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Branching Out
Winter 2014


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In This Issue
In the Media
EAB Returns
2015 Planting Plan
Featured Tree: Kentucky Coffeetree
We Need Your Help!
Snow Damage to Trees
Winter Pruning
Prepare for Spring
The Roots of Tree Care

In the Media


The holidays were a busy time for all of us between the hustling and bustling of shopping trips, decorations and family activities.  But when you throw running a business and a Christmas tree lot into the mix, it all but spells hectic.  Luckily, Ken Ottman knows how to juggle it all and still has time to squeeze in time with the media.  In case you missed it, check out his latest interviews below.


Waukesha Freeman



Fox 6 | Studio A  




EAB Returns!


You guessed it - the Emerald Ash Borer will be back again this year.  With a list of 37 counties throughout the state under quarantine, we expect to see more and more damage from these tiny beetles.  As discussed in previous newsletters, EAB spreads easily from one tree to the next which means that we're finding new infestations every day.



Because infestations are so difficult to detect in the first three or four years, we're just now starting to appreciate how rapidly the insect has spread.  This year, the damage is expected to be more noticeable than in years past as the population has continued to multiply. 


We strongly recommend that you have your trees treated now to help prevent the spread of the invasive EAB beetles.  If you notice D-shaped holes or signs of woodpecker damage on your ash trees, be sure to call a professional arborist right away.  And keep in mind that First Choice Tree Care is also offering a treatment plan that is 100 percent effective in the prevention of future infestations and treatment of existing infestations.  



2015 Planting Plan

Our natural inclination is to think about planting around Memorial Day, when we traditionally begin the planting of annual flowers like geraniums and petunias. Unfortunately, by this time we have missed the best time for tree planting.




While you can plant a properly harvested and stored tree at most any time that the ground is thawed, we recommend planting trees as soon as the 'frost is out of the ground'.  Many times this occurs in late March or early April.  As the snow melts and the ground thaws, the soil will be soft and moist, making planting much easier.  However, the real reason for early planting is that roots begin growing vigorously long before leaf and stem growth occurs.  Because of this fact, digging and handling trees in the early spring is much less disruptive to their growing cycle and gives them an opportunity to expand their root system before leaves begin to grow.  As a result, recovery from the shock of transplanting is enhanced and both growth rates and survival rates are improved.



An added benefit of early planting is that spring showers create the perfect natural water supply that will give your trees an adequate amount of water and allow you to water them by hand much less often.


Featured Tree: Kentucky Coffeetree


There are many types of trees that add a splash of color to fall landscapes, but there are few that bear that same colorful beauty in the springtime.  The Kentucky coffeetree is one such tree.  As one of the last trees to leaf out in the spring, new leaves are often tinged with pink as they change to a vibrant green.   Each leaf can reach up to three feet in length and is made up of over 100 tiny leaflets, giving the tree a much fuller look.



These leaflets remain a rich blue-green color throughout the summer, providing plenty of shade for home and property owners.  As the weather begins to cool in the fall, the leaflets give way to a shade of golden yellow, making the tree a beautiful focal point in any landscape.


Standing 60 to 75 feet tall and 40 to 50 feet wide at maturity, the Kentucky coffeetree is known for its unique fruit.  Late in the spring, white flowers bloom on the branches of the tree.  A dioecious species, the tree's male flowers grow in clusters up to four inches long while the fragrant female flowers reach 12 inches long. 



Once fertilized, female flowers produce woody legume pods in the fall that last well into the winter.  Although toxic on their own, the seeds from these pods can be roasted and were used by early settlers and Native Americans as a source of food.  They also ground the seeds to use as a coffee substitute, giving the tree its common name. Some consider the seed pods to be a negative trait of the female trees.  If seeds are a concern, there are several male clones of this tree which do not produce seed pods.



With hard, heavy and durable wood, the Kentucky coffeetree is tolerant of many soil types and pollution, making it a perfect addition to urban landscapes.


Tree Quote


"Keep a green tree in your heart and perhaps a singing bird will come."


- Chinese Proverb 

Season's Greetings!


Ken Ottman

It's the start of another year, and we would like to take this opportunity to thank you for your business and continued support in 2014. It is our pleasure to help you keep your trees and landscape healthy and in prime condition.


As we look forward to the return of spring, it's important that we don't lose sight of the things that we should be doing now to prepare for warmer weather.  In this issue of Branching Out, you will find tips on how to deal with snow damage to your trees and prepare yourself for the changing season as well as a winter pruning reminder. 


Please also take a few minutes to participate in our client survey.  Your input will help us tailor these newsletters to provide the information that is most important to you.



Ken Ottman, Owner, First Choice Tree Care 

We Need Your Help!

As valued customers of First Choice Tree Care, we like to make sure that you not only have a great experience with our services, but that we also provide you with the information you want to know.  One way we do this is through our seasonal newsletters that provide timely information as well as tips to help prevent all kinds of damage to your trees.  From insects and diseases to weather related incidents, we've got you covered.


To make sure that we're doing our job and providing you with the best information that is important to you, we need your help.  Please take a few minutes to participate in our survey and tell us what you want to read about.  Do you want tips on how to protect your trees from animal damage or a summer storm? Are you interested in learning about the best trees for Wisconsin climate? Now's your chance to tell us!  We appreciate your feedback.



