Habitat Gardens Privitelli Residence

Though lovely, the role of lawns is shrinking as we create new habitats in our built environment.

The Privitelli family bought this 1960’s view bungalow with a landscape designed by the original owner, himself a landscape architect. The 1960’s landscape was green lawns with Japanese garden styling a perfect set piece for the bungalow but the Privitellis wanted a habitat garden.

Green lawns give way to bocce ball courts and raised planters.

Humans enjoying their new habitat garden under the shade of a mulberry bosque.

It takes a lot of thought to design with nature. The plan helps us think through the process and examine the tradeoffs.

Habitat Gardens Driftwood Apartments

People ask me how landscape architects design. I tell them we design habitat gardens. “Schools of Thought” were the hashtags of previous generations and among landscape architects no hashtag is more popular than Ian McHarg’s Design With Nature. Decades before McHarg’s seminal text, Frederick Law Olmsted did just that when designing Central Park. Landscape architects design with nature as we create new habitats in our built environment. I use science and art to understand the design template nature has provided. #HabitatGardens

Replacing Turf- Last century’s interpretation of the SoCAL human habitat.

Furman’s Red Sage and lavender Monch Aster with Artemisia and Mexican Sage behind.

Pruning Specifications Monterey Pines

One Monterey pine (Pinus radiata) #3. This is the larger of two Monterey pines (69” DBH) in the backyard. It splits into three forks about 54” above grade. It is closer to the house than #4


Prune to reduce the risk of branch failure in this over-mature pine by reducing five overextend 6-8” diameter branches by about 1/3 to create a more compact canopy while taking care to preserve enough living canopy to support the tree. Also remove dead branches and a crossing branch.

Looking northeast at Monterey pine #4. Reduce longest scaffold branch by half back to a significant lateral.


  • Remove dead or broken branches over 1” diameter throughout canopy.
  • In the top 1/3 of canopy, reduce 8” branch growing south from the north fork. Reduce by about 1/3 back to a lateral branch 2” diameter or greater.
  • In the middle 1/3 of canopy, reduce 8 diameter branch growing southeast by about 1/3 cutting back to a lateral branch at least 2” in diameter. Reduce 6” diameter branch growing west and two 4” diameter branches growing south.

Looking up at southward growing 8” branch in the mid-canopy of Monterey pine #3. This is typical of the reduction cuts.

  • In the bottom 1/3 of the canopy remove one of two crossing branches about 3” diameter. Reduce 3-4” branches by about 1/3 reducing them to a lateral branch at least 1/3 the diameter of the branch being removed.
  • Tree workers shall observe for signs of pest and disease and report that to the owner.
  • Pruning cuts shall be in accordance with ANSI A300 pruning standard, and work shall be performed in accordance with the ANSI Z133.1 safety standard. Pruning shall be in accordance with ISA’s Best Management Practices: Tree Pruning.

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Villa Capri Fruit Trees Health Assessment

I examined the fruit trees at Villa and they look good. All are alive and most are already showing new twig and leaf growth. The citrus and avocados look especially vigorous.

I saw some signs of normal insect and fungus activity. Although fruit trees do not have to be completely pest-free to be strong and healthy, it would be wise to spray the trees with an organic orchard spray.

Steve Davis and I walked the site on Thursday, March 19th. The citrus and avocados looked great. The pluots, apricots, nectarines, peach, pear and apples are just coming into leaf and the tinder shoots are attracting some tiny insects (aphids, thrips) and mites (tiny spiders). I also observed sooty mold (a fungus) on the apples.

On some of the deciduous trees, it looks like the heat spell we had damaged the surface of the foliage. A couple of the trees were planted as 5 gallon size so those are still smaller and a few trees are just beginning to produce leaves but have healthy buds and twigs.

Steve Davis recommended spraying with Bonide Orchard Spray. It contains pyrethrins derived from chrysanthemum flowers, a natural insecticide, and sulfur. It is approved for organic use, but as with all garden chemicals, you should be careful to apply them according to the label directions and only when necessary.

I talked to Scott Klittich of Otto & Sons Nursery and he agreed that spraying with the Bonide orchard spray will be a good idea. He said, the sulfur in the spray will help control mites and prevent fungus. The Pyrethrum will kill any insects around. The effect lasts about ten days. We should wait until we see renewed insect activity to treat again. The Sulphur leaves a white residue on the leaves.

According to the label, this product can be used up to the day of harvest. The label also says “Do not allow adults, children or pets to enter the treated area until sprays have dried.”

In the fall, we should treat with a dormant oil spray to control overwintering pests, such as scale, mites and aphids. Dormant sprays with copper or other pesticides also may be necessary to control such diseases as peach leaf curl and shot hole fungus should those become a problem this year. Steve could contact Otto & Sons this fall to get a recommendation for a dormant season oil.

I will attach the Material Safety and Data Sheet for Bonide Orchard Spray and the Label.


  • Spray with an organic orchard spray.
  • Retreat as needed if infestation recurs
  • Contact the nursery to recommend a dormant season oil this fall.

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Pruning Specs Floss Silk Trees Ventura

Floss silk trees (Ceiba speciosa) like these at the District Office in Ventura are sometimes briefly deciduous in the fall. They aren’t consistent which is a bit unusual but normal for this species. These trees are stressed from too much water.

I can clearly see dead branches in the canopies of most of the ten trees but many of the bare branches may simply be deciduous at this time of year. Up close you can tell if the branches are alive but from the ground I can’t say for sure.

I numbered the trees starting on the east end. I attached a map as Figure 1. All ten need to be pruned to clean all dead branches over 1 inch. Trees 5, 7 and 8 near the middle of the group appear to have more dead branches than the others.

When you prune, the objectives should be to reduce risk and improve appearance. To accomplish that clean the canopy by removing dead, broken, crossing or wayward branches.

