Trees communicate in a unique language that is both subtle and convoluted.
A tree's complex and non-linear interaction with the surrounding environment requires time and effort to decipher and develop an understanding of this subtle dialogue.
Most knowledgeable arboricultural professionals find humour at the proliferation of tree service “prospectors” with their “ability” to quickly diagnose a client’s tree, write up a free estimate and pull out of the client’s driveway in 20 to 30 minutes. Free advice passed out with a free estimate should be a red flag for a consumer to be suspicious of. Knowledge is costly and takes effort to acquire. Serious professionals invest tens of thousands of dollars towards years of education and private research that must somehow be recouped if they are to earn a living working with trees.
My family has worked with trees for several generations. I was taught my craft from both my father and grandfather who was an orchardist who emigrated from Ukraine. I spent my childhood years working in the family orchard, my twenties working on reforestation and silviculture research projects; starting in Ontario and working westward across Canada, to the Queen Charlotte Islands, where I would finally put down my planting shovel to enjoy lunches on a mountainside with a view of 300 foot tall sitka spruce and 200 foot tall red cedar. Today I work in arboriculture. I have a fascination with both ancient and extinct trees that once thrived in earth’s long forgotten paleoatmosphere. When I became an ISA Certified Arborist, I purchased almost every item of ISA scientific literature to add to the reference library I had inherited from my father. After extensive review of scientific literature, I started private research with the trees on my family property. My field research on ancient trees has taken me to other parts of the world as well.
There is an extensive proliferation of books, websites, television shows and information on trees. But this is often confusing, contradictory or only relevant to other geographic areas with different soil types and climatic conditions. A lot remains to be discovered about woody plants, and I find trees tend to be my best educators. I work with my own trees first so I can see for myself, what works, doesn’t work, or is a most likely outcome when I provide consulting services or work with a clients’ struggling trees.
The trees in Manitoba's yards have been on our planet for some 380 million years (coniferous) and 136 million years (deciduous). Earth’s atmosphere, geology and climate were very different when the genetic blueprints for coniferous and deciduous trees developed.
If we suddenly had to breathe the atmosphere of several hundred million years ago, we would experience respiratory distress and our bodies would struggle to function. Now imagine you’re a tree in the present. Earth has changed immensely over this vast expanse of time which reaches back to a period when tree foliage was fed upon by herbivorous dinosaurs. The rate of evolutionary genetic change within trees has been so slow to be almost immeasurable. So trees have added Post-it Notes to their original genetic blueprints to survive each successive change of a planet in constant change. Conditions have never returned to the ancient epochs when coniferous and deciduous trees first emerged and unfolded their leaves. But at times, when efforts are made to somewhat restore ancient growing conditions, trees relieved of stress are relieved of the Post-it Notes that cover their original genetic blueprints and they begin to thrive. The focus of my research has been to find ways to relieve trees of their Post-it Notes which will lead to healthier, faster growing and longer living trees. I like to call them “Legacy Trees” for they will be something to leave behind for another generation to enjoy.
This photo gallery displays some of my research and work with trees.
"Legacy Tree" Research
Two hackberry trees were purchased on the same day from a reputable tree nursery. Both were healthy and identically sized container stock, and planted the same summer.
This hackberry tree labeled "Control" was planted using methods that are commonly used today.
This hackberry tree labeled "Result" was planted using advanced methods to more closely match the requirements of its genetic blueprint. It is showing an increased capacity to reach towards its genetic potential. It took just six years to become a shade tree I can relax under on sunny Sunday afternoons.
Soil Limitations Research
The soil limitations of vertisolic, clay soils are a major cause of woody plant stress, decline and mortality. In 2017, this alder started to display symptoms of tree stress. By 2019, twig growth had become stunted, leaves turned chlorotic (yellow), and foliage canopy became very thin. I was concerned about losing my tree.
In May 2020, this alder became a test subject for one of my research projects.
After careful assessment of the tree and its surrounding environment, an innovative treatment process was implemented to reduce the soil limitations. I was hoping to see some visible improvement by sometime in September. The alder responded much faster and with more lush new growth than what I had anticipated.
Tree Restoration from Construction Damage
Tree restoration from construction damage is one of the most challenging and costly problems a treatment specialist is called upon to remedy. Restoration efforts often involve stratetic planning and use of emerging technologies such as installation of root guides, soil modification and fertilizer injections. This root guide system was designed to alleviate specific problems and utilize the tree's natural physiology to help itself.
Areas of Continued Research
- Potential treatments for oak decline in Manitoba
- Tree Injection Technology
- Reduction of soil limitation effects on tree growth in local soils.