By Laura Langston
AS SPRING APPROACHES and the temperatures
start to climb, our focus naturally turns to our landscapes. We choose colorful new plants for the ;ower
beds and think about what we want in the vegetable
garden. Our trees and shrubs, those stalwarts that
form the foundation of a sustainable landscape, are
o;en taken for granted. A;er all, they seem to take
care of themselves. But trees and shrubs can tell us
plenty about the health of our landscapes. Ignoring
them is a mistake.
“Trees and shrubs can be a bellwether for how
healthy your soil is,” says Costco member Terrill
Collier, an International Society of Arboriculture
certi;ed arborist and plant healthcare consultant
with Collier Arbor Care in Clackamas, Oregon.
Excellent indicators of the growing environment,
trees and shrubs can tell you about microclimates in
your yard, prevailing winds, drainage patterns—all
things you need to know for a healthy landscape.
For instance, moss or mushrooms growing at
the base of a tree might mean your soil is too wet.
Leaf scorch could be an indicator of cold winds.
Brown leaves might mean a drainage issue in that
part of the yard.
For this reason, it’s that much more important
to ensure the health of one’s trees and shrubs. We
ignore their health, and consequently the health of
the rest of our yard, at our peril.
“Many of those trees should outlive us,” Collier
explains, “yet we can kill them if we don’t maintain
The arborist advantage
A professional certi;ed arborist is skilled at
ensuring your trees and shrubs are as healthy as
possible. Trained in all aspects of woody plant
healthcare, arborists can diagnose and treat diseases, tell you why your favorite tree has brown
leaves and professionally prune and shape trees or
shrubs. ;ey can also recommend watering, fertil-
Look to your trees
for yard health
izing and speci;c plants to help maintain the entire
landscape. ;ey can (and o;en do) take soil samples
to address nutrient de;ciencies. In fact, an arborist
can help you set up a plant healthcare plan for your
“In a lot of ways it’s like a human wellness pro-
gram, only it’s for [your] yard,” Collier says. “Our
landscape is an ecosystem that functions together
much like a forest ecosystem, and the best way to
have a successful landscape is to consider [that eco-
system] as a whole.”
;e ;rst step is hiring the right arborist to set up
the plan (see “Tips for hiring an arborist”), someone
local who is familiar with the specifics of your
region. ;at’s important, since growing conditions
and tree and shrub species vary widely across the
country. “;ere’s no one-size-;ts-all,” says certi;ed
arborist Chris Donnelly, director and past president
of the Connecticut Tree Protective Association. “In
the Northeast in recent years, we’ve had terribly
damaging winds as well as our share of snowstorms
and tropical storms, and they’ve le; a legacy of bro-
ken tree limbs that need to be addressed.”
Pests and diseases also vary from place to place.
In the Northeast the emerald ash borer is an ongo-
ing threat, while in the Northwest root rot is a com-
mon disease and one that’s not always easy to spot.
Preventive maintenance and regular checkups