with tree lined streets,” people said while talking about the needed renovation of Main St. All kinds of people came up with wonderful ideas to preserve the beautiful old architecture and tie in an updated and improved pedestrian friendly foot traffic plan to meet updated handicapped specs. The committee that was formed included an engineering firm, two landscape architects (LA’s), the Town Manager, a representative from the Town Planning Board, the person in charge of roads and open space, the Tree Warden (who resigned part way through the project), and probably a couple of other people. Four churches as well as a 200-year-old private day school all line the main drag. People wanted to not just have motor traffic on Main street, but also more foot traffic. In my opinion, retail would be needed to draw the people to the village, but the reality for merchants was very limited. Things change and I just hope these new boutiquey, artsy, and vegan pizza joints have enough draw from the “NEWBIES” to make a go of it. When my family moved here in the mid ’70s my guess is the population was about 6,000, today there are about 8,500 residents. The per capita income has also grown dramatically.

Although there was a pretty hefty budget for this Main Street Project, which basically boiled down to new sidewalks, the State happened to be doing some paving work, and funds unfortunately didn’t allow for brick walkways. New granite curbing was replacing the existing 40-year-old curbs. Curbing now not only marks the edges of streets, but is also used to create raised planters around the few trees that were attempted to be saved and new trees being planted. Apparently people didn’t like the idea of planting trees at sidewalk grade and surrounding them with iron grates, as they had been before and is a very common practice in many municipalities.

When I first saw the raised planters around the two existing trees that were able to be saved, I was concerned about how they were going to be mulched without having bark too high on the trunks. So now we have two funny looking raised planters with trees planted at street grade, about 18-24″ below the top of these fancy new raised circular granite planters. If mulch fills these planters, two feet of excess mulch will eventually kill the trees; fortunately that has not yet happened!

As the project progressed more trees were planted in similar new raised granite planters. The LA had specified a special type of amended loam type mix to be used in these planters containing plenty of organic matter and was recommended for street tree use. On the day of the planting, the concrete contractor was just dumping loam in the holes around the trees. No soil amendments, and certainly none of this “special” street tree planting mix suggested by Cornell University. Some of trees had been delivered about a week before planting and sat at grade ready to be planted. Just out of curiosity, I watched to see how often they would be watered. As days passed, no water, temps were well into the ’80s, finally after about five days the Town Highway Dept. came by and watered them. Not the concrete company that was planting them! Needless to say, my feathers were a bit ruffled! Finally the trees were planted and mulched and sure enough, after planting the new trees were very nicely mulched……. with mulch that was about 4 inches too deep!

During this entire project, the only Town official I’d seen doing any kind of overseeing of the work was the Town Engineer and his primary concern was if the granite curbs and concrete walkways were being installed at proper grade. A nursery/landscape company had only delivered the trees, but the concrete company that had poured the walks and installed the nice granite planters was doing the tree installation. Water bags were installed on all trees to hopefully get the trees through the record hot summer. I suppose the Highway Dept. had gotten stuck with the job of watering the trees since they have a tank truck, although they didn’t plant them.

Moving on a couple of months, I was curious to check on the status of the trees. In late August I saw one of the elms was totally brown and a stressed hawthorn had a piece of flagging meaning it needed to be replacement. Sure enough, as I write this in early September the trees have been replaced and some of the deep mulch has been pulled away from a few trees, but not all. Time will tell how these trees look next spring or a couple years down the road. My fingers are crossed!

— by Phil Caldwell
Phil Caldwell is a past president of NHLA (1989) who now lives and works in Maine.   


Two (or More) Sides to Every Story: What to Do with Leaf Litter

Autumn clean ups for your customers used to be a clear and distinct process. Roll in, final mow, prune and pick up, and maybe, budgeting allowing and customers willing, divide some perennials and build more garden spaces with their own plants.

Now there’s more research, a different baseline of understanding, and even more opinions about this to be found on the internet. One end of the spectrum on this topic is represented by organizations such as the Xerces Society with their campaign “Leave the Leaves.” In this marketing blitz, we are learning the importance of leaving the leaf litter for the butterflies, for instance, overwintering here, as caterpillars huddled and bundled in rolled up leaves for warmth and protection from predators. The Luna Moths we’re so fascinated with, with their dramatic wingspans and short, interesting life cycles in June, disguise their cocoons and chrysalis as dried up leaves.

When we rake up, mow, and mulch, or worst of all by some standards, use a leaf blower to corral fallen leaves, we are destroying the next generation of many, many pollinators that would have emerged in the spring and started their beneficial work for another life cycle. When you see some of the fritillary butterflies, for instance, in the spring, it’s because they were able to survive all winter, in some of the leaves left undisturbed whether in a forest, thicket, or some gardeners’ lawns who are aware of the “Leave the Leaves” knowledge and movement.

Leaving leaf litter provides habitat for many types of bees and wasps along with all the beneficial insects overwintering. More and more research is indicating that these populations are dwindling, but are essential for our food supply. If your customers are adverse to leaving the leaves and how their yards and gardens will look quite different from crisp and clean (or barren and bewildering, in some viewpoints), then the next best thing would be to gather the leaves and spent perennial material and make a corner area on the property to house that material, giving the eggs and larvae in there the opportunity to overwinter and emerge in the spring.

Another benefit to leaving the leaves, whole, and not shredded, can be to use as mulch. We see a lot of research about the whole leaves actually doing a better job of mulching than the same material shredded. The whole leaves serve to retain moisture and, as whole leaves, provide a stronger weed mat by helping suppress sunlight which helps germinate those pesky weed seeds. The Xerces Society blog, written by Justin Wheeler, points out what I found to be one of the most compelling aspects of leaving whole leaves that I have read from any source. He reminds us that when we are appreciating the spring ephemerals, we often see their “delicate” stems poking up through a leaf, or their stems weaseling through a pile of leaves. The spring ephemerals are strong, forceful, and dynamic and not dissuaded by a few leaves piled smoothly on top of their growth flight plan.

Other professional sources with interest in lawn care expertise, see many other aspects of this situation. Leaf litter for landscapers can also present other problems to weigh against the environmental focus.

One consideration of landcare professionals is the way a mat of leaves can prevent rain water from reaching to the grass roots or plant roots. Young grass may not grow in evenly, depending on the layer of leaf cover they are working against. This prevents a lush, verdant lawn many of your customers want to maintain. By removing the leaves, there will be even distribution of sunlight, water, and various fertilizers you may be using by your own preference or by your customers’ requests. A full, traditional fall clean up will result in that “look” they may be striving for.

Leaf clean up should mean there is as little disturbance as possible for the insects already mentioned overwintering in what you may have cleaned up and, in previous years, thrown into a landfill. An autumn clean up will definitely remove the places deleterious pests and mold will thrive. Check with your Cooperative Extension service or where you have a working relationship with lawn care products, to learn about the ways snow mold hatches and spreads. Learning about the molds and diseases of turf grasses, such as brown patch, will help you determine risk management about autumn clean ups in your area.

Leaving some leaves while thoroughly clearing out others seems to be a reasonable compromise as we learn more and educate clients more, about the “Leave the Leaves” and similar movements. Perhaps leaving leaves in areas where you are going to design in a pleasing garden pathway is a meaningful, beneficial and economical way to begin that process.

It’s all about education, and about learning how we fit in to the natural world. Considering helping your clients diminish the area of expansive, monoculture lawn area by removing some grass and planting some native shrubbery or perennials will be a great way to start the conversation and conversion to healthy lawns living side-by-side with habitats conducive to wildlife, including our much-needed pollinators.

—by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP

Benefits from the UNH Agriculture Experiment Station Work

Participants in the tours offered during Durham Farm Days, August 21, learned the ways that UNH’s Agriculture Experiment Station is funded. How the station conducts research projects that end up being disseminated by the Cooperative Extension to gardeners, landscapers, property managers, and everyone in between, looking for answers to their plant questions, was thoroughly outlined; and the tour covered the full gambit of projects in action right now. State and Federal monies fund the 130-year-old Agriculture Experiment Station, for the 50+ research projects conducted currently. From the proper way to prune tomatoes, to growing nutrient-rich seedless grapes – or learning which trellis mechanisms are the most conducive to healthier grape vines, every project has a keen eye trained on sustainable practices to be implemented. Additionally, Anton Bekkerman, Director of the Agriculture Experiment Station, shared that the projects each seek to developing skills and techniques successfully combating climate change. With these factors in mind, he handed the participants’ attention to Kyle Quigley, Assistant Farm Manager, who would take the first tour group around Woodman Farm, while Evan Ford, Farm Manager, waited for the second tour group to arrive and take off on the same trajectory.

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During Durham Farm Day, August 21, the UNH Agriculture Research group at Woodman and Kingman Farms led several tours showcasing their current research projects. Here, Kyle Quigley, Assistant Farm Manager, points out the projects focusing on growing figs in NH. Besides this outdoor “forest” there’s a high tunnel overflowing with healthy, productive fig plants. You have to see it to fully grasp the scope and size of the plants, which are pruned to ground level stubs, after a frost.

The projects we learned about included several on table grapes, tomatoes, broccoli, strawberries, and even figs. Projects at the site also include investigating integrated pest management (IPM) and growing hydrangeas for the cut flower industry and landscape use in New Hampshire. These projects can all culminate with landscapers benefitting from the knowledge gained through the Ag Experiment Station and shared through the Cooperative Extension – because of the increase in homeowner interest in growing edible plants alongside the ornamental trees, shrubs, annuals, and perennials on their properties.

Costs of the vegetables and fruits can be contained by learning more about overwintering strawberries, for example, or by growing strawberries from seed rather than by starting them and selling plug plants. Shaping and pruning broccoli can help those plants produce more and be easier to harvest for large scale producers as well as home gardeners. As for figs, the tour participants saw what can be described as a “fig forest” in a high tunnel and another dense stand of fig plants outdoors, with the experiment being how to overwinter after the extreme pruning the plants tolerate.

The Ag Experiment Station was strongly aware of the ways cut flowers are increasingly a consideration for home gardeners, as well as the number of specialty cut flower growers in NH who are looking for more products to sell, adding to their selections for wholesale applications. With several rows of three types of hydrangeas in their full late summer bloom, we learned which types seem most likely to overwinter with strong comeback and bloom times each year. Farms producing field cut flowers has grown by leaps and bounds – 60% increase – since 2007. There are many movements, associations, and a rising awareness of the importance of the “slow flower” movement to reduce carbon footprints from importing vast numbers of flowers, so the UNH research projects are quite welcome to help the end users realize their role in sustainability when flowers are locally grown. The hydrangea project will reveal not only plant hardiness but will indicate valuable information about vase life for the flowers as a commodity.

Before this tour, I was aware of different ways to trellis and train grapes to grow, but I would have said the trellis mechanisms were regional, or cultural, or related to the type of grapes being grown. During this tour, we saw different trellising mechanics and learned the research is showing that the nutrients in grapes can even be enhanced by the different trellises used, by how they offer differing degrees of light, air, and direct sunlight. Our tour guide was a master of sharing the complexities of the research in a way that made it clear to understand and integrate, and he encouraged questions from the tour participants. We learned to distinguish between two main trellis types and were able to walk down a lengthy row of vines which had been planted in 2014, to see the differences. Under the netting protecting the vines from birds, we were able to also see different vines with different stages of ripening and were reminded not to taste test the ripe grapes. Taking even a few grapes during a tour like this would be to remove valuable data points for the research project – to everyone’s disappointment!
Kiwiberries, also grown with trellising mechanisms, were a part of this tour. We learned about the research geared toward standardizing the size and shape of the kiwiberries as well as how in some places they are considered invasive and in other places there is a strong interest in growing them for commercial use. You may have seen Martha Stewart’s extensive property in Maine, with a wall of the kiwiberries on it, preceding her ownership of the property. There was a time when kiwiberries were considered more popular than wisteria for landscape use and were grown by nurseries for these ornamental purposes. Now, they are being strongly considered as a product for their “super fruit” nutritional value and the UNH project is contributing heavily to this area of interest.

If you’ve toured the Woodman Farm site before, you may remember the pollinator meadow areas, which were projects conducted by Dr. Cathy Neal and that received international acclaim for knowledge gained about bee’s preferences. Those meadows are in full bloom this time of year and as Dr. Neal told during her tours, the asters are taking over a bit. She did remind us at the time of her tours that meadows are not static, and different flowers in the mix will self-seed and dominant flowers will wax and wane over time. In full glory, the meadow areas were not only vibrant with colors and textures of seed heads, but teaming with small birds, butterflies, and many types of bees, taking in the nectar provided.

Integrated Pest Management (IPM) projects are conducted on a regular basis, since so many commercial products are on the market and gaining acclaim or notoriety in the fight against various pests. Learning more about IPM could take a full day, and that part of the farm was the turnaround point of the tour.

Heading back to the starting point, there were several projects showcased. From how to grow Brussels sprouts – how to prune the plants, or to let them grow long stalks as we may be more familiar with. How many sprouts result from each method of growth is being analyzed. The bushy form of the pruned plants is a lot different than the stalks with the sprouts circling the stalk!

Projects with tomatoes and how to prune or shape those plants competed with my excitement at finding a fungus growth blowing around the pathway. It was feather-light, and the flat side, which I thought was the bottom, was soft as velvet. The side I thought must be the top, looked something like a delicious mound of chocolate frosting that would fit on a large cupcake. It turns out Evan Ford could immediately identify it for me, as I delicately carried it to where he was and I wanted to perch it on a good background to capture it in a few photographs. It was a common mushroom, one the bright white non-poisonous “fairy ring” mushrooms (Amanita thiersii) which sometimes grow as big as a softball, and their spores thrive in fresh grass clippings. (It turns out that to prepare for the Farm Day, extensive mowing in the field rows and paths had been going on several days prior to our tours.) This object I had in hand was actually upside down as I held it – when turned the other direction, Evan demonstrated with his hand that it was a mushroom which had been sheared by the mower, and this part was the underground part which had been uplifted as he explained it to me. I know from watching some of these in my own lawn, that they do turn a doeskin shade of brown/beige pretty quickly, but I had never seen the part that was supporting the stem or ball, from its undergrown perspective.

All in all, I would highly recommend you take advantage of touring the Woodman Farm as a landscaper curious about how research is conducted and to see a few steps ahead of the trends your clients may start to ask about. From cut flowers to edible landscape plants, vegetables have been elevated to such status, you will see what it takes to go from a serious question with financial ramifications to sustainable answers. Ultimately many of these research projects end up as our new baseline of understanding and expectations of the plants we work with.

—by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP

Time to Plan Against Hypothermia

Wait – how can this be? What issue am I reading? We are in a heat wave! Hypothermia? Yes. Now is the time to plan your employee training schedule and plan how you will bring in your autumn and winter crews, with the next season in mind.

Autumn heralds winter’s arrival, and with that, we turn from keeping an eye on employee health and safety regarding heat related issues such as dehydration, or sunburns, or poison ivy, and turn to understanding the ways we need to avoid troublesome or dangerous health conditions related to low temps rather than our high summer temps.

The more we train our employees to know what to look for and how to avoid autumn and winter health and safety situations, the better employee attendance, and productivity will be.

