Bartlett Chairman Honored by Massachusetts Horticultural Society

Bartlett Chairman Honored by Massachusetts Horticultural Society

The Board of Trustees of the Massachusetts Horticultural Society (MHS) presented the George Robert White Medal of Honor to Robert A. Bartlett Jr., Chairman and CEO of Bartlett Tree Experts, on November 4, 2021 during the Society’s 119th Honorary Medals Dinner. During the ceremony, medals were awarded to individuals and organizations for their contributions to excellence in horticulture for the public good.

The George Robert White Medal of Honor was established in 1909 and is among the most distinguished horticultural awards in the United States. The first honoree was Charles Sprague Sargent, Director of the Arnold Arboretum. Other recipients include Gertrude Jekyll, Jens Jensen, The Royal Horticultural Society, Massachusetts General Hospital, and Tasha Tudor. Joining these distinguished honorees, Bartlett represents the third generation of the F.A. Bartlett Tree Expert Company, the world’s leading scientific tree and shrub care company.


Robert Bartlett Jr., Chairman and CEO of Bartlett Tree Experts, accepts the George Robert White Medal of Honor and addresses the crowd at the Massachusetts Horticultural Society Honorary Medals Dinner.

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Choosing a Tree for Your Landscape

Choosing a Tree for Your Landscape

Mistakes are easy to make when choosing a tree. Most of these are related to misinformation regarding a tree’s size when full grown. It’s also common to see mishaps like full-sun plants tucked into shady corners.

Planting a tree should be fun and exciting. Unfortunately, mistakes ultimately often lead to disappointment. Planning and careful consideration are not only necessary at the time of planting, but before as well. A successful tree planting starts with the right tree.


Advance planning, before you even visit the nursery, will help ensure you choose the right tree.

Planting Goal

With so many choices about species, size, cost and other factors, it’s easy to get bogged down before you even get to the most important question. Prior to making any decisions, the first thing to ask is, “what is my goal in planting a tree?” Some typical tree planting goals are improving privacy, beautifying the landscape (flowers, etc), increasing shade, or establishing a family heirloom. Establish a goal and you will have an easier time making a choice about the best tree.

Location, Location, Location

Similar to success in real estate, success with tree planting a tree is all about the right location. The tree needs to have enough physical room to develop. Additionally, the spot chosen should have the right amount of sunlight or shade as well as proper soil conditions. Understanding the size and requirements of the tree as well as the conditions it will grow in will further narrow your selection.

dditional Considerations

If you live in a rural area with a lot of deer, you’ll need to consider a tree that is resistant to deer browsing. Further, seasonality could be important to you. Maybe you’re looking for an evergreen so that you have year-round color or want a tree that has brilliant red leaves in autumn. Perhaps you’d like a tree that flowers during late summer, or one that provides food for birds, squirrels, pollinators and other wildlife. Accordingly, these secondary benefits can inform your choice of tree depending on your priorities.

fter Planting

When planting, remember that regular watering is vital for new trees. Removing wire baskets and any cording around the trunk (if balled and burlapped) will help deter long-term health issues related to poor root structure and girdling. Be sure to review our tree planting tips.

Lastly, the job of tree care doesn’t end with the planting. Many newly planted trees die within the first few years after planting. As such, caring for your young tree in those early years is critical to survival. Controlling pests and ensuring adequate soil nutrition are particularly important as your new tree attempts to become established.

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Buttonbush: A Plant that Thrives in Wet Soils

Buttonbush: A Plant that Thrives in Wet Soils

It’s tough to find garden plants that thrive in wet soils or areas where there is standing water. You want a plant that can live in less than hospitable conditions while also looking great. In these instances, buttonbush (Cephalanthus occidentalis) may be your plant.


Buttonbush prefers wet conditions and can even grow in standing water.

