Climbing the Professional Ladder, but Not the Trees

At the beginning of the year, I shared with you that I’d been studying to become a certified arborist. It was a challenging course, and your encouragement meant a lot to me, so I’m happy to report the outcome:

I am now officially an International Society of Arboriculture Credential holder!
I am now officially an International Society of Arboriculture Credential holder!

I’m an ISA Certified Arborist®

The designation recognizes my formal horticulture education and my practical, field experience in landscape design and working with trees, plus completion of the ISA coursework and acing of the exam. The ANSI-accredited program was quite thorough, covering everything from identification of tree species to tree diseases to tree-climbing safety and much more.

I use my knowledge about, and experience with, trees in my landscape design work every day. But as in almost every field, new information comes out, research changes how things are understood, new techniques are developed and best-practices guidelines are always being updated. So, even though I already had a good knowledge base about trees, I’m all for professional development. And I learned so much!

I won’t be able to rest on my (mountain) laurels though. I’ll need to meet continuing education requirements, which I’ll do through workshops, conferences, webinars and other learning opportunities, to keep my certification current.

Trees are such an ever-present feature in our region that sometimes we take them for granted. And it seems like the trees do a pretty good job of taking care of themselves. So some might wonder:  How much do we really need to know about trees in the residential landscape?

The short answer might be:  Not that much. Until one falls on your house.

A better answer:  Knowing the status of the trees on your property—Are they healthy? Safe? Well suited to their locations? How much longer will they live?—is at least as important as how they look in your yard right now or how you’re imagining them in your new outdoor space.

Here are a few examples of where all that extra tree expertise comes in handy.

  1. Planting a garden around a special, existing tree. Is the focal-point tree healthy, and does it have a long life expectancy? Will it still be the right scale for the bed as it matures?
  2. Locating stonescaping structures in your landscape design. Where should the patio be located to function beautifully in the outdoor space without harming—or being damaged by—the root systems of nearby trees?
  3. Thinning out some woods to enhance a distant view. Which trees should be pruned? Should some be extracted? Which ones?
  4. Managing drainage and erosion. Trees can suffer from—or help prevent—poor drainage and erosion problems. What needs and attributes of different trees should be considered when making changes to the water flow on a property?
  5. Heavy equipment will be brought on site for grading or other construction activities. Careful! How do you direct that dirt work while preventing life-threatening injuries to tree trunks and roots?
  6. Functional uses. Which trees are best for specific purposes in the landscape, like privacy, shade, color, height, focal points and noise buffers? Or worst:  What leaf-dropping trees do you not want next to the pool?
  7. Supporting wildlife habitat. Which trees attract bees, butterflies and other pollinators? Which trees appeal to songbirds?

Yes, I do love trees.

tree hugger

I’ll never be able to learn all there is to know about them. But the more I learn, the better equipped I am to protect my clients’ trees and make sure they bring beauty and enjoyment to the outdoor spaces we create for a long time.

Of course, there are other benefits to becoming an ISA Certified Arborist® beyond caring for the trees, themselves. Having this credential demonstrates Art of Stone’s commitment to our industry and our dedication to professionalism. It’s an investment in our business, our clients and the communities in our service area. It also increases the knowledge I have to share in my teaching and speaking engagements.

By the way, in case you’re wondering, just because I’ve learned all about tree-climbing safety, that doesn’t mean I’ll be swinging from the tree branches in your yard any time soon. We’ll continue to hire out tree climbing and removal services. But what I know now does help me evaluate the safety-consciousness and practices of tree removal companies we recommend or hire.

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