We have typically put a lot of time and attention in spring and summer seasonal hires and onboarding process involving our company expectations and safety protocols about operating equipment or safety gear to wear onsite. Now is the time to totally shift gears and prepare for how company expectations and safety protocols pertain to wet weather and cold temperatures.

snowplow web

Operating equipment such as trucks with snow plows seems like an adventure the first few times for many employees. Sometimes there’s an excitement and a disregard for the demands placed on our bodies, while it seems we’re just driving a truck we’re used to driving, but with a plow on it now. You may have done some advanced scouting of properties so drivers on plow routes can become familiar before there’s snow with where the driveway bends a bit, or a stand of bushes needs to be avoided when dumping a load of snow. But don’t disregard the importance of encouraging employees to maintain good sleep hygiene and to curtail social activities that could impinge on the time needed to plow. The lack of sleep will catch up, and that is when mistakes can be made. From not doing a pre-route thorough examination of the vehicle, to hurrying from one job site to another to plow and hurry back home to a warm bed, protocols you expect as the employer (and are hopefully modeling) will be evident as you get complaint calls, or worse yet, see some nominal damage to vehicles or equipment.

The National Safety Council recommends winter vehicle safety tips such as keeping the gas tank at least half full to avoid gas lines freezing. Do you encourage each driver to maintain that level, and provide adequate time on the clock to do so? Have you stocked up on wiper fluid rated for -30F? Have you replaced wiper blades and even considered blades with extra snow load capability? Consider involving employees in the maintenance required on the vehicles so they will understand what you mean when you are asking if they are ready for snow. Some people hear that question, “Are you ready for snow?” and their minds go to ski trips, snowmobiling, backyard bon fires, and the overtime they may accrue during the anticipated blizzard conditions. Make sure safety considerations are firmly in place and aligned with your company’s policies and protocols.

Now is the time to check emergency preparedness kits, according to not only the National Safety Council, but to many large driving associations and OSHA. Reflective triangles in case of breakdowns or on vehicles simply for visibility, may have become cracked or encrusted with eroding salt brines since the last time they were used.
Other recommendations from seasoned tow truck companies, as well as the American Automobile Association and the California Highway Patrol, include keeping high-energy foods such as nutrition bars, packets of nuts, dried fruits, and hard candy on hand. These items (knock on wood) could be helpful for morale as well as beneficial in case of waiting for help if the truck is stranded in bad driving conditions. Sugar and protein are welcomed in the event of any extra time in the vehicle which was unanticipated.

Nowadays, not only a battery charger but also a cell phone charger are a given. And, while we are thinking of what to make sure is included in every vehicle you and your employees use in the winter, include a brightly colored safety vest, in case anyone has to walk out in the miserable conditions for any reason.

Any other favorite items to include for your employees driving your vehicles in the snow? What’s your favorite item to include after some horror story, such as that employee who had some kitty litter on hand to help get some traction when on an icy driveway? Share those real life stories when you have your autumn and winter meetings with your staff, so they see what can happen to anybody, could happen to everybody.

As for hypothermia. . .check the OSHA website for the training videos and posters you can download and post in your employee break room. Remember there are many learning styles, and some of your staff want to read the information you want to share and some are more effective at processing what you say to them during these informative meetings. You might consider some of the training videos offered through organizations specializing in safe snow removal along with the OSHA health and safety videos about causes of hypothermia and ways to avoid it. Some of the training programs you find are available free of charge and employees could view them anytime day or night, as convenient, long before the winter conditions set in.

As a conscientious employer and as a member of NHLA, it’s important for all of us to model our expectations and to ensure the health and safety of our employees. You might consider incentives, such as rewards or citations of some sort for viewing safety videos or for offering suggestions they may have, from the frontlines, to help improve situations they have seen firsthand. Rewarding suggestions and listening to suggestions and fresh ideas are ways we can ensure the values we set forth as NHLA members in this industry ensure that the profession grows and involves new members coming through the ranks and carrying on the NHLA tradition.

— by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP

Which Evergreen Trees and Shrubs for Privacy are Deer Resistant?

If you are planting evergreens for privacy, the last thing you want to worry about is deer damage. Landscapers in New Hampshire, particularly those in the southern counties and along the Connecticut River Valley, will undoubtedly come into conflict with deer at some point in time. Many evergreen plants serve as favorite winter food sources, including arborvitae, rhododendron, holly, and yew. In many cases, proximity to a house is not enough to deter hungry deer in the latter half of winter. Fortunately, there are some evergreen trees and shrubs that are mostly avoided by deer. While no plant is ever entirely safe from deer, the following selections usually escape damage in all but the leanest of times.

Common boxwood (Buxus sempervirens) has long been a favorite shrub for hedges, and it is one of the most deer-tolerant plants for gardens. It is considered a staple in formal gardens due to its tolerance of pruning and shearing. Though boxwood does not sport showy flowers, its deep green foliage grows densely and can form a good screen. Plants can grow in full sun to shade, but their leaves and branches aren’t as dense in the shade, and plants are less vigorous. Boxwood is hardy to zone 5 but may suffer damage in harsh winters. In many locations in New Hampshire, the evergreen foliage tends to turn brownish-yellow when plants are grown in areas with full sun and winter winds. Boxwood is best suited to sheltered locations where it will have some protection.

Japanese pieris (Pieris japonica), sometimes known as Andromeda, is a broadleaf evergreen shrub that can grow up to 10 feet tall, depending on variety. Pieris has glossy dark green leaves year-round and drooping white flower clusters in early spring that attract bumblebees and other pollinators. It grows very well in organically rich, acid soils in full sun to part shade, so if you’ve had luck with other acid-loving plants like rhododendrons, pieris will likely thrive as well. It is also tolerant of deep shade, setting it apart from other evergreens that do best with more sun exposure. As a zone 5 shrub, pieris tends to be most vigorous and suffer the least winter damage in southern New Hampshire. Despite occasional issues with lacebugs and winter injury, Japanese pieris is almost never bothered by deer.

Mountain laurel (Kalmia latifolia) is one of the few native evergreen shrubs that deer largely ignore. Mountain laurel grows in the wild in various locations throughout New Hampshire. It is often used in landscapes due to its abundant, unusual flowers in late spring. The species sports white to pale pink flower clusters that can measure as much as six inches across. Many additional cultivated varieties have been introduced to the nursery trade that have blooms in various shades of pink, red, and combinations thereof. The leaves are leathery, dark green and otherwise similar to those of rhododendrons. Mountain laurel is a great choice for landscapes in part shade with moist, acidic, well-drained soil.

Eastern red cedar (Juniperus virginiana) is likely the closest alternative to arborvitae that can be grown in New Hampshire. Eastern red cedar is a native needled evergreen that has overlapping scale-like leaves. It is highly drought-tolerant and is a good choice for gardens with full sun and dry soil. It is also an excellent plant for wildlife, as many species of songbirds, such as Cedar Waxwings, will eat the blueish-gray, berry-like cones. On rare occasions, deer may browse the lower foliage, but Eastern red cedar usually escapes damage. One important thing to note is that Eastern red cedar is an alternate host for cedar apple rust and should not be planted near apples or crabapples.

Chinese juniper (Juniperus chinensis) is another needled evergreen that is similar to Eastern red cedar in many regards. It also has scale-like foliage on mature branches and is highly tolerant of deer, drought, and dry soil. While plants can grow into large trees, a great number of smaller shrubby varieties can be found at garden centers. Chinese juniper is also susceptible to cedar apple rust and should not be grown in the vicinity of apples.

Inkberry (Ilex glabra) is a native evergreen holly species that is popular as a screen in garden settings because it is adaptable to both well-drained and wet soils. It has small, glossy, dark green leaves that are spineless, and produces small black fruit that are enjoyed by various songbird species. Inkberry is easy to grow in most landscapes, provided there is full sun or part shade. It will be at its best when planted in full sun in consistently moist, acidic soil. Inkberry is likely the best native shrub to grow as an informal hedge. Plant height varies considerably, depending on variety, so make sure to choose a form that will suit your landscape needs.

— by Emma Erler, UNH Extension Field Specialist




Shifting Botanical Names

Learning the scientific names of plants is challenging for horticulturists at all levels. If you have been gardening or landscaping for a while, you have doubtless memorized the Latin genus and species names of many plants and can quickly find what you are looking for in a catalog or reference book. Knowing the accepted scientific names of plants is important for correct identification and clear communication with others. Despite being named in a dead language, the scientific monikers of plant species are not static. Many common landscape plant names have changed in recent years as scientists have learned more about species and their relationships to each other, leading some species to be reclassified and renamed. Before launching into the specifics, here is a quick primer on how plants are named.

The Basics of Plant Naming
In the mid-eighteenth century, a Swedish scientist named Carl Linnaeus developed a method for naming, ranking, and classifying plants that is still in use today (with many changes). Linnaeus gave all plant species a two-word “binomial” name consisting of the genus and species. It is still the basic structure of the modern naming system. Plants that are very similar and closely related are assigned to the same genus, and each is given a unique species name. For example, spotted geranium and bigroot geranium have the same genus (Geranium) but different species names (maculatum and macrorrhizum respectively). Why are plant names in Latin? In Linnaeus’ time in the eighteenth-century, Latin was the language of science, and the tradition has continued. Latinized descriptive phrases give clues about the plant’s qualities (i.e. “alba” means white and “rubra” red).

While scientific names may seem unnecessarily complicated when you first start learning them, they do serve an important purpose. Plants generally have a common name and a scientific name. Common names are often descriptive of the plant, such as red maple, bleeding heart, or paper birch. There are problems with using common names though. The same species of plant may have two or more common names, with names varying from region to region, and some very different plants may even have the same common name. For instance, “geranium” is the common name used to refer to two different groups of plants. There are the hardy geraniums in the genus Geranium, and tender greenhouse geraniums that belong to the genus Pelargonium. When discussing landscape plants, it can be helpful to describe the species you mean by its scientific name for the sake of clarity.

Changing Plant Names
Linnaeus used physical characteristics to group plants, a practice that continued until the late twentieth century when it became possible to study plant relationships through genetics. In some cases, genetic discoveries reinforced assumptions made through the examination of plant structures, but in others, DNA analysis showed that plants once thought to be related were quite different. This has led to plants being reclassified and therefore renamed. Names are changing at an accelerated pace, as genetic information allows for new understandings of plant relationships. In many cases, plants that were formerly grouped under a single species are reclassified into distinct species, or species previously classified in a particular genus are placed in other genera. For example, most of the species once classified in the genus Aster have now been placed in other genera, including Symphyotrichum, Doellingeria, Durybia, and Ionactis.

In a perfect world, there would be one true name for every plant, but scientists are constantly debating classifications. Many plants have more than one scientific name, but just one that is accepted as the most accurate. Current accepted names are what you will find in up-to-date botanical literature and serious garden writing. It usually takes years for the horticultural industry to adopt new plant names to avoid confusing clients. Eventually however, accepted names make their way into catalogues and horticulturists must make the mental shift. Do not be surprised if you start seeing the following landscape staples labelled by different names.

Symphyotrichum novae-angliae formerly Aster novae-angliae
New England Aster

Actaea racemosa formerly Cimicifuga racemosa
Black cohosh

Actea simplex formerly Cimicifuga simplex

Chamaepericlymenum canadense formerly Cornus canadensis

Lamprocapnos spectabilis formerly Dicentra spectabilis
Bleeding heart

Eutrochium spp. formerly Eupatorium spp.
Joe Pye weed

Hylotelephium spectabile formerly Sedum spectabile

Swida sericea formerly Cornus sericea
Red-osier dogwood

Swida amomum formerly Cornus amomum
Silky dogwood

Benthamidia florida formerly Cornus florida
Flowering dogwood

Benthamidia japonica formerly Cornus kousa
Kousa dogwood

— by Emma Erler, UNH Extension Field Specialist, emma.erler at unh.edu


Stick to Your Strengths

I often wonder if lawn maintenance is going the route of other home care companies. These days many people call a cleaning company for routine interior cleaning and a more specialized business for carpet or upholstery “deep cleaning.” Are lawn care companies now becoming more of a complete landscape business than they once were? It often seems so to me. Fewer people mow their own lawns and just figure it into their home maintenance budgets. If the lawn care company can mow my lawn and advertises for design work, why not hire them?

One of the largest landscaping companies in greater Portland, or probably now Maine for that matter, started as a mowing operation in Portland and now has mid-coast and Bangor offices. During peak season they employee about 200 workers. They have diversified from what was once primarily a mowing company, that sub-contracted their weed and feed program, to what is now a “Complete Landscape Company.” Maintenance of all types of lawn and shrubs, planting, design work, tree care, landscape construction, snow removal, pretty much the full spectrum. This complete service even goes as far as janitorial services, trash removal, and a security division, maybe spread too thin, in my opinion.

The company has had the huge landscape contract with one of Portland’s hospitals for several years. The hospital has one large primary location in Portland, several other satellite facilities, and numerous office complexes all around southern Maine. Mowing and snow removal seem to be their strong suits, but trailer loads of mulch are used in spring clean-ups (spread too deep) and shrubs are sheared into beach balls and hockey pucks. I must admit, the grounds all look very well groomed. Large beds of colorful annuals are planted each spring in highly visible areas.

So, what’s my point? Does a bigger company mean higher quality work? Does the fact that this landscape company is one of the largest in Maine mean they are one of the most knowledgeable? In my opinion, not at all! As I mentioned earlier, their work is very neat and well groomed, but based on excess mulch and improper pruning, that aspect is very faulty. Plants are not being properly cared for and the general public is being misled. Maybe they should stick to just the lawn care division and seek assistance with their pruning or other plant care skills. I see this all too often with lawn maintenance companies as they expand and diversify. Mowing work turns to plant clean-ups and pruning, then planting or hardscapes and possibly doing small design jobs.

Don’t get me wrong, I have lots of respect for people who grow, diversify, and try to broaden their knowledge. But it’s also very important to watch closely or learn enough to realize your weaknesses and when to seek the help of others. The management of many companies, and not just the big operations, somehow have to learn what mistakes they are making and fix them. Maybe better educating the public is a possible route to go? If all of us with landscape knowledge attempt to teach our customers just a tiny bit about the way plants should be cared for I think it’s a good start. This might make the public aware of what attention they should be seeking. Should they call an arborist, that just happens to mow lawns, with their turf questions? People in the industry have to be upfront with customers and stick to their fields of expertise.

Having operated a chainsaw many hours cutting firewood, I thought it would be easy to cut down only one tree on a job several years ago. It was only about a 6″ caliper spruce that I thought would fall right into the driveway, no problem. After cutting about 60% into the trunk I realized the tree wasn’t falling quite in the direction I had planned and if it fell the wrong way it would hit all kinds of wires and possibly even go as far as into Main street! Since I was just a few doors down from the hardware store, I ran over there, bought some beefy rope and tied it onto my truck’s bumper. By this point, I would be happier if the tree fell on my truck than onto all the utility wires and maybe the street. Fortunately, once the rope was tight between my truck and the tree, it fell in a safe place when I finished cutting it!

To make a long story short, this is a perfect example of me thinking I knew more than I did, I was playing arborist for a day, when in reality I should have hired someone with far more skill.

— by Phil Caldwell. Phil is a past president of NHLA (1989) who now lives and works in Maine.  

Pandemic Recedes – Professional Development, Indeed!

There were education and professional development opportunities NHLA needed to postpone or cancel altogether during the height of the pandemic. The pandemic did offer NHLA Certified Landscapers many opportunities to explore webinars, conferences, and courses offered by many professional associations as well as national public gardens, and many, many land grant universities.

