Tis the Season for Education

January-February 2007

 AH YES, WINTER IS HERE – the time of year we look forward to when we can take a bit of a break and start thinking about how we can improve things for the next growing season. This is a great time for developing your skills: technical, business and inter-personal. There are several trade shows related to landscape, arboriculture and gardening throughout Canada and the US: Landscape Ontario Congress in Toronto, CENTS in Ohio, ISAO’s Annual February Conference and Canada Blooms in Toronto are all perfect opportunities for professional development and networking.

In addition, Landscape Ontario offers several very practical courses related to landscape and turf installation and management. Topics include arboriculture, business, design, equipment, grounds, installation/construction, IPM (oh, this one sounds interesting!), interior landscaping, irrigation, plants and much more. Some of the local chapters are even putting on their own special member-requested seminars. Professional development guides are available from Landscape Ontario. Just call 1-800-265-5656 and they’ll pop one in the mail to you. If you subscribe to Landscape Trades or Horticulture Review, you probably have had one sent to you in the fall. I’ll be leading the all-day workshop “IPM for Woody Ornamentals” on February 9 and 23.

Now what about those inter-personal skills? It’s interesting to talk to my neighbours about their experiences with contractors. It seems like it is the woman of the household who is interacting with contractors more than the men these days. And these women talk to each other – they share their experiences. Although my neighbours are always looking for the cheapest bid, they do not want to compromise quality and they want to be treated with respect.

One neighbour recently hired a contractor to do a concrete walkway and ended up using one of the highest bidders. Why? “He was really nice” (I wish you could have seen the look on my face). He took the time to talk to her, his crew showed up on time (i.e. they didn’t waste her precious time) and they gave her the impression that they cared about what they were doing. They showed respect to their customer… and they managed to get two more contracts on the same street.

So, how are your inter-personal skills? There are some great resources under the “business” and “self-help” section at your local bookstore. Amazon.ca has a cool little subject search feature that will provide you with lots of great titles. Scroll down the page and you will find reader reviews too (how else could I have picked those great little books for my three year-old?). If you’re still a little unsure, try asking a colleague whom you respect and admire. It’s surprising how many people have taken courses or read books on inter-personal, organizational and leadership skills. Now, the next step is to put these learned behaviours into action – that’s the hard part. Sometimes it’s safer to try them out on family members or friends first!

Lend Me Your Ideas…
After eight years as the Provincial Nursery Crops Specialist, I must confess that I am still in love with my job. I am challenged on a daily basis and I get to work with great people like you! But after eight years of writing countless articles for industry, it becomes more difficult to come up with good content. So, what would you like to read about? Is there a question you want answered, or a review of recent literature on a certain topic you’d appreciate. I’d love to hear from you.

Defruiting Ornamental Crabapples (Cultivar chart...)
Ornamental crabapples (Malus sp.) have long been planted in the landscape because of their incredible display of early spring flowers. Colours range from white to a rosy-red and are even more spectacular since the trees bloom before the foliage has fully emerged. Bloom periods can last from one to two weeks and fruit can be quite showy, but property owners later become soured over the multitude of fallen fruit that line their driveways, walkways and gardens. Rotting fruit can be slippery and smelly plus it attracts unwelcome guests such as flies and wasps. What can we do to reduce or eliminate unwanted fruit production on ornamental crabapples?

In the commercial orchard, hormone-type thinners (such as naphthaleneacetic acid) are used to discourage fruit formation, leaving behind a smaller number of higher quality fruit that are more uniform. This practice also encourages return bloom. To the best of my knowledge, these products have not been tested widely on ornamental crabapples and we don’t know what rates would stimulate adequate fruit abscission without damaging the tree. Weather also plays a significant role in how these products perform. We already know from experience how variable cultivars can be in their response to some products and their environment.

Applications of the insecticide carbaryl can interfere with fruitlet growth and can cause premature fruit drop when applied at the correct time. Unfortunately, carbaryl will also kill most of the pollinators that would be buzzing around the apple blossoms. Carbaryl is very toxic to bees plus many other beneficial insects and mites. It’s also toxic to people and its use is highly regulated in a lot of urban areas these days. All in all, the drawbacks outweigh the benefits for this particular use. A few other home remedies can be found on some websites. The thing is, these treatments are all aimed at burning off flowers to prevent fruit formation. This kind of defeats the purpose of having the tree in the first place, doesn’t it?

Let’s face it, planning and prevention can go a long way into making better choices for landscape specimens. Ornamental Malus have their place along streets with large boulevards and in larger landscapes where fallen fruit won’t be a nuisance to the gardener but a treasure for wildlife. I’ll never forget the time my old neighbour consulted me about the tree they wanted to plant beside the fence in their backyard. His wife wanted a crabapple but he wanted a maple and what did I think? Well let’s just say he was a little overwhelmed by the hug that I gave him over the fence that separated our teeny-tiny backyards when in the end, he decided to go with a native maple. Not that a blooming ornamental crabapple doesn’t make me go weak in the knees, I just think a top-grafted Malus standard is a better fit for the 33-and-a-third foot lot size that you’ll find in many new housing developments.

Another option is to choose Malus cultivars that retain their fruit long into the autumn and winter. There are also cultivars that produce smaller, less conspicuous fruit. There is some very useful information on the internet. Check out “Crabapples for Western Washington Landscapes” and the International Ornamental Crabapple Society website for lists of cultivars with desirable traits to fit your clients’ needs. When choosing a cultivar of Malus, you should also consider disease resistance. Some cultivars of Malus are very susceptible to apple scab, powdery mildew, Gymnosporangium rust and fireblight and should be avoided or replaced. The table above is a list of Malus cultivars that have either persistent fruit or very tiny fruit, while possessing some tolerance to apple scab. A much larger selection of disease-resistant cultivar is available. Take the time to consider putting the right Malus in the right place.

Compiled From...
• “Crabapples – A Selection Guide,” Michigan State University Extension Bulletin E-2177.
• “Apple Scab Resistant Crab Apple Cultivars,” Ohio State University Yard & Garden Brief.
• “Crabapples for Western Washington Landscapes,” Washington State Bulletin EB1809.

Contact Information

This column is written by Jen Llewellyn, Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) Nursery Crops Specialist

Email any questions you have directly to Jen and we'll publish her response.

P: 519-824-4120 ext. 52671 • F: 519-767-0755
E: jennifer.llewellyn@omafra.gov.on.ca

OMAF website: http://www.omafra.gov.on.ca/scripts/english/crops/agriphone/index.asp

Nursery Landscape Agriphone: 1-888-290-4441

Our mission is to enhance and promote the care and benefit of trees for present and future generations in Ontario through education, research and awareness.