The Poetry in Tree Care
By Michelle Werts
This week’s International Society of Arboriculture’s 2012 True Professional of Arboriculture isn’t just a tree lover, but is also a poet and writer. Bill Logan is a New York-based, ISA-Certified arborist, teacher at the New York Botanical Garden and president of Urban Arborists, Inc. and writer with W.W. Norton.
“One of the things that attracted me to the arboriculture profession is that people who do it well, do it really well,” says Bill Logan. “They are always learning, and they act from a global understanding of how trees live in their environment.”
Logan, who grew up climbing enormous trees surrounding his home near San Francisco, never thought anyone could make a living from trees. He also was interested in poetry and writing.
“When I compost, I often think of poems: “This Compost” by Walt Whitman or “Ode to Rot” by John Updike,” explains Logan. “These poems relate to how things take place. I like to write and teach about what I learn. I write books about natural history from points of view that show the relationships between people and nature.”
Among his challenges as an arborist is keeping historic trees alive. One of Logan’s favorite consulting jobs was assessing the tree collection at the Bayard Cutting Arboretum on Long Island. William Bayard Cutting was a New York attorney, real estate developer and philanthropist who built his estate on the property in the mid-1800s. Some of the other trees on Logan’s resume include the largest and oldest in New York. Noted American author E.B. White’s Second Tree from the Corner was removed when it could no longer be preserved through a combined effort of pruning, propping and cabling. But Logan’s tree firm saved cuttings from two of the willow trees, and those transplanted cuttings are now more than 30 feet tall. Plans are to reintroduce the historic tree around the city.
“We may spend whole days caring for great trees,” Logan says. “We regularly look after the second largest tree in New York — a 130-foot-tall tulip tree— that occupies its own lot in Riverdale. The property owner could no doubt sell the river-view lot for quite a bit of money, but will not disturb his beloved tree.”
“Trees are so wonderful. Our ideas change all the time about why they do what they do,” Logan continues. “It’s fascinating, for instance, to watch the way that water flows through a tree. The fact I can learn that and have practical consequences in the work that I do is a blast. It’s the whole simple system that is complex at the same time. I will never finish understanding trees, and I love that about it.”
Next week, we’ll meet a True Professional who began caring for landscapes at the age 12, when he started his own lawn-mowing service.