A Tale of Two Stewards
Written by: Tony Arnoldi, Board Certified Master Arborist WI-0102B
There is a really nice property in Elm Grove – one that has the beauty and grandeur of large, old, stately trees gracing the landscape at many points, but not overwhelming the charm and artistry of younger trees, shrubs and perennials that blend in and complement the older trees and house. It is by no accident that this is how it appears today. People that care about their trees and who lovingly applied the principles of conservation and stewardship of the land they live on leave a legacy such as this.
I first met Dr. Leichtfus in the summer of 1985. He had purchased the property several years earlier, but became very concerned about Dutch Elm Disease that had started among the 10 large American elm trees that were in the back yard. There is a nice woodsy grove behind the house, with lawn that surrounds it and provides a green carpet for much of the rest of the back yard. These elms made up part of this grove and also populated much of the left rear yard. Several elms needed to be removed and roots needed to be severed between diseased and healthy root systems in order to save as many as possible. The number of large elms was reduced to 5 after that initial onslaught. Treatment began immediately to preserve the remaining elms from new Dutch Elm Disease carried in by elm bark beetles. They were carefully pruned to reduce the weight and wind resistance because they were now more exposed to the storms – the mutual protection the big trees gave each other was now diminished due to the losses. Over the ensuing years, big storms claimed 2 more of the elms (not toppling them but damaging some main limbs). The treatments on the remaining 2 elms continued and kept Dutch Elm Disease out of the woodsy grove (of which the 2 elms anchored).
Some very old Crabapples also graced this property, and were very floriferous. Dr. Leichtfus loved the flower show, so pruning was done to preserve their structure, and a spray program kept the leaves from dropping off the tree early every year. With the increased food-making capability of the leaves, the trees continued to prosper.
Dr. Leichtfus retired and moved to his Florida home in early 2001, but was happy to have enjoyed his home in Elm Grove the way he liked it – especially his favorite reading spot next to the woodsy grove.
He was also kind enough to recommend me and Wachtel to the next owner.
I met Mrs. Hecker in the summer of 2001 and related all that had been done over the years. She also loves trees and all plants and proceeded to add garden plants throughout the property. The splashes of color in every season and the paths connecting the woodsy grove to all other parts of the yard are wonderful additions. New understory trees were added to the woodsy grove, further making this area the focal point and highlight.
New plants bring some exposure to new insect and disease problems like fireblight on some of the crabapples and magnolia scale on the magnolia, but always these were noticed and handled right away so no big problems became of them.
Storms still make their appearance now and then, but the pruned trees tend to have less damage than their unpruned neighbors so that has been manageable. A nice big birch grove continues to thrive across both ownerships because birch borers have been controlled all along the way. And yes, the 2 remaining elms still anchor the woodsy grove.
I have been very fortunate to have been a part of seeing this property prevail and steadily improve over the years. Many trees are preserved from the original forest and they can be the most challenging in the long run. Being able to provide the needed care uninterrupted over many years and seeing the results is very rewarding. Thank you to 2 stewards of the trees that made (and make) a difference.