My Tree Care Philosophy

Trees are living beings and deserve respect. There is a lot of work done on trees that is not in their best interest. Routine practices performed from habit that ignore the tree’s present state can be very injurious. An example would be standard thinning and shaping performed on a tree that is infected with a disease.

Trees get all their energy from the sun, mostly through their leaves or needles. The rest comes from photosynthetic tissue in young bark. Too much pruning not only stresses a tree, but forces it to generate suckers or shoots to try to replenish the lost leaf mass. There is a delicate balance among the leaves, branches, trunk and roots.

Being able to see clearly and access carefully is the greatest gift I can bring to a tree. Once we see clearly, knowing what to do is easy.

Why KRL?

Simply, a strong natural connection with trees, a caring empathetic approach that looks to do what is best for each tree, to increase its longevity and level of health.

In a town filled with tree services whose prime focus is removal, I’m one of the few who would rather see your tree alive and healthy.

Why hire a logger to prune your apple tree? Your trees took decades to grow. Why ruin them with one quick, cheap, uninformed pruning job?

A Little About Me and My Tree Services

Early influences

I have been a Calgarian since I was in grade two. Growing up here, the main use of our free time was exploring the Rocky Mountain front, with different activities during all seasons. This outdoor life, interests as an amateur naturalist and tree work have filled my life.

I come from hardy Western Canadian stock and my boyhood summers were spent on a mixed farm in central Saskatchewan. That farm, planted in 1928 by my great-grandfather, was full of groves and shelter belts and a group of Scots pines. That wonderful enclosed place among those trees is where I made my first deep connections to the natural world.

Beginning Tree work

After school and a four year stint with the Alberta Forest Service, I took a job with a local tree service. That work lasted through the summer, fall and into the winter. After that amazing first season, I never looked back. Now was the start of my real education, working in Arboriculture.

Years, then decades of tree work followed. Always curious about my work, I stated reading tree books. Many tree books. One of the first precious jewels was Dr. Alex Shigo’s New Tree Biology. Truly a manifesto for a new generation who were looking beyond flush cuts, heavy pruning, topping and cavity treatments.

When I took Dr. Shigo’s course at Olds College in 1990, I felt I was truly launched. Many years, much tree work and reading were to follow.

My style of work

After being deeply steeped in Dr. Shigo’s philosophy, I took a distinctively holistic approach to tree health. Many times we just need to step back out of the way and give the trees the soil, water and sunlight they require. Usually that’s all they require, although the urban environment has its own problems.

One key principle is the concept of the whole tree, the balanced tree, with all of its major parts working in sync. The leaves, twigs, branches, trunk and roots—not five parts but one whole tree in balance. Disturb and injure the roots, look for less growth above and potential top die back. Remove too many leaf-bearing branches, look for a strong reaction of shoot growth to try to compensate.

I maintain a happy medium and prune without stressing the tree, and end up with a tree that, at first glance, doesn’t look pruned; it just looks right.

Services I provide

My work direction is now heading more towards consulting. Using my decades of hands-on experience, I can now solve most Calgary tree problems. No one knows it all and new insects and diseases sometimes show up. But I have a solid base of understanding of the Calgary situation.

My hands-on tree work has also changed. I now only do artistic pruning, enhancing the tree’ or shrub’s beautiful natural form. Pines, smaller maples and junipers all strongly lend themselves to natural Bonsai forms. Changing the regular shape into something distinctive, through careful branch removal, is a joy to perform.

There are a lot of different ideas out there about trees. Some of them are just not right or healthy. Phrases like “heavy pruning,” “a full shaping,” “really cut back hard,” “take them down a few feet”—this is not language that is in harmony with my philosophy.

Where I work

Calgary has grown into a immense city and it is impossible for me to get to all corners. Now located in west Bowness, I have had to limit the zones I work in. Roughly my northern limit is the ring road east to Beddington Trail, south to Glenmore Trail and back around into the northwest.

This is not cast in stone, and every day I help people who live far outside my work zone by looking at their pictures.


Tree Poem

How to turn on a tree?
I think the tree is always on
but it is not on and engaged with a person until a person
is there to be engaged with it. You need to choose this.

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Tree Repair

Tree repair or, formerly, tree surgery is a mechanically assisted method of reinforcing weak trees or putting split trees back together so that they will have added years of life.

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Demystifying Tree Pruning

There is an idea that gardeners have no business pruning their own trees. I don't believe it. That idea means that as homeowners our main concern is to write the cheques and keep our hands off.

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Calgary Soils

Once the trees and shrubs, the bones of a garden, are taken care of we can turn our attention to the flower and vegetable beds. Calgary's soils deserve some discussion.

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Proper Tree Pruning

In order to prune trees, not only is some idea of tree function needed, but also a good understanding of the branch-trunk interaction zone.

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Tree Pruning Theory

Trees, trees, everywhere. We tie our clotheslines to them, we hang our block heater cord from them, we use them for making a fence.

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Watering Calgary Trees

Water truly is the essence of life, all the more so in our continuing drought. Unable to move to water, trees are totally reliant on rain and snowfall and what you apply.

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Kate's Mayday

This is Kate's Mayday. It arrived in 1990 as a wedding gift certificate to Sunnyside Garden Centre from a neighbour. It was a puny 1" caliber and a mere 7 feet tall in spring of 1991.

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