Saving Our Trees...Beautifying Our Mailboxes

By: Nature's Way Resources | Published 10/18/2019


“Three trees placed strategically around a single-family home can cut summer air conditioning needs by up to 50 percent. By reducing the energy demand for cooling our houses, we reduce carbon dioxide and other pollution emissions from power plants.”
? Trees for Houston (
The rest of the country may be planning to celebrate Arbor Day on Friday, April 24, 2020. But arborists in Houston know April is NOT the best time for us to plant trees. Now is the time to learn. Winter is the time to plant. That's why Texas Arbor Day is being celebrated on Sat., Nov. 2.

Many scientists agree: Planting billions of trees across the world is by far the biggest and cheapest way to tackle the climate crisis.

And two major events are planned to help us learn how to not only plant, but to care for, this precious resource.
SAT., NOV. 2: Mercer Botanic Gardens, Houston Area Urban Forestry Council, and Texas A&M Forest Service, with the the help of Spring Creek Education Society plan to celebrate Texas Arbor Day at Mercer's West Side Arboretum. Free tree saplings will be available as long as supplies last.
FRI., NOV 15: Houston Urban Tree Conference, 8am-3pm, Weekly Community Center, 8440 Greenhouse Road, Cypress. $45.

In our Spotlight Article below, Mercer Botanic Gardens arborist Laura Medick casts a professional eye at our tree decline crisis, explaining why she says,
"When it comes to general tree health, it is safe to say
that a tree has long been declining before someone
says that it has suddenly died overnight."

First though . . .

HAPPY GOLDEN ANNIVERSARY TO HOUSTON AUDUBON SOCIETY. For 50 years, Audubon has provided us with incredible advice and support for protecting our birds, and helping them with appropriate plantings -- long before, in fact, the current emphasis on attracting pollinators. Their Bolivar Naturally plant list works for the entire upper Texas Gulf Coast and is a treasure resource for our own best pollinator-attracting natives, such as this Rattlebean (Sesbania drummondii), at right.
MARY JOHNSON IN SANTA FE wants to talk about mailboxes. Curbside mailboxes, and plantings around them, are becoming more common in many areas. I've always loved seeing the creativity so many home gardener exhibit in these plantings. Below are mailbox plantings that, over the years, caught my eye.

Peg worries there may be rules she needs to follow. Yes, the U.S. Postal Service has strict regulations when it comes to curb mailboxes' height, distance from the street, size of box, etc. Your mailman will quickly tell you if your mailbox doesn't meet these criteria. As to plantings, commonsense tells us not block the mailbox opening (or your house numbers if on there) or oncoming traffic views from any approach. And no thorny plants! If there's one person you don't want to hack-off, it's your mailman!

Think ahead so you won't spend a lot of energy and money before an inappropriate choice becomes obvious.
Use bricks, timbers or other borders to keep soil & mulch from washing away in heavy rains.
Best to plant BEHIND the mailbox so plants won't interfere with opening and closing it or obscure your street address.
Even shaded mailbox plantings will receive more heat reflection from the adjacent concrete street (and usually driveways), drying out the soil more quickly in summer.

One trick: mix water-holding polymers in the soil (or buy soil with moisture-control). These will hold water in a form roots can access without keeping roots too wet. (Caution: don't overdo! They hold a lot of water.)

Vines are attractive, but don't rely on the mailbox to be the sole support. Train tendrils to wind inside rather than outside, so it won't need constant pruning.

Check with your nurseryman for low care, heat-/drought-/cold-tolerant varieties that won't grow too large. Some I've seen used very effectively: coral honeysuckle, cypressvine, (all sun). For partially shaded spots, try bleeding heart, snail vine, coral vine. Expect to have to prune more aggressive vines, such as passionvine, Rangoon creeper and Mexican flame vine.

Bushy-type choices might include cupheas, ruellias, blue daze, bulbine, lantana, lower-growing hardy salvias, pentas, plumbago and Mexican zinnia. Plumbago and indigofera would also work in shade.

Remember: The mailbox front door must always be easily accessible and, for emergency reasons, your street numbers should always be kept visible.