We’d like to thank UNH Cooperative Extension for their courses throughout the winter, which included multi-session presentations that offered pesticide credits – a great feature. UNHCE also did a great job keeping NHLA members aware of their various webinar opportunities, and for the Certified NHLA landscapers, those opportunities will make it possible to continue their pathway to 2021 recertification.

Other land grant universities (Notably Ohio State) offered courses ranging from landscape design by notable professionals such as Doug Tallamy, trends in understanding the connection between wildlife habitat and healthy eco-environments, and other organizations offering classes and webinars on diversity, equity and inclusion. Each of these opportunities meant our members could learn something new or continue learning more in-depth information about topics immediately related to job performance or connections with customers.

The pandemic is not “over” and we’ll keep a keen eye on what regulations may be in place for our summer Twilight Meetings, which will be held in person, or for our planned dinner meetings, which will carry us through late autumn and through the winter. While things have lightened up as far as being outdoors, maskless, or in larger groups, we’ll keep ahead of the curve with cautions and safe gatherings – meanwhile, enjoy summer and the company of colleagues you may be reconnecting with since March 2020 brought the spring scene to a pandemic pivot.

Your patience and interest in NHLA events continuing has been so helpful and encouraging. Watch future Newsletters or blast e-mails for information about what the Education Committee is planning as well as what the NHLA Board is working on! Get in touch if you would like to be a part of the working committee for the postponed Field Day, or for any of the dinner meetings we’ll try and re-institute. Your input is valuable! Please e-mail Dave DeJohn, President, NHLA, ddejo71@aol.com, and he’ll make sure your ideas are shared with everyone involved in helping NHLA grow and serve as many members as possible.

Can you Dig Up Pink Lady’s Slippers?

One of the most beautiful wildflowers in New Hampshire is the pink lady’s slipper (Cypripedium acaule). It is so widely revered that it was declared the official state wildflower in 1991. It is also one of the few native wildflowers that most Granite Staters have heard of and get excited about seeing in the woods each spring.

Pink lady’s slippers are easily identified by their two opposite basal leaves with conspicuous parallel veins and large solitary pink flowers at the end of a long stalk. The plant gets its common name from the flower’s supposed resemblance to a woman’s shoe.
It is a long-standing myth that pink lady’s slippers are rare and that it is illegal to pick them, but this has been a very good thing for the species. Pink lady’s slippers grow in a narrow range of soil and climate conditions, making them very vulnerable to habitat destruction, climate change and over-picking.

They also do not transplant well or propagate from seed easily, and it can take a decade or longer for a plant to bloom for the first time. Though it is technically legal to dig up pink lady’s slippers on your own property and transplant them into your garden, such a practice is discouraged. Plants that are moved from one location to another often do not survive.

Pink lady’s slippers are a type of orchid and, like most other orchids, they rely on a specific fungus in the soil to germinate and grow. Pink lady’s slipper seeds do not have food stored within them like most other types of seeds. Instead, they require fungi to break them open and attach to them. The fungus passes on food and nutrients to the embryo within the seed, allowing it to germinate and develop into a plant.

As the lady’s slipper gets bigger and can produce most of its own food, the fungus will then take nutrients from the plant’s roots. This mutually beneficial “symbiotic” relationship is essential to the lady’s slipper’s survival. Plants that are dug up and transplanted are very unlikely to be successful, particularly in rich garden soils that bear no resemblance to the sandy, acid soils where pink lady’s slippers thrive in the wild. If the fungus is not present, then the orchid will fail to thrive and begin to decline or die, typically within a couple of years.

Additionally, if you ever see pink lady’s slippers for sale, it is pretty much a given that they were dug up from the wild. Propagating pink lady’s slippers is incredibly difficult and time-intensive, so they are rarely commercially propagated. If you would love to grow slipper orchids in your garden, choose a species that can be more easily cultivated, like greater yellow lady’s slipper (Cypripedium parviflorum var. pubescens) or showy lady’s slipper (Cypripedium reginae). Even these species are tricky to grow, and they come at a high price, typically $35 or more. Plants that sell for less were most likely collected from the wild.

For those interested in rare plants, the NH Natural Heritage Bureau maintains records on approximately 400 plant species determined to be endangered or threatened. This list includes several orchid species, such as small whorled pogonia (Isotria medeoloides) and dragon’s-mouth (Arethusa bulbosa).

— Emma Erler, UNH Extension Field Specialist, emma.erler at unh.edu

Talk About Plants to Talk About

Around the World in 80 Plants by Jonathan Drori will give you more than enough to talk about, think about, and research for the rest of the year. This will be a book to take its place beside any plant book you thought was your favorite – and should be alongside Drori’s Around the World in 80 Trees (previously reviewed here.)

The book is simultaneously a handbook for exotic and meaningful plants from cultures, countries, and world regions that we can learn a lot about plus a means to gain insight into the lives of people who live in the same places as those plants. As the review quote from Monty Don, excerpted on the cover, says, this book “informs and charms in equal measure.”
It’s informative in the way it shares information about plants and how they produce seeds, nectar, are pollinated, or how they grow as hemi-parasites, as in the case of France’s Mistletoe (Viscum album). There’s a key to the Latin name of the plant in the way it is propagated – that layer of viscin (“glutinous sticky stuff that adheres to bird beaks”) carries the single seeds as birds scrape the viscin off their beaks and in crevices of trees. We learn here that mistletoe favors apple, lime, and pear trees – and that once established, slowly over time the tree becomes more susceptible to disease and diminished fruit or timber quality. There are regulations in northwestern Europe requiring landowners who spot mistletoe on their trees to remove the young established plants immediately. The regulation is followed since there’s a demand for mistletoe by florists and people wanting to decorate reminiscent of early Druid festivities with this plant.

That’s only one example of what we learn about the plants included in this book. There are 79 other plants, along with lavish illustrations by Lucille Clerc, who was also the illustrator for Around the World in 80 Trees.

These two books, published by Laurence King, UK, are printed on high quality, ecologically sensible paper, which leads the way in conscientious publishing terms, perhaps a small point, but meaningful when we learn more about Jonathan Drori. He is a trustee of the Eden Project in Cornwall, England, which you should take time to Google and learn more about. If you have a sense of the Biosphere II in Arizona, the Eden Project will take that concept to another level and astound you with its design elements and botanical purposes. Check out the Eden Project! Drori is well-known to British and BBC television fans, as he’s been involved in many BBC series on science and nature. You may also recognize him from work he’s affiliated with for the World Wildlife Fund.

With such a fascinating life and fascination for researching plants, it’s no wonder this book is info-dense about each of the plants chosen to be included. You sure don’t have to read this cover to cover. It’s organized with most plants getting at least a double page spread, so you can thumb through and read about all the fruits first or all the prehistoric plants that have survived the ages and how they appear now. You could go through and read about the plants from places you have traveled, such as the Pineapple, chosen to represent Costa Rica. From this section of the book, I learned that the very word “pineapple” was once a slang word in the mid-eighteenth century, for things valued in high society, things decadent and highly sought after, but not readily attainable. Besides this type of historical reference, Drori includes a lot about the botany of this plant as he does with each of the 80 in the book. Forming compound fruit (syncarps) and pollinated primarily by hummingbirds, Costa Rica is a rich area for these plants since they require equal daylight and darkness which is just the way the tropics lie relative to the day and night, nearly year ’round.

That’s a magic quality in Drori’s work – he manages to bring in the facts with the colorful language and descriptions that make each plant vivid and memorable. I love coconut and the way he describes it, again, accurately as far as the development of the plant and the botanical interest in coconut palms alongside the details about the taste and textures we eat. But, reminding me that at one stage, “the milky, translucent layer, spoonable and delicious, except to those who squirm at gelatinous textures” it’s not descriptive of what I think of when I think of eating coconut. Yes, I like it fresh and shredded, but also all cared for and included in a Lindt bonbon!

There are a lot of linguistic facts included in the book besides the frequent references to the Latin names connected to our language or other languages. For instance, the coconut was called that by Portuguese sailors, from their word for “smiling” due to the facelike pattern of the three germination spores. Who hasn’t thought of the coconut as having a face? There’s so much to learn about each plant – the coconut is so rich in history, folklore, recipes and the coconut palm so valued as habitat and building material. Even with a medicinal link: coconut water is sterile and has sometimes been used to help medics in the field as an IV to help rehydrate wounded patients. I won’t share information about calcium carbonate sometimes found in coconuts. Read about that aspect of this fascinating plant when you get your copy of Around the World in 80 Plants.

Why is this book important for gardeners, landscapers, Master Gardeners looking to increase their skills and plant enthusiasts? At first you may say these plants are, for the most part, from parts of the world in completely different hardiness zones than we grow here, so why bother? I would suggest that if nothing else, it’s relaxing to learn about these plants and gain the benefits we have learned through the pandemic that gardening, talking about plants, and seeing plants brings us. But, to be more academic, it’s a great book to read and test your skills and memory about plants you may be familiar with and refresh skills as you read about their botany and things such as how they propagate or how they relate to other plants in the same over arching family which you may be more familiar with.

For whatever reason you choose, I hope you will check out this as well as Around the World in 80 Trees since each of these books will complement your book collection as well as engage you in new ways with the plant world.

This book includes an extensive list of Drori’s recommendations for books on related topics, all organized in categories for easy reference. From books on specific plant families to books on social and cultural history where plants are a focus, those references alone are a valid reason to take this book seriously or simply relax and take an arm chair vacation to distant places as you sit back, drink in hand, in your own backyard garden or patio oasis, where your own favorite plants beckon you now!

— by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP

Entrepreneurship Meets Adventure

1978 marked the first time Dave DeJohn visited Concord, NH. More interesting than that was how he got here – he was on the first of many, many trips hitchhiking across America. Dave knew a person in Concord, and after being on the road several months, his destination became a visit to that man, (and the longer I spoke to Dave, I wondered if that was the trip when he met his future wife, too?!)

DeJohn IMG 5723
David DeJohn

While here at that time, Dave explained that he felt “at home” and liked the vibe in New Hampshire. Having grown up in the San Francisco Bay Area, Dave was used to the pace there, although he had grown tired of it. Thought he connected at that time, the vibe wasn’t quite enough to keep him here, however. He set off again, on another hitchhiking trip across the US, headed for Arizona and New Mexico where he had enjoyed picking up some random landscape work.

Throughout his trips across the US, Dave found work when he needed it. He explains with a sense of nostalgia and a strong sense of sharing his work ethic, that he would often ask in a restaurant or diner if the proprietor would trade meals for pruning or other seasonal clean up work that could “spruce the place up.” While this might at first sound outlandish, in speaking with Dave, you get the sense that it’s his quiet confidence and strength of conviction that netted him those jobs as well as the jobs now, this many years in to DeJohn Landscaping!

Travel, trips, more miscellaneous jobs in landscape work in different parts of America led to Dave being back here, at a party, where he met Rick Rideout.

Many of the NHLA readership will have known Rick, as the founder of Three Seasons Landscaping and others may even know his work restoring the historic Henniker Train Station. It was Rick Rideout who made a job offer to Dave, though it wasn’t the permanent tether to NH that followed years later. Rideout and DeJohn had agreed that Dave could work seasonally, and while he loved the work, he also loved the adventure and lure of the open road. Taking months off, and before the spring and planting and maintenance contracts resumed, Dave frugally crisscrossed the states again. DeJohn confesses that at one point, Montana had the lore and lure he thought he was looking for. He thought for a brief time that he may settle there – but it was Rideout, Three Seasons Landscape and the way NH beckoned that won him over for six consecutive years.

While working with Three Seasons, Dave took every chance he could to “learn more.” From the things he picked up along the way and his own reading and research, he had amassed a lot of information and practical knowledge about plants, growth habits, and what plants seemed to work together better than others. Those who knew Rick Rideout knew Rick was an avid traveller also, so that may have linked Dave and Rick with that common understanding of what it meant to travel to new and unfamiliar places or to return to the places you’ve loved and want to go back to over the years.

A chance meeting one spring with employees of John Miller Landscaping showed Dave that there was another angle to the landscape business in which he felt he could really fit in. Through John Miller Landscaping, Dave was introduced to more specific work with hardscaping. Interviewing Dave, it was fascinating to hear his strength of conviction about “really loving to work.” While that might seem like a common phrase on landscapers’ minds, it’s really deeper with Dave. He said he has always loved hard, manual, physical labor AND one of his favorite things is the way he feels when he’s doing stone work. The lifting, moving, shaping, and using the stone creatively coupled with the hard work are his vitamins and energy all in one.

With this job, he was a bit more settled than he’d been in the past, and the trips across the states were not with the regularity or predictability as they had been in previous years. NH has been good to Dave; it was here he met his wife in 1986, and they bought a house on ten acres in Canterbury in 1996. Dave cites his wife’s patience and enthusiasm about his passion for travel and hard work as the spine of the success of his own company. His entrepreneurship is years in the making, from deciding to set up his own landscape company to establishing a repeat clientele and a way of supporting other landscapers when he can’t take on a client who responds to an ad or hears word-of-mouth about Dave, his plant designs or walls and patio work.

It’s almost relaxing to hear Dave talk about his travels, the early landscape jobs, and the genesis of his education coming from many Thompson School Courses and taking every professional development opportunity NHLA has offered since he joined in 1986. While he doesn’t have a formal degree in horticulture or another aspect of the Green Industry as you may expect seeing his portfolio, he has an old world approach to learning by doing and learning by watching and meeting experts.

“Relaxing” may not seem like the first adjective you’d think of during a conversation about his trips across the states, the extensive seasonal work he did, and the ways he accumulated knowledge to augment his firsthand experiences, but it’s the best word to use because of how engaging and enthusiastic he is while explaining that phase of his life.
Listening to Dave brought up several questions, such as when you were in a diner and proposed exchanging work for meals, how did you do that while on the road? What tools did you have with you to do that work? Dave says that he had his favorite pruners with him (sort of makes you think about the hitchhikers we would have seen in those years, traveling with a backpack and guitar case.

When asked what DeJohn Landscaping is doing these days, Dave replies that he has done years and years of landscape designs including plant and maintenance schedules as a part of client contracts. He went on to say that he has phased out some aspects of the maintenance (“No more mowing since about ten years ago,” he said with a sort of smile you could hear over the phone.)

Dave said the time he used to spend on landscape plant designs has now been nearly replaced with hardscape work, which is probably what many NHLA members will strongly associate with Dave. This winter, for instance, he was working on three stone walls – and in discussing those, he reiterates that he thrives on physical work and moreover, finds that winter work on walls makes an easy transition to the spring work on the clean ups and maintenance work for his clients. He said, “There’s less of a shock to my system when I have been busy all winter outdoors with the rocks and walls when it’s time to be involved with the traditional spring work.”

Now as president (again!) of the NHLA Dave is instrumental in the work for the Field Day, being planned for August this year, outdoors, at the McIntyre Ski Area. Dave tells of the ways he has learned best with hands on, real world experiences and hopes to capture those types of experiences and exposure during the various workshops and sessions by vendors where attendees can see, touch, and work with the materials on exhibit. Also, there are workshop sessions planned, including demonstrations and experiences offered on site, with pruning, building raised beds, learning more about correctly planting young plants and installation tricks and tips from experts who can readily tell attendees what works and what sure doesn’t!

Dave DeJohn’s flair and conviction about his own learning style comes through his appreciation of what NHLA has done for him and for what he thinks is his responsibility to “give back” to the organization. It was fascinating to hear how Dave got to NH, and how he settled, started his own company. Now he is beginning another run as the leader of NHLA, to which he can bring his flair for professional development and his passion for helping new hires in all companies as well as helping seasoned veterans feel some of the energy and enthusiasm Dave does when working with clients.

