I broadcast a weekly radio show on 680 CJOB Winnipeg and I have a cadre of favourite guests. One of them is Michael Allen, or Dr. Tree as he is styled on his licence plate. Mike is my tree mentor. He knows so much about trees, about what ails them, what attacks them, what makes them strong and long-lived.
Mikke’s passion is a living thing — he suffers for the trees that are undernourished or under threat. He personally regrets the over-breeding of some varieties such as the schubert chokecherry which is rapidly succuumbing to black knot in this part of the world. I can see it in his face when he speaks of these misfortunes. He flinches as he speaks of how the Mancana ashes are a dying breed here or how the elms trees are so threatened because people insist on storing elm wood, which is a magnet for the elm beetle. For Mike, the loss of every tree deserves a grieving.
Today he worried about the balsam firs that are being eaten by a sawfly which chews the leaves and leaves an irregular pattern of orange damage behind. The ashes, he says are more mysterious. their plague is a fungal one for which the vector had not yet been identified. It could be, says Mike, an invisible-to-the-naked-eye, organelle that is wind borne or even soil borne. He wonders how to fight something that strikes so silently and invisibly when we are not sure yet what it is.
Mike has been doctoring and lecturing and worrying about trees for over 40 years, and he has his favourites. At one time it was the beautiful Japanese silk lilac. Then it was the shapley Pagoda dogwood. Today it is Swiss Stone pine, which he believes does not get the exposure it deserves here in Manitoba. He has a list of favourites for the small yard which I will post on our website at www.localgardener.net next week and carry it in our springtime issue of the magazines. On this list is the lovely Northern Acclaim honey locust which has a lacy appearance due to its finely compound leaves.
I love his passion for trees and I always learn from him.He runs a small consulting service, Viburnum Tree Experts, and he is alwyas willing to help a desperate tree owner.