Thursday, February 24, 2011

Top 3 Questions to ask a Tree Service Professional

The recent Southern and Midwest storms have given many homeowners a reason to think about hiring a tree service professional. The powerful winter storms of 2011 are not the only source to blame for significant tree damage throughout the United States – this winter has been particularly rough, leading to an increase in the regular wear-and-tear of young and aging trees. Whether you’re in need of emergency tree care or routine maintenance, there are three major legal questions to ask the company or professional that you choose to hire!

1. Is this tree service professional adequately licensed to operate in your state?

This question can be treated as a pre-qualifier for the next two. If your tree care professional is not licensed in your state, they cannot legally solicit or advertise their services. Additionally, without the proper license, it is impossible for the professional to be bonded or legitimately insured.

2. Is this tree service professional bonded by a reputable agency?

Surety bonds are meant to protect the consumer in case the local tree company doesn’t deliver on the agreed work. A professional carrying a bond from an agency like the Small Business Association or the Surety & Fidelity Association of America won’t be able to take your money and run.

3. Is this tree service professional fully insured for my protection?

Unfortunately, there have been countless cases of unsuspecting homeowners footing the bill after an uninsured contractor damaged their property or got hurt on the job. Hiring an uninsured professional means that you become liable for their injury and for any and all property they may damage. That means that if this contractor drops a limb on your neighbor’s house, you get to pay the repair bill – turning a simple maintenance job into an expensive mess.

The choice is truly yours to make. You can put your faith in a freelancer, or hire a fully licensed, bonded and insured tree service professional and keep your feet out of hot water!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Symbolic Trees of the Southeast

There are two trees in particular that are instantly recognizable to southeast natives: the cypress and the pecan. Although these species don’t look remarkable at first glance, these prolific trees deserve a little recognition! They may be common, but they certainly aren’t ordinary. Read on to find out why these two species are noteworthy, if not outright magnificent!


The cypress tree is well-known and beloved in the South – this tree is symbolic for spiritual immortality, which seems very appropriate considering the staggering lifespan of this species. Florida’s Big Tree Park is home to some of the oldest living cypresses in the world: The Senator stands at 125 feet tall and has an estimated age of anywhere between 3,400 and 3,500 years old. Another ancient cypress, Lady Liberty, shares the same park and has been alive for more than 2000 years. If these remarkable southern trees could tell their stories, it would take generations to hear them all!


Many southerners relish memories of pecan pies and drowsy days in the shade of these generous trees. This historic species has deep roots in the southeast – the first major U.S. pecan planting took place in 1772, earning a place in famous gardens like those of Virginia natives George Washington and Thomas Jefferson. By the 1800’s, the delicious yield of this species became a staple crop of New Orleans, Louisiana. The wild harvest of these trees in San Antonio was said to bring in a higher value than cotton! Not only does the southeast produce some of the finest pecans, this region is almost entirely responsible for the taste and popularity of the nuts we still enjoy today!

Yes, stands of cypress and orchards of pecans can be found everywhere throughout the southeast, but that doesn’t make these species boring by any means!

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Flowering Spring Trees for Saint Louis

Besides the chirping of birds and joyous shouts of children, how do we know it is spring in Missouri? The beautiful flowering trees, of course! The “show-me” state has an abundance of gorgeous and aromatic flowers in the springtime, but the blooming native trees put on the most spectacular show of them all. If you’re putting together your spring planting list, consider the following three native tree varieties to add a bit of floral elegance to your property!

Flowering Dogwood

Cornus florida is a simple species of Dogwood with a surprising twist. This tree generally grows up to 33 feet tall, providing ample shade and windblock for residential areas. The flowers are what gives this species it’s name and popularity: groups of inconspicuous yellow-green buds will grace the branches each spring, only to be replaced by stunningly vibrant red fruits in the fall. The flowering dogwood is a classic Missouri native that will put on a show all year round.


Hailing from the same family as the custard-apple, sweetsop, and ylang-ylang, the Pawpaw (Asimina) provides the largest edible fruit indigenous to the continent. The name is often considered to be a derivative of “papaya”, because of the visual similarity of the fruits. The leaves begin to come around in April, bringing with them large, beautiful red-purple flowers. Although this variety isn’t very pleasant smelling, planting this native tree will add a touch of the tropics to your Missouri home.