Thank you, Dave, for taking on the President’s role – and thank you for the ways you will share your expertise with your clients and members of this organization.

— by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP. Cris is the Education Coordinator for NHLA and is a member of Newmarket Conservation Commission; Supervisor on Rockingham Conservation District; Board Member for NH Association of Conservation Commissions; and member of Garden Communicators International Sustainability Committee. Her photos have been recognized by the Mass Horticulture Society in 2020’s Photography Competition, and are used frequently in the NHLA Newsletter.

NHLA Awards 2021 Scholarship

I would like to thank our generous members for donating to the NHLA Scholarship fund. With your support, we help deserving students pursue their dream, in the green industry. This year, we had one winner, Georgia Brust, from Salem, NH, who is studying Landscape and Environmental Design at NHTI, Concord’s Community College. She will be graduating in the spring of 2021.

Landscaping has always been her passion. She currently is working at Canobie Lake Park on their grounds department, as the landscape lead. She loves working for an entertainment company because it allows her to create what she calls, “fun” flower beds. She enjoys making the guests happy.

This past fall, she participated in the Natural Resource Stewardship offered by the UNH Cooperative Extension. She has a thirst for knowledge. After graduation, she plans on taking a few more courses, not currently part of her program. Georgia is an outstanding student and is on her way to a successful career. She aspires to someday open her own business.

We look forward to seeing her at future NHLA events.

A special THANK YOU goes out to all who donated to the scholarship fund; we raised $2,640. It makes a real difference in the lives of deserving students!

— by Pam Moreau, NHLA Business Manager. More about the NHLA Scholarship.


Derek Jolie, D.S. Jolie Landscapes, LLC
Mark Olson, Landwright, LLC
Justin Gamester, Piscataqua Landscaping & Tree Service
Bryan Wentworth, Wentworth Greenhouses, Inc.

Sean Sweeney, Blue Ribbon Property Improvements
David Alessandroni
Peter Schiess, LandForms Ltd.
Paul T. James, Landscape Matters
Thomas J. Morin, Morin’s Landscaping, Inc.
Jonathan Muller, Muller’s Lawn & Landscaping, LLC
Mark Rynearson, The Rynearson Company, Inc.
Bill Price II, TurfPro LMSC, Inc.

Kathleen (Kiki) Bean, Surfside Landscape
Travis Towne, Beauregard Equipment Inc.
Colby Lenentine, 3 Lakes Landscaping LLC
Connie Maatta, Design Plus Landscape Services, LLC
Gary Speirs, Eastern Green Inc.
Leah Brochu, L.A. Brochu, Inc.
Andrew Sherburne, Northeast Granite Inc.
Scott Burns, Scott Burns Landscaping, LLC
Greg Berger, Springledge Farm
Ken Francoeur, Stonepost Nursery, LLC
Pete Ryder, Touched By Stone LLC

Hayden McLaughlin,Belknap Landscape Co., Inc.
Jon Prewitt, Eastern Valley Landscaping, LLC
James Santos, J. Santos Corp.
Maryanne Allen, Maryanne Allen
Cori Cahow, Organic Garden Girl
Real J. Fallu, Perennial Design Landscaping
Richard Simpson, Rolling Green Nursery, LLC
Adam Stockman, Spider Web Gardens
David Wilson, Stratham Circle Nursery
Doug Thomson, Thomson Lawn Care, LLC
Peter DeBrusk, Tuckahoe Turf Farms, Inc.

Too Much Bark?

It’s been a couple of years since I bought bark mulch so I’m a bit out of touch with prices. I have looked at prices over the past few years, but I’ve never really sat down and figured out what it would cost me to mulch even a small foundation planting area on a square foot basis. Although not the cheapest prices available, I found two suppliers that both had prices around $55 per yard. (These are retail prices, so the costs to landscapers would probably be at least 20% less). Once I did my math and determined that at a minimum of 2 inches deep only about 160 sq. ft. would be covered. Two inches isn’t very heavy coverage, 160 sq. ft. is a pretty small area, but $55 seems pretty “spendy” for an area ten feet x sixteen feet! Needless to say, labor to haul the mulch (whether delivered or picked up) and spread it must be added on to the total installation price.

As the cost of bark mulch continues to rise, I often wonder if planting groundcovers is a more affordable option. Once established, groundcovers are permanent and don’t need to be refreshed every couple of years like bark does. Although the initial planting price sets you back a little, money may be saved in the long run. If plants like Pachysandra or Vinca are planted 6-8 inches on center, they will very quickly form a dense cover under trees or large shrubs and shade out most weeds. There are numerous great choices for ground cover plants. Obviously, if used as an understory planting, the groundcover needs to be fairly shade tolerant. Other than Pachysandra or Vinca, two of the most common and probably the fastest to fill in, plants like Bunchberry (Cornus canadensis), Paxistima, Bearberry or Wintergreen are great choices. I have also used some groundcovers in sloped areas where bark was constantly washing out in heavy rain storms.

Several shrubs, although usually not as shade tolerant, may be alternatives to the boring old bark. There are many low growing junipers not just the usual Blue Rug, but maybe Blue Star, or procumbens Nana, just to name a few. Although a bit taller and a bit aggressive, Stephanandra is a good groundcover for an area where it can sprawl. Cotoneaster is known as a “leafcatcher”and a major hassle to clean up in the spring, but I still like it for its red berries and habit. Microbiota is a great evergreen for shade.

Like deciduous shrubs used as groundcovers, perennials don’t offer year-round interest, but while in-season they are a great substitute for bark mulch and add a great blast of color. Possibilities are almost endless, and any that have spreading habits and stay fairly low are far under utilized.

I wonder if design people took the time to do a little math homework they might figure out that using more plant material and less bark would pay off? No, I don’t have the exact answer, but as groundcovers spread and less bark is required to cover open areas, it may be worth comparing the costs. Groundcovers aren’t foolproof and can get diseases or die, but it seems that if you were to figure on say a 20-year life span versus applying new bark every year or two, the cost comparison bight be surprising.

Maybe your next planting project is worth considering a few more plants and a little less bark mulch?

— by Phil Caldwell, a past president of NHLA (1989) who now lives and works in Maine.    


Hands On Experience Designing Living Shoreline Projects

A new grant-funded team is working on a project focused on living shorelines in New Hampshire, called the Great Bay Living Shoreline Project. As a part of this grant, there is an opportunity for professionals to gain hands-on experience designing Living Shoreline projects in New Hampshire. The application and additional information are available at: nhcaw.org/greatbaylivingshorelineproject/

Ideally, participants will be a mix of professional engineers, ecologists, restoration practitioners, landscapers and landscape designers, and marine construction professionals. A small stipend and professional development hours will be offered to successful applicants. Applications are due June 25.

On Canadian Hemlocks

Canadian Hemlocks have always been one of my favorite conifers for numerous reasons, despite its many drawbacks. More shade adaptable than most evergreens, it tolerates most soil types except extreme wet feet, has a fairly rapid growth rate, and nice feathery foliage, all making this a nice choice for an evergreen tree in landscapes. In fact, Mike Dirr goes as far as to say, “If I was forced to select but one conifer for my garden it would certainly be Tsuga canadensis.” A pretty strong statement, in my opinion.

Hemlock, unfortunately, have taken a major hit in recent years due to Hemlock Woolly Adelgid (HWA) killing huge numbers of this tree in the northeastern and mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S. In landscapes, control of HWA is not terribly difficult if caught at the proper time, but is certainly a high risk. In naturalized areas, where treatment is next to impossible, thousands of acres are being killed. As a result of HWA, far fewer hemlocks are grown in nurseries and planted than 20-30 years ago. Both the most widely used Canadian Hemlock and the less used, but attractive Carolina Hemlock, are susceptible, plus other species not used in New England. At one point it was thought that northern New England was too cold for HWA, but the insect was able to acclimate to our climate.

Now present in 17 states and southeast Nova Scotia, since HWA arrival in 1951, hemlocks have been virtually eliminated as a marketable ornamental tree in the eastern U.S. HWA was first discovered in Maine in 1999 on nursery stock shipped from Connecticut. In 2000 it was found in New Hampshire. Quarantines have existed in both states for several years. Both growers and landscapers have shied away from hemlock as they should have.

The USDA began research around 2000 to develop a resistant variety. After crossing Tsuga chinensis and Tsuga carolina, the Traveler Hemlock hybrid was introduced and has now been in the testing stage for 20 years. Traveler Hemlock has been grown at the U.S. National Arboretum and no signs of HWA have shown up, and it is now ready to be marketed to the trade. In 2020 a Plant Patent was Applied For (PPAF), so Traveler can only be propagated and grown by licensed growers. Also this hemlock must be grown from cuttings because it doesn’t produce seeds. As a result of these two factors, Traveler Hemlock can’t be produced quite as quickly as Canadian Hemlock and it will take a few years to get production off the ground, but the future looks very bright.
Hopefully, in the not-too-distant future, Hemlock will once again become a practical evergreen tree that we can see planted in the landscape.

by Phil Caldwell

— Phil Caldwell is a past president of NHLA (1989) who now lives and works in Maine.   


What is UNHCE and How It Works with the Landscape Industry

UNH Extension (also known as Cooperative Extension) and the NHLA have a long history of working together. We realize that some members of NHLA may not know what Extension is or what we do, so we would like the opportunity to introduce ourselves.
In 1914, Congress created the Extension system partnering the USDA with land-grant universities (including UNH) to apply research and provide education in agriculture. Since that time, Extension in New Hampshire has helped the University know what new understandings were needed by NH’s farmers and industries and has helped NH’s farmers and industries do what they do more profitably and sustainably through science-based education and consultation.

One of UNH Extension’s Program Teams is the Food and Agriculture Team. This team is further broken into Area of Expertise groups, one of which is your Landscape and Greenhouse team. This team works to bring education and programming to the Green Industry in NH, as well as to perform research immediately useful to green businesses in our state. We are happy to meet directly with growers and landscape providers to consult at no charge. We have also been working in the realm of workforce development, showing the youth of NH the many opportunities our industries present and working with technical and agricultural high schools to help advance their horticulture and landscaping programs.

Some of the ways in which you may have interacted with us are: classes for pesticide or Certified Landscape Professional recertification credit, Twilight Meetings, the Spring Landscapers Conference and Joint Winter Meeting, presentations on wildflowers or nursery research, consultation with your business, and diagnosis of plant problems.

We’d like to take a moment to introduce (or re-introduce) the members of this team.

A State Specialist has a PhD and focuses on research or diagnosis and programming in particular areas. Our State Specialists are:
Dr. Muhammad Shahid is our new State Specialist in Greenhouse and Nursery production. He is based in Durham and has begun a research program to solve problems facing NH growers. He can be reached at Muhammad.Shahid@unh.edu.

Dr. Cheryl Smith is our veteran Plant Health State Specialist, and in addition to teaching and programming, she runs the Plant Diagnostic Lab where you can send your plant samples for accurate diagnosis of disease and disorder. She can be reached at Cheryl.Smith@unh.edu.

Dr. Cathy Neal is our State Specialist in Nursery and Landscape Horticulture (Emeritus). Although Dr. Neal has retired from this position, she still lends her expertise to the team on certain topics.

A Field Specialist is located in a county and, in addition to general duties for agricultural providers in the county, has state-wide duties in his or her area of expertise. Our Field Specialists are:

Jonathan Ebba is the Field Specialist in Strafford County, providing generalist work there while providing assistance statewide in his expertise of greenhouses, ornamentals, garden centers, and hydroponics. He can be reached at Jonathan.Ebba@unh.edu.

Emma Erler is the new Field Specialist in Hillsborough County, and her expertise for statewide application is in Landscape Horticulture. While many already know Emma Erler as a fixture of UNH Extension’s home garden outreach and education, we are delighted to have her in her new role where she will provide research-based programming and technical assistance to Green-Industry businesses throughout the State. Emma writes, “I am very excited to have the opportunity to work closely with NHLA to provide programming and resources for landscapers in NH. I got my horticultural start working for a NH landscape company and I’m thrilled to now be in a role where I can help the industry be successful.” She can be reached at Emma.Erler@unh.edu.

The UNH Extension Landscape and Greenhouse team has some new faces on it, and we are all excited to be working with each other and with you, the professionals of our state, to continue to advance understanding and application of science and technology for the betterment of our industries and of New Hampshire. We encourage you to sign up for our Landscape and Greenhouse Horticulture News to be informed of upcoming events, workshops, and more. Sign up at unhoutreach.tfaforms.net/217780.

We wish you a successful season and look forward to working with you all.
The UNH Extension Landscape and Greenhouse Team

by Jonathan Ebba

Hardy Applause Welcoming Emma Erler

After graduating from UNH, with her degree in Ornamental Horticulture, and a varied, meaningful set of experiences in horticulture over the past seven years, Emma Erler takes on a new role with UNH Cooperative Extension as the Hillsborough County Field Specialist. And what does that mean for NHLA?

Emma web
Emma Erler

Emma explained that her position is designated as being 25% for Hillsborough County, with the other 75% of her time to be dedicated to the rest of NH. So, we’re in luck that we can access her interests, enthusiasm, and expertise in many ways to everyone’s benefit! Emma has already shown her interest in networking and helping share research, best practices, advice and energy, with NHLA by joining our Education Committee. (We are welcoming new members to this committee – contact crisablackstone@gmail.com to be on our distribution list for meeting announcements and learn ways you can help.)

Your clients may already know Emma Erler through the Master Gardeners Info Line, where people can submit questions about plant problems, pests they’d like identified, advice about turf care, pollinators, weeds, and so much more! With several years’ worth of time at the Info Line office in Goffstown and this year, by remote, she’s seen and heard so many things from homeowners that she can share these trends with landscapers so they can understand more ways to link and click with clients. Erler said she’s seen homeowners losing a bit of interest in large expanses of lawn, and wanting more information on edibles in garden settings, and more on ecological means to tackle weeds and pests. For landscapers, these trending questions mean there are ways to analyze your business models and maybe consider adding the construction of raised beds and developing soils for raised beds in your skill sets. Raised beds shouldn’t mean taking lawn care out of your revenue stream, but can mean adding maintenance and care for the plants in the raised bed. Keeping up with what clients are seeing on social media is essential. These changes are not to be ignored or disparaged, and should embraced.

Emma Erler has served in several dream jobs that have given her special insights and strengthened her background for the ways she will be helpful to landscapers. Imagine being an intern for twelve weeks, at Longwood Gardens, in Pennsylvania. Her internship there came in a lighthearted way, as she was going to nursery and garden centers in New Hampshire after college, and one of the garden centers she visited hoping to land an interview ended up in a lengthy conversation and the proprietor suggesting Emma may be particularly interested in Longwood – since that’s such a mecca for ornamental horticulture enthusiasts. Never having given an internship like that a thought, she was immediately intrigued. She checked it out online, applied, and within a short time found herself accepted and involved in the program. There, she was able to see firsthand indoor production, work in the historic conservatories, and outdoor production. Between field trials, and regularly scheduled maintenance, her love of the woody ornamentals really took off.

