The trees in your yard, on your street, and in your town aren’t just there for show. They provide tangible emotional health benefits, filter pollutants from your air and water, shade your house in the summer, and offer fun movement opportunities for you and your family.
Trees are also alive, which means they need to be taken care of. In this episode, Briana Frank from Tree Health Management, expands on these benefits, and gives you practical tree care advice, including which trees to plant, when and how to water them, and when to call an expert.
Scott Robison: Welcome to episode three of the Integration Bodywork Podcast. My name is Scott Robison. I’m a licensed massage therapist in Madison, Wisconsin and in today’s episode, I interview Briana Frank, owner of Tree Health Management. I love getting to talk to Briana because she can speak at engaging length about every facet of trees, tree health and our relationship to the natural and built environments. In this episode, we discuss easy, do-it-yourself tree care. Why you should pause this podcast and call her right away if you have untreated ash trees in your yard and why it’s not such a big deal when your kids knock loose bark off trees and more. So without further ado, I give you my interview with Briana Frank.
Scott Robison: Briana, welcome to the show.
Briana Frank: Thanks for having me.
Scott Robison: Yeah. I’m really excited to have you on, especially, ’cause, you know, today we’re recording on May 10th. Spring is finally here in Madison. But you have been running around like a crazy person, I think, for a while. So, what … Tell me what your spring’s been like so far.
Briana Frank: Well, this spring has been a little different than other springs that we’ve had, especially the last two. We’ve had such an early start for … in 2016 and 2017, and with the cold snap, this spring, we, kind of, we were all on target to, kind of, be ahead of time and then everything, phenology just, kind of, slowed down and we lost some growing degree days so, we got a little behind. So our blooms are a bit late, our leaf out is a little bit late and then, trees spend those weeks really trying to catch up. So we’ve had this, kind of, slow start to spring with a rapid period of growth in the past few weeks. So, for us, that means really pushing to get future disease issues under control in, kind of, a shortened time span.
Scott Robison: Got it. Yeah, that seems like it would be quite a challenge. What does that look like for you guys this time of year?
Briana Frank: That looks like all of us working many, many hours.
Scott Robison: Right. All right. Let me rephrase the question. Right? So what are you guys out there doing, right now?
Briana Frank: So, right now, we are spending most of our time controlling disease issues that will, ultimately, be symptomatic in summer. So, a lot of the tree foliar diseases that we see in summer are, actually, a result of little spores that are embedding themselves in the leaf’s surface, at this point. So, we are treating for those types of diseases where, you know … foliar diseases, if they’re causing a tree to defoliate at the end of June or in July, that leaf loss, collectively, year after year, will be an energy cost to the tree. So, it ends up depleting it’s sugars over time and then, you know, urban trees have it tough as it is. So, giving them those-
Scott Robison: Why is that? What’s the hard part for … Why is it so much more difficult in an urban setting?
Briana Frank: Well, I think one of the biggest things is that, it’s a cultural thing. So, we all really like grass and manicured landscapes and, you know, when you think of a tree growing in a forest, it loses its leaves in the fall and those leaves are allowed to decompose at the base of the tree. You know, that happens year after year so, you get, kind of, a lasagna layer of organic material, decomposing and offering nutrition back to that tree. And we’re crazy, we rake up all of our leaves every year and we haul ’em off of our property so, kind of, the start of it is, essentially, starving our trees from natural nutrients that they would, otherwise, be getting in an environment that we were not manipulating.
Scott Robison: Got it. So, I’m assuming that part of your business over at Tree Health Management is helping to ameliorate and mitigate those issues. How do you guys take care of that?
Briana Frank: Totally. Well, it depends on the situation. A lot of times, it is, simply, talking to homeowners and helping them create a landscape. Like, for instance, installing a mulch ring under their tree. So, if they put a natural mulch tree that’s kind of [inaudible 00:04:31] an organized way of mimicking that nature where you have … you’re putting back decomposing material and offering nutrition, over time.