* * *
TIP O' THE TROWEL TO LANSON B. JONES & CO for generously sharing its recommended Community Garden design for a Habitat for Humanity project in its current newsletter. The proposed garden layout will give Settegast residents an opportunity to grow their own fresh fruits and vegetables. Check it out:
Now, if you treasure trees, pay attention to Laura Medick's warnings below.

THE KISSING TREE: When a convenience store owner planned to uproot a150-year-old tree to make room for an entrance, a grassroots community effort brought the issue to the attention of Harris County Precinct 4 Commissioner R. Jack Cagle, who not only prevented the tree’s destruction, but also purchased the surrounding four acres to create Kissing Tree Park. (the rest of the story)


Arborist, Mercer Botanic Gardens
In order to address any tree problems, it is critical to first understand tree decline.

When identifying a cause for progressive loss of tree health in the urban landscape, it is important to note that insects and fungi are mostly secondary problems on already stressed trees. While in some instances insects or fungi may be alleviated, the tree will continue a downward spiral if the primary factors, typically caused by a range of poor site conditions, are not addressed.

Overtime, causal factors and processes ranging from nonliving and living sources predispose trees into a slow-decline which may unfortunately not become visible to the untrained eye until it is too late!

Imagine a large healthy oak suffering chronic construction damage from root loss with trunk wounds and compacted soil while progressively diminishing its ability to uptake nutrients and water over the years. The homeowner heavily waters long after damage has been done, but the tree’s vascular system fails to absorb the water.

A root rot fungus like Armillaria becomes established from the waterlogged soil conditions, and a storm event knocks the tree down from lack of supporting roots. How many people could look beyond the honey-colored fruiting fungal bodies on site and trace back the cause to construction?

Further, these causes of decline manifest differently across regions and species in urban and forest applications. For example, the red oaks, such as the water oak species (Quercus nigra), are more severely damaged by drought than the white oak group. This type of damage has been observed as an uniform pattern, particularly amongst groups of oaks as they readily graft between roots while sharing common soil conditions.

Severely stressed deciduous species may drop all their leaves once some moisture becomes available to complete the process of leaf abscission. It is also possible that heat stress will trigger early dormancy.

On the other hand, consider also that leaf drop is expected from February to early March for the live oak, belonging to the white oak group, with its semi-evergreen qualities. Upon a closer look, this may misconstrue diagnosing potential diseases until leaves fully form later in spring.

Overall, drought has played a role in triggering decline episodes of the Coastal Plain forests of the South. In fact, oak decline in North America has been a topic of concern since the 1950s. Symptoms include:
Sparse, undersized, or chlorotic leaves
Death of scattered twigs
Progressive dieback of branches and limbs
Strip cankers on trunks
Adventurous sprouts on the trunk
Large limbs following dieback
Slow growth as a result of depleting photosynthetic reserves

Common factors that stress the Quercus species particularly in urban environments include but are not limited to:
Root death caused by soil changes from construction
Weed and feed chemical injuries
Improper planting methods or poor species selection,
Nutrient deficiency (backfill alkalinity creates iron deficiencies) 
Salinity stress (built up irrigation salts)
Root rots caused by Ganoderma or other fungi
Phytophthora causing cankers on oak trunks and root collars.

When it comes to general tree health, it is safe to say that a tree has long been declining before someone says that it has suddenly died overnight.

For the best care, it is important to apply good cultural practices for planting, pruning, mulching, fertilizing, and irrigating you tree. Seeking further assistance from Certified arboricultural companies will provide the proper tree care by professionals who are trained and knowledgeable for meeting tree care needs.

Source: Sinclair, Wayne A, and Howard H Lyon. Diseases of Trees and Shrubs. 2nd ed., Cornell University Press, 2005


John's Corner...

Book Review:

HANDS OFF MY FOOD! – How Government and Industry Have Corrupted Our Food AND EASY WAYS TO FIGHT BACK, by Sina McCullough, PhD, 2017, Watchdog Works Publishing, ISBN: 978-0692837788

In our newsletter I have often talked about the poor quality of our food supply due to toxic chemicals and GMO’s and to poor nutrient density and lack of trace elements. Dr. McCullough has done a good job of researching how our food supply became so bad, explains why and what we consumers can do about it.