These trees are under stress because they are growing in turf. I checked the soil and it was pretty wet and dense, conditions that cause root problems for this otherwise trouble free tree.

These trees are unique, related to the baobab and you can see that form in some. Unlike most landscape trees, silk trees are grown from seed so each one is genetically unique. Most landscape trees are grown from rooted cuttings from a “mother” plant so each one is the same.

These trees are just reaching maturity. The water is the problem. If you can switch to a moderate water using groundcover you may be able to restore them to health.

Sunset Western Garden Book says, “Fast drainage and controlled watering are keys to success. Irrigate established trees about once a month during growing season; ease off in late summer to encourage more flowers.” Your trees are drowning.

Arborist Construction Observation Report – Local Agency

On Tuesday December 16, 2014 I met with M.B. Client and Jamaal at the trailhead to discuss protecting the existing native oaks while allowing ingress/egress of essential construction equipment needed to repair the water line break. We walked the first 500 hundred feet where vegetation was growing on each side of the trail.

Looking west at covered steps at the San Miguel Ct. Trailhead. This is the ingress route for some construction equipment.

I told them it would probably be possible to get equipment in with little or no damage. We agreed that would come back and talk to the contractor when the time came to bring in the small track vehicles and skip loaders that were too heavy for the parks bridge. That operation was scheduled for Thursday December 18, 2014.

On the 18th I met with H. Hat the contractors’ superintendent who was supervising the ingress of equipment through the trailhead. We walked the first 500 feet of trail and looked at all the plants especially the oaks. A few might need to be held back either by hand or with a rope.

Two hours later I returned to examine the oaks along the trail. None of the oaks had any damage to trunks or branches. The conditions can be seen in the following photographs.

Looking south at 5’ of slide material under oak trees
Looking south at oak trees after slide material removed.
Looking west at covered steps at the San Miguel Ct. Trailhead.

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Tree Permit for Remodel Thousand Oaks

The new owners of 1 Oak Court (M. Client and B. Client) wish to remodel their single family dwelling by adding 766 square feet to the existing 1933. The proposed remodel will encroach slightly into the protected zone of one coast live oak growing on the adjacent lot at 2 Oak Court.

The owners believe this reasonable and conforming use of the property justifies the encroachment into the protected zone of this oak tree. Guided by the City’s protection ordinance and working with their architect, the owners have made every effort to comply with the four design constraints listed on page 13 of the guidelines.

The owners of both lots have agreed to cooperate in seeking a permit.

Encroachment into the protected zone should be at about 2% and cause no long-term problems. Pruning to create clearance around the new roof will be minor involving only small branches and less than 5 % of the canopy.

While the impact from construction will be minor and should not contribute to the decline of the tree, I have concerns about some of the conditions around the tree. The tree has suffered some canopy wide small twig dieback in the last few years. That dieback might be associated with drought stress and opportunistic insects that have since moved on.

The City of Thousand Oaks requires specific information to assist in their decision process. That information is shown in the Tree Evaluation Form in Appendix B.

A close up of a crossing branch in the center of the canopy.
Key Note: I recommend removing a 1” crossing branch originating near the center of the canopy.
looking east at oak tree #1
Spatial Study Plan View

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Tree Appraisal Report for Development Permit

This tree assessment report and appraisal were required by the Municipal Code of the City of Southern California. The report follows the standard seven part format recommended by the International Society of Arboriculture. It incorporates specific requirements listed in the city guidelines as well as standard information about tree condition and location. It includes a tree protection plan.

The project is a warehouse expansion on Best Avenue in Southern, CA. In the area of construction and including a 20 foot buffer around the construction area, the report identified thirty-nine trees. All are recently planted landscape trees typical of the area.

Over half of the trees (20) are Canary Island pines and seven are red ironbark eucalyptus. Others include liquidambar, jacaranda, paperbark, edible fig and a bottle tree. All are small and none are vigorous. The eucalyptus has all been topped.

Of the thirty-nine trees eight are protected mature trees. The plans call for removal of five and the protection of three. The total appraised value of the protected trees to be removed in $10,830. Transplanting of trees was not feasible. Mitigation will be required and will be coordinated between the City, the owner and the owners’ landscape architect.

Tree Protection Plan for warehouse expansion

Tree Protection Plan for warehouse expansion
This table shows the information required by ordinance for each protected tree on this project.
Trunk formula Appraisal for Trees 29 and 31

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Tree Risk Assessment Report – Southern Bike Trail

I provide Tree Managers and Owners with the Knowledge to Increase the value of their trees and urban forests while minimizing the risks and the costs.

his study consisted of a basic Level II risk assessment of 102 trees growing in the vicinity of a newly built bike trail beside a section of Calleguas Creek in Southern, California. 54 of the trees are outside the county’s Watershed Protection District right-of-way the other 48 are in the right-of-way. All are close enough to have been affected by construction of the new trail in the opinion of this arborist.

The study considered the likelihood of these 102 trees or their branches falling in the next three years. I looked at the things those trunks or branches might hit if they fell, called “targets” in the language of risk assessment. Targets I considered were homes, people in backyards, landscaping in backyards, property line fences, the trail and its fence and people moving along the trail.

The trees were sorted into categories based on the severity of the consequences and likelihood of them failing. Three trees 9, 10 and 21 have obvious structural root loss, they are 80 feet tall with massive trunks and they are 45 feet from homes. . . The tree risk assessment standard calls this combination “unlikely” or at worst “somewhat likely” and despite the severity of the consequences, an arborist could rate these trees a moderate or even low risk. I chose to label them a high risk in this study because of the cases illustrated below:

Looking South with tree 48 on the left
Table from a Database Query
Lean on tree 32 on 4/23/2015

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