December 31, 2017: In the past, I have ranted on this blog about insect pests, and one might think I was a bugaphobe and entertained anti-entomological sentiments. But I keep bees, which can be a disheartening labor of love, and realize the problem of declining pollinator populations. However, it seems insect decline goes farther than just honeybees and monarch butterflies.

Malaise trap used in surveysMalaise trap used in surveysA recent article in a scientific journal has created a rather shocking revelation that perhaps most of the insect world may be suffering decline. The article reports the findings of a survey of flying insects in 63 nature preserves in Germany over a period of 27 years. It reports a decline of insect biomass (all bugs caught in the survey traps) of more than 75%. Now when you consider that 70% of the entire animal kingdom is comprised of insects, that 60% of birds rely on insects for food, that 80% of wild plants rely on them for pollination . . . well, that seems kinda serious. Like maybe a big change is happening?

What's causing this decline? That is not so clear and it seems evident, from the literature, that there is no one factor responsible. Of the usual culprits - habitat loss and change, climate change, pesticides - no one seems to stand out. The researchers found that decline in this survey happened regardless of habitat type, climate variations, or temperature and could suggest a larger overall reason.

There are some scientists that believe we are entering into the sixth mass extinction event. I guess we were out of town for the first five. Another recent survey of population declines looked at a much broader range of species and estimated that 30 percent of all land vertebrates — mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians - are suffering from dramatic population declines. Species extinction rate for the past 100 years has been 200 species/100 years. "Normal" extinction rate in the past has been 2 species/100 years.

The good news is that humans don't seem to be declining in population and I'm going to be giving thanks this New Year for not being extinct. What can we do for our other biomass brothers or sisters? That is an urgent question for us all, and I, for one, am going to go mix a stiff drink, turn up the heat and maybe watch reruns of the Brady Bunch while thinking about that. Happy New Year to you and your species!

For more info to dampen your revels:



Nov 19, 2017: My fellow Oregonians, we have been invaded by aliens who come undocumented and uninvited and with a voracious appetite for our Oregonian landscape and agriculture. These invaders originally came from the Far East but probably more recently came from the Back East where they have been wreaking havoc for years. I speak of the Japanese Beetle and it's beachhead, for the largest invasion ever detected to date in the state, is in the Oak Hills/Cedar Mill area.

Spring and early summer of 2017 the ODA (Oregon Dept. of Agriculture) found 23,000 beetles in monitoring traps set up in the that area. Alerted by numbers caught in the year previous, the ODA set about a program of control and quarantine. With an estimated 2000 homes in the affected area, ODA sought permission of homeowners to apply a granular pesticide to lawn areas. The larval beetle live under sod surfaces from mid-summer to spring when they emerge as adults. 1700 of those 2000 homes granted permission to apply the insecticide Acelepryn. Acelepryn is listed as a "Reduced Risk" pesticide, which in my personal scale of toxicity means I have more to be concerned about the amount of sugar in my diet than the amount of Acelepryn in my garden.

As part of the quarantine component, the ODA is requesting from landscapers and homeowners that all Public Enemy #1Public Enemy #1landscape debris collected within the quarantine area be taken to a special yard waste collection site on Cornelius Pass Rd or put in your regular curbside yard debris can. For a map of the quarantine area, information on yard waste dumping, and updates from beetle control HQ, check out
I can't overemphasize the threat of these #$%@!! beetles. They eat everything! Well, at least 300 types of crops and plant, including fruit trees. And guess what they're favorite is? Roses. Do this math: Japanese beetles + Roses + the Rose City = well, you get the idea.

Even if you're not on the front lines for the battle now, you can help in the war effort by reporting any Japanese beetles you encounter by calling the Oregon Invasive Species Hotline, 1-866- INVADER or there is an online equivalent also.

To paraphrase Winston Churchill (quite horribly, I'm afraid), "We shall fight in backyards. We shall fight in the front yards. We shall fight in the fields and in the orchards. We shall never ever surrender."