Characteristics

Buttonbush is a small to medium sized shrub that can reach a height of 10 to 15 feet tall with a medium spread of 8 to 10 feet. It is sometimes called button willow, honey bells or honey balls. This multi-stemmed plant has leaves that come in pairs or in threes. The leaves are a glossy dark green with a narrow, oval shape. Further, they have smooth margins and a pointed tip that rounds to a tapered base.

When it is happy, buttonbush produces long-lasting white or pale pink flowers. The flowers are unique. They have a round shape and a pincushion-like appearance, like a spiky ball. As the flowers fade, they mature into reddish-brown fruits that persist into winter.

buttonbush flower
The unique buttonbush flower attracts many pollinators.

Buttonbush is a wildlife lover’s dream. The fragrant flowers attract hummingbirds and pollinators. Moths and butterflies frequent the plant for its sweet nectar. In addition, the fruit is a good food source for birds. Species including robins, towhees and kingbirds find the plants just as pleasing as the ducks and water birds that live in the wet areas where buttonbush often grows.

Growing Conditions

Buttonbush is native to much of the United States. As it prefers moist conditions, you may spot it growing on stream banks, shorelines and in swamps. In fact, it can tolerate growing in water up to depths of three feet. While it can grow in drier soil, buttonbush prefers soil with regular moisture to the aforementioned wet extremes. Some insect pests may cause minor damage, but drought conditions pose a greater threats to its growth and health.

With its unique attributes and adaptability, buttonbush is a worthy addition to diverse landscapes. It is a great option for wet areas of a property or even regular garden locations that get lots of moisture.

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Installing Lightning Protection at Arlington National Cemetery

Installing Lightning Protection at Arlington National Cemetery

Bartlett Tree Experts recently participated in the National Association of Landscape Professionals (NALP) annual service event. As part of the event, Bartlett installed lightning protection in some of the historic oak trees at Arlington National Cemetery.


Arborist Climber Eli Swadener installed lightning protection on historic oak at Arlington National Cemetery.

Eli Swadener, an Arborist Climber from Manassas, Virginia, was quoted in an article, “Renewal and Rembrance Celebrates 25th Anniversary with Two Service Locations,” published by the NALP.

Swadener was one of 150 landscape industry professionals who volunteered their time and skills at Arlington National Cemetery on July 19 during NALP’s annual Renewal & Remembrance event. The event is held to honor the men and women buried there. Because his father and grandfather served in the military, Swadener said volunteering at Arlington meant a lot to him. “To be able to contribute and give back is so important and I’m so thankful for the opportunity,” he said.

Swadener installed lightning protection on some of the historic oak trees at Arlington National Cemetery during the event. “A lightning strike can be devastating to a tree in terms of opening up the inner tissue, the heartwood,” he said. “Sometimes it chars but that can result in rot and eventually that could result in structural damage that potentially could lead to it falling from some destructive force later on once it’s weakened. It’s very important for historic trees like this that take hundreds of years to grow.”

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Healthy Trees from the Ground Up

Healthy Trees from the Ground Up

Everyone looks up when observing trees. However, you’ll often find arborists looking down! That’s because when it comes to assessing tree health, one of the most critical factors is a healthy root system. Focusing solely on noticeable issues in the canopy, like yellowing leaves, may cause you to miss the culprit responsible for those issues, which is often found below ground.

Common Root and Soil Issues

There are many concerns for tree roots. Disease is often found in the root system. One widespread example is root rot. Trees with root rot may have stunted growth, discolored leaves or dieback, but the real problem lies underground. Another frequent source of injury to the roots is damage from lawnmowers or other yard equipment.  For example, driving over an exposed tree root can result in irreparable harm, making it difficult for the tree to transport water and nutrients from the root system.

Problems also occur when you plant trees too deep or pile too much mulch against the trunk. The root flare, where the roots flare out from the trunk, should be visible. Covering this part of the tree in soil or mulch retains moisture against the trunk, promoting development of disease and hiding conditions like girdling roots.

