Saturday, October 6, 2012

A Cut Above the Rest; Choosing An Arborist by Kate Sullivan-Sisneros

Liontailing Photo by Kate Sullivan-Sisneros

My neighbor to the North of us has two 30+ year old willow trees.  Recently, I watched helplessly as a local tree service butchered them with inappropriate pruning cuts.  This company must not have been aware of ANSI pruning standards (American National Standards Institute), as the tree was riddled with heading cuts – a big ‘no, no’ when pruning mature shade trees and ‘lion-tailing’ which shifts the weight to the outer making the tree more susceptible to wind damage.  And NO care was taken to safely lower the branches to the ground.  Instead, my husband said it was literally “raining branches.”  In the process, my upright juniper sustained four broken branches, leaving a gaping hole on one side.  This will not grow back.  Save yourself this experience and read this article!

Heading Cuts Photo by Kate Sullivan-Sisneros
Unfortunately, choosing an arborist can be much like choosing a car mechanic.  Unless we know something about cars, we are at the mercy of whatever they tell us because we just don’t know.  Don’t assume that because they are listed in the phone book, they know what they are doing, no matter how many years of experience they say they have. 

Unlike choosing a car mechanic, there is something that can help us to choose a knowledgeable person to work on our beloved trees.  The International Society of Aboriculture (ISA) - – offers a list of people who must meet eligibility requirements for admission, successfully complete an examination, and maintain a certain number of continuing education hours to recertify after 3 years.  Here is a brief explanation from that web site:

 ISA credentials are valued and trusted because they let consumers know that you possess a high degree of knowledge about caring for and maintaining trees. When developing an exam, a panel of subject matter experts from around the world completes a job task analysis, and then writes an exam that encompasses the defined skills. ISA credentials build expert knowledge and reflect the professional skills sought by leaders from the public and private sectors, including training, academia and government organizations.

At that web site, on the right side of the screen you will find a box that says “I am a tree owner.”  Click on that, put in your zip code and check the box that looks for a certified arborist.

A very important thing you can do is get in writing what the company you selected intends to do.  The contract needs to state clearly which tree is to be pruned , what are their pruning objectives, which branches do they intend to cut, and what type of pruning cuts are they going to use.  Make sure they are licensed and insured – what happens if they damage your property or your neighbor’s property?  If they don’t perform the work as stated, this can provide you with a legal avenue to protect yourself.

Another invaluable resource is the Colorado Master Gardener Notes #616 (Pruning Mature Shade Trees) available on line which was written for the average homeowner to help inform and protect you.

Also, you can call to talk to a trained Master Gardener at 303-271-6632.   We cannot endorse or recommend any one arborist.  But we can help educate you so you can make an informed choice.  Don’t be a victim; be informed!