To hear her tell of her time there is fascinating and among the many stories she can share, one was when Longwood Gardens hosted a benefactors’ dinner party during the American Public Garden Conference held in Philadelphia that year. Imagine being in the expansive greenhouses, decked with the meticulously curated orchid collections, lavish floral arrangements, string orchestras, cellists in the various nooks and crannies between tropical plants and then… the meal itself – multi-course – and the conversations with table mates also dedicated to the work of public gardens! When Emma shares these, and other stories, you really start to look forward to visiting public gardens for relaxation and inspiration, when travel is safe and Covid-19 is under control.

Emma Erler’s stories don’t stop with her Longwood experiences. She was involved in a program at the Morris Arboretum in Philadelphia. Hearing about her rigorous program expectations there, when she talks about walking the arboretum with their world class plant curators and students, you can feel the intensity of the program. Participants were individually assigned plants to research and prepare plant talks to present weekly, after in-depth study and research of their assigned plant. You can tell how she developed the skills we see now in her Face Book Live events where she shares tips, talks pests and problems, and encourages best management practices for landscapers and homeowners to implement.

Just about when you think her history with dream jobs couldn’t get any better, she is reminded of her time on staff in Sandwich, MA, at the Heritage Museums and Gardens. While discussing those gardens, she really is animated, since they are woody ornamental havens dispersed over several specific gardens. With the Dexter Rhododendron Garden and the North American Hydrangea Test Garden, Emma cites with excitement, the ways in which those areas of Heritage in interest her. With the Dr. Michael Dirr connection to hydrangeas and hydrangea research, she is fascinated by the hybridizing and sourcing these plants through the suppliers we know and respect such as Bailey Nurseries (creators of the Endless Summer hydrangeas), Star and Roses Plants, and Proven Winners.

Asked about her favorite tree (after learning that her favorite woodies include these plants) she can quickly answer “cercidiphyllum” and goes on to explain the two species of plants as the only members of that genus. This is the Katsura, and is also a favorite of Dr. Michael Dirr, with outstanding four-season interest and similarity to redbud leaves, and a distinctive scent many people can detect, of cotton candy coming from the tree after the first frost. So, for hydrangeas and Katsura, Erler and Dirr are connected. We’re in good company!

Rapid fire questions concluded the interview time with Emma – what’s trending for landscapers to be aware of, in her view; what tech is available that landscapers can use effectively to help crews in the field; what ways can landscapers stay ahead of the trends and cultivate customers?

With Emma’s fluency and confidence, she shares that landscapers should be aware of people wanting edibles in their landscapes – whether small veggies in containers to planting some peach trees or a small orchard. She has heard a lot of questions about those things since the pandemic and people experiencing food shortages or concern about food supplies.

Tech available? She wants landscapers to realize smart phones can offer nearly instant connections between crews and supervisors, so use that connection to trouble-shoot and resolve situations in the field quickly and efficiently. Citing many apps available to help identify plants or pests on a property, she wanted to remind us that sending digital photos to the UNH labs will net quick results, and moreover, the answers will be valid and vetted specifically for our region.

Landscapers staying ahead of the trends and cultivating customers? She suggests getting familiar with what is going on with Instagram, Facebook, or Pinterest, since that’s where today’s clients are looking for their ideas and inspirations. From seeing what’s going on with those sites, landscapers can “market their responsibility,” which she elaborated on. Marketing surveys show that people are keenly interested in ecology and the environment. You can increase your customer confidence and word-of-mouth referrals by making your customers proud to have hired a landscape company that uses Integrated Pest Management, scouts techniques for pests, and avoids grub control “just in case” grubs appear on that lawn! Erler hopes to share ways to Market your responsibility to the earth, to the property you are hired to care for, and to BMPs and up-to-date research during one-on-one exchanges, workshops, presentations, conferences, and other ways we may have yet to define.

With this introduction to Emma Erler, UNH Coop Extension Field Specialist, we have an opportunity to tap her extensive experiences. We will see how world-class gardens are taken care of, highly regarded research is conducted, and personable exchanges about plant selection, placement, care, and design work can be conducted.
Emma can be reached by e-mail, emma.erler@unh.edu, or through her Hillsborough County Office, 603-836-4934.
Welcome to your new role with the Extension Service, Emma, and here’s wishing you many meaningful connections to NHLA members in the coming years.

by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP

Trends to Watch & Where to Go to Learn More

NHLA has been here to help members meet members, share common goals, and solve common problems. Education and professional development opportunities are important building blocks of the organization, and through this Newsletter we bring ideas and developments in the industry to you with each issue. With a new year, the theme is “what to look out for and what to consider for your business development.” Where are your customers going for their ideas? What can you bring to them that is unique to your business? How can you get their attention and interest in your services?

Trends to watch this year include the ways people are enjoying their outdoor spaces even more, after nearly a year of the pandemic with its “Stay at Home” orders and conscientiousness about social distancing, the outdoors, and staying further away from each other. You’ll be seeing more in the way of fire pits, outdoor kitchen and convenience areas with small fridges, if not a full cooking area. More permanent outdoor furniture areas will mean you have an opportunity to work with those suppliers, and with designs in those areas incorporating lighting as well as water features. A water feature, flowing in the winter, can be a focal point, with the juxtaposition of snow and water intriguing and not needing as much care as in years past, due to the minimal equipment needed to keep the water flowing and area safe to view.

Outdoor seating areas can be enhanced by container gardens, which can be changed season-to-season, to go from the spring frost-tolerant pansies, to color palettes matching upholstery, to winter interest with evergreens and bright dogwood stems. These outdoor areas also lend themselves to elevated beds, to help define and delineate the space.

Raised beds have been popular for quite a while now, and the materials have changed dramatically, for the beds themselves to be a part of the garden design. While wooden sides are the most common, the fixtures at the corners help give a design flair to the beds. Hardware for raised beds can either blend in or add dramatic definition to the rectilinear nature of a raised bed. A blacksmith, or more rough hewn type of hardware used in the construction of the bed may help accentuate a sleek garden style or a farmhouse garden style, depending on the plants chosen in the bed.

Raised beds have now also come to be used for “elevated beds” which are no longer just for those clients requesting adaptive gardening accommodations.Elevated beds now belong to the whole gardening and landscape design community, for the interest they can add at eye level along with the ways they can be placed on otherwise difficult areas. An elevated bed can help delineate a play area in a driveway from the car parking area, or help cordon off casual conversation from the bbq grill area. Elevated beds, while they are essential for health and well-being for gardeners for whom bending, stooping, lifting and cutting flowers, herbs, or vegetables from the garden, are also making their way in to all garden, patio, and deck designs.

There are several ways we’re seeing elevated beds trend to convention in outdoor spaces. From galvanized beds, on wood or metal legs, the galvanized and sometimes corrugated sides add interest for the color, texture and sleek appearance they bring to the area. Elevated beds also offer kitchen gardens a huge makeover! Cooking with the convenience of gathering a fresh veggie to use right then and there in an outdoor dinner, or snipping fresh herbs to augment a cocktail, is growing in its retro-appeal! A raised bed can benefit everyone in its vicinity. Check with your customers to learn their end goal for an elevated bed. There are some with a deep “V” shape, to allow plants with longer roots (think carrots, even) to be grown in an elevated bed.

Your design skills and even sales skills, can come in to play with conversations about the ways your clients will be looking to use their outdoor spaces as extensions of their indoor spaces – even more as the pandemic continues to menace, even while introducing all of us to richer, calmer, and cozier lifestyles that could be here to stay.

Several purposes can be covered with containers, traditional raised beds, which are flat on the earth, or in raised beds. By embedding a larger pot in an elevated bed, you can gain a lot of height and interest without necessarily going with plants with tall growth habits. The straight lines of the bed can be broken with the same flowers, with some in a raised pot within the bed. You can suggest designs and plant combinations which will soften the straight lines of the bed or you can suggest plants that will augment the austere simplicity of the bed’s inherent shape.

Again, this is the skill you have as an experienced landscaper or a landscaper who is zero’ed in on communication skills and shows a readiness to learn and grow with customers’ interests and the trends that are catching on.

With succulents gaining in popularity, you may discover that an elevated bed could be the first step in helping a client cultivate that interest, by the way the bed can offer some shade and offer a staging area to help showcase picture-perfect plants and collectable containers and pots.

There’s a growing trend in pots and containers with ethnic color combinations and shapes, from traditions in other cultures, perhaps since we can’t readily travel to places and have been at home for a while. People are getting interested in the colors and mosaics of southern Spain and Portugal, and the geometric shapes from Northern Africa, to bring a nostalgia of travel from previous years, or show an interest in resuming travel in the year to come.

With outdoor spaces trending as they are, it will be important for landscape professionals to cultivate knowledge or working relationships with hardscape designers and installers, irrigation techniques, experts in irrigation solutions (the drought taught us a lot and demanded a swift change in thinking!), and container garden experts. Knowing the soils to use, and how to replenish or augment soils in beds is essential for your customers’ satisfaction and pride in their outdoor areas, as well as for the ease with which you and your crews can maintain the fresh vigor of the plants in the outdoor areas as the season wears on. Don’t be put off when you learn a client wants to switch things up and is asking about minimizing some lawn area – that remodel will include these trends that you can stay ahead of, learn more about, and thus become known as a great listener, communicator, and expert at making that client feel even more “at home.”

by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP

The Roller Coaster Ride of 2020

by Phil Caldwell

In 2020 nurseries and garden centers nationwide experienced a rollercoaster ride of unexpected dread and some thrills. The December issue of Digger Magazine, published monthly by the Oregon Association of Nurseries, answered many questions I’d had about the affects of COVID on the Green Industry.

The early spring brought much uncertainty due to COVID related shutdowns, but nurseries, garden centers, and landscapers were very fortunate to be considered essential businesses and allowed to stay open resulting in very good spring and summer sales. Many growers said they had to hustle to restock inventory for fall sales.

As the 2021 season approaches some wholesale growers, and not just those in Oregon, are predicting a shortage of some plants, but with slight adjustments everything will work out. One example listed was maybe using a 5 1/2-foot Arborvitae for a hedge rather than a 6-foot plant. COVID did hit all of us from a cost of production standpoint. Worker spacing, and hopefully following other safety measures, all take more time and cost more money. Customers should expect to see a rise in prices.

Considering the huge lines at many food pantries and people waiting in their cars for unemployment checks, I think many of us in the landscape industry have been very fortunate. We are in an industry that serves white-collar customers who have been able to hold onto jobs by working from home as much as possible. Many customers may have opted for a garden expansion rather than a long summer trip that couldn’t be taken. The number of landscape jobs I’ve seen in the very few travels I’ve made seems to be about the norm, much to my surprise. Vegetable gardens and canning have certainly made a strong comeback.

Hopefully, now that several COVID vaccines are starting to be given, and a new, more stable President is in office, 2021 will be an easier and less stressful year for us all. We are starting to see the light in what has been a long tunnel.

— Phil Caldwell is a past president of NHLA (1989) who now lives and works in Maine.   

Professional Development Resources

Providing NHLA members and NHCLPs sources for education and professional development is an important aspect of your Association. As members of NHLA, you’re showing an interest in the best management practices, understanding implications of protecting clean water and protecting soil health, no matter the season or type of landscape you’re designing or caring for.

In each issue of our Newsletter, readers are provided with sources of conferences, workshops, webinars, and slide shows to help solve problems or introduce new ideas and trends. With this issue, I’d like to showcase two sources for you to check out and see what’s available now or where you may find information or an answer during the coming season or recertification cycle.

First, check out Georgia State Extension. While this is a different USDA growing zone and different climate, the Georgia Extension service has a specialty in soil health where you may find information you can use or share with your crews. Turfgrass, lawn care and soil health are strong components of the information available. Visit extension.uga.edu. The material is organized in easy-to-read icons. Soon enough, we will be facing pollen problems; the allergy kind, not the “pollinators” kind, and there’s a section on pollen-busting tips to fight pollen related allergies.

A bit more extensive in programs and workshops, Ohio State University has several parallel sources of information for gardeners and landscapers. Check them out: mastergardener.osu.edu has a Lunch and Learn series that includes webinars on pesticides, therapeutic horticulture, soil health, Asian jumping worms, and more. They also have a lecture series, offered several time a year, with the Chadwick Arboretum, which will feature national figures and internationally regarded experts in horticulture and gardening.

Do you have your favorite go-to web addresses for continuing ed or for your most commonly asked questions? Share those sites with your staff and crew, so your company will be known for being up-to-date and practicing the best skills possible!

by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP


Memories of Dave Sansom

Our industry has lost a long time NHLA member. Dave Sansom died in late November after years of decline due to Alzheimer’s Disease. I got to know Dave when I was forcing plants for flower shows at Lake Street Garden Center. Dave was a co-owner and plant specialist at New Hampshire Landscaping, one of the real players in the 1980s. NHL put on exhibits at the New Hampshire Flower Show, which was held at the Manchester Armory. NHL was heavily into Rhododendrons if I remember, and put on a wonderful exhibit. Dave was our contact at NHL along with Don Tordoff and they made a great team, full of knowledge and experience.

Later when Leslie and I were planning to start our nursery, we called Dave and Don and asked if we could meet with them in their Hooksett office for ideas of what we should be growing and directions we should steer our new company. They had all sorts of plant catalogs that they shopped from, and they went through them with me, circling the perennials that they used the most. It was very helpful in our planning and they couldn’t have been more accommodating.

The next spring New Hampshire Landscaping got a huge job that took them nearly two years to complete. Dave bought a lot of plants from us and really gave our fledgling company a boost. He gave me a tour of the site one day: not only was NHL skilled at stonework, their designs and plant choices were spectacular.

When we moved Van Berkum Nursery from Chester to Deerfield 31 years ago, we made one day a moving party. We had about 20 customers, mostly from New Hampshire, who brought trucks and helped us schlep plants to the new site. Dave and his wife, UNH Thompson School professor Dana, were right there with a couple of trucks, moving plants all day. They brought leadership and great spirit to the momentous task. We had pots of food in slow cookers in the basement of our newly built house and everyone came in out of the cold to get food and drink. A wonderfully tiring day, and a true sign of what an incredible industry this is.

When NHL disbanded about 20 years ago, Dave came to work for us. He drove our delivery trucks for years, and helped out around the nursery during the winters. Dave was the most loved plant delivery guy in the industry, I am sure. He was friendly, helpful to the customers, knew his plants, and could answer any questions. He got to know all of our customers. One north country customer had a big German Shepherd dog and Dave would share his sandwich with this dog when he dropped off plants. It got to the point that the customer faxed in orders (back in fax days), he would tell us what kind of sandwich his dog was in the mood for, and Dave would make sure he brought the correct sandwich. Now that is service!

Dave loved to come to New England Grows and work at our nursery booth. When a customer we did not know came by, they would politely talk to Leslie and I, but they’d break away to chat with Dave as soon as soon as they could. That was where the bond was, and we thought it was great.
Around the shop, Dave could build or fix anything. He was the ultimate planner of projects, spending a lot of time scratching his head and working stuff out on paper before he touched the tools. It drove me crazy at the beginning, but when he started the actual building, the project went smoothly and was always well made. Dave and I got to joking about this tendency. I approached projects differently and would often be halfway finished before he even started. But by the time he was done, I had begun ripping my project apart because mine didn’t work. Yes, Dave got in the last word and he loved that.

