Prince Edward Island landscaper prepares for a busy spring straightening trees Fiona leaning left

The blue spruce in front of Marie McKenna’s property in Milton Station has done a lot over the years. It was there when she bought the land in 2008 and gave her business plenty of shade and privacy.

“It was compact in size and very dense in its growth pattern,” she said. “So that created a lot of privacy in that spot by the front door, as well as a bird shelter.”

But since post-tropical storm Fiona passed through PEI. in September, the tree no longer looks quite the same.

“It obviously wasn’t able to handle the large wind event that came in from the north, which we’re directly facing, and it hit it for several hours,” McKenna said. “So that loosened the root system and just tilted it further south.”

Marie McKenna says that this blue spruce tree on her property provides protection from the wind and privacy for people walking towards the main entrance. (Victoria Walton/CBC)

After assessing the damage, McKenna opted to have someone cut down several trees on the property. But she decided to try to save the blue spruce up front.

Root of the problem

When landscape arborist and horticulturist Kurt Laird first got the call about McKenna’s tree, he was inundated with requests for post-Fiona cleanup. The best time to straighten a leaning tree is immediately after it is damaged, but the McKenna tree should wait.

“Unfortunately, we were so busy with storm damage control in the fall that we didn’t get much — or none,” Laird says. “But winter time isn’t great because the ground is frozen.”

As soon as the ground thaws this spring, Laird will get to work.

He says the science of straightening a leaning tree is quite simple. Basically, it’s about pushing it back into the correct position with force.

“We attach one point to the tree and another point to a strong anchor and use an attendant type device to slowly pull it up,” he said. “Then we guy it – or stake it – to that position and then release the pressure.”

A man wearing a hoodie that reads 'Laird Tree Care' smiles at the camera.
Kurt Laird says he has a long list of clients hoping to have their trees straightened this spring. (Victoria Walton/CBC)

The smaller the tree, the more likely it is to be saved, Laird said. Conifers cannot be saved if they have bent so much that their roots are exposed, but sometimes deciduous trees can. And fruit trees are usually a hit.

“Here we have a blue spruce and none of the roots are exposed,” Laird said of McKenna’s tree. “It’s really leaning, so the fact that it hasn’t exploded shows that it has a very good root system.”

Once a leaning tree has been straightened and put into place, Laird’s team will continue to check the support ropes over the coming months and years as it recovers. Pricing starts at around $250 and goes up from there.

Laird says money is usually not a big factor in the equation for a homeowner.

“The person has an attachment to the tree, and they want to save it.”

Branching out

An industry association is trying to train more people in the type of tree straightening work that Laird does. Jim Landry of Landscape New Brunswick & PEI says it’s an important skill to have.

“It’s kind of a specialized thing because there are right ways and wrong ways to do it. You don’t want to straighten a tree that’s going to be constantly unstable and prone to tipping over,” he said. “So there’s a certain expertise associated with that.”

A man in a black jacket and wearing a baseball cap smiles in front of a tree.
Jim Landry of Landscape New Brunswick & PEI says the organization hopes more landscapers will add tree straightening to their list of services. (Victoria Walton/CBC)

Landry says it’s not uncommon for urban trees to be uprooted during storms, but unless they’re leaning dramatically, there’s no reason these trees can’t survive to their death. natural lifespan of more than 100 years.

“We understand the importance of trees in our landscape in terms of carbon, carbon sequestration, oxygen production – all those things that trees do for us,” he said. “So if possible, it’s always a good idea to at least consider saving a tree.”

I think even people in the business find it a bit daunting.—Kurt Laird

The association does a lot of training for members during the off season, including a tree straightening course that Laird gave at the Farm Center in Charlottetown this month. He hopes training more people will help ease some of the burden on his business.

“I think even people in the business find it a bit daunting, and there’s a lot of follow-up, which takes time, so that’s one of the deterrents,” he said. he declares.

“I do it because I find it interesting. And it’s nice to have that connection with the owner of the tree and the tree, and to be able to save a tree.”

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