Briana Frank: You know, on sites where, like, a new home was built and the soil profile is extremely disturbed, sometimes we’ll come into those sites and we have to do a little bit more drastic measures because we have severely compacted soils where all of the air space is pushed out by heavy machinery and, just, improper balance of different soil types. So, we’ll come in with a big air gun and, kind of, come in, amend the soil with different types of organic matter, and we use a bit of biochar, which is, essentially, charcoal with the ash component removed and that really brings back a lot of microorganisms and microbiology to the biome of that soil so that it can start to function properly again.
Scott Robison: Now, is that the project you and Paul Ganshert were working on?
Briana Frank: The, so-
Scott Robison: Development of those products?
Briana Frank: That’s right. We were working together to create a local … You know, there’s a lot of different companies that make these products, but we want one … We want a product that uses our local biome for the compost component. So, it’s really important that all of our species in our area have a specific type of fungi in the soil, et cetera, that are creating a symbiotic relationship so that they can uptake nutrition and water properly from the soil. And, also, fight off things like parthenogenetic fungi. So, that type of biome is specific to specific areas throughout the United States and specific soils so, we want our compost to be comprised of our soil so that we have the beneficial microorganisms in that product that belong here.
Scott Robison: That sounds like a great project. You know, I was just talking to somebody the other day about the kombucha strains that they’ve been conceiving recently and it really seems like, maybe, that’s, sort of, a similar idea, right? Everybody’s got a different set of microbes-
Briana Frank: Totally, probiotics for trees.
Scott Robison: Yeah. Probiotics for trees. Exactly. I love it. Hey, so what are some of the biggest … So, I guess having grass right up to the roots of your tree is probably something that people do often or allow to happen often is probably not great for them. What are some other … Is that right? Do I have that correct?
Briana Frank: Yup. That’s totally right.
Scott Robison: Yeah. What are some of the other, sort of, biggest misconceptions people have about keeping their trees healthy, if there, you know, if any? ‘Cause I remember, I know my parents owned the same house for 25 years and other than removing this silver maple that was crushing the sump pump drain pipe, I don’t know that we ever really had anybody out looking at the trees.
Briana Frank: Sure, I think, one of the biggest misconceptions people have, at least for urban environments, is that, you know, a tree is a tree and you plant it, you stick it in the ground and you can, kind of, forget about it. And that might be true for natural areas but growing trees in natural areas is very different than growing trees that have to live with us and near our homes and over our play structures, et cetera.
Scott Robison: Right.
Briana Frank: So, if there’s one thing that I would stress, overall, is just that, understand that either you, as a homeowner, or a steward of any tree, really, either needs to educate yourself on how to care for that tree because it, absolutely, does need care throughout all of the stages of its lifespan. Or, have a relationship with a good arborist, a certified arborist and seek professional help to be able to start to do things like design the way your branching structure happens when the tree is really young. So, one of the things-
Scott Robison: Hang on. Hang on. I just gotta stop you for a second. Tell me more about that. How do you design the branching structure of a tree?
Briana Frank: So, all trees have, as they grow branches from the trunk, the branch attachment area has something called a branch reaction zone. So that zone is, kind of, where all of the tissues and the cells will wall off any type of wounding or decay from spreading. So, if you have a tree that has a poor branching structure and by poor branching structure, we mean, the branch coming out laterally is growing too fast in comparison to the trunk and forming an inherently weak attachment. So, if you have a really tight attachment or you have a really big attachment, you’re gonna create a structure that really isn’t very sustainable in storms and doesn’t load very well. So, you know, snow storms, et cetera, is gonna be likely to break.
Briana Frank: So, we come in and we make those pruning cuts and we design the tree so we can, kind of, see how the branches are coming out and what angles they’re coming out at and now there’s a lot of really good information online on … You can find it at the International Society of Arboriculture or the Wisconsin Arborist Association on how to pick branch attachments that are good and are unlikely to break and cause problems. And the other part of that is, you know, if you have a tiny, little branch that’s growing straight through your house and you know that branch is gonna have to get removed and, you know, if you can, kind of, in your mind, speed up the growth of your tree 20 years, it’s better to take that branch off when the tree is tiny than to wait until that branch is 10 inches in diameter and you have to create an enormous wound at the trunk of the tree.