We truly missed Dave after he fell ill and could not work anymore. He was smart, creative, and one of the best company reps we have ever had. We even created a holiday card one year, featuring Dave in a Santa hat with the caption “Santa Dave delivers!”. With his partnership in NHL, his design talents, and his incredible work ethic, his passing has left a large hole in our industry. Rest in peace, Santa Dave.

by Peter van Berkum

Alternatives to Invasive Landscape Plants

New Hampshire’s invasive species regulations currently prohibit the collection, sale, transport, distribution, propagation or transplantation of prohibited invasive plants. Invasive plants are non-native plant species that spread rapidly by seed or vegetative means and pose a threat to agriculture, forests, wetlands, wildlife, and other natural resources of the state. Of the thirty-five upland plant species on the current (2017) Prohibited Invasive Species list (See Table 1 at extension.unh.edu/resource/alternatives-invasive-landscape-plants-fact-sheet), three were historically popular and widelyplanted shrubs or trees: burning bush (Euonymus alatus), Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii) and Norway maple (Acer platanoides). It is illegal in New Hampshire to collect, transport, sell, distribute, propagate or transplant any living or viable portion of any listed prohibited invasive plant species including all of their cultivars, varieties, and specified hybrids, but removal of preexisting plants is not required by the law.

An additional plant list, known as the Watch List (found at the same link as Table 1), identifies species of additional concern that do not currently meet the criteria for the prohibited list. Invasive aquatic species are listed elsewhere, as noted at the bottom of Table 2.

For information on identification and removal of invasive plants in New Hampshire, please see the NH Division of Plant Industry’s webpage (agriculture.nh.gov/divisions/plant-industry/index.htm). Neighboring states have their own invasive species regulations which may differ from New Hampshire’s.

As people become aware of environmental concerns related to the spread of these plants into native and naturalized areas, many property owners actively seek suitable plant replacements for their landscapes. UNH Extension worked with Green Industry groups to develop the following lists of suggested alternatives for consumers and landscapers. The lists are not meant to be comprehensive, but include several adaptable plant choices which are readily available at nurseries and have performed well in New Hampshire landscapes. While recognizing that no single plant can substitute directly to perform all the functional and aesthetic qualities of the invasive plant of concern, the list provides suggestions suitable for a range of site conditions and landscape functions. Other plants may suit the purpose as well.

Alternatives for Burning Bush (Euonymus alatus)
Burning bush was for many years a popular component of the landscape, valued for its brilliant red fall color. Its adaptable nature and stress tolerance allow it to thrive in shade or sun and throughout a wide range of soil conditions. It has a dense, widemounded or spreading form up to 20′ wide and 20′ high at maturity. The ridged bark is an identifying characteristic. Its prolific seeds are eaten and spread by birds and other wildlife. Consider the following alternatives when selecting alternative large shrubs for fall color. All are deciduous shrubs.

Highbush-cranberry (Viburnum trilobum)
is not related to true cranberry, but has similar berry-like fruit that are good food for wildlife and sometimes used by humans in jams or sauces. This native plant is hardy throughout the state. Coarse in texture and form, it is adaptable to most soils, and likes full sun or partial shade. While the fall color is subdued compared to burning bush, it has multi-seasonal interest with large white flower clusters in spring, clusters of attractive fruit that may last through the winter, and burgundy fall foliage. Mature size varies according to the cultivar, but plants may grow 8′-10′ tall and wide. A word of caution, however–the viburnum leaf beetle, an invasive insect, does find this species an attractive host and may defoliate the plants in some years.

Highbush blueberry (Vaccinium corymbosum)
Grown primarily for its large edible berries, highbush blueberry also makes an excellent landscape plant in the right conditions; i.e., moist, acidic soils in full sun to partial shade. Blueberries should be mulched each year to protect the shallow roots from drought or cold exposure. Native, cold hardy to zone 3, and slow in growth, the plants develop an upright, spreading form, up to 12′ tall and 6′-8′ wide. Fall leaf color may be red or orange, depending on the variety. This is one of the best plants for wildlife including insects, birds, and a wide array of mammals.

Redvein enkianthus (Enkianthus campanulatus)
Fall color varies, ranging from true gold to bright red, but all are very attractive. In addition, lovely clusters of pink to white bell-shaped flowers appear in spring. A slow-grower at first, this plant has a unique upright, open habit when young and fills out as it matures, reaching 6′-10′ tall and half as wide. It requires acid, moist soil for best growth, is best in partial shade, and is hardy to zone 4. Native to Japan.

Fothergilla (Fothergilla gardenii or Fothergilla major)
Fothergilla is an underused plant, with great fall foliage in shades of yellow, orange and red, all on the same plant. It also has fragrant, white bottlebrush flowers in spring, and a dense rounded form with medium texture. F. gardenii (2′-4′ high and wide) is a smaller version of F. major, which can grow 6′-10′ and form colonies from suckers. Like Enkianthus, it needs acid, moist soil, and full to partial sun. Native to the southeastern U.S., it may not be hardy north of zone 5.

Red chokeberry (Aronia arbutifolia)
Native to New England, red chokeberry is an attractive, slow-growing plant, 6′-10′ high and 3′-5’wide, forming colonies through suckers. It is adaptable to most soil conditions from dry to wet, does well in sun to partial shade, and looks best in a naturalistic planting. It has attractive red berry-like fruit (not considered edible by humans, but serving as a late winter food source for birds) and red fall foliage. ‘Brilliantissima’ is a common selection often said to equal burning bush in fall color. Hardy to zone 4.

Alternatives for Japanese barberry (Berberis thunbergii)
Japanese barberry is a durable, dense mounded, low maintenance plant, most popular for its red or purple-leaved cultivars which add color to the shrub border. Potential alternatives include some plants that provide the red color but not the compact form, and others that provide the desired form but not the red color. Unfortunately, it’s hard to find both in one plant.

Weigela (Weigela florida)
Old fashioned weigela tends to be a spreading, dense, rounded shrub which may grow as large as 6′-8′ tall, but a proliferation of new cultivars allows you to choose more compact plants and burgundy or purple-leaved cultivars if desired. It can provide a very nice splash of color in the border with prolific pink (or red or white) flowers as well. Best in full sun and adaptable to many soils, weigela is not native, but is generally hardy to zone 4 or even 3 with the selection of the proper cultivar.

Slender deutzia (Deutzia gracilis)
This is another good match for the low, broad mounding form of Japanese barberry, normally 2′-4′ tall and wide but new ground-cover types (1-2′) are now being marketed. It is a graceful low shrub with abundant white (or pink) flowers in spring and some show attractive burgundy fall color. Suitable for zones 5 and 6, not native to the U.S., the plant is tough and adaptable, and very ornamental when in bloom in the spring.

Atlantic (or common) ninebark (Physocarpus opulifolius)
Hardy to zone 3, this durable and adaptable shrub is an upright grower, coarse in texture. There are a number of purple leaved cultivars available on the market, with variable sizes ranging from 3′-10′ high. All have white flowers in midsummer and attractive peeling bark although it’s hard to see because of the dense growth. Cut them back in winter to keep plants more compact. A good native plant for bird shelter and pollinator support.

Shrub roses (Rosa species and hybrids)
Hardy shrub roses can substitute for the dense, mounding form of barberry, but the flowers make roses a focal point in the landscape. There are now hundreds of shrub roses for landscape use that are more reliable than grafted or hybrid tea roses and provide a long bloom season without requiring dead-heading. None are native except for Virginia rose, which is tall and thorny, and nearly all the roses have green leaves rather than burgundy. Proper selection and placement is critical if you want to minimize maintenance, since they vary widely in size and form.
Do not buy roses grafted onto Rosa multiflora rootstock, as multiflora rose is a prohibited invasive plant in New Hampshire. Many roses are still subject to Japanese beetles and diseases such as black spot and powdery mildew, although improved disease resistance is claimed by many types. Winter hardiness may also vary greatly, so seek out types developed in northern U.S. or Canada. Rose hips make good winter food for birds and mammals, and the dense thorny branches provide excellent nesting cover for songbirds.

A few more deciduous native shrubs you might consider using in place of burning bush or Japanese barberry include sweet pepperbush (Clethra alnifolia), small bayberry (Morella caroliniensis) and fragrant sumac (Rhus aromatica).

Alternatives for Norway maple (Acer platanoides)
Norway maple, introduced from Europe in 1756, became one of the most frequently planted street trees in the eastern and north central regions of the United States. Its popularity can be explained by its rapid early growth rate, site adaptability, ease of transplanting, and tolerance of urban conditions including exposure to road salt. The cultivar ‘Crimson King’ has attractive maroon-red leaves all summer and became a favorite shade tree for home and commercial landscapes.
When selecting an alternative for this large-growing, attractive shade tree, consider the conditions at the intended planting site. While there is no shortage of desirable tree species to choose from, most are not as widely adaptable and tolerant as Norway maple.

Some salt tolerant shade trees hardy to zone 3:
Red maple (Acer rubrum)
has red spring color when in bloom, turning green as the foliage appears. Although red maple is native throughout much of the eastern U.S., cold hardiness of seedlings or grafted varieties is not always consistent and it is important to purchase plants from grown from northern stock. Red maple will tolerate wet soils and a moderate amount of salt, unlike sugar maple. Red maple reaches 75′ tall by 60′ wide at maturity.

Northern red oak (Quercus rubra).
Another large tree, 75′ tall by 60′ wide, northern red oak is sometimes difficult to establish and slow to start growing, but makes a nice green shade tree for lawn areas or parks. It is one of New England’s most common, native forest trees, but needs deep soil and may develop chlorosis in urban soils with high pH. The prolific acorns may be an annoyance to some people, but the squirrels love them.

Gingko (Gingko biloba)
is slow-growing but very long lived once established and has a nice, clear yellow fall color. It is salt, heat and drought tolerant, making it a good urban tree if given adequate room to grow. The tree will often reach 75′ tall by 40’wide, sometimes larger. Most Gingko in the nursery trade are male clones because female trees have malodorous fruit. Native to China, it is one of the oldest tree species still in existence, said to be 150-200 million years old.

Japanese tree lilac (Syringa reticulata)
is a good choice for a smaller tree; perhaps as large as 30’x20′ at maturity, but smaller cultivars are available. It can tolerate high pH soils and has lilac-type white blossoms in mid-summer (but lacks a desirable fragrance) and attractive cherry-like bark. ‘Ivory Silk’ and a few other cultivars are popular selections for more compact form and prolific bloom. It is not native and has been reported to become weedy in some circumstances. Of course, common lilac (Syringa vulgaris) can also be planted but generally forms a large multistemmed shrub rather than a tree form.

Some red-leafed trees:
European beech (Fagus sylvatica).
Numerous green leaved selections of this tree are available, but ‘Riversii’ European beech is one of the few large shade trees with purple leaves. This tree becomes enormous over time, at least 60′ tall by 45′ wide, so should not be used as a street tree or in other areas with limited growth potential. The nuts provide excellent wildlife food and the bark is grey and smooth like an elephant’s hide.

Flowering crabapple (Malus species and hybrids) or purple leaf plum (Prunus cerasifera).
For those who must have a purple-leaved tree, a few cultivars of flowering crabapple or plum fit this order. These are all much smaller than Norway maple, generally 15′-30′ high and 15′-25′ wide at maturity. Choose disease-resistant cultivars where possible, and prepare to tolerate insect pests such as Eastern tent caterpillar, as well as susceptibility to several diseases which could cause the trees to be short-lived. Plums especially are often subject to winter injury, so are best planted in zone 5 or 6, whereas most crabapples are suitable into zone 4. Although not native, both Malus and Prunus are beautiful in bloom and they provide fruit and cover for birds and other animals.

by Cathy Neal, UNH Extension, Nursery & Landscape Horticulture State Specialist Emeritus

More Than Native Plants – On to Urban Wildness and Social Justice

With Benjamin Vogt’s book, A New Garden Ethic: Cultivating Defiant Compassion for an Uncertain Future, as a conscientious landscape professional you will find a lot of familiar information. References to biophilia, the ways gardens connect us to our health and wellness and the realization that without native plants we face a mass extinction event are in our common background and our shared body of knowledge.

In this book, Benjamin Vogt takes us to “why” we need to heed the signs and signals we are given through nature – awareness that we can use in our businesses and in our interactions with clients and potential customers to help the situation with education and action. The first chapters in this book share the reasons we need to remember and utilize in choosing native plants. Insects feeding on leaves may have a greater resilience to the nativar plant breeding programs, while ignoring the studies about pollinators’ appetites for nectar and pollen composition. You will be intrigued when you consider things Vogt writes about the pollinators’ extrasensory cues like ultraviolet light markers on petals, for example.

Vogt lives and works in Lincoln, NE. His descriptions of the various plants on the wide, open prairies or the small, focused reconstructed prairies, will take you to a place a lot different from our New Hampshire landscapes. His writing style reflects his background in creative writing with its simplicity, accuracy and alluring details. If you would like an introduction to his work before you get hold of this book, check out his Instagram @monarchgardensbenjaminvogt or his website, www.monarchgard.com, to see extensive samples of his private client garden designs, landscape photos. Learn more from the Instagram posts and web info about his work and landscaping philosophy. From his website, “Plants don’t want to be marooned several feet apart; plants want to cavort and mingle and be their own mulch while naturally improving soil with layered root systems.” That’s one important tenant of Vogt’s design work. It’s evident as you look at his portfolio of projects and may remind you at times of Piet Oudolf with the layer upon layer and depth and mingled, indeterminate textures.

More than a book review, I am hoping this article not only recommends the book to you, but leads you to Benjamin Vogt’s Instagram and website, and helps you think, during the winter, about your own designs and landscapes you maintain. Where can you wean off of barrowful after barrowful of fresh mulch and work in plants that will eliminate the need or create some of their own mulch? Where can you soften some edges of monoculture lawn area and work in more types of grasses or even replace some of the green expanses with more green leafy textures which may also sport blossoms at different times through the seasons? Where can you leave some plants in place, and help your customers relish in the winter interest they will discover with small birds balancing on the tips of echinacea cones with some frost on the remaining leaves draped off the flower stems?

Besides explanations and questions Vogt raises about pollinators and healthy ecosystems, we read a lot of varied references to different scientific thoughts of the author. He compares the sap in plants to our own blood, with magnesium in chlorophyll serving as our blood’s iron – one gathering light for photosynthesis and one gathering oxygen supporting our life cycle. The final chapter of this book is intensely involved with comparisons such as this, and with information on insect life cycles, too. It’s on the one hand a quick read, on the other, leads you to want to look up more – keep your smartphone handy for some quick googling as you read it!

Notes include not only Vogt’s references to material he used in research or background for this book or related work, but to recommendations for other books and authors to look in to if a particular aspect of this resonates with you. The notes are divided in segments correlating to the chapters in this book. Chapter 4, for instance, “Urban Wilderness and Social Justice” contains the recommendation of a good introduction to the history of landscape architecture by Elizabeth Barlow, Landscape Design: A Cultural and Architectural History, which sounds like a great winter read. Even Vogt’s index at the conclusion of the book is helpful. You can readily look through it to find what you may be particularly interested in, such as butterfly bush or foundation beds. Any way you want to handle this book, it’s a reference, an informative cover-to-cover read, or a set of facts balanced with philosophies by other researchers and designers such as Douglas Tallamy, you may want to dive in to again with Vogt’s insights gathered in this book.

With descriptions of prairies, descriptions of how underground fungi is fast at work and with an extensive array of notes and suggested further reading, this is what I call a “Winter Companion Book.” Read it at one go or put it down and read it when you are in different moods – sometimes its relaxing and sometimes you’ll feel overwhelmed by the enormity of situations that may be out of control in the natural world already.

by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP

Membership Has its Rewards

by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP

Your NHLA membership brings many different benefits, and you each have chosen to support NHLA for the reasons you felt were most important. Some readers or members may also be NHLA Certified Landscape Professionals, and that designation brings with it a certain workload to maintain the certified status as well as its own rewards.

