Thursday, January 30, 2014

How do trees survive brutal winters?

The snow's a blowin' again. During the course of the next week, Chicagoland is expected to get 18 more inches of snow and the temperature is expected to plummet again. This is hard enough on us humans and we can bundle up, so how to the plants do it? How do they manage to survive such long stretches of brutally cold weather?

Trees and some other plants survive thanks to a process called acclimation. Trees start preparing for winter in early fall when the the first stages of acclimation take place and we don't even know it. The short days, but non-freezing nights trigger the process in trees. It triggers dormancy as well. 

As the temperatures continue to drop, the trees continue quietly along the process of acclimation. Hopefully, by the time the polar vortex hits us, our woody plants have had enough exposure to freezing cold temperatures to ensure the acclimation process is complete so the trees then stand a good chance at survival.  Once fully acclimated, many of our trees and shrubs are capable of tolerating winter temperatures to near -40 degrees.

A key ingredient in the acclimation process is water. Water dictates the outcome. Plants are primarily composed of water. Should water freeze inside living plant cells, the plant cells will die and could potentially kill the entire plant. Therefore, living plant tissues survive low temperatures by suppressing ice formation, or by allowing water to freeze, but only in areas of the plant that won’t be injured by ice crystal formation. Trees are smarter than we thought!

Some of the 'smarter' trees and shrubs such as oak, elm, maple, birch, ash, walnut, hickory, apple, pear, peach and plum have the ability to suppress ice crystal formation in their cells, even at temperatures far below the freezing point. However, it is at 
-40° degrees that cellular water can spontaneously turn to ice, therefore resulting in the death of the cell.

Plants vary in their degree of acclimation, depending on their locality. Plants that must survive even temperatures lower than -40 degrees, like those native to the subarctic tundra growing in USDA Zone 1, do so by using a dehydration mechanism. Under these extreme freezing conditions, water undergoes a dehydration process where it moves out of the plant cells. Having left the plant cells, the water then freezes in the areas between the cell walls where ice formation is not destructive. This slow loss of water from the cells concentrates the sugars and other compounds. This remaining cell sap results in a lower freezing point. You know how antifreeze works in a radiator? It's the same idea.

The hardier the plant, the greater the capacity for the plant cells to undergo this dehydration process.

As winter progresses, there is a silver lining. If your trees and shrubs became fully acclimated this past fall, they will likely survive even the coldest temperatures, all winter long, 24/7. 

The bad news is they still can suffer injury. Injuries to woody plants are common if:

- Temperatures fall below a plant’s maximum low temperature limit even after normal acclimation has occurred.

- Late freezes occur in the spring after the plant has de-acclimated.

- Dramatic swings in temperature during the winter cause a plant to de-acclimate before the threat of severe freezing is over.

So, don't fret too much about how your landscape trees will look this spring. It is likely that the curb appeal all your woody plants gave to your home in the fall will still be there in spring. What you should do is start planning now what trees you'll add to your beautiful landscape this spring. Trees give us back way more than we put in to them. Stay warm Chicago!

Until Next Time, 
Jenni Willis
Owner, CEO of Trees R Us, Inc.

Friday, January 17, 2014

What Trees to Prune in the Winter

We're into mid January and in another month or so winter will be wrapping up. Late winter is a good time for pruning in many regions. I've compiled some tips and a list of some of the most common trees we are asked to prune here in Chicagoland in late winter and early spring.

Pruning deciduous plants in the winter promotes fast regrowth in the spring, as most plants are dormant during the winter. It's also easier to see the shape of deciduous plants in the winter, since their foliage is gone.

It is a good idea to call upon tree professionals like Trees "R" Us, Inc. so you not only prune your trees appropriately, but also follow good safety precautions. But if you must prune on your own, choose a mild, dry day for pruning. Then, follow the guidelines below.

When pruning, first prune out dead and diseased branches. Then remove the overgrown and smaller branches to increase light and air at the crown of the tree. A a rule of thumb, your goal is to keep the branches that develop or maintain the structure of the tree. Cut branches at the node, the point at which one branch or twig attaches to another.

Winter tree trimming is strongly recommended if you own a:
~ crabapple
~ apple
~ pear
~ peach
~ American elm
~ hawthorn

Trimming these species in winter prevents any airborne fungal diseases, a common problem for all of them, to spread to neighboring trees.

You'll notice that many of the trees on the list are fruit trees. There are many reasons to trim your fruit trees now and not wait:
~ Fruit trees are prone to diseases and infestation when trimmed any other time of year.
~ Your fruit trees develop more spring flowers when correctly pruned.
~ Your tree will develop better structure allowing them to be more beautiful and healthy.
~ For edible fruit tree you could have a larger yield with healthier fruit.

Other plants to trim in the winter are 
~ butterfly bushes
~ azaleas
~ hydrangeas

Pruning and regular tree maintenance is an integral part to keeping your trees healthy. For a complete list of plant health care services, visit our website at or give us a call at 847.913. 9069. 