For trees growing in urban and suburban landscapes, poor growing conditions are commonplace and unlike the ideal conditions found in the forest. Soil often lacks nutrients that growing trees need. Other environmental circumstances, such as compaction, further hinder root and tree growth.

These hidden problems threaten the health of the entire tree and should be treated as soon as possible.

What to Look for

The first thing to look for is the root collar, the transition area between the trunk and roots. There should be a visible flare. A tree should not grow straight from the ground like a telephone pole. If there is no root flare, it’s best to contact a Certified Arborist to discuss next steps. You’ll want to remove excess soil or mulch without damaging roots.

Further, you should to consider the soil. Is it lacking nutrients? Is it compacted? Soil compaction occurs when soil particles are compressed. Causes might include foot traffic, heavy snow or vehicles. When the soil under a tree is compacted, porous spaces in the soil are reduced, making it difficult for roots to extend and absorb water and nutrients. Compacted soil should be tilled and amended with organic matter and nutrients. Address soil issues to improve growing conditions for roots.

n Ideal Solution

Root InvigorationTM is a program designed to repair damaged soils, creating a beneficial growing environment that will encourage root development. The process leverages a supersonic air tool to aerate the soil, without damaging delicate small roots. Next, soil amendments are added to address nutrient deficiencies and increase organic matter content. Addition of biochar can further enhance soil quality. Biochar sequesters carbon and adds vital pore space, improving the soil and increasing plant health.

As a result of Root Invigoration, you can expect renewed growth and health of trees. Treated trees will experience less dieback and have greater pest resistance, a denser canopy, and enhanced color.

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Phytophthora Root Rot Disease

Phytophthora Root Rot Disease

Phytophthora root rot is a disease of many trees and shrubs. The disease derives its name from the Greek language and literally means “plant destroyer.” As such, this is a fitting name for the pathogen, which can kill its host by growing through the roots upward. Phytophthora root rot thrives in wet and poorly drained soil conditions and attacks a wide range of species.


Evidence of phytophthora root rot on yews.

Most Susceptible Tree and Shrubs Species

azaleaboxwoodconifersdaphnedogwoodhollyjunipertaxusrhododendron

A soil-borne microorganism, Phytophthora species are more closely related to brown algae than to fungi. Phytophthora root rot grows and produces spores under wet soil conditions. The spores (known as zoospores) have flagella that allow them to easily move through water. First, the zoospores germinate and infect fine roots. When conditions favor development of the pathogen, it will progress into larger roots, the root flare and even into the stem. Consequently, a serious infection that has spread throughout the root system can cause the eventual death of the plant.

Plants with root disease appear as unhealthy; leaves will become yellow and stunted, and new growth slows. Further, the roots of affected plants will be black and shriveled. Symptoms will vary based on the type of tree or shrub impacted.

Preventing and Treating Phytophthora Root Rot

Phytophthora species can persist in the soil for many years, spreading to nearby plants when it rains or plants are watered. With this in mind, it is particularly important to pay attention to the soil conditions in which your trees and shrubs are growing. To further protect your plants, ensure trees and shrubs live in well-drained soils that are amended with organic matter. Additionally, you should carefully monitor irrigation to prevent saturated soil.

Plants exhibiting early stages of root disease may respond well to soil treatments with systemic fungicides and cultural practices. However, plants with later stages of disease are unlikely to recover. Therefore, preventive management is the best course of action. The most essential step to protecting plants from Phytophthora root rot is maintaining good soil drainage.

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Citrus Trees: A Favorite Since Ancient Times

Citrus Trees: A Favorite Since Ancient Times

People have grown citrus trees since ancient times and helped spread these fruit-bearing favorites around the world! Citrus are native to Southeast Asia. However, humans brought them to increasingly distant places over time. Moving along trade routes, various species arrived in the Middle East and Mediterranean, then on to Europe. Spanish conquistadors first introduced citrus to North America in Florida. Now, citrus are some of the most common landscape fruit trees in California, Arizona and Texas.