One of the rewards we hear about most often is the unmeasurable “camaraderie” present during the Joint Winter Meeting, the March Conference, and the various Twilight Meetings throughout the summer. To actually meet people with whom you may only exchange e-mails, phone calls, or follow Instagram accounts, and to share professional development opportunities during in-person events, means a stronger network for everyone! We are keenly aware of the upheaval from the pandemic and the adjustments made in every aspect of business, field work, and recreation.

We are learning different things about the coronavirus nearly daily, making predicting the future of our events more difficult. The Education Committee, working with the NHLA Board, has determined we’ll pursue virtual presentations, via Zoom, with the responses we reviewed from the surveys returned to us. Heartfelt THANKS to the members who volunteered to offer a presentation – we’ll be working to solicit input and create the schedule for those in the coming weeks. They will be announced through Constant Contact e-mail as well as in this Newsletter, based on the Newsletter deadlines in the coming months.

The Joint Winter Meeting will take a new format. Those details are led largely by UNH Cooperative Extension, with our interest and support. This is important for you to know now, so you can plan accordingly. It’s important for the landscapers to know the full one-credit option for attending the Joint Winter Meeting will not be an opportunity we can offer in January 2021. A shortened format is in the works and will be announced as details are available. We don’t know what credentialing will look like for the 2021 cycle, so it will be incumbent upon the NHCLPs to seek re-certification options knowing this full credit in January for that one day-long event is not slated. The Certification Committee will be the go-to for working with you on your folio of credits, as usual, with the Education Committee able to help you find re-certification opportunities.

Professional development is essential for our face to the public, adhering to the most up-to-date best management practices and implementing the current research for our work with customers and accounts. At press time for this issue of the Newsletter, we are unsure of the March conference and what it may look like. This is not all meant to be gloom and doom, by any means! The most exciting news to come from the Board and Education Committee lies ahead, with work beginning to research what a late summer event could look like, encompassing working partners and growing relationships with businesses and organizations directly related to the landscapers throughout NH! Imagine being able to convene, in a brand-new venue, with both indoor and outdoor opportunities, and a time set aside at the conclusion of the day or days, (yes, this could be spread over two days!) for the socializing, no matter what shape “socializing” may take in nine months.

Please take time to seek information from vetted, reliable sources on your own, and if you have questions, your Certification Coordinator and I are ready to help you verify options. In previous issues of the Newsletter, you can find extensive listings of organizations to check out on your own. Here is a quick overview of sources for webinars you may want to review and see what could be of interest to your or your company and crews:

Check your vendors and brands they represent. Many of them are turning to Zoom, Facebook Live, or in-house filming of topics they would otherwise introduce at trade shows or to you, as you may have had in-person, customer-specific events in the past. These presentations are intended to introduce you to new products, new safety features, and new applications available through their brands.

Check government sources. Multi-session courses, and on-off webinar presentations are offered through both New Hampshire and Federal government sources. From the NH Department of Environmental Services, Coastal Adaptations Workgroup, and other stormwater runoff study groups, you can learn a lot about how to mitigate drought conditions and what is involved in protecting the watersheds and keeping our water clean and safe. The USDA website is chock full of tabs where you can find info to follow for pollinators, meadow protection, soil health, and soil mitigation techniques. Take some time to familiarize yourself with what these types of sources offer. OSHA is a resource for health, safety and wellness online workshops, which will offer landscapers accurate information as we enter the cold weather and conditions winter brings. Check out hypothermia signs and preventions, for instance, and consider ensuring your crew members are all aware as they are facing long, long days and nights snow plowing.

UNH Cooperative Extension has gone digital with informative presentations. Consider joining their newsletter subscriptions to learn about their Facebook live presentations on topics such as pruning techniques, no-till drills for planting bulbs, growing small fruits, research on fig trees, and various production techniques for plants your customers will be asking about. While there’s no substitute for in-person demonstrations for some of the topics we’re used to, the Extension staff have gone to great lengths to offer timely, and lively, demos and informative webinars.

Public Gardens, Arboretum sites, and Commercial Growers offer online tours and informative presentations about “plants of the year” and current design trends. Do a cursory search of sites in these categories and see what they are offering for “Adult Education,” “Community Outreach,” “Online Courses,” as a quick example of where to look. Organizations related to our work as landscapers include professional development opportunities, also.

Here’s hoping you are ready for the pivot to online learning and what the exposure to information from many, many sources can mean to your professional development and growth opportunities. Stay ahead of your customers’ changing lifestyle habits and see what they are learning online, too. We’re excited to be planning nearly a year ahead, while cautiously optimistic for the plans we’re brainstorming near-term.

Memories of Frank Wolfe

by Peter van Berkum

New Hampshire lost one of its true horticulturists on Monday, November 16, 2020. Frank Wolfe died in his sleep surrounded by his family. Frank started and ran Lake Street Garden Center in Salem until his son Tim took it over about 10 years ago. I was lucky enough to work for Frank as his grower for five years before Leslie and I started our nursery.

Frank was a mentor to me. He taught me that growing was as much art as science. He helped me understand how vast the plant world was. He helped me see how fascinating and exciting growing plants could be, and he encouraged us to pursue our dreams to start a nursery. In fact, after the initial job interview in 1984 when he offered me a job, he said that from what I’d said and by my resume he assumed we wanted to start a business of our own. He told me that if I went to work for him, he’d help us out, and did he ever! Not only by teaching me all he could about plants, but with ideas for plant markets, giving me contacts, helping us check out potential nursery sites, and just general encouragement. And later when we were setting up the nursery in Deerfield, he was over with his brush helping paint our new house.

I had already grown a few perennials at previous growing jobs, and I already had an interest in wildflowers. But Frank was way into perennials. He grew thousands of varieties, and I was put in charge of them. I had a lot to learn, and he had a lot to teach, a great combination. It was a five-year immersion in perennials, and I loved it. But perhaps the most interesting part of the job was forcing for flower shows. In those days the Boston Flower show was a big deal, and there was also a show at the Manchester Armory. Lake Street Garden Center was one of the primary places that did forcing for these shows. We forced for many landscapers and garden clubs, which means getting thousands of different plants to bloom on exactly the right day, judging day. We would have hundreds of different species, from big trees to dwarf daffodils. We had five greenhouses, all set at different temperatures. My job was to have the plants in the correct greenhouse for the right length of time, moving them from house to house to speed them up or slow them down. All this under Frank’s watchful eye; he just had a sense for it. Every week or so the organization that we were forcing the plants for would stop by to see the progress. Frank and I would lead them around to see their plants, scattered around depending on their temperature schedules. Frank was always squeezing the flower buds knowingly. Finally one time after a customer left I asked him what he was doing. He answered that you can tell a little by how soft the bud was, but with that twinkle in his eyes, he said he mostly did it because it impresses everyone, makes them think you really know what you are doing. Typical Frank!

My first year at Lake Street on a really busy spring day, I was working with Frank’s son Tim, who was 14 at the time. There were people everywhere. Lake Street has always been a true horticultural destination. Suddenly I heard this really loud, enthusiastic and bad singing rising above the din of all the plant shoppers. I asked Tim what on earth that was, and he looked at me sheepishly and said ”that’s my stupid father.” When things got really busy, Frank liked to sing loud songs about his two dogs, Anthony and Fido. Most of the clients were used to it and paid it no mind.

My other favorite memory was how he got rid of late customers. I think the nursery was open until 7 then. And as with any nursery in the spring, we were working long hours. He’d never kick people out at 7, he’d let them hang around a bit, but after half an hour or so, he’d go out and tell them that we were closed and it was dinner time. A few minutes later he’d go out and tell them again. If they still didn’t leave, he’d go into the shop where the irrigation controls were and turn on the overhead sprinklers. And he’d spy out the window laughing as the folks rushed to their cars.

Frank retired about ten years ago. Tim is doing a fantastic job with Lake Street now, modernizing it, but keeping its distinctive flavor and horticultural excellence. Frank spent a lot of his time after retirement at his camp in Northwood, not too far from our nursery. We got to see him once in awhile, going out for dinner or just hanging out on his porch by the lake. He always had his dogs around him. And he always had plants. His camp, with its tiny yard, became his own horticultural oasis, and when he ran out of space he lined his dock with containers. You can’t take the nurseryman out of someone like that.

I am grateful for the education that Frank gave us. And I am grateful for the friendship that we shared for 37 years. Frank, I hope there is a garden big enough for you wherever you are, and that there are some folks that want to learn about plants like Leslie and I did. We were lucky people to have known you.

Professional Development Opportunities

by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP

Whether you are looking for credit for recertification as a Certified Landscape Professional or interested in increasing your body of knowledge of Green Industry trends, there are more opportunities to participate in online workshops or view online presentations than you may have time to even attempt. Take a look at the list of resources later in this article. You might be able to promote your company as having interest or expertise in these topics, helping you reach customers who may be seeking assistance with very specific needs. Previous issues of our Newsletter, available online, also contain lists of resources.

The NH Association of Conservation Commissions is offering a “Lunch and Learn” series on topics of interests to the green industry, including several on groundwater protection and clean water sources. These are free, and presenters are from the NH DES among other professionals directly involved in clean water and updated information and regulations about water use during our severe drought affecting most of the state. Registration is required to get your zoom log in, but your information is never shared with any other group or business when you register for sessions offered through www.nhacc.org.

UNH Cooperative Extension offers a Face Book Live series of presentations on many topics in the horticulture and agriculture industries. Check out the presentations on pruning, extending growing seasons, safety in the workplace, among others. It’s easy to join their mailing list, and their sessions are, for the most part, free.

Responses to the recent survey distributed show that more than half of the responses included wanting more information on “gardening,” so check out the Fall 2020 Literary Series, if gardening books are up your alley. The series is offered biweekly, and includes garden writers such as Bill Noble and Page Dickey, with an extensive list of authors included. Renny Reynolds is among the distinguished list of authors with his book, Design Inspiration from the Gardens at Hortulus Farm in the series. Free, although registration is required, through info@gardenconservancy.com.

The Garden Conservancy’s website is one you may like to book mark, to check on other webinars offered periodically, outside of this regularly scheduled gardening authors’ series.

Garden Writers International offers many workshops on the business of gardening, and sponsors many webinars (generally around $20) about gardening trends. With a pulse on the greenhouse industries and garden center sales, you may find webinars from this group to be helpful. Sponsored presentations from the large growers and suppliers you know such as Proven Winners, Dramm, Corona Tools, Syngenta, are presented through Garden Writers International also. While some of them may be considered “infomercials,” all are rich with details about research and developments in their respective industries.

Here’s hoping some of these organizations and websites offer you beneficial info to help you grow your business and knowledge base.



Landscape Industry Booming Despite Pandemic

The landscape industry has been largely unaffected by the pandemic and is busier than ever, according to a nationwide survey conducted by the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP).

According to the data collected, 60 percent of landscaping companies are seeing revenues exceed pre-COVID expectations and more than 300,000 landscaping jobs lay vacant.

62 percent of lawn care companies report they’ve exceeded revenue projections, followed by 53 percent of landscape maintenance firms and 50 percent of design/build firms.

One of the reasons landscaping companies have easily weathered the COVID-19 storm is the fundamental nature of the landscaping business, says NALP Chief Executive Britt Wood.

“The landscaping business naturally lends itself to this type of crisis,” Wood says. “The way landscapers work means that they just naturally keep their distance from clients and each other. Also, people often use nice spaces to relax and remove stress, and a soothing landscape can help with that.”

Wood stresses that the strength of the landscaping sector in 2020 is ultimately a combination of factors.
People are experiencing their yards, decks, and patios in the middle of the day. Often, for the first time, they’re seeing things they want to tweak or improve. Eighty percent of residential customers have increased spending on these kinds of enhancements in 2020.

Another factor Wood points to are spending habits. Nationwide closures of dining and entertainment venues have opened new opportunities for home improvement projects.

The final factor is one that was unexpected but set up landscapers to thrive for the duration of the crisis. The Department of Homeland Security identified landscapers as “essential employees” in its guidance on critical infrastructure on March 19.

The government deemed essential any businesses that “maintain the safety, sanitation, and essential operation of residences, businesses, and buildings.” Landscapers’ ability to curb pest infestations and remove problematic flora and fauna qualified them to continue operating as normal.

Garden centers in particular are seeing increased business. Back in the spring, some ran out of plants before they ran out of spring.

Customers have found a renewed purpose in gardening since the beginning of the pandemic People are trying something new in the spaces that they have, whether it is trying vegetable or herb gardening for the first time, purchasing an indoor green plant for a home office … or transforming and adding to landscapes. People are enjoying making their spaces a bit more beautiful and useful.

Landscaping professionals work through wet winters in warm climates and, in colder ones, many transition to snow removal services. Time is at a premium right now! Good luck to all of you in filling backorders, completing end-of-season jobs , or preparing for winter.

A Sidenote

Comments from Alan Anderson

I was deeply saddened to hear of the passing of Peter Kidd in June of this year. We have lost a great one. My deepest sympathy to his family and friends.

I met Peter back in my days at Tuckahoe Turf and knew that this guy was a character. His sense of humor was funny, but made you think. He was witty and had a sly way of making a joke seem serious. You laughed anyhow. He was highly opinionated. If there was a topic to discuss, Peter was all over it and would advise you to think about all aspects of the subject before coming to a conclusion, mostly his conclusion.

Peter gave you 100% all of the time. I always looked forward to hooking up with him, whether it was a jobsite of his or an NHLA event or to have a beer (and we had a few), or just a visit at his house in Bedford, NH. Peter was just fun to hang out with. His landscape knowledge and passion for this industry was unwavering. He was not afraid to share his knowledge with the “competition” because to him, a fellow landscaper was not competing against him, but the best way to teach is through example.

In his many Sidenotes articles, Peter shared numerous ideas and experiences that he had experienced over the years. Peter gave a lot of time to this Association. Peter gave a lot of ideas and insight to this Association. He ran a successful business and instilled a sense of professionalism to the New Hampshire landscape industry. His philosophy was simple – live by the self, die by the self – and was summed up in a paragraph from his Sidenotes column in December, 1984. This is the way he ran his business and what he cared about most.
He wrote, “ Is my picture rising up? It’s extremely important for an employer to get involved. It’s good sense, sound business, and makes the day pleasing. This deal of using up persons, sometimes friends, for dollar motivation is unjustifiable, schizophrenic, down right unbiblical, for live by the self, die by the self. I’m totally aware of the worth of my workmates, I have not fallen victim to the world of concept or the suicidal belief that it’s just my talent or whatever, that makes this ship fly. Do you thank your employees each Friday when the eagle makes manure? I do. And they thank me, and we all head off into the sunset feeling we don’t owe one another anything because we have already given the fair portion. I think it is this kind of straightforwardness that is the source of magic.”

Peter was 37 years old when he wrote that. It is something that still applies today. Make a note of it.

Take care, Peter, our paths will cross again.

In Memoriam: Peter S. Kidd

Long-time NHLA members will be saddened to learn of the death of Peter Straw Kidd, also known as Igbear and Dr. Blossom. Peter died in Amarillo, Texas on June 12, 2020, after having recently celebrated his 73rd birthday with close family members on June 5 at his residence in Canyon, Texas.