Thanks for reading,

Monday, January 13, 2014

The Dangers of Deadwood

Did you remember to prune your trees before the winter hit?  If not, take a good look at the trees around you.  We've been hit hard by quite a bit of snow and really cold temperatures. This is not a good combination for our precious trees!

Heavy snow falls and the rigid temps are both a hazard for trees. The weight of snow on tree branches can cause branches and even entire trees to break.  We have no control over where they break, how they break or what they land on when it is nature that takes down the branches. The only way to control this is through pruning. When nature causes tree limbs to break we can only hope they don't harm a car, home or person.

Here are a few things to look for in your trees to determine if they may pose a hazard in the next big snow fall.

Look for:
~Broken or loose branches
~Trunks or branches with missing bark
~Leaning trees and other root problems
~Weak branch connections
~Cracks and splits
~Evidence of significant decay

A really good explanation of how to recognize hazardous defects in trees can be found here. And also here.
Trees continually grow and die. It is just a natural part of a tree's life for part to die off.  However, the deadwood is hazardous if not removed. These are the parts that are most likely to break and potentially cause injury. So, pruning your trees to remove the major deadwood before the snow hits is good practice.

Rule of thumb, you should have deadwood removed every 2-3 years or more often.  If your tree is healthy and you live in a climate that has extreme weather in the winter and summer, then a good hazard pruning yearly would be optimum.

This is dangerous work. Leave it to the pros.  Trees "R" Us, Inc. is a professional tree service that has more than 10 years experience doing hazard pruning. We offer much more than just hazard tree pruning, but in these winter months, pruning is one of our most popular services.

Trees "R" Us is located in Wauconda, but we service the North Shore, the Northwest suburbs, Lake county and McHenry county.  We have a large crew that works year round and plenty of trucks to handle multiple jobs at once.

Check us out at or if you need assistance with pruning your trees this winter, email me directly at

Thanks for reading!


Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Keep your pets safe in your garden! What dangers are lurking?

We'd like to welcome our guest blogger, Charles mead. He's written a great article which you can find below. Thanks Charles for sharing your tree-care knowledge with the readers of the  Trees 'R' Us, Inc. blog!

The harmony of pets, plants, and trees around your home

You don’t have to choose between a beagle and a beautiful garden. True harmony among your pets, plants, and trees can be achieved through simple and smart adjustments. 

Whether in a regular soap or in a real-life home in your neighborhood, seeing a family spending a lazy Sunday morning in the garden with their pet dog or cat running around is a common scene. Having adorable pets and an amazing garden with a variety of trees and plants are such great stress relievers for a family.

However, if you want to avoid stress caused by pets suddenly getting ill or plants nibbled and destroyed by your pets - you had better look for ways to achieve perfect harmony among your pets, plants, and trees.

Reasons for the Lack of Harmony  

There are major reasons for incompatibility among pets, plants and trees. Use the below guidelines to suit your specific needs: 

  1. Toxins – You love to be surrounded by charming and mood-lifting chrysanthemums. They are bright and beautiful. But this inviting look is exactly the main reason they attract cats and dogs. Once these pets munch on these lovely flowers, they will experience vomiting, diarrhea, or to put it simply, they are poisoned. There are other plants that are considered toxic to animals, here is a quick list: 
    1. Lilies – This plant is known to be commonly admired and chosen for a home’s garden. However, as pets are fond of playing around in the garden nibbling anything that are visually enticing, lilies lurking in your garden can be very fatal. Ingesting any part of this plant could lead to complete kidney failure, especially for cats. In most cases, cats and dogs have been observed to manifest vomiting, lethargy, and even long-term suppression of appetite.
    2. Anemone – As beautiful and relaxing as this flower could be for the mood of one’s garden, your pets could end up dying due to internal bleeding after inhaling the pollens. In most cases, pets have been found to experience shock and convulsions.
    3. Daffodils – As relaxing as the yellow and white color of this flower could be, your household pets could end up experiencing severe diarrhea and vomiting. In most cases, a number of pets have been found to die due to severe dehydration.

Many garden plants and flowers that look very pleasing can be very lethal for your pets. Make sure to acquire a complete list of poisonous plants from your trusted veterinarian or horticulturist. For instance, lavender is not on the list so it is safe to have this beauty in your garden.

  1. Nutrients – While walking along your yard for a routine check, you notice a wilting plant beside a towering tree. Something must be wrong. You check for pests - there are none. You check for grass – the surrounding soil of the plant is clear of weeds. You are wise to suspect that the tree beside the small plant is the culprit. The tree has the advantage of having widespread branches and deep roots tapping all essential nutrients from the sun and from water.  The simple solution is to give enough distance between your garden plants and trees. The arrangement of plants and flowers should also be carefully distributed - unless you are using garden pots.

Most well-trained and well-fed pets will not bother to dig, chew, and mess with your garden. Providing a safe distance among your plants and trees will promote their growth and health. With enough patience, research, and a few experiments, achieving harmony among your pets, plants and trees will be easier than you thought.

About Jimstrees:

Jim’s Trees:  is a successful franchise born out of the expertise of our arborists who use their skill and knowledge to deliver customized tree pruning, stump grinding, tree removal, mulching and other tree care solutions through franchisees across Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Canada.