Growing citrus trees at home

Citrus trees thrive in sunny, humid environments with fertile soil and adequate rainfall or irrigation. When selecting a planting location, consider soil drainage first and foremost as these trees require well-drained soil.

All citrus are broadleaved and evergreen. They do not drop leaves except when stressed. If you have a citrus tree losing leaves that is a definite indicator of an issue.

In warm, sunny climates, plant these trees or grow them in containers. In areas where the weather is too cold to grow citrus outdoors, you can grow dwarf plants potted indoors or in greenhouses. In containers, citrus trees will tolerate poor care better than many green shrubs.

The trees flower in the spring, and fruit is set shortly afterward. Fruit begins ripening in fall or early winter and develops increasing sweetness afterward. Fruit quality is highly dependent on the weather, variety and overall plant health.

How to tell if fruit is ripe

lemon tree

While the words “ripe” and “mature” are often used interchangeably, they are not actually the same thing. A mature fruit is one that has completed its growth phase. Ripening refers to the changes in a fruit after it is mature up until it begins to decay.

Some fruits are picked when mature but before they’re ripe and then they continue to ripen off the tree. That is not the case with citrus fruits; once picked they do not become sweeter or ripen further.

Color is not an indicator of ripeness with oranges because sometimes rinds turn orange long before the fruits are ready to eat. Tasting them is the only way to know if the time is right.

Also interesting is that the color of citrus fruits only develops in climates with cool winters. In tropical regions with no winter, citrus fruits remain green until maturity, such as with tropical “green oranges.”

Common problems in citrus trees

There are numerous diseases common in citrus trees, with some being quarantined. Citrus greening, sweet orange scab, citrus canker and black spot of citrus have had a serious impact on citrus industries. Report infected trees to the USDA. In home landscapes, root rot disease due to excess water is particularly commonplace. This disease is not quarantined.

Pests such as citrus leafminer, spider mites, rust mites, mealybugs, scale and aphids frequently infest citrus trees. Regular inspection will ensure identification of these pests early, before populations grow and serious damage occurs.

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Mulch Volcanoes Hurt Trees

Mulch Volcanoes Hurt Trees

Mulching the ground beneath your trees and shrubs is one of the best practices for keeping trees healthy. However, you need to mulch properly for it to truly be beneficial. Never pile mulch against the tree or cover the tree’s root flare, where the trunk flares outward into the ground. Even though a mulch volcano, a large pile of mulch under a tree, is a commonly seen practice, it is not a good one. Mulch volcanoes harm trees!


Mulch should be spread in a thin layer beneath the entire canopy.

How to Add Mulch Correctly

mulch volcano
INCORRECT MULCHING! A mulch volcano, where mulch is piled against the tree trunk, traps in moisture and damages the tree.

Whenever possible, you should apply mulch beneath the entire canopy. Mulch beds do not have to be round or symmetrical. The more area beds can cover under the canopy, the better! Mulch should not be deeper than four inches. Two inches will work for shallow rooted shrubs and perennials. As mulch decomposes, add more to maintain the appropriate depth.

One of the best materials to use as mulch is fresh wood chips. Wood chips contain bark, leaves and wood. This mixture is the most nutrient-rich option for the tree. It’s also okay to plant shrubs and perennials under the tree in the mulched area. When planting under trees, avoid solid masses of ground covers that hide buttress roots. Plant ground cover at least twelve inches away from tree trunks.

Mounded mulch and excessive ground cover can trap moisture against the tree’s bark. Stem tissues are not intended to remain moist. Excess moisture promotes the growth of fungal pathogens and disease. Too much mulch or ground cover can also conceal signs of an issue like the fruiting structures associated with root decay fungi.