Oct.21, 2017: In today's divided and partisan world, I can stand up and declare "I don't give a fig!", literally, and, if you owned a fig tree, you would understand. I consider myself a reasonably generous person and when it comes to produce from my garden, I am a vegephilanthropist. I give away bushels of squash, chard,kale, prunes and other fruits and vegetables I have in abundance to friends, neighbors and even strangers, whether they ask or whether I have to force it upon them. But not figs! They are too precious to my palate. So, keep your hands off my figs and go grow your own, which I'm happy to tell you , out of my own self-interest.

If you live in the Willamette Valley of western Oregon, you can grow cold hardy figs outdoors. Easy peasy. If you are on the coast or Cascades. it's a little dicier. Figs require summer heat and the coast's summer often don't provide that and they also can't take temperatures of -10 F or solidly frozen ground, so the Cascades are too cold.

When I'm talking figs, I'm talking about the common fig, Ficus carica. The genus sports a plethora of tropical and sub-tropical species , some of which we use as houseplants, such as the rubber tree or weeping fig. There are over 200 cultivars of figs grown in North America, but in our area it dries down to about a handful. I myself have a Vern's Brown Turkey fig (named after Oregonian garden writer Vern Nelson). Other recommended varieties for our area are Lattarula, Desert King , White Dakota and Chicago.

As a landscape tree (figs can grow 15- 30' tall), the large lobed leaves give a tropical air to a planting. Figs don't have a compact crown (unless you're pruning alot) and can look a little bit gangly, but it's a minor fault when compared to its fast growth, pest free, low maintenance and drought tolerant characteristics. If you don't want to use an orchard ladder to gather your figs, then topping (which in this case is OK) can help to keep the height manageable.

Right now, fall, is a great time of year to plant. Pick a sunny spot with well drained soil. Organic matter or compost is nice to add, but not essential. And then you just wait. It took me about 6 years from a cutting before I started getting figs. Speaking of cuttings, it's easy to propagate figs. They are rooted from hardwood cuttings, simple layering or air layering (my favorite) and you can find out from somebody else on the internet the details of doing it.

Here in Oregon we get one fig crop a year. More southerly tropical locations will get two. Many fig cultivars produce 2 types of figs, a "main" fig and a" breba" . Brebas form in the spring on last season's wood. They sprout directly under a leaf. Main crop figs grow on current season wood and sprout directly above a leaf. In the Coast Range where I live, I get a crop of brebas in August and the mains never reach maturity to harvest. Brebas are said to be less tasty than main figs, but they're plenty tasty for me and no, you still can't have one.

Most of the cold hardy figs are self pollinating, which is good and bad. Good because we don't have to worry about having male fig flowers around, but bad because we miss out on the utterly fascinating pollination process involving tiny suicidal wasps. In fact, that's what I wanted to write about originally but I got wrapped up in telling you how to get your own figs. Stay tuned for a future series, "Sex and the Single Plant", in which I will delve , in erotic detail, into the kinky sex lives of figs and other swinging plants.

Knowing when to harvest figs was a skill that evaded me for the first couple if years. I always got overly excited and picked too early. Once picked, figs do not ripen. and they taste crappy. Figs, even when ripe, don't keep well. Maybe a week in the fridge. A ripe fig looks and feels like it's overly ripe. It's squishy to the touch and the stem attaching it is drooping. They will often also change color from green to yellowish, goldenish or brownish.

Since figs don't keep long, you have to process them quick. Fresh figs are great but dried figs, to me, is hog heaven. I'm also partial to drunken fig jam, which has lots of brandy in it.

I hope I've discouraged you from asking me for figs and encouraged you to grow your own damn figs!