Hawthorns have a natural presence in almost every county of Missouri, making this tree the perfect hardy candidate for homeowners who want to avoid the bulk of routine tree maintenance. The Hawthorn’s flowers are so beautiful that they have been adopted as the Missouri state flower. The fruits are certain to attract a variety of cheerful birds.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Recycling Valentines Day Waste

For such a romantic holiday, Valentine’s Day sure does leave a pretty big mess in its wake! After the gift giving and sweet snuggles, you may find yourself standing knee-high in unwanted flowers, cards, candy wrappers, wrapping paper, and a variety of other waste products. Many of these items are made of more than one material, so how do you dispose of this junk in a green and eco-friendly way?


While some people manage to hold on to every card they receive, others of us have the guilty habit of keeping the special messages while throwing out the rest. Instead of trashing these sentimental items, consider re-purposing them for scrapbooking. If a card particularly catches your eye, put it in a frame to keep on a desk or table. You will always remember the card and its contents this way!

Candy Wrappers

When I decide to eat candy, I rarely enjoy just one piece. That leaves a whole lot of trash behind – much of which cannot be traditionally recycled. Cellophane wrappers are the most difficult to get rid of. This thin plastic can be washed and used for a variety of different purposes: if you’re crafty you can create a collage with a piece of glass and some heat-resistant gloss coating – it will look a lot like stained glass and is the perfect project for the kids. Aluminum wrappers may be recycled with the rest of your tin cans, and paper wrappers can go right in the compost.


Old flowers can be put to much better use than simply being thrown in the trash can. Flowers are the perfect candidate for the compost bin. That's right, your dead flowers can contribute to the health of your garden and freshly planted spring trees. If you don’t want to get rid of them, there are other options available. Hang the flowers upside down and they should try after a few weeks, at which point you can remove the petals and make a charming homemade potpourri.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Green Valentines Day Gifts

This Valentine’s Day you can feel great going green by giving ethical and eco-friendly gifts to your friends and loved ones. The traditional presents may be romantic, but bouquets and diamonds simply aren’t practical for many couples no matter how hard the commercials try to persuade you otherwise. Whether you’re environmentally aware or simply on a budget, green gifts always make a great impression with less consumption and waste. The following green gifts for him and her may require a little extra effort, but that’s what love is all about!

For Him

Finding the perfect girlie Valentine’s Day gift is easy, but the gentlemen are a little more difficult to shop for! Don’t be afraid to think outside the box. Some say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach, and as silly as stereotyping is, there is no denying handmade sweet treats are always appreciated by anyone with taste buds. If you’re not a fan of the culinary arts, there are all kinds of alternatives for the techie type. Digital downloads are quick, simple, cheaper, and best of all: definitely green. Games, movies, and music can all be purchased online – eliminating production and packaging waste. The possibilities for completely digital gifts are endless.

For Her

Roses have always been a popular gift, but they’re just a temporary sentiment that will eventually get thrown out. If you want to make a more permanent impression this Valentine’s Day, consider going with potted roses instead. Think big and contact a local professional about a native fruit tree that you could plant together for a gift that keeps on giving. Valentine’s Day is the second most popular day for the exchange of greeting cards, but going green doesn’t mean dropping this traditional favorite! Instead of purchasing a card from the store – make one at home with your own message and content. Maybe even include a few romantic coupons for a sensual massage or thoughtful favor. Have fun and be creative!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Eco-Friendly Valentines Day Activities

Valentine’s Day is known to be one of the most wasteful days of the year – think about all of the flowers, candy, and cards that are bought and shipped, used and thrown away. That doesn’t sound very romantic, does it? This Valentine’s day, consider keeping it simple and showing your love in a way that does not break the bank or harm our environment.

Plant a Tree

Remember our post about the danger of carving initials into tree stumps? Well, there is an alternative that is just as sweet – and will last much longer. Planting a tree is a symbolic gesture that allows a couple to see how their love has grown with each passing year. Together you can nurture the young sapling, and later enjoy romantic moments in the shade. Plant at home or donate a native tree to your local park.

Everybody wants to send a thoughtful card to their Valentine, but have you recently counted how many you already have laying around from years past? Your lover is probably swamped in them as well! Get together with your Valentine and gather up old love notes, pictures, cards, newspaper articles, and pretty scraps of paper and up-cycle your very own scrapbook! It will give a purpose to those sentimental items that never get any use, and you’ll end up with a keepsake that will never lose its romance.