Peter was born in 1947 to R. Richard Kidd and Joan Straw Kidd in Springfield, Illinois. At the age of four, his family, including Martha and James Richard, followed his father’s career as a corporate executive, moving to New Canaan, Connecticut, a commuter town to New York City. It was in New Canaan that Peter came to know life-long friends Gregory Raymond, Hiland M. Hall, and Tim Lovitt.

Excelling as a football player in high school and being nimble of mind, Peter went on to study International Affairs and Political Science at Columbia University in New York. By junior year, Peter realized he had no spiritual equals on campus, deciding to abscond on a Yugoslavian freighter to Morocco, where he joined Hall, Raymond, and Lovitt in Tangier, living through events narrated in his novel, The Moroccan Grail. Peter spent three years in Morocco, working with British historian and occultist Trevor Ravenscroft to rewrite the history of French king, Charlemagne. It was during the writing of this history that Peter met Michel Angela Petersen, Ravenscroft’s daughter, a union that lasted long enough to give birth to daughter Sophia Grace.

Some years later, Peter Kidd married Edna Marie Doucet, with whom he raised three children, Alexander Straw, Matthew Doucet and Ella Kidd, along with Sophia, in Bedford, New Hampshire.

Peter worked for himself, building Landscapes by Peter Kidd, a successful professional practice based upon his love of beauty in design and attention to nature’s cycles of death and rebirth.
Not long after his children grew up and moved out of the house, he moved to Texas to live with his love and life partner, writer Linda Rowland Stone.

Peter was one of the founders of NHLA and became President in 1986. From 1982-84 he was the editor of the NHLA Newsletter and continued as a frequent contributor through 2015.

Peter wrote fiction, reviews, and plays, as well as poetry. Novels include three books: The Raven, The Moroccan Grail, and Murder in Manchester, all to be published posthumously. Two large volumes of poetry include The Human Condition, upcoming 2021, and Bums Rush, a tribute to San Francisco poet, Bob Kaufman. Peter started Igneus Press in 1990, which has published approximately 50 books of poetry and plays.

Peter is survived by his life partner, Linda Stone, and her three children, whom he loved as his own: Philip Brec Stone, Stacy Deon Tucker, and Sarah Alyson Stone; his sons Alexander and Matthew, daughters Sophia and Ella; and sister, Martha Kidd-Cyr.

On Landscape Design
— by Peter Kidd

Leon’s right
at most, an index card is needed, for estimates
in terms of script
an idea one can’t remember
isn’t an idea worth reproducing
on an even larger scale …
and yet, the paradox
the prophet’s cool breath
the letter of the law
a concept
and I, too, dabble
sketch and draw maps
to treasures
wishing I had increased vision …


Three Resources to Help Navigate the Profusion of Pollinator Information

by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP

The situation about pollinators is not just the stuff of a handful of observant farmers or shared through a network of academic researchers nowadays. The situation about pollinators is reaching every one of us, through social media, ordinary journalism, and professional spotlight and reference articles. How best to share that information with customers is another question.

For all of the information available, NHLA hopes members are considered a major “go to” for professional advice and for clarifying difficult topics. Pollinator-friendly neighborhoods are all the rage in many states and in many parts of our state. Agriculture depends on healthy environments for proper and prolific pollinator to take place. And, customer questions can be answered without any political bias or complicated answers. Your customers can research their interest in pollinator-friendly yards and gardens, and you can take it from there.

IMG 6443
While some customers may have a zero tolerance for dandelions in their yards, it’s a great time to have a discussion about how to go about getting rid of the dandelions – or not. Explaining to your customers about the benefits they bring and a bit about their life cycles, can help your work load as well as the pollinators’ populations. Learn what you can about pollinators from the sources available to us, listed in the article in this issue of our Newsletter. It’s not a simple discussion and there’s not one right or wrong answer. The key is in educating your clients and understanding the role pollinators play in our ecosystem, not just our yards.

We are fortunate to have garden centers, commercial and wholesale growers and colleagues in the green industry keeping informed – our task is to make sure authentic and helpful information is in the hands of our homeowners and land stewards. With these three resources, you might find the help you need to do that: First, the United States Department of Agriculture (usda.gov) is a solid place to start. It’s as simple as from the home page of the USDA, just use the search box, enter “pollinators” and take off! The listings there will include so many topics, you will benefit from taking the time to scroll the list and see what you are really looking for. Articles and entries from myriad organizations are listed, including some you may not have thought of such as “Bats as Pollinators,” “Moths are Pollinators, Too,” and “Know Your Native Pollinators,” just three of the many screen’s worth of information contained there.

Entering “Pollinators in New Hampshire” will yield you even more specific information (listing many projects from our own UNH) and one that is of strong interest, “Native Shrubs and Trees for Pollinator Conservation in New Hampshire.” Using sites such as these, under the umbrella of your USDA search, will mean you have vetted information from a variety of resources, and from there, you can become more involved with your questions for your plant source professionals.

The second of three sources to consider is the Xerces Society. In 2021, the Xerces Society, headquartered in Oregon, celebrates its 50th Anniversary as a well-respected environmental society “focusing on the conservation of invertebrates considered to be essential to biological diversity and ecosystem health.” The name of this organization was taken to honor the extinct California butterfly, the Xerces blue butterfly. From growing milkweed, to rethinking pesticide use, the Xerces Society is science-based and relies on research projects from many sources to keep informed and share that information with as many people, from as many perspectives as possible. Their website (xerces.org) is an easy-to-search site, which includes a lot of information you might like to share on your websites, or with your clients. One example that might be of particular interest is their download available to you about Firefly Habitat and Protection. Fireflies are a summer symbol of relaxing evenings for many of us, and offer a lot of intrigue and even entertainment for people to watch and feel their healthy garden environment come alive at night. From this, to very practical information on native plants, the Xerces Society is also offering a lengthy series of webinars (free, but registration is required). You may want to check out the Xerces website, and follow clicks to the various webinars listed. This organization is highly recommended because the webinars are not a means to collect your e-mail address and then pepper you with membership solicitations or offers to purchase related merchandise by supporting commercial venues.

The third source to consider is the North American Butterfly Association. NABA is on this list, to round out the perspective offered through the USDA, and the Xerces Society with this smaller organization. On naba.org, you can find a link to their information on how to certify a garden as “Certified Butterfly Habitat.” This is a straightforward, easy to assess flow chart where a property owner could be proud to show they have worked (worked with you!) to develop an area of their yard which is butterfly-friendly and worth sharing with the passes-by as such. There are quite a few resources available through the NABA, and you might find this to be a resource to share with clients, on your website, or in your social media, to have readership recognize you as a landscaper who understands the importance of caring for the natural environment, while enhancing it the ways a property owner would like to see for the uses they have in mind.

While there are many, many more resources to suggest, these three offer such depth and variety that starting with them will give you ways to enhance your professional approach to questions about pollinators and what your company is doing to help the situation we are reading so much about and seeing so much about in digital, print and video or television sources.

Just When You Thought it was Safe

by Cris Blackstone, NHCLP

spotted lanternfly 2
Spotted Lanternfly

Just when you thought it was safe…and just when you thought we had a grasp of the life cycle and IPM needed to understand the Emerald Ash Borer or the Asian Longhorn Beetle, along comes the Spotted Lanternfly!

The Spotted Lanternfly (Lycorma delicatula) has come to the US from China, India, and Vietnam. Discovered in Bucks County, PA, six years ago, this invasive is mobile and voracious. “A planthopper” insect, it’s destruction is swift and predictable. The piercing-sucking mouthparts attack the host plants, and while feeding secrete a sugary by-product which can cover and smother a plant it has attacked.
There are many problems caused by the infestation of the Spotted Lanternfly, including the way an ornamental plant or shade tree can be covered with that sugary substance which attracts many stinging insects, too.
A sooty mold is additional evidence of its destructive path. Hosts for the invasive insect include the Tree of Heaven, which is lining highways and roadways to New England from Pennsylvania. (Planthopper’s dream come true!) Fruits such as apples, peaches, and grapes are affected as are birch, maple, and dogwood trees.

Fact Sheets from the UMass Extension provide photos of the pest in each of its life stages. (ag.umass.edu/landscape/fact-sheets/spotted-lanternfly) We are fortunate to have first-hand, experienced professionals coming to our March 20 UNHCE/NHLA Spring Conference who will be able to offer information on the Spotted Lanternfly and other invasives we need to know about, from the NH Invasive Species Committee (ISC).

The ISC is a committee of eleven volunteers, appointed to meet on a regular basis, to discuss and analyze threats posed by land-based plants, insects, and fungi and their negative effects on our state’s quality of agriculture and recreational lands. Doug Cygan, the Chairman of the ISC and Coordinator of the project to educate the general public and municipal departments and the highway department about the plants identified, will be on hand March 20 with display material and handouts for attendees to help spread the information about the identified invasives. Doug will be accompanied by Denyce Gagne, of NH Fish and Game, also involved in the ISC outreach and education programming. We are glad to have Andrew Mauch, Millican Nurseries, as the horticultural representative to the committee, attending this conference, too! Please take time to check out the information, and feel free to ask any further questions you have as you speak with Doug, Denyce, or Andrew during the conference.

This is information you can share with your clients, too! Don’t forget the outbreak and infestation of the Asian Longhorn Beetle in August of 2008 was first noticed and reported by a homeowner in Worcester, MA. It takes the strong outreach and education provided by our Invasive Species Committee along with our Cooperative Extension, to help share this type of valuable information and help you vet what you may read about on the internet or hear about from a client.

What are the Benefits of Good Landscape Design? How do you Learn Good Design?

by Bob Pollack, Landscape Architect

Good landscape design is not a matter of going to the local big box store picking out a bunch of plants and sticking them in the ground, then sitting back and being satisfied that there are finally shrubs and trees in the yard. Good landscape design takes into consideration how all the elements — plants, hardscape, lighting, pedestrian and vehicular access — all work together. Good landscape design considers the environmental elements such as wind direction, snow, rain, sun direction. Good landscape design takes into consideration all the senses such as smell, sight, sound, touch, and even taste.

Finally, good landscape design considers the functions of all the landscape elements installed around a building. Do the plants block wind or provide shade to reduce heating and cooling costs? Are the colors of plants and hardscape elements in harmony with each other? Is the lighting soft and inviting? Is the scale of each of the landscape elements in good relation to the structure and space that is being landscaped? Have you used plants that reduce the necessity of artificial irrigation? Have you managed to reduce the storm water runoff by installing rain gardens or bio-swales? Have you installed landscape materials that, in the long run, will reduce our carbon foot print in the environment, such as plants that need little to no pruning and reduce the lawn area to reduce the need for excess amounts of mowing?

Here are some facts from the Arbor Day Foundation (www.arborday.org/trees/benefits.cfm) about trees alone and their effect on the landscape environment:

  • The net cooling effect of a young healthy tree is equivalent to ten room-size air conditioners operating 20 hours a day. – U.S. Department of Agriculture
  • If you plant a tree today on the west side of a building, in 5 years your energy bills should be 3% less, in 15 years the savings will be nearly 12%. – Dr. E. Gregory McPherson, Center of Urban Forest Research.
  • In one study, 83% of realtors believe that mature trees have a “strong or moderate impact” on the salability of home listed under $150,000 on homes over $250,000 increases to 98%. – Arbor National Mortgage & American Forests.
  • Good landscaping, especially with trees, can increase the property values as much as 20%. – Management informational services/ICMA

So how do we get good landscape/environmental design? One way is to attend educational programs such as those provided by NHLA. A second way is to take time to learn good techniques in a more academic way by taking continuing education classes at institutions like NHTI, Concord’s Community College.

NHTI provides two avenues of learning, one through an Associate Degree in Landscape and Environmental Design and the other through the Landscape Design Certificate. Such programs are designed to help employees and employers of the Green Industry to keep up with the latest trends and to train students to create good landscape designs that increase the value of property as well as consider the environmental effects of the design. The Landscape Design Certificate Program provides entry-level skills for those entering into or those who are already in the field of landscape design. The Certificate Program is for landscapers, florists/nursery growers, architects, and anyone interested in the broader range of knowledge of landscape/environmental site design.

The Associates Degree in Landscape and Environmental Design has been developed to accommodate a demand locally and globally for educated trained landscape/environmental design professionals. The Associates Degree program is for students interested in pursuing an education and or career related to the natural environment such as landscape management and design, wetland science, landscape architecture, urban planning, environmental technology, or environmental conservation. (Most all credits in this program are transferable to 4- and 5-year landscape architecture and landscape design programs.)
The Landscape Design Certificate Program offers eight classes that run from plant identification, basic landscape drawing techniques, to grading and construction methods.

The Landscape/Environmental Associates Degree Program offers 21 classes from environmental biology, to plant identification, design labs, construction materials, computer aided design, and much more. The whole range of classes can be seen at www.nhti.edu/academics.

The NHTI Environmental/Landscape Design Program is the only design program offered in the State of New Hampshire. The future of good landscape design is in the hands of well-trained landscape professionals.

In conclusion, Bill Russell in his book, Russell Rules, 11 lessons on Leadership from the Twentieth Century’s Greatest Winner states, in Chapter 6 on “Craftsmanship,” “learning should be a daily experience and a lifetime mission. Michelangelo stated, “I have offended God and mankind because my work didn’t reach the quality it should have.” If Michelangelo felt that way, then we as designers of the landscape and the environment should always strive for our best because anything else should not be enough.

Let us all try to fine some way to support the educational programs that NHLA and our institutions of higher education, such as the New Hampshire Technical Institute, Concord’s Community College, offer, to continue to provide quality professional services to your customers.
Remember, if you lap the lolli-pop of mediocrity you will be a sucker for the rest of your life.
Mediocre work is no longer acceptable in the landscape profession.

— Bob Pollock has been a licensed landscape architect since 1974. Spanning 34 years he was a landscape architect/planner for the cities of Fitchburg and Leominster, MA and Concord, NH. In 1977 he established the Granite State Landscape Architects (GSLA) and started, what is now, the Environmental Design Certificate program at NHTI in 1980 (now an Associates Degree offering). He founded and led Pollock Land Planning LLC 2006-2012. Now semi-retired, he is still active with GSLA as their Advocacy Chairman. In 2012 he was recognized by GSLA and the Governor of New Hampshire for 40 years of service to landscape architecture in the State of New Hampshire.

Spread Education, Not Invasives

by Cris Blackstone

Check out www.playcleango.org, and help spread accurate, timely information about stopping invasive species and the damage they can cause in our natural or built landscapes. With their motto “Spread the Word, Not the Problem,” this organization has as straightforward website divided into sections such as Invasives 101, Take Action, and Resources. While most of this information may seem common knowledge to members of NHLA or to people in the Green Industry, there is information here that may be new and can replace older information you worked with.

Additionally, if you have a company newsletter or website where you post educational material for your clients, this organization may have information that can help you in those public relations activities for your business. Under the “Resources” section, you will find Early Detection and Distribution Species Mapping along with articles on how species move, and recreation best management practices. Videos offered as choices include up-to-date info on Emerald Ash Borer, and more on moving firewood, for example. These materials are for public use, and playcleango.org hopes they are shared and the info widely broadcast. Species Management and Identification includes several identification sites, which could be helpful for you to use when you are training new staff this season.

Organizations such as NHLA are frontline to education and community awareness – so please consider this site as you think of ways to professionally share information on this important topic.

May 2019