July 11, 2016: As an arborist, I've had to deliver the sad news to a tree owner that their tree is dying and probably ought to come down. The aftermath is a stump, to which the typical solutions are to have the stump ground out or leave it standing like a headstone at Arlington Cemetery. I would posit a third solution - to turn it into a piece of outdoor art.

Northwestern Oregon is the Chainsaw Bear Capital of the World. . . . I don't actually have data to support that , but drive down any rural road where there's more than 10 people living and I'd bet you a latte that one of those 10 have a chainsaw carved bear on the property. Bears are the bread and butter of chainsaw carvers. "People like them. People want them. We carve 'em" , one carver told me, though I could tell his inner artistic self was frustrated by the crass public marketplace.

The possibilities for a stump are only limited by its size and the talents and imagination of the carver. Everyone has probably driven by a chainsaw carving roadstand. There are even "galleries" where chainsaw art is displayed and sold. Tres chic. But, fortunately for you and your stump, there are also onsite carvers that will come to your property and give that stump a new creative life, for a price. How much does stump carving cost? It's variable depending on size and complexity of the carving but rough estimates I've seen range from $100-$200 a vertical foot for carvings under 5' and $200-$300/foot for taller ones (they usually need scaffolding).

If you're a DIY kind of person, you can try stump carving yourself, though I would highly recommend that you have a good practical background in chainsaw safety, use and sharpening. . I, myself, have taken to stump carving and have found it to be relaxing and meditative. There's nothing like having a screaming chainsaw in my hand and breathing that outdoor air mixed with 2 cycle exhaust to bring out my creative inner self and be at one with the stump. Chanting "OM" over the top of the chainsaw also helps to enhance the awakening process.

I carve morel mushrooms. . . . that's pretty much all I carve, though I have begun a new and exciting project recently - a chantrelle. I'll never do a bear. There are enough of them and being the stump snob that I have become I would recommend that you not either. Should you be faced with the question of "What do I do with that stump?" Below are some eclectic stumps for thought to get your creative sap flowing. P.S. - If you want a stump carved, it starts before the tree removal. Have the tree service leave 4- 8' of stump (it can always be trimmed down to eventual height).

I hope this inspires you to keep the stump grinder out of your yard. And if it's a morel you want (or perhaps in the future, a chantrelle), you know who to contact.

By Guess Who?By Guess Who?


April 18, 2017: Now that spring seems like it just might come, the first sunny days we get , the landscape contractors' phones will be ringing off the hook from potential customers. Being as how I'm a retired landscape contractor, I can now reveal the secret inner world of the landscape contractor - how to find a good one, how to get them interested in your project, where the secret locations of Illuminati landscapers meet and their secret handshake. . . . Well, maybe not the last two, if I value my life,

First of all, it's important to understand that there is a difference between landscapers (landscape contractors) and landscape maintenance people (lawn maintenance, pruning, etc). The former is a licensed profession, the later is not. The former can not only plant plants, but can build retaining walls, decks, fences, patios, outdoor kitchens, irrigation and landscape lighting systems, and lots more; the latter cannot. The former has a bond and liability insurance, the latter may or may not.

Oregon has the most regulated landscape industry in the US. That is a GOOD thing for you, Ms or Mr Consumer. Licensed landscapers must pass a licensing exam that test for technical knowledge and business knowledge. Once a candidate has passed, they must obtain liability insurance and a bond before they can get their business license. If they intend to have employees, they must show proof of having worker's comp. What this means for the consumer is that :

1) You won't be getting someone who was a shoe salesman yesterday and then thought they'd be a landscaper today.

2) If you believe you've had poor work done, you have recourse by filing a claim on the contractor's bond. The Oregon Landscape Contractor's Board (LCB) maintains a free claim and adjudication process for the consumer.

3). A contractor's employees are covered by worker's comp. That means if a worker is injured on your property, you won't have to sell your house to pay for their medical bills.

Hire an unlicensed (and therefore illegal) landscape contractor and you get none of the above. They might or might not be cheaper in the short run, but in the long run, you'll regret it.

