2018 was a tough year on the horticulture business. The unusually warm weather in March broke the dormancy of many plants. Buds began to swell and the starchy antifreeze in the vascular tissue of many trees and shrubs was converted to sugar prematurely. When winter returned with a vengeance, these trees and shrubs were killed. I observed this in woody plant material growing especially on the southwest sides of houses- the harshest environment.
April was very cold with snow and rain. We lost this entire month to the weather. Spring cleanups and landscape makeovers waited until May.
Finally, the sun came out in May. Flowering times were delayed 2-4 weeks. A hot, muggy Memorial Day weekend with 100% humidity brought on foliar diseases like Tar Spot on the Maples. Cleaning up all of the infected leaves in the fall can help reduce this problem. The spring weather went by quickly and heavy rains continued through June, flooding the Madison chain of lakes as the ground became saturated with continuous downpours.
July marked the heaviest emergence of Japanese Beetles I have ever seen. Even treated trees showed signs of damage causing us to review our control measures.
August was hit hard with more record-breaking flooding for the Black Earth Creek watershed and a second time this year for the Madison lakes. Fungal diseases of plants loved this moisture.
Emerald Ash Borer has become very evident in our community. People calling us about their untreated Ash Trees from Oregon, Sun Prairie, Deerfield, Mount Horeb, Verona, Middleton, Madison, Baraboo and Richland Center are mostly out of luck. There are scattered trees that seem to be unaffected but in a couple of years the window of opportunity to save the trees will be closed. Fortunately, our Treeage injections seem to be 100% effective. They will have to be repeated every two years until this enormously high population of beetles crashes. Time will tell.
In spite of all the weather related set-backs, business has been very strong. Our customers continue to be our most valuable asset. We are studying, attending seminars and classes to help us serve the natural world better. Beau and I attended a 3-day Tree Risk Assessment Program through the International Society of Arboriculture which helps us understand the mechanics of trees and how to help our customers manage them. Several more employees are going through the Arborist Certification process.
I was very ill during the 2018 season with asbestos related lung surgeries and infection. The family stepped up to the plate and the company seemed to run better without me. I am recovering now but it has been a humbling experience which has taught me to realign some of my priorities. One thing that has been strengthened has been my love of family and the natural world we care for. It is a privilege to serve you all and manage your outdoor living spaces and we all appreciate the trust you have put in us. We look forward to working with you in 2019.