Relationships – Trees and People
Written by: Bill Reichenbach, Certified Arborist WI-0188A
This story started decades ago, after giving a presentation on ‘woodland gardening’ at a garden show back in the 90’s. I was approached by a couple who had just built a new home on a wooded lot, I was intrigued. They were interested in developing a more ‘natural’ style landscape and in preserving as many of the trees on the lot as possible.
My first visit to the site revealed a very nice assortment of trees; mature bur and white oak, shagbark hickory, and green ash were the dominant trees. The owners had the foresight to have built a retaining wall along two sides of the home to lessen the amount of fill needed and to preserve original grade around most of the trees root systems.
As a landscape plan was being developed the trees were pruned – crown cleaned, to improve health, safety, appearance, and to provide clearance from the home.
Mostly native plants were planted to augment the existing woodlands. Sugar maple, basswood, serviceberry, ironwood and musclewood were some of the trees used. These trees are adapted to some shade that the existing trees provided. Arborvitae and Canadian hemlock were introduced to provide evergreen screening in critical sight lines. Spruce and pine would not have worked as well in the partial shade of the site.
A number of shrubs such as hazelnut, viburnum, witchhazel, bottlebrush buckeye and dogwood were added to provide an understory. These provide additional ornamental interest and wildlife habitat. A wide variety of native wild flowers, ferns and ground covers only add to this wonderful setting. Very little turf grass exists along the front of the property, perhaps to conform to the more traditional suburban setting that is considered the norm.
The trees need occasional care; periodic pruning is needed as trees grow, storms cause some damage, and natural aging causes branch senescence. All things that happen naturally in the woods, but needs management around your home.
Some trees have needed a little TLC (tree loving care) fertilization and FAC (trunk injected iron) on selected trees has improved their health and longevity.
The site does contain a lot of green ash. A plan has been put into place to treat and preserve selected larger, higher quality ash in good locations. Smaller and lesser quality ash have been removed. This will lessen long-term costs still preserving a diverse and large tree canopy.
I have worked on this site for over thirty years now. It has been great to visit this site often over the years. Getting to know the owners has been one of the best parts of the job. Not only do we talk tree business, but often time is spent ‘chewing the fat’ about our outdoor experiences with deer, squirrels, and birds. Or maybe discussing music, food or our favorite beer. ‘Trees and people’ it does not get any better than that!