Scott Robison: Yeah, that does seem like a better option, right?
Briana Frank: Yeah. Those are all, kind of, things we look for when we are structurally pruning and designing how we want those branches to be on that young tree.
Scott Robison: Are there easy ways to, like, look at your tree … If you’re a total novice, like me, you have no idea what you’re looking at, is there an easy way to look at something and say, “Man, maybe I need to have some professional help with this?”
Briana Frank: Well, I think, overall, you can educate yourself on what a good branch attachment is. And you can educate yourself on what a central leader is so, in general, and this is not true for all trees because trees take on different forms. So, depending on, like, if you had a small ornamental tree, you may have a multi-stemmed tree with, kind of, a vase form and we, all arborists, would be okay with that because it’s never gonna be a really large tree and it’s never gonna be dangerous.
Briana Frank: But if you have a large canopy tree in your yard, we, for most species, we want a strong central leader so, we know that that particular structure holds up the best, even in storms. And with snow loading. So, having that, you know … A main trunk and one main trunk instead of several competing trunks of the same size, is a really great indicator that you’re starting out with a good structure.
Scott Robison: Got it. So, you know, I’m looking out my window, right here at my office, and this huge black walnut that cover’s the courtyard’s building and it makes me … you know, but it’s splits about halfway up … Well, it splits right at eye level with me, right? I’m on the second floor. How far up the tree, typically, is, you know, relatively, maybe, should you be … or should you let that first branching happen?
Briana Frank: So, if you look at that split and you were to size-up the two trunks next to each other, would you say they were about the same aspect ratio? Like a one to one ratio?
Scott Robison: No. There’s a central … What I’m imagining what you call a central leader, so it looks just like a slightly smaller continuation of the main trunk from the base. It’s probably, like, a four to three.
Briana Frank: Okay. So, that’s getting close to being equal. So, we would, ideally, in a tree … You know, it’s different for all species, as well, because a walnut is a really … It’s a slower growing, really strong tree. So, even if a walnut has a poor branch attachment and that aspect ratio would tell me that that’s not the best branching attachment or structure, but despite that, it’s still a strong tree that isn’t going to be as likely to break as, say, something like a silver maple that would be in the exact same situation. So, silver maple is a fast growing tree and whenever you have something that’s fast growing, you give up strength. So, if you have an inherently weak tree with big vessels and weaker wood, then that type of branching structure is going to be way more detrimental.
Scott Robison: Got it. So it sounds like if you’re a homeowner and you haven’t had the trees around your property surveyed yet or inspected, since you’ve lived there, it’s probably a good idea to do that sooner rather than later?
Briana Frank: I would say so. I mean, if you are lucky enough to have big, mature trees on your property, and you’re not an arborist, it’s probably a good idea, I mean … I don’t know many homeowners who are able to care for trees that are that big and, generally, it takes somebody who is very skilled in climbing and rigging skills in order to, really, properly prune and care for a tree that large.
Scott Robison: Sure. Yeah. I’ve seen some of your guys on … posting their gear on Facebook and even as a rock climber, I don’t think I could have rigged up what those guys are working with.
Briana Frank: Yeah, it’s pretty awesome.
Scott Robison: Yeah. Hey, so what are some fairly easy things people can do, on their own, to start taking better care of their trees?
Briana Frank: Sure. So, the basics … So, we discussed mulch rings a little bit. Ideally, you can’t make a mulch ring wide enough but, you can make it too deep. So, you wanna be able to … I always tell people that they can mulch as far out as they are willing to tolerate. So, the tree would prefer it’s entire root system to be mulched, if possible. But, I get that people want grass too so, you know, there is happy mediums. So, if you can get a good four to six foot mulch ring around your tree, that’s pretty awesome and is gonna help a ton. You wanna make sure that that’s around two to three inches, maximum, thick. Because, if you pile it too high, then you can get … you start to get extra moisture and compaction of the mulch in that area and you can promote parthenogenetic fungi. So have to get the right height-
Scott Robison: Yeah, now is that two to three inches, like, right when you lay the mulch down or is that two to three inches after a rain or two? Right? ‘Cause those are really different.