How Mulch Helps

As you can see, proper mulching is relatively simple. It’s also effective in creating a healthy growing environment for trees. It eliminates competition between tree roots and turf as well as conserving soil moisture and moderating soil temperature. As mulch decomposes into the soil, it helps improve soil structure and reduce compaction.

Mulch beds mean there is less area of your lawn to mow. They also create a visible and physical barrier that can help prevent damage from mowers and trimmers to the tree trunk.

Even though the practice of piling mulch against the tree like a mountain or volcano has become so common that some professionals think it is acceptable or desirable, it is not. Just remember, mulch is one of the best things you can do for your trees, but only if you do it right!

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Monitor Trees for Signs of Insects & Disease

Monitor Trees for Signs of Insects & Disease

The telltale signs of various tree diseases and insect infestations are often most evident in summer. Populations of many types of scales, mites, and aphids are particularly noticeable at this time. Some problems can be spotted and treated immediately. However, when certain insect pests are present and visible, it may already be too late to treat. Even in these cases, learning now that these insects are present is important. You can get a jumpstart on planning for treatments for next year and implement cultural practices, like proper mulching and irrigation, that will keep trees healthier and more resistant to infestation. By regularly looking at your trees you may notice some of the common signs associated with tree pests or disease.


Signs of a Tree Issue

leaf galls
Strange bumps, or galls, on leaves can indicate insect feeding and egg-laying activity.

Discoloration, spots, or bumps on leavesBranch dieback, wilting, or stunted foliageMushrooms or fungal growth near a tree’s trunkDark areas or oozing liquid on the trunk or rootsPresence of defoliating insects, nests or caterpillarsSmall exit holes in the trunk or branchesSap-sucking insects secreting honeydew that leads to sooty mold growthSawdust-like debris caused by wood-boring insectsPremature autumn color and leaf drop

magnolia scale
Scale insects can be difficult for property owners to spot because of their unusual appearance.

Correct Diagnosis is Key

Some symptoms may indicate problems that cause negligible damage and require little to no intervention. Conversely, others may reveal that a serious problem exists or could develop if the symptoms are ignored. Therefore, correctly diagnosing the cause of symptoms is critically important in caring for trees and shrubs.

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The May Tree: Hawthorn Shines in Spring

The May Tree: Hawthorn Shines in Spring

During the month of May it seems fitting to mention a lovely species often called the May Tree. Aptly named for the month in which it blooms, the May Tree, or hawthorn, is a small, showy tree. It displays clusters of beauitful, white or pink blooms in spring.

Hawthorn is native through much of Europe and in Eastern North America. The tree has long, sharp thorns along its horizontal branches. With its thorny branches, hawthorn is an excellent hedge boundary and privacy screen. Berry-like fruit attracts many birds that take shelter in the tree’s dense, thorny foliage. Early settlers to North America ate the fruit during harsh winters. During medieval times, Europeans made jams and jellies with it.

hawthorn fruit
The hawthorn fruit is called haws and is an important winter food for many birds.

Cultural and Historic Significance

The hawthorn tree holds traditional significance in numerous cultures. According to myth, the tree was seeded from lightning and offers protection against storms and fire. Ancient Greeks saw it as a symbol of springtime and fertility and used it as garland and decoration during wedding festivities. Celtic and Gaelic lore often associates the tree with faeries. In fact, the story of Thomas the Rhymer, references a hawthorn as the meeting place of the Scottish poet and the Faery Queen.

Hawthorn Care Recommendations

With its unique history and distinctive physical attributes, hawthorn is a great ornamental tree. It should be planted in a sunny spot. Tolerant of a range of soil pH, textures, and moisture levels, it is also moderately drought tolerant. The white flowers last about one to two weeks and are an excellent food source for pollinators.

A number of insect pests, such as aphids, mites and scale, favor hawthorn. It is susceptible to several diseases including fire blight, leaf spots and rusts. These issues can escalate quickly. As such, hawthorn should be routinely checked for any signs of pests and disease.

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