Eat In

Going out to eat for Valentine’s Day is a common practice – this year, be unique! Head to the local farmer’s market and pick out delicious, wholesome ingredients that will really “WOW” your special someone! Burn organic candles and enjoy a romantic meal away from the hustle and bustle of commercial restaurants. You’ll save money and save the planet, all while impressing your Valentine with your amazing culinary skills.

Get Romantic

Sometimes couples work so hard to make Valentine’s Day “work” that they forget to spend any quality quiet time together. Don’t let yourself get swept up with the pressure of impressing your loved one, and instead utilize this special day to get back to the basics. Sometimes, keeping it green can really spice things up: save water with a bubble bath for two, enjoy a massage with fragrant organic oils, or get sensual with body painting. The possibilities are truly endless!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Midwest Winter Storm Aftermath: Checking for Winter Tree Damage

From January 31 to February 2, the Midwest United States experienced an eye-opening winter storm: almost four billion dollars worth of damage followed relentless snow, ice, and wind that wreaked havoc all the way from northern Mexico to eastern Canada. Although many are still shoveling snow and digging out cars, those who have the chance should get outside and assess any trees and shrubs on the property for damage from this widespread catastrophe. Just because the storm is over doesn’t mean that homeowners are in the clear: many trees are still weakened from heavy snow and ice, proving a notable danger to nearby people and property. 

Cracks and Splits

Many cracks and splits in the tree will heal naturally over time. However, cracks in stressed areas can end in broken branches when the limbs snap back after the snow melts. Take note and keep an eye on these compromised structures. Additional damage could be sustained by further snow or ice storms – even if they don’t approach the level of the 2011 blizzard. Do not attempt to remove snow with a broom as many sources suggest – let a professional tree service or arborist make the call and, if needed, install supports.A certified arborist may also make valuable suggestions on how to check for winter tree damage that may not be as easily visible.

Broken Branches

Broken limbs and branches will usually require removal. If the problem is due to a weak V connection, if the majority of the tree is broken, or if a portion of the top has fallen, the entire tree may face removal and needs to be evaluated by an arborist. If the limbs and branches have already fallen off, it is advisable to prune the remaining section before spring, flush but angled for proper moisture drainage. Hanging limbs should always be removed by a professional tree service - many quality companies offer emergency tree service for quick repair in conditions just like these. The urgency of this procedure depends on the proximity to property, power lines, and gathering spaces. Hesitation could end in expensive repairs or even a lawsuit.

The last thing anybody wants to do after a winter storm is run outside to inspect the landscaping. However, when one considers the potential cost of neglecting young and established trees in these extremely vulnerable times, the value of proper maintenance immediately becomes apparent. Remember to routinely prune and assess the structure of your trees, regardless of size or age, to ensure that storms like the 2011 blizzard cannot cause as much harm in the future.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Tree Carving Initials – Lovers, Valentines Beware!

Valentine’s Day is right around the corner, and young lovers are already daydreaming about romantic ideas to show their affection. One of the oldest ways to symbolically show devotion is a simple but sweet gesture: carving initials into a tree that will grow as your love grows. Unfortunately, there are a few problems with this otherwise charming idea – it may be wise to think twice before pulling out the pocketknife! 

Spare the Bark, Save a Tree

When couples decide to carve their initials into a tree, they do it with the intention of creating a lasting impression – an eternal testament to their undying love. It sounds great in theory, until one considers that trees are definitely not permanent, and carving anything into the soft flesh only serves to leave the tree vulnerable to disease. For the same reason that proper pruning is so important, fresh wounds on a tree invites a plethora of insects, fungus, and parasites that can quickly kill an otherwise healthy tree. 

Staying in Line with the Law

Besides the overall health of the tree, there is another huge reason that young lovers may not want to express their love on a living surface. Unless you’re planning to carve up a tree on your own property, you can almost bet that defacing public trees in your area is considered vandalism. If you get caught, good luck denying it: you’ve already left evidence far more powerful than a fingerprint! Avoid this problem by planting a new tree in your yard or (with permission) your local park - you do not even need to carve anything to make a lasting impression! 

Sweet, Sweet Alternatives

Instead of potentially getting a fine or harming a tree, consider showing your love in a more permanent and thoughtful way. A wooden knick-knack box or picture frame could be a wonderful host for your carving desires – the product of your affection will last much longer and can be treasured without any travel. Embroidery allows couples to put their initials anywhere they want: on a pillow, a bath robe, a tapestry… The possibilities are endless! With a little creativity, you can have a lasting relic of your love that suits your intentions with perfection.