Briana Frank: After you lay the mulch down. So, in its fluffed, dry state.
Scott Robison: Got it.
Briana Frank: And then you don’t ever wanna pile mulch directly up against the base of the tree. You wanna, kind of, start just at ground level, you know, right at the trunk but not touching the trunk and then slowly, kind of, mound it up into that two to three inches and taper it off at the end.
Scott Robison: Got it. And you said four to-
Briana Frank: There’s a lot of good instructional, pictorial instructions on the International Society of Arboriculture and also the Trees Are Good websites that can help people with learning how to apply mulch properly.
Scott Robison: What was that last one? The trees are good?
Briana Frank: Trees are Good.
Scott Robison: Treesaregood dot com. That’s a terrific website.
Briana Frank: Yup. We all want that URL.
Scott Robison: Got it. So, okay … So, mulch rings. What else have you got?
Briana Frank: So, I think, another really important one that we haven’t had to worry about for two years but we might this year, is water. And people think that … They have this, like, idea that if a tree is mature, it is, somehow, adapted to drought conditions. So, we see it all the time. Like in 2012 when we had the huge drought, people were watering their lawns like nuts, but they didn’t really think about their trees. And, in the state of Wisconsin, we don’t have any …
Briana Frank: … trees. In the state of Wisconsin, we don’t have any species that are adapted to drought. I would define drought as two weeks without water. If we go two weeks with zero rainfall, you need to water your trees.
Scott Robison: How does one water a tree? Are we talking with a regular sprinkler, do you get one of those inverted glass bolt things? How do you do it?
Briana Frank: Sure. The important part of watering a tree is not to water foliage, but to water roots. There’s a lot of trees that wet roots, but not wet foliage, and you especially don’t want to wet the foliage during the height of the sun during the day because you can actually scorch your foliage.
Scott Robison: Really? There’s a lensing effect from the water?
Briana Frank: Totally.
Scott Robison: Wow. Okay. That’s interesting. I didn’t know that.
Briana Frank: You want to water the root system only, and the second is that, in the university has watering recommendations per week, and their watering recommendations are one gallon of water per inch caliber and no one knows what that means.
Scott Robison: Yeah, I have no idea what that means.
Briana Frank: No, I’m sorry. It’s one inch of water. If you’re not measuring what an inch of water is, we generally say one to two gallons. If you measure your tree at about chest high, which is four and a half feet off the ground for most people, maybe not tall people, but average people, you’re going to get a diameter of your tree or you can take a measuring tape, but it’s okay if you eyeball it.
Briana Frank: If you take a measuring tape and measure circumference, then you can divide by pi and get diameter. You want about one to two gallons per diameter inch, so if you have a 10 inch tree, at four and a half feet high, then you want to give it 10 to 20 gallons of water a week.
Scott Robison: Got it.
Briana Frank: Ideally, you don’t dump water on the root system because a lot of that will evaporate and a lot of it will move into poor space outside of the reach of the tree roots. It’s ideal to have a slow drip.
Briana Frank: If you can get a soaker hose, those are awesome. We use something for smaller trees called gator bags and they’re basically big watering bags with holes in the bottom that flow down the drip of the volume of water that you’re adding, so that it’s a slow release.
Scott Robison: Got it. I think I saw one of those in a MacGyver episode once with a water clock.
Briana Frank: You’ll see them all over the city of Madison too, in the summer. It’s a way that they can keep city trees watered a little bit better and hopefully get them over the transplant hump, so that they survive.
Briana Frank: Another cheaters way to do it is you can take a five gallon bucket, drill three holes in the bottom of it, set it on the root system, and it will drip out of the bucket slowly.