Snow Damage to Trees

So far, this winter has been relatively mild compared to previous years, but that could all change with one big storm.  While we often think of snow as light and fluffy flakes falling from the skies, our trees have a much different perception.  Wet snow can be very heavy and will weigh down tree branches. 


Most often, we see snow causing four types of damage: breaking, bending, splitting or uprooting of trees.  Red cedar, white cedar and birch trees are the most susceptible to this type of snow damage.  Luckily there are a few things you can do to help your trees withstand the winter and get away relatively unscathed. 


  • Do not shake limbs or branches:  When your trees are bending over under the weight of snow or ice, your first instinct is probably to shake the branches.  But don't!  This can cause them to snap back and can cause breakage or further damage. 
    • For trees damaged by snow, gently remove the snow using a broom, rake, or leaf blower.  It is important to remove the snow soon after it stops snowing, as the longer a tree stays down, the more damage it is likely to occur.
    • In the case where trees are bent under the weight of ice, melting the ice with a stream of lukewarm water may have a positive effect.
    • If you are unable to remove the snow or ice, or if you see breakage in the tree, call our arborists to assist you in the repair.
  • Take preventative measures:
    To prevent bending of your tree branches, tie branches together loosely using webbing, a portion of garden hose (using wire to connect the two ends) or plastic covered clothesline.  For branches that are difficult or too high for you to reach on your own, call a tree care professional.  Keep in mind, that this same approach can be used for smaller shrubs as well. 
  • Be mindful of bending branches: Bending branches can quickly become broken branches. It's best to be aware of any branches that are being weighed down by snow or ice and be careful when parking or walking under them to avoid potential damage or injuries.

As always, if you're unsure of how to deal with any situation regarding your trees, please consult with your local First Choice Tree Care arborists and someone will be happy to assist you.

 Winter Pruning


There aren't many things that you can do outside during the winter to improve the look of your house or landscape. That is, except for pruning your trees.  Winter is the prime time to prune all types of trees while they are still dormant.  Pruning deciduous trees while the branches are not covered in leaves provides a clearer view of tree structure and helps in envisioning proper structural pruning cuts. Winter pruning also helps to redistribute spring growth to the remaining branches.   



Just as trees are dormant in the winter, most insects are as well, so there is less of a chance of attracting them to fresh pruning wounds.  As a result, winter pruning also helps cut down on the spread of diseases. Oaks and elms, which are especially susceptible to the spread of oak wilt and Dutch elm disease, should only be pruned during the winter for this reason. 


However, pruning large trees is no easy task.  To make sure it is done correctly and safely, please consult with a First Choice Tree Care arborist.  

Tips to Prepare for Spring


Believe it or not, spring will be here before we know it.  Now is the perfect time to start preparing so that you're ready as soon as the weather starts warming up! 

  • Get your planting plan together. There are many species of trees that you can choose from to perfect your landscape. But how do you know which is the right one? Starting your research now will help you get ahead of the game by the time spring rolls around.  For more tips see our section on planting on the left side of this newsletter. 


  • Use salt sparingly. Road salt can have serious effects on tree root systems.  While it certainly helps to combat Wisconsin's icy winters, excess salt seeps down into the ground when the snow melts and dehydrates trees' roots.  This type of damage leaves trees severely damaged or may even kill them.  Make sure to use salt sparingly, especially near trees or areas that may drain into a tree bed.  Consider using an alternative such as sand.  If salt is used, remember to flush out the soil surrounding trees with fresh water once the ground begins to thaw.
  • Get an early start on insect and disease control.  Many problems require treatment before leaves appear on the trees. Don't wait until summer to consider having your trees treated. Waiting too long may miss critical control timing.  


  • Consult with a professional regarding any spring or summer project planning.  Maybe you're thinking about having your trees inspected, or maybe you want advice on what type of trees to plant this spring. Whatever the case, getting a professional opinion will help save you time and money in the long run.  Winter is a time when we, as arborists, have the maximum flexibility in our schedules and can give you the most undivided time and attention.  To be honest, we're dying to talk to someone!  Give us a call and schedule to meet with your arborist now, before the 'hectic season' begins.
  • Curl up in front of the fire and read, read, read.  Make sure you are well informed about your landscape.  There are many informative books and websites to use as learning tools.  Our own University of Wisconsin Agricultural Extension service (www.uwex.com) has many useful publications.  Also,check out www.treesaregood.com/treecare/treecareinfo.aspx.

Back to the Roots of Tree Care



Starting in our next seasonal newsletter, you may notice a change or two.  While it's our goal to keep our readers informed of timely seasonal topics, we think it's equally important for you to understand the basics of trees and how their systems work (see the last bullet above).  That's why we're taking the conversation back to the root of tree care basics. 


In addition to articles on pests, diseases and seasonal tips, our newsletters will now include educational articles on topics including:

  • Root systems: how they work and common misunderstandings
  • Tree growth: trunks, branches, twigs and leaves
  • Photosynthesis
  • Soils and their effects on trees
  • Tree selection
  • Planting basics
  • And much more!