Proper tree care is a tricky business, but it’s an investment that can improve more than just the tree’s health and attractiveness. For most of us, proper tree care is beyond our capabilities. That’s why there are people who specialize in this field.

Jesse Macdonald is an International Society of Arboriculture (I.S.A) certified arborist and a self-proclaimed tree hugger. He got started in the arboriculture and silviculture industries by way of tree planting throughout Alberta. Because it is seasonal work, he sought employment throughout the year.

“I started working with the City of Edmonton in 2007 with the urban forestry department as a groundsperson, assisting arborists with the care and maintenance of the city’s urban forest,” explained Macdonald. He said he found the work interesting and fast-paced and eventually worked towards his I.S.A certification. He then became an arborist with the city until he started his own company called Zenith Tree Services in 2011.

Macdonald said arborists focus on a tree’s health and safety and these professionals should know about tree biology and physics. “Working at heights with a chainsaw is pretty standard practice too, whether you’re climbing to remove an 80-foot hazardous spruce between two houses or limb-walking 30 feet out on an elm branch to make a pruning cut,” he said.

Arborists can correctly identify a tree and its needs, prune without causing unnecessary damage, safely remove a tree, and safely climb a tree.

Zenith Tree Services specializes in tree pruning, tree planting, tree removals, stump grinding, and hazard tree assessments.

“Pruning and removing trees (especially large trees) can be potentially hazardous work. Arborists are specifically trained and equipped to work safely in trees,” Macdonald explained. “Proper tree care is an investment that can have substantial benefits. Well cared-for trees are attractive and can add considerable value to your property. Poorly-maintained trees can be a significant liability.”

Macdonald explained it’s important to consider the time of year before pruning a tree.

“The best time to prune living branches is late in the dormant season. So very early in spring before leaves form is best or late fall. Growth is maximized and wounds close faster.” He goes on to say that leaves are like batteries. “The more batteries, the more energy the tree has, so when we prune live branches (batteries) in the summer, the tree does not receive 100 per cent of the energy it gets from the sun. It relies on that energy for the cold winter months and the next year’s leaf production.”

Local regulations also limit when certain trees can be pruned. In particular, elm trees cannot be pruned between April 1 and Sept. 30.

Dutch elm disease is a deadly disease that can affect any elm tree. Dutch elm disease is caused by the fungus Ophiostoma ulmi that is potentially carried by the elm bark beetle and is destructive to elm trees,” Macdonald said.

For those who are doing some pruning themselves this fall, Macdonald recommends removing the dead, dying, and diseased branches before trimming live branches. Always make proper cuts. “Do not make flush cuts or stub cuts. If you cannot identify the branch collar, call an arborist!” Flush cuts are made close to the trunk or main branch, while a stub cut doesn’t take enough of a branch.

And never do topping, which is the indiscriminate and dramatic cutting of branches. “Topping is a crime against trees,” explained Macdonald, and adds that we should all plant more trees.


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Featured Image: Arborists must know about tree biology and physics.  | Supplied by Jesse Macdonald