Saturday, September 18, 2010

Bartlett Tree Experts

I had the great honor of going to the Bartlett Tree Experts Research Field Days at the Bartlett Arboretum in Charlotte, North Carolina (September 14-15, 2010).  I was invited by the NYC sales rep for Bartlett -- Kevin Kenney -- who is probably the best tree man on the East Coast.  The arboretum is 400 acres (the largest private arboretum in the US) and contains over 8,000 accessioned plants.  (There is a link to their website at the bottom of the page.) 

Kevin Kenney has been an invaluable partner to me in my NYC landsape design business. Because container gardens are at special risk (the fact they are planted in containers and not in ground) means that they have to be watched after more carefully.  They are susceptible to many more problems and environmental dangers.  Bartlett has special tree and woody plant programs that monitor and treat/fertilize rooftop gardens and terrace gardens.   Bartlett is a leader in organic pest and disease control research -- and treating gardens with organic materials is important to my customers.

Kevin Kenney
The field days provide arborists, landscapers, landscape architects, students, teachers and other landscape professionals, as well as private land owners an opportunity to take a look at demonstration areas of the Bartlett research labs and to see the new programs for managment of woody landscape plants.  Some of the demonstrations included Sidewalk plots -- of particular interest to NYC gardeners;
Root barriers; structural soil and soil management procedures; tree preservation; pruning; invasive species management; and the new and exciting BioChar research. (This amazing product not yet on the market -- but we saw some of their test sites and the growth/health rate of the BioChar as opposed to the control groups was pretty astonishing.)

The next day we visited the Plant Diagnosis Clinic run by Eric Honeycutt and Lorraine Graney.  Lorraine sliced into a small twig that had tiny holes in the bark (under the microscope with images projected onto a screen) to show us the tiny but voracious beetle and larvae imbedded in the twig tissue.  Each year the clinic receives more than 6,000 plant samples for analysis for insect pests, diseases and cultural and environmental problems.

Later on Dr. Don Booth demonstrated some research being done on natural predators in the garden -- wasps that pierce the backs of leaf destroying caterpillers -- laying  their eggs into the caterpiller's back. As the egg develops it eats the host caterpiller.    And how to make sure ladybugs once released don't fly away before eating the aphids you want them to eat.  (You spray a little sweet soda (non-caffeine) -- onto the plant -- and then release the ladybugs onto the plant --they go straight to the Fresca and then go on to eat the aphids.)  Dr. Booth talked extensively about Bartlett's pioneering research into organic pest and disease control. He pointed to one of the plastic gallon jugs on his worktable telling us "You could drink a whole gallon of this straight down and nothing would happen to you." 

Dr.  Booth

Bartlett's Wayne Dubin & Kevin Kenney's team planted the initial crop of 16 trees at the World Trade Center Memorial site.  "They are the most cared for trees in the world," Kevin said.  The balance of the trees (there will be 375 of them total) -- are being grown and cared for at a nursery in New Jersey.  Wayne Dubin (Bartlett VP and Division Manager) showed me photos of these -- all in specially designed wood containers.  "They will be broken out of the wood and placed into special custom constructed steel containers for safe transit to the Memorial site, and then craned down into each plot that has been pre-dug for that particular tree," Wayne explained.

"Our assessment of these trees includes the use of custom monitors (ribbons) that let us know about soil moisture and temperature, which turns the irrigation system on and off. Our onsite technician, Jason Bond, is a Board Certified Master Arborist," Wayne said.  "He carries out daily inspections and treatments (when necessary) which are then recorded into an online database available for review by the owners and consulting arborist.  The trees are protected from pest problems, cultural issues, and receive soil treatments to enhance nutrient availaility."
Wayne Dubin Bartlett VP
and Division Mgr.

 Soil compaction around tree roots is a problem not only for NYC street trees but for all trees -- parks, recreation areas, backyards -- anywhere  people walk, ride, or drive vehicles thru.  Bartlett conducts extensive research into the best "sidewalk" material to use around trees.  Trees require water obviously -- but their roots are shallow (the better to also absorb much needed oxygen) -- so that it's easy to damage them.  Take a look at the tree photo below:

To protect a tree's roots -- at least a 4" layer of mulch must be applied to the base of the tree that extends out to the drip line of the tree.  Care must be taken not to apply the mulch next to the trunk, leaving at least 1 foot clear of the flare.  

This demonstration site shows the work done to find root rot -- a small hole is drilled into various spots in the roots.  When the drill hits a soft spot -- that's where the rot is present.  

The beautiful arboretum -- some photos of the landscape:

No expense was spared, no comfort ignored  -- many thanks to the Bartlett Tree Experts staff for a unique educational experience.

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