I would love to tell you that this consumer protection system will be here for perpetuity but every legislative session, for the past several years, the anti-regulation lobby trots forth some bill or another to eliminate the licensing exam, or entrance requirements, or eliminate all landscape regulations. A smart business person knows that good consumer protection is also good business, another sort of business person sees consumer protection as a hindrance to their freedom to do business as they see fit. I'll let you fill in the adjective for that sort of business person.

CONSUMER TIP #1: Hire a licensed landscape contractor.
All licensed landscapers are required to put their LCB number on their trucks. You can look for that when they drive up to give you a bid. You can also do an online license search, at the LCB website,, where you can find their current license status and whether they have any landscape violations from the past on their record.

CONSUMER TIP #2: Find a landscaper early.
Many landscape contractors who have been around a decade or more are often booked for the season (March - September) by April. Perhaps, if your job is small, they may be able to fit you in on short notice between two larger jobs but don't count on it. Best not to wait for the first sunny day of spring.

CONSUMER TIP #3: Get it in writing.
Why do you think they call contractors "contractors"? Answer: Because they should give you a contract spelling out what they will do, when they will do it, if there is a guarantee, and what are the terms of payment. Landscape contractors are not required to give you a contract (sometimes called a proposal) if the job amount is less than $2000. When I was a contractor, I gave written proposals on everything I did, except time and material jobs such as irrigation repair. A contract is a communications tool where both parties can see what is expected of them. Without it in writing, expectations are hazy and unclear expectations lead to client - contractor misunderstanding.

CONSUMER TIP #4: If you want to find a serious contractor, then prepare to be a serious client.
I've been there myself - a tire kicker. "Wouldn't it be interesting to find out how much this would cost or that cost?" Busy contractors (particularly during the season) don't have time to come out to your home to educate you about landscaping. Most will try to "qualify" you over the phone. Qualification means determining if you are a serious customer, and, by serious, I mean someone who has decided that they want a particular project done, but they want to make sure they have the right company at the right price to do it. There's nothing wrong with tire kicking. It's just more courteous to make that known up front. The contractor may be able to answer some general questions over the phone without taking the time and expense of answering them to your face.

CONSUMER TIP #5: It's a dance.
I've always considered the contractor-client relationship, particularly a new client, like a waltz or polka between two people that have never danced together. There's a certain amount of wondering - will they move this way, will they move that way, will they step on my foot? Every dance has two partners, so while you, the customer, are sizing up the contractor, they are sizing you up, too. If I want to waltz and the client wants to polka maybe that's the time to walk away before the dance card is punched. But, if we both want to do the same dance, and it's just a matter of adjusting to each other's rhythm, that's part of the dance and the business.

CONSUMER TIP #6: Beware of parcelled work:
I've scratched my head trying to come up with a better term for this, but it's when a contractor does some of the things or buys some of the materials on a project and you take care of the rest. For example, the client wants to buy the flagstone for a patio themselves to save money and wants the contractor to just install it. Or conversely, the contractor wants the client to get the permit for the irrigation backflow and then they will put in the system.

My experience with parcelled work is that both parties end up being unsatisfied. In the later years of my business, I developed the policy of I do it or get it all or I don't do anything. If you can find a contractor, that'll do parcelled work, great. Just be prepared to spend time to coordinate and communicate with them. You're dancing the minuet now and that's a lot harder. If the contractor is suggesting parcelling out some of the job to the client, I would avoid them.

Well, I could on and on with other tips, but that's enough to get you going. Good luck. There are some excellent landscapers out there, I hope you find one.

Pssst. . . . so here's the secret landscaper handshake. Landscaper Illuminati HandshakeLandscaper Illuminati Handshake

Landscaper Illuminati meeting - undisclosed warehouse, Swan Island, PortlandLandscaper Illuminati meeting - undisclosed warehouse, Swan Island, Portland

F & P