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What’s with the name- Tree School of Utah?

I’m a ‘tree guy’- driving around town, hiking in the mountains or strolling through the neighborhood, I’m tuned in to the trees around me. I’ve got my favorites: a few gnarled Fremont cottonwoods (Populus fremontii), hidden away in desert washes, ragged, fractured and contorted, showing tenacity and survivorship despite extremely challenging conditions. The massive sycamore/London plane tree (Platanus x acerifolia) north of the tennis courts on the west side of Liberty Park in SLC, that when I point it out to others, inspires most all to ‘hug a tree’. The apple tree in my grandparents backyard, hand grafted with different varieties by my grandfather, brings memories of grandpa showing off his carving and knife sharpening skills as he spooled the peel off of a freshly picked homegrown apple in one continuous piece, while the grandkids squirmed and jockeyed for crisp slice on Sunday evenings. The huge ponderosa pine near the Book Cliffs, which held a large tree stand high up on its trunk that my cousin, neighbor and I spent the night in. Long after the noble giant had swayed them to sleep, I sat up mesmerized, watching the thunderstorm on the horizon dance, paint and illuminate the endless desert sky from our treetop perch.

I appreciate the history and longevity of these trees, the energy and relationships I’ve had with the people who cared for or ‘discovered’ their beauty. I feel grateful that I can appreciate these living timelines as generations have before me. I enjoy sharing my favorites with my children and appreciate the fact that many of them will be around for their children either due to natural tenacity and suvivorship or because of individuals who have invested time, energy and financial resources to their care and preservation.

As a professional arborist I am frequently called upon to manage trees for various reasons. Most frequently it is after they have come into conflict with the infrastructure that makes modern society tick. Through my career as an arborist I’ve pruned trees as a line clearance arborist working to help make sure households have power and to promote safety so that vigorous trees don’t start fires or present shock hazards, but often struggled with the fact that the trees were nearly always the ones who were forced to yield, or that trees some trees that clearly had no place near the lines were fiercly defended despite the fact that they would never be compatible with the site and routinely required arboirsts to put their lifes at risk. I’ve cared for street trees on an urban forestry contract that were a testament to communities investing in and benefitting from these shared resources but also witnessing the site challenges that these trees face pinched in narrow planting strips, stressed by road salts and heat islands from black top roads. I’ve counciled individual homeowners who have lost an old friend that either declined and presented safety hazards or grew incompatible with the space constraints in their yards and have felt the sense of loss (and new possibilities) from the new hole in the skyline created by the trees absence.

 

Trees and town are full of cooperation and conflict and as someone who has accepted that my calling, my zen, is tied to these trees, I feel a great responsibility in caring for and assisting homeowners in making the right decision on how to care for or how to reconcile removing these trees when necessary. Our urban infrastructure can and frequently does offer benefits to trees that they wouldn’t otherwise have access to such as consistent access to water, and nutrients or breeding that has helped them overcome pathogens. Many of the urban forests of Utah exist solely because of the fact that we have made the investment to plant and care for them.

 

Arborists by definition care for trees as individuals, most of us tend to preach the mantra of planting ‘the right tree in the right place’ because our goal is to pair people and places with trees that will offer maximum benefit while requiring minimal external inputs. We founded Tree School of Utah to help educate homeowners, property managers, and communities on both the benefits of and the unique challenges faced by the trees in their landscape. We also understand that to forge a sustainable relationship it is important to take ownership for tree management, thus we also need to help ‘teach’ trees how to grow up in these environments by providing proactive care to promote strong balanced structures and dissuade growth where future problems will occur. We want to help encourage healthy living soils and beneficial site conditions which can maintain steady sustained growth and increase the network of natural biological controls while decreasing or eliminating the need for chemical inputs to ‘boost’ growth or manage pests and diseases. Trees are often already equipped with natural defensive systems to cope with these issues and often times throwing fertilizers or other chemicals into the mix simply exacerbates the problem or otherwise disrupts natural systems at play.

 

Finally as a co-owner of Tree School of Utah with my wife, I am also learning how to be a better husband and father to my two beautiful children. I strive to learn and grow every day to be a safer, more well informed arborist, a more open and giving member of my community, and a business owner who can helps support, mentor, and provide high quaility opportunities to others who choose to embark into a career in arboriculture.