Talking Trees With Davey

In this GWA blog post, RJ Laverne, manager of education and training for Davey Tree, tells readers about Davey's approach to tree care and why planting the right tree in the right place is so important. 

Posted: Sept. 7, 2016 

By Katie Elzer-Peters

I am deeply suspicious of anyone with a bucket truck and a chainsaw. That translates into a fear of anyone getting near any of my trees. My eyes were opened and I felt a renewed sense of trust after talking with R. J. Laverne, Manager of Education and Training for Davey Tree. He is responsible for training all of the arborists that pick up a pruning device in the name of the company. His credentials are ironclad. On the academic side R. J.’s background includes degrees in Biology, Forestry, and a Master’s degree in Remote Sensing. He is currently pursuing a PhD in Urban Planning at Cleveland State University. R. J. is also a Board Certified Master Arborist (ISA), a Registered Consulting Arborist (ASCA), and a member on the Advisory Board for the School Forest Resources and Environmental Science at Michigan Technological University.

R.J. and I chatted for almost an hour about the way Davey takes care of trees and the broader ecosystem in which they grow. He began by outlining the Davey philosophy. “What we really focus on here at Davey is not only taking a scientific approach to tree care and landscape maintenance but also a broader understanding of how what we do on each individual landscape affects the overall environment of that community, region, state, or country.”

This holistic approach to care means the trees are healthier, as well. “It’s like taking care of yourself,” he pointed out. “If you eat healthy, exercise, and are in good shape you can ward off those bugs like colds and flus. It is the same thing with trees. Good soil structure, the right pH, and the right conditions matched to the right tree translate to far fewer problems with the tree.”

He says the biggest problems Davey staff encounter would be entirely avoided by planting the correct tree for the site. “Think about the mature expected size, particularly around utility wires, so that the tree doesn’t end up having to be repeatedly and harshly pruned.”

The most interesting part of my chat with R. J. was when I asked “What is something you’ve learned the hard way that you can pass along to other GWA members?” R. J. is a storyteller, so of course the answer wasn’t straightforward. Hang in there. It’s worth it.

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