Southern arborists talk benefits of planting trees

Southern arborists talk benefits of planting trees

When most people consider planting a tree, arborist Tierson Boutte says they think about the potential of more shade, added beauty and increased property value. They plant a few trees and then a transformation happens: Boutte, owner of highly rated Boutte Tree in Atlanta, sees his customers evolve into tree lovers.

“After a few years, people want to add more trees,” he says. “We’ve found that planting new trees is very appealing. It’s become a more dominant part of our business, overtaking plant health care.”

In cities and sprawling suburban areas across the country, street trees and urban forests draw a lot of public interest and figure prominently in assessing the environmental health of a region. In recent decades, canopy coverage has declined because of rapid land development, particularly in Southern cities like Atlanta and Charlotte, N.C. Recognition of the negative effects of this loss on public health and local economies has inspired collaboration of local governments and citizen groups to take action.

One such group, Trees Atlanta, works to protect and improve the city’s urban forest by planting, conserving and educating. A similar group, Trees Charlotte, set a goal of planting 25,000 trees per year to achieve a 50 percent tree canopy in the city by 2050. Interestingly, the groups say there is not enough public land on which to plant so many trees. So they’re looking toward residential subdivisions to expand tree coverage, which returns our focus to tree-loving homeowners.

Just as it’s important to work with a landscaping designer to come up with a plan for your yard, Boutte says it’s well worth it to talk with an arborist before planting a tree. “Compared to a typical landscape plan, it’s a small investment,” he says. “Trees anchor the whole landscape. There’s nobody better than an arborist to help you decide what you want the trees to do and to project how the landscape will look over the next 10 years. I talk to customers three and four times before they’re ready to plant a tree. It’s time well spent.”

In Charlotte, highly rated The Maplewood Company not only plants trees, it stockpiles them for customers during construction projects. The company removes trees and holds them in its nursery, then replants them after the work is completed. “Stockpiling is big right now,” says Jay Lacey, operations and nursery manager. “Often, it’s less than the cost of replacing trees, and customers tend to prefer to save their healthy trees and have them returned to the landscape.”

Though Maplewood is known to its larger clients in the area as the go-to arborists with the expertise, equipment and manpower to wrangle just about any size tree in any location, it also has a solid customer base of homeowners who have just one or two trees planted at a time. “The scale of the job doesn’t matter to us,” Lacey says. “It’s about the trees and honestly, that’s what makes us different from a lot of other companies.”

Ellen Goff is a freelance horticulture writer and photographer who’s passionate about plants, water quality and the environment. She also stays busy with her own landscape and its inhabitants along the shores of Lake Wylie, S.C.


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