What is an Arborist? and How the cost of using one can be off set by the long term value that they can provide.

As an arborist working in both Australia and abroad for nearly 20 years now, I still often feel that there is a misconception amongst the general public that using arborists to carry out tree works, such as tree removal, pruning and the like is more expensive than using “other” tree workers. This has prompted me to write this blog to give a bit more of a definition on what arborists actually are and how the cost of using an arborist can be quickly off set by the long term value that they can provide to you. I will give you a couple of examples below but before I do let’s just clarify exactly what an arborist is.

An Arborist is someone who has successfully completed a formal qualification in Horticulture or Arboriculture. Horticulture is the study of plants and Arboriculture is the study of plants but more specifically trees. After gaining a thorough understanding of how trees grow, how they respond to environmental and cultural changes around them and how they resist pest and disease attack we as arborists can start to offer expert advice and recommendations in regards to how to best manage the health and safety of the trees. Just like most trades, arborists gain a knowledge and complete understanding of arboriculture by linking their formal qualifications with practical knowledge which is gained from working in trees and around trees.

So let’s look at how using arborists can add long term value.

I was recently called out to price the removal of a client’s tree in Melbourne’s East. The tree was a Lilly Pilly and had split down the middle of the trunk and was threatening to completely fail, causing damage to other significant trees and plants in the garden and potentially damaging electrical lines to property. When I arrived, our client was adamant the tree needed to be removed as a matter of urgency and she was to say the least quite upset that she was going to lose a tree that had been growing in the front yard for well over 20 years. The tree provided her with great amenity value such as screening her house from the road, providing shade to her house and garden and something that provided habitat for local fauna. On thorough inspection of the tree, and discussion with the client we proposed that we could rig up a system in the tree to pull the splitting tree canopy back together so we could install a bracing system in the top of the tree and also install bolts through the split trunk. This secured the tree, and greatly reduced the risk of the tree failing any further. Although hesitant at first, we convinced the client that we could safely carry out this work and that she would be able to retain her tree for years to come. The job was a great success and the outcome for our client a great one.

Having the knowledge and experience to draw upon to formulate and execute a strategy that enabled our client to safely retain her tree asset which she thought was destined for removal, is one example of how arborists can add longer term value to you. The cost of the bracing and bolting was nearly half the cost of tree removal, the impact of losing a large canopy, shade tree on our client’s house and garden was minimised, and a valuable asset was retained safely for many years to come.

Having an understanding of tree physiology, along with an understanding of how trees “protect” themselves from pathogens is also how Arborists are able to carry out specific pruning and have an accurate understanding of how trees will respond to the pruning. Cutting branches and stems indiscriminately by untrained operators will often result in an immediate result for a client, however the longer-term outcomes can be very undesirable. New tree growth resulting from trees being cut at incorrect locations can actually grow up to 75% faster than normal growth rates, it is often poorly attached and aesthetically unpleasing. So what initially appears like a good outcome sets the tree up for future problems in regards to both health and safety. The tree will often grow back to the same size very quickly and therefore will need trimming again sooner.

When an arborist prunes trees, they understand where to cut to minimise the reaction of the tree, maintain good form, reduce vigorous new poorly attached growth and maintain the desired outcome for a longer period. This means the tree will need less pruning less often. Another perfect example of how correct pruning will maintain the tree assets for longer, ensure the ongoing health and safety of the tree whilst costing the tree owner less money in the short medium and long term.