As I type this, I’m awaiting the arrival of our tree guy and his crew. I’m commonly asked about this process, and I thought it might be interesting to take it through from start to finish.
Choosing the company
First, look for someone with credentials. You need a certified arborist on-site during the pruning. He or she will have taken tough certification tests to prove knowledge and skills in the proper care of trees. That certification will have been administered by the International Society of Arboriculture.
The organization will help you locate a certified arborist in your area through this page on its website: http://www.isa-arbor.com/findanarborist/arboristsearch.aspx.
You also can ask neighbors whom they use and how they like the results. Local independent retail nurseries will be familiar with good tree service companies that work in your area.
Above all else, avoid companies that spam-phone you or knock on your door after storms. Truly professional tree service companies don’t do business that way. You want much more than just a guy with a truck. Check references. Verify licenses. Look at websites. An uneducated arborist can destroy in 30 minutes what it took nature 30 years to produce.
Level of work
Perhaps you have one specific job you want the arborist to address. Maybe it’s a takedown of a tree that has died or that’s rubbing the house. It might be roots that are becoming a threat to the foundation. Or it could be something as simple as routine tree maintenance to protect your valuable asset.
Discuss your options when the arborist arrives. That’s the time to establish a good working relationship. You must be able to communicate comfortably. I don’t know how you handle things like this, but I told our arborists right up front that I respect their ideas, and that I didn’t want them to let any suggestion I have trump what they know to be a better solution.
I’ve been using the same company for 20 years. They’ve taught me a lot about “branch collars,” “root flares” and “healing rolls of new bark.” Point being, even a professional in horticulture can learn from his tree crew. I give them my general requests, then I stay out of their way.
When a tree fails
Trees, like the rest of us, do have life expectancies. With even the finest tree care, you’re going to have trees that go into decline. A good arborist will do all that’s humanly possible to keep it going, but unless it represents some important part of history, you probably ought to put regular trees on some kind of “do not resuscitate” list.
Ask the arborist to tell you when money you’re spending might be better invested in buying a new tree to replace it. That’s why it’s important that you form that good working relationship with your certified arborist.
Removal of dead or damaged branches is about as standard as work goes for tree service companies. However, the better ones carry it a step or two further. They can cable and brace tall trees to reduce the chance of the tree splitting. They can install lightning arrestors, and the still bigger companies can do extremely difficult tree takedowns and removals in challenging situations. They’ll have the equipment needed to do the work safely and successfully.
Most companies also will consult with you on-site. Perhaps you’re building or remodeling a house or business and you’re wanting to save as many trees as you can. That’s when you call in an arborist. It’s pretty much just to have him or her holding your hand during the planning, grading and construction. If you save one large shade tree, you’ve more than paid for the service.
Perhaps you’ve suffered tree loss or damage at the hands of vandals or through an accident. A certified arborist whose credentials are long term and strong can be your best witness, and many will be willing to help you.
If you’ve had water runoff problems in recent spring rains, you may have been told to change the grade so that water can flow some other direction. That will involve someone with fairly heavy equipment coming onto your property and removing soil to form a swale to conduct rainfall runoff offsite and into the city’s storm sewers.
An arborist standing there alongside you can advise how much soil can be removed without harming the tree. That arborist will also be able to tell you the best time of year to do that removal (usually fall or early winter).
Structural engineers will sometimes tell homeowners that trees are too close to their houses, and that the trees will have to go. It’s a situation of the trees’ pulling water from beneath the foundations, and that can be a real issue as the soil dries and shifts.
Enter the arborist. He or she will be able to locate the roots in question, determine how best to deal with them (cutting and root barrier), or if indeed, the tree is going to become a major problem.
All of which is to say that certified arborists are really important members of the horticultural community. I’d hate to have to maintain my forested landscape without them.
I hear the doorbell now. My tree guys just arrived. I’ll grab a few photos.