A few years ago, we did a series of articles on the 79 elements found in the human body and how they affect our health and learned that over 700 human health problems are caused or aggravated by nutritional deficiencies. This book covers many of the nutritional deficiencies in our food and also explains the negative or toxic effects of many common food additives. In one of the side bars I learned that factory farms feed cows processed human sewage sludge, shredded newspaper, sawdust, etc. No wonder there are so many beef recalls from beef that is making us sick.

"Despite receiving her Ph.D. in Nutrition from the University of California at Davis, she developed an autoimmune disease from eating food. Fortunately, Dr. McCullough was able to not only reverse her disease but to also launch a near 5-year investigation into our food supply. Hands Off My Food! reveals what she discovered, i.e., the truth about what’s really in our food, how it got there, and what we can do about it. It provides easy, free market solutions for how we can restore the integrity of the food we eat and reclaim the freedoms we have lost. All we have to do is take back our consent!”

Note: In addition to her doctorate in nutritional science she also holds a B.S. in Neurobiology, Physiology and Behavior. 

“In Hands Off My Food! Dr. McCullough, a Ph.D. in Nutrition from the University of California at Davis, walks you through the truth behind what’s currently in our food and how it got there. You may be surprised to learn that our food system is not designed to protect our long-term health. Both the food industry and the government have played a major role in the demise of our food supply, but they are not the root of the problem. Dr. McCullough reveals who is ultimately responsible for the adulteration of our food and how each of us has the power to restore the integrity of the food we eat by taking back our consent. Together we can reclaim our voice by becoming the watchdogs we were meant to be. It’s easier than you might think!”

“Americans have stopped being watchdogs over their own food supply. Roughly 100 years ago, with the birth of the FDA, we handed that responsibility over to the government and the food industry. They, in turn, have fundamentally transformed our food supply and it’s making us sick, including our children. Not only are we losing our health to food related illnesses like cancer and heart disease, we are losing our freedom. Did you know that government and the food industry have already chosen your dinner for you? In fact, the government nudges you to pick the foods they want you to eat. They’ve been doing it your whole life.”

I found this book very easy to read and understand as it is very insightful. Dr. McCullough did an excellent job in tying the corporate influence, corruption and incompetence in our government agencies to explain the extremely poor quality of our food supply and how it is causing so many of our health problems. As we have discussed many times in this newsletter, we can fight back from growing our own food to our buying choices. This book is HIGHLY RECCOMENED for those whom want to have healthy lives and protect their children and families.

From her website:

“You Can Reverse Disease! - You can heal from MS, heart disease, allergies, certain cancers, Alzheimer's, Lupus, depression, rheumatoid arthritis, and other inflammatory diseases. I did it, and so can you.
I know what it's like to live with a disease - to be in so much pain that you can't finish washing the dishes after lunch, to constantly be in fear that your next meal might leave you bloated or cramping, to be too tired to play with your children, and to feel alone because one medical doctor after the next has told you they can't figure out what's wrong and they can't fix you. 
I decided I didn't want to be sick, tired, and in pain. So, I chose a different path - a path outside of the conventional medical system. 
Today, I'm disease free and have more energy than I've ever had in my life! You can live the life you want - the life you've always dreamed of. It starts with believing that healing is possible.”

Have You Tried . . .
(Lindera benzoin)
Spicebush is a native deciduous shrub with a broad, rounded shape (6'-12') and clusters of tiny, aromatic, greenish-yellow flowers in early spring before foliage emerges. Flowers of female plants give way to bright red drupes (to 1/2" long) which mature in fall and are attractive to birds.Thick, oblong-obovate, light green leaves (to 5" long) turn an attractive yellow in autumn. Leaves are aromatic when crushed. Spicebush swallowtail butterfly larva feed on the leaves. No serious insect or disease problems.
SPICEBUSH is carried by Nature’s Way Resources (Map).
Or . . . contact our sponsor, Montgomery Pines Nursery in Willis, our other
sponsors below or your neighborhood nurseryman for possible sources.






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