Written by: Jean Ferdinandsen, Certified Arborist WI-0149A
I first met Neal & Nancy Paisley at a home and garden show at State Fair Park. I remember well as I was just a few months pregnant and hadn’t told anyone other than my husband and mother.
It was a slow evening and the Paisleys were pleasant and interested in trees. So we talked trees for a while.
Their main concern was a large white oak near the drive which had declined over the years due to construction, drought, and chlorosis (a nutrient issue).
After a bit, they did proceed with recommendations to improve the health of that oak and 4-5 other red and white oaks on the property and stuck with it. The reward has been that the tree by the drive has gone from a death spiral, and a certain removal, to a heathier tree with more growth to sustain itself and an asset to the property.
Through the years, they have tackled other projects on an average size urban lot. Since the trees are important to them we collaborated on the design for a new sitting area, drainage improvement, and screening ideas.
One of the most interesting and rewarding projects has been the removal of buckthorn and other invasive species in the small woodland corridor in the backyard. Their efforts were met with the re-emergence of native woodland ephemerals that had long been suppressed. It was amazing to see the ‘new’ diversity and interest in the woods. They also began to plant and introduce other native understory trees and perennials to the site. Their favorites are Solomon’s seal and trilliums. Sharp eyes also identified and nurtured plants that emerged on their own.
There is now much more year-round interest in the back yard and improved bird & wildlife habitat. It continues to be a work in progress, but has definitely gotten easier after the initial removal of invasives. They hope others will find taking care of their own mini-ecosystem rewarding.
Nancy recently commented “Jean has been and continues to be a trusted resource! She has always given freely of her knowledge because for her, it isn’t just about the trees. It’s about biodiversity and aesthetics. It’s about the health of the whole property. You can’t put a price on that!”
It has been a pleasure to work with them to help maintain and improve the property. I’m glad we talked that night.