Penn-Del Arbor Day-of-Service 2011 at Friends Hospital

Tomorrow is National Arbor Day (Friday). We celebrated it a few days early, at Friends Hospital in Northeast Philly. That’s where we got together with other Penn-Del ISA companies to help restore a magnificent but neglected landscape through donated tree maintenance work. Aerial photos of Friends Hospital. This is the first time we’ve gone to the same location in consecutive years, and I’m happy that we did- I believe we have helped them catch up to the point that they can maintain these grounds so the public can truly appreciate what is there.
Arbor Day 2010
Arbor Day 2009
Some photos of what we did:
This weeping European beech had lots of dead wood and was overgrown with vines.

weeping European beech

Scott gives Dave a tree biology lesson before the pruning starts. He’s explaining why the sprouts that are growing from the roots are genetically different from the rest of the tree, by pointing out where the tree was grafted.

weeping European beech

(see the non-weeping rootsprout behind Scott, on the left?)

We had the pleasure of meeting Paul Freda, a self-employed arborist from Pottstown. He and Ricky worked together pruning the beech.

Paul is a great climber and very knowledgeable (he taught us about the amur corktree adjacent to where we were working). I hope sometime we get to work together in “real life!”


Scott got the worst of the dead wood out of this red maple (for the second year in a row!) This tree is in it’s final years, it’s doomed because of girdling roots.

red maple

Then we moved on to this red maple. Here Scott is setting his climbing line from the ground, while Paul works his way up the tree setting the line as he goes – the old fashioned way. Fun for me to watch- reminds me of “the day.”

Yes, Scott made it up there, too!

A final little detail- a round ended bark tracing on a nasty storm-damaged wound.

Girdling root job

The client has 3 cherry trees in his front yard, and he wondered why they were not growing at the same rate.  He also noticed wounds on the trees that were not closing. The wounds turned out to be nectria cankers (a fungus disease).  The trees varied a lot in size, even though the same age.  All three trees had soil piled against the trunk and no visible trunk flare.  I couldn’t pull the soil away because ornamental grass was planted in it. There were no other obvious health problems above ground, so I suggested we blow away the soil from the base of the trunks and look for root system problems. Today the crew went to the property and did just that.  Using the airspade, they blew away the soil mounds and found roots encircling all the trunks.  This is surely the limiting factor for growth, and the stress from the trees’ reduced ability to conduct water and sugar reduces their ability to resist the nectria infection. Ricky called me to ask my advice about cutting the girdling roots.  What needed to be done was really radical surgery, and he was a little timid about it.  After all, we want to “first do no harm.”  So he sent me photos from his smart phone and I looked at them on my computer.  I reassured him that it was ok to cut the big roots.  Although the surgery would seem radical, there is no way the trees could live to be old without it. By the way – the big girdling roots in the perfect circle are probably the result of the tree having been raised in a pot.

girdling root

Update: Additional photos the crew sent me –

girdling root girdling rootgirdling rootgirdling rootgirdling root


Field Trip to Longwood Gardens

I needed to show a client some examples of how an old and fragile tree can be supported by props.  So I used that as an excuse to take Jodie and go on a little excursion to Longwood Gardens. (Note to the IRS: that’s why the company paid for our trip.)
Longwood has 2 nice examples of this kind of support system.  One is this big cedar that has a threatening lean.

leaning cedar

The other is this old decrepit mulberry.  It looks like it should be cut down, doesn’t it?  But Longwood keeps it alive because it is the record holder for largest mulberry in Pennsylvania.  Sometimes there is a reason to make “heroic” efforts to preserve a “veteran” tree.


The props are made out of decay-resistant black locust logs that were cut somewhere on Longwood grounds.  Pretty cool, huh? With that mission (getting those photos) accomplished, we spent the rest of the day enjoying Longwood’s many indoor and outdoor exhibits.  I’ll share a few things I found interesting. Some of the lawns are meticulously maintained, like a golf course.  But not all.  I especially like the areas that are filled with spring-blooming flowers, like here.

Inside one othe the greenhouses, Jodie pointed out a plant that caught her eye (I forget what it was).  I looked at it and said I didn’t think it was pretty.  It had pale colored leaves.  My sense of beauty appreciates dark green colored plants – I guess because I’m looking through arborist eyes.  Green = chlorophyll = energy = healthy. Right after we stepped out of that building, I said “Look! That’s what I like.  Look how dark green that tree is!”

Lastly, I shot a few pictures to show how Longwood mulches around their trees.  This is the right way to do it!

Note: No trenches around the perimeter, you can always see the trunk flares, they cover a lot of square feet, and the material is: partly composted wood chips!