Scott Robison: Yeah. Totally. That’s perfect. Is there any other low hanging fruit for folks?
Briana Frank: I would say that if you are aware that you need a branch removed, you know this branch hits you in the head every time you mow the tree and someday you’re going to take that off, sooner better than later. If you have to remove a branch, making the smallest cut possible is really important because every time you cut a tree, and no matter how small or big the cut, you wound the tree. Bigger wounds timestamp trees in a more dramatic way, in that once you create a wound, you introduce decay.
Briana Frank: There’s a system inside of the tree that holds back the way that decay spreads and it’s specie dependent. In some species, decay spreads faster than other, but tree wounds don’t ever heal. They heal over so you can’t see them, but they’re always there.
Scott Robison: Got it. It’s interesting you say that because, again, I’m looking at this black walnut out this window here, and I can see where the tree has started to grow around where it’s had limbs removed. What you’re saying, basically, is that chopped off end is going to be absorbed into the middle of the wood, eventually? Is that how that works?
Briana Frank: That’s correct. IF you can imagine, there’s four planes of walls. They’re cellular sect of walls that are infused with different chemistry that holds that decay in place. It’s called the CODIT system. You have these four walls, and the first wall will prevent that decay from spreading in the up and down direction. The second wall stops it from spreading towards the interior of the tree. The third wall stops the decay from spreading around the tree, and the fourth wall stops it from spreading into that new tissue that closing up over the top.
Scott Robison: Interesting. Wow.
Briana Frank: Depending on what the tree specie is, the decay is going to move differently, like a walnut. We talked about how slow growing a walnut is, and that’s a very good compartmentalize of decay. Ina walnut, those walls hold really, really well, and that decay isn’t going to move very fast. It’s going to be decades that starts to eat away the rest of the tree.
Briana Frank: If you’re talking about something like a Hackberry or Silver maple, or a tree that doesn’t compartmentalize very well, so those walls break down, then that decay spreads rather quickly. Those trees are more timestamped by those wounds.
Scott Robison: I was thinking. The spread of decay inside a tree, is that what makes the textures, holes, and things you find in big logs and pieces of wood?
Briana Frank: Very much so. We call it wound wood.
Scott Robison: Wound wood.
Briana Frank: It’s a reaction of the tree to a wound, and yes, it can be a woodworkers dream. Very fascinating, interesting wood. Everybody likes spalted wood. If there’re some types of decay that can spread through that wood, it can create some really fascinating effects.
Briana Frank: In fact, the forest products lab works quite a bit on different products that will allow decay to characterize wood and then stopping it from continuing, so that we can control the effects of how wood grains will look in products that we could create from that.
Scott Robison: Interesting. Yeah. We had a log coffee table in my house when I was a little kid. Now that I think about, it probably had one of those wound wood pieces in it. It’s a nice place to hide some matchbox cards while I playing with it.
Briana Frank: Oh, yeah.
Scott Robison: Perfect spot.
Briana Frank: Perfect.
Scott Robison: Are there any big events? Maybe, big events is the wrong way to say it. Are there any issues people need to be thinking about coming up here in the next month or two or shorter, maybe towards the end of the summer to prepare for? I know there are times when certain trees we prune and they can’t. What’s the upcoming schedule look like?
Briana Frank: Right now, we work on the foliar spraying diseases and detrimental insect prevention. We’re going to be doing a lot with Emerald Ash Borer Treatments this year. That’s an epidemic that is keeping every arborist, across the city, very busy because at this point and time, Madison is peaking in that population.
Briana Frank: The borer is in full effect. We have lots of trees that are infested and need to be removed. It’s 100% mortality for trees, so any tree that is not treated will have to be removed. Part of the problem with the way that this particular insect is degrading ash trees is that it’s making them extremely brittle and unpredictable for arborists to remove.
Briana Frank: Even if the tree might look like it’s intact, the borer is tearing its cambium layer apart on the inside, and the longer people wait to take these trees out, if they’re not going to treat them, the more dangerous these trees become.
Scott Robison: Oh because it’s easier for them