Ciscoe waxes on making the right tree choice

Green-thumb guru Ciscoe Morris listed a few dozen of his all time favorite plants, gave pointers on planting trees and warned against placing tall tree species under power lines Friday at Clear Creek Nursery. Two hours and a few “bull tweedles” later, crowd that gathered in the Silverdale nursery had a pretty good idea of what to do, and not do, where trees are concerned.

Morris was part of Puget Sound Energy’s effort to get its message out about tree-caused power outages. Tree Line USA is typically presented as a slide show, but “the message wasn’t getting out as much as we would like,” said PSE’s Tina Melton.

About 1,600 outages a year are caused by trees. The most common tall trees wreaking havoc are the Douglas fir and poplars.

So they contacted Morris, the best-known plant-related TV and radio personality in Seattle, and he agreed to do three appearances, the latest one in Silversdale.

When selecting a tree people need to look at how tall and wide the grown tree will be, not how beautiful it is at the nursery, Morris said.

“Some trees are messy. A big-leafed maple will drop its leaves all at once,” he said, adding trees also should be proportional to the rest of the landscaping.

Bare root trees offer a cheaper alternative to container trees. He doesn’t recommend buying the balled and burlapped trees at all.

“Soil is the name of the game. If there’s anything that’s important, it’s the soil. To test their soil, people should dig a one-foot cube and fill it with water. If it drains an inch to an inch and a half each hour, the soil is as good as gold. If not, then a layer of topsoil should be put down first.”

After the tree is planted, Morris said it’s time to mulch.

“Never let grass grow around your tree,” he said. Grass tends to be toxic to trees. While bark is the worst mulch to use, the chips from the local arborist are generally the best. But be careful, Morris warned. A woman saw an arborist trimming the trees on her street and asked for the chips. when she returned home a few hours later a huge pile of chips blocked her driveway.

Morris covered pruning and watering tips and mentioned his favorite trees. Among them are the Japanese maples, wedding cake dogwood, red twig dogwood and yellow twig dogwood. He is “enamoured with beyond all control” with the lion’s mane maple.

Intermingled with the plant tips were quips and anecdotes told in a way only Morris can.

“You know what the the definition of a plant expert is,” Morris said. “He’s the guy that’s murdered the most plants.”

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