2015 Central Rappahannock Tree Steward Course


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Cooperative Extension, General Interest, Trees | Posted on 17-02-2015

The Stafford County Office of the Virginia Cooperative Extension will host a Tree Steward Course beginning on March 10, 2015. 

The course consists of 13 sessions from March 10 through June 2 every Tuesday morning from 9am to noon at the Rowser Building (Stafford County Extension Office, 1739 Jefferson Davis Hwy, Stafford, VA). The course also includes 3 field trips: 2 at the University of Mary Washington Campus in Fredericksburg, VA and 1 at the Old Growth Forest at Montpelier in Orange, VA.

Registration is $125 and the deadline to register is February 27.  The class will be limited to 24 participants and there are no pre-requisites for the course.

To become a certified tree steward, you must complete the training class and then perform 20 hours of volunteer work for approved Tree Steward Projects.  In order to maintain certification and be an active member, you must perform 10 hours of volunteer work each year thereafter.

The participants will receive a Training Manual from the Virginia Urban Forest Council, three tree identification guides, a book on invasive plants in southern forests, a pruning handbook, numerous handouts supporting the topics covered in the class sessions, and a Resource DVD.

At the end of the course there is a take-home, open-book final exam.

Training Class Topics:

  • How Trees Grow – the microbiology of trees
  • Tree Roots, Shoots and Leaves
  • Tree Life Functions
  • Tree ID and Propagation
  • Virginia’s Native Trees
  • Tree Pruning
  • Tree Selection-The Right Tree for the Right Place
  • Tree Planting and Care
  • Tree Diagnosis and Disorders/Problems
  • Trees in the Community
  • Trees and Utility Lines
  • Riparian Buffers
  • Pesticide Safety
  • Tree Steward Projects

Presenters include professionals from the Virginia Cooperative Extension Service, Bartlett Tree Experts, the City of Fredericksburg Arborist, other certified Tree Stewards, and members of the local Master Naturalist and Master Gardener organizations.

View the 2015 Tree Steward Course Brochure (pdf)

For more information contact Guy Mussey at the Stafford County Extension Office at 540-658-8000 ext 1058.

Fredericksburg Area: Spring Seedling Sale & VCE Lawn and Home Landscape Programs


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Gardening, General Interest, Lawn Care, Plant Sale, Trees | Posted on 13-03-2014

I just wanted to share a few local items of interest for those in the Fredericksburg (Virginia) area.

1) The Tri-County Soil &  Water Conservation District is holding their annual Tree Seedling & Rain Barrel Sale. Visit their website for more information and for a pre-order form (must be received by March 28, 2014). The pick up date is April 5th and you can choose from 4 area locations to pick-up. I have purchased the rain barrel previously and it’s better than others I have owned. Easy to install, nice capacity, and less expensive than the same one available at box retail stores.  The seedlings are between $10-$20 in bundles of 3, 6 or more and include a lilac, dogwoods, birch, indigobush, pines, redbud, and more.  Reminder, these are little seedlings. But a great opportunity to plant with children that love to watch things grow! Or for the new homeowner that wants a lot of trees and shrubs and doesn’t mind the wait of them to mature.

If you are not in the Fredericksburg area?  Many soil and water conservation districts across the country have spring seedling sales so search for your state and local soil and water conservation district. They are a great resource for information, education and programs on water conservation and other environmentally friendly best practices that relate to lawns and gardening.


2) The VCE Stafford County Office will be offering their very popular Smart Green Lawn Program again this year.  When a homeowner submits the enrollment form with a nominal fee, a master gardener will come to your home and take soil samples and measure your lawn. After the soil test results, you will receive a lawn care handbook and a customized lime & fertilizer plan for your lawn.  Reminder: it is always best to do a soil test before applying any fertilizer. It saves you money and saves the environment too.


3) The VCE Stafford County Office is also offering an 8 week program, The Home Landscape Course for the Gardening Novice for homeowners. Topics include soils, fertilizing, pruning, lawn care, composting, plant pests and more.  The course is Thursday evenings (6:30pm-8:30pm) from April 3-May22. Contact the  VCE Stafford County Office for more information and to register. 


Check out these great local resources and remember, it’s almost Spring folks! 






We are planting a seed: Plants Map


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Botanical Gardens, Cooperative Extension, Gardening, Plants Map, Social Gardening, Trees | Posted on 18-01-2014

What is Plants Map?

Plants Map: Discover Plants and Gardens, Be a Plant Explorer; Be a Plant Collector

Plants Map: Social Gardening: bringing people and plants together

Plants Map: A new prototype of attractive, interactive, custom plant tags that use smartphone technology to connect people with plant collections via a social plant database where users map and share gardens.

It’s a New Year and my husband and I have a new idea: Plants Map (www.plantsmap.com). We are launching Plants Map (www.plantsmap.com) this weekend at Startup Weekend Fredericksburg (http://fredericksburg.startupweekend.org).

PlantsMapWe have planted a seed! We expect www.plantsmap.com to emerge this Saturday morning ( January 18 about 10am). The website will be in ‘seedling’ mode and grow throughout the day with features so don’t just visit once.  We are inviting everyone who appreciates trees, gardens and parks to visit www.plantsmap.com & help us grow the site by creating their own profile and lists of plants in their gardens as well as lists of favorite plants at public gardens they have visited.

We envision that Plants Map will have two facets: A free, fun, interactive, social component where people can explore gardens, discover plants, and create their own plant collection lists. The plant species themselves will be the central focus.  Our idea we feel is not just for gardeners, but for anyone who enjoys and supports gardens, public and private. We want people to become ‘plant explorers’ and ‘discover’ gardens and plants & gardens they didn’t know before. We want a place for ‘plant collectors’ to share their passion for gardening. And maybe your plants earn some ‘green thumb’ ratings too.The other aspect is to create and make available interactive, affordable, attractive plant identification tags with QR codes that work with smartphone technology. We have already talked to gardeners and botanical gardens and feel their is nothing that has evolved that was easy to produce, long lasting, attractive and interactive. Our target audience is Botanical Gardens that want a better option. We feel interactive plant tags with a social website for plant species will help attract more visitors too.The social aspect is free and instead of relying on traditional advertising streams to support it we wanted to provide something of service, value and usefulness to the users like a map of their plants, or a product like a color booklet or a photo album and the core product: interactive, attractive plant tags.We have lots of ideas for the website in terms of ways this can support neighborhood and community gardens and tree programs. As part of the launch this weekend we will create a ‘wish list registry’ of plant tags for Cossey Botanical Park, a public neighborhood arboretum maintained by volunteer Master Gardeners in Fredericksburg (VA). Our idea is that there are a lot of public community gardens that don’t have budgets for tags. So we hope to see if people will ‘sponsor’ a tag (map a plant) and order one for Cossey Park.
More information about Plants Map and Startup Weekend is below.So we have planted a seed.  We are inviting as many as we can to visit www.plantsmap.com on Saturday to watch and see what emerges. We hope its big.Thanks,Tracy and Bill Blevins

Plants Map: A new prototype of attractive, interactive, custom plant tags that use smartphone technology to connect people with plant collections via a social plant database where users map and share gardens. For plant enthusiast, explorers and collectors, this visually interactive plant map database will be a social & mobile experience. Users create an ‘explorer’ profile and share their own garden collections as well as ‘discover’, virtually or in person, Botanical Gardens, arboretums, public gardens and other private gardens too. ‘Explorers’ create lists of ‘discovered’ collections, favorites, and wish lists. With a fun and easy to use site ‘Collectors’ create their own garden collections that can be organized into lists with their photos. From their own collections list the site provides services such as downloading your collection to an excel file, saving and printing a .pdf file with their photos, or ordering a higher quality, full-color printed catalog/booklet of their plants or a photo album format or even producing a map of their garden.More information about Startup Weekend 
Startup Weekend is a global grassroots movement of active and empowered entrepreneurs who are learning the basics of founding startups and launching successful ventures. The non-profit organization is headquartered in Seattle, Washington but Startup Weekend organizers and facilitators can be found in over 200 cities around the world.  Startup Weekend Fredericksburg is January 17-19 and will be hosted at Germanna Community College Workforce & Technology Center.

How to remove an invasive tree species


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Invasives, Trees | Posted on 11-06-2013

I just got a great question from someone: “Help…I am being over run by Ailanthus tree seedlings.  How can I eliminate them?”

Keep in mind this is a non-native, invasive and aggressive tree to Virginia.

You have to control the parent problem or mature trees first. They are extremely adapted to reseeding and creating the seedlings. So unless you take out/remove the parent trees, you will be fighting a never ending fight.

They are hard to kill. For the smaller seedlings and trees the best advice is to dig them out. They are actually fairly easy to remove.

For the really larger trees I would recommend having someone remove them stump and all. I highly suggest using a tree company with a certified arborist. Request the arborist come out and assess your situation to give you a quote.  You can find one via International Society of Arboriculture.

For in-between medium trees that you can’t dig out or if there are too many to pay to have removed, you can cut them down and paint the stumps with a non-selective herbicide with glyphosate as the active ingredient to paint on the fresh cuts. Pour the product in a non-reusable container and ‘paint’ the fresh cut wounds using one of those arts and craft sponges on sticks. It will get into the fresh wound and work down into the roots. I would recommend the products formulated for brush control. This method is more targeted than spraying and helps avoid killing things you want to keep.

You will have to be persistent as most invasive and aggressive species will put up a really good fight…that’s why the are so successful.

Here’s a great resource from the VA Dept of Forestery on Alianthus with tips on how to control/eliminate in your home landscape as well as what they are doing to control it in the state.


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Trees for America: Disaster Recovery Campaigns


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Trees | Posted on 07-06-2013

From The Arbor Day Foundation: Disaster Recovery Program at arborday.org.

Together, we’re providing trees to tens of thousands of residents in disaster-stricken areas. Examples include the Gulf Coast hit by Hurricane Katrina, Joplin and Northern Alabama ravaged by tornadoes, and Central Texas ravaged by drought-fueled wildfires.” 


Snow: to remove or not to remove?


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Gardening, Trees, Weather | Posted on 06-03-2013

Snowy MapleThe mid-atlantic has experienced heavy wet snow today followed by increasing wind. This can equal a lot of damage to trees and shrubs.  There is always the debate about wether you should or shouldn’t go out and knock the snow off your highly prized woody ornamentals and trees.  I prefer to wait and see what Mother Nature can do before I intercede.

Earlier this morning the branches of my maple were dropping heavy. The winds gradually started to increase and the snow began to shake loose off the branches. I look at it now and it is totally free of snow. Same with my evergreens and little shrubs.

Snow removal is a touchy subject. If the wait and see approach doesn’t work and it is painful to watch your tree branches bent over, then most sources recommend using a broom to gently (keyword), brush with an upward stroke, the branches of your trees and shrubs. I don’t recommend going out in fowl weather, risking your own life and limb to do this.  And use caution for own safety.

The best thing that you can do to prevent a lot of winter damage, is to keep your trees an shrubs pruned properly.  It is also advised to not encourage new growth in the fall buy fertilizing or pruning.  Below are some additional resources on minimizing winter damage to your trees and shrubs. And if you do need damage control, always use a an ISA Certified Tree Care Service or Arborist.

VCE Managing Winter Injury to Trees and Shrubs

NCSU Trees: Damage



Black Walnut Trees: Blessing or Curse?


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Trees | Posted on 06-12-2012

My new 2 acre homestead is blessed withe a nice diversity of trees an plants.  One of these ‘blessings’ is the cursed Black Walnut tree.  There are several of them actually.  And as most gardeners know, the Juglans species are more often viewed as a nuisance due to their ability to release toxins into the soil from their roots to thwart their competition for survival.  A lot of other species have learned to deal with this tactic, but many more just can’t survive near them.  I hate to black list any species and I do know there are some very redeeming factors for the Black Walnut. But since I am not into harvesting the walnuts myself (although walnuts are my favorite nut) and I don’t build furniture (but walnut is my wood of choice), I will be selectively removing them from within my fenced backyard.  And also learning to work with the rest, since my goal is to keep my backyard natural and native.

There is one very stately, tall and old black walnut on the east edge of our property that is a keeper.   For more info on the positive side see:  Growing Black Walnuts (Univ of Minnesota Ext).  And for plant choices to work with existing black walnuts:  The Walnut Tree (Virginia Coop Ext); and The Morton Arboretum.


Tree Selection


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Gardening, Trees | Posted on 26-06-2012

Recently someone asked me about replacing a tree in their front yard and establishing a shrub bed underneath.  Careful consideration of the tree choice is important because a lot of very commonly sold trees  really do not like to share their root zone with other plants or even grass.

Most trees have shallow roots that spread out but don’t go very deep.  You will need to consider that whatever you plant under the tree is sharing water and nutrients with that tree. This requires more watering of the shrubs you put under the tree to get everybody established and during periods of drought.  It is best to find a tree that does not have a very shallow root system.

Stay away from Maples for this reason.  Also stay away from Ashe trees (also in the maple family) because of the emerald ash borer problem.   And also stay away form anything in the Black Walnut family because the roots emit a toxin that prevents other plants even grass from growing under or anywhere near them.  Oak trees have nice deep roots, but there is one caveat:  Deer love acorns. So you will attract deer to an oak tree and then they will eat your shrubs.

There is one more thing to consider about trees: some on the lists below are considered ‘messy’.  Kentucky Coffee tree produces huge pods that fall off each fall.  So when you go to a local garden center ask about how messy the tree is or what kind of seed pods or flowers does it produce.   Magnolias, Sweet Gums and Catalpas also are considered messy trees.

Here is a link to a pdf from the University of Minnesota Extension on Planting under Trees: http://www.extension.umn.edu/distribution/horticulture/components/8237ppt.pdf

Fine Gardening has a list of trees that tolerate underplanting better than others at http://www.finegardening.com/how-to/articles/planting-under-a-tree.aspx

Below is a list of trees that I would consider

Smaller Ornamental Trees: ServiceBerry (amelanchier), Hornbeam, Yellowwood,  Carolina Silverbell, Dogwoods, Redbuds, Hawthornes, CrabApples, Crape Myrtles (some can be very large)

Medium Trees: Katsura (love this tree), Thornless Honeylocust, Stewartia (beautiful bark)

Large Trees: Ironwood, Sourwood, European Mt Ash (not a true ash), Little Leaf Linden or Silver Linden

And then the shrubs for underneath…I would go to your local garden center and pick the tree first and then the shrubs.  Just let them know that is your plan. And then just be specific about what you want and they should know what they have to match that.  Here is some things to consider for shrubs:

Size: tell them you do not want to prune them and want them to stay a certain size.  Slow growing, dwarf shrubs would be a good choice.   Keep in mind the ultimate size of your tree and scale the shrubs down to that tree.  Large tree = larger shrubs; small ornamental tree = dwarf or low spreading shrubs.

Shrubs to avoid: barberries, burning bushes, eunoymous, (invasive, lots of pruning and pest problems)


Arbor Day Tree City USA Bulletins


Posted by justtracy | Posted in Gardening, Trees | Posted on 30-05-2012

The Arbor Day Tree City USA Bulletins contain a wealth of information and resources on everything you want to know about trees.  Some of the bulletins are available for download or you can order any of them from the website.

Topics include How to Hire an Arborist, Trees for Wildlife, How to Prune a Shade Tree, etc.

Go to  http://www.arborday.org/programs/treeCityUSA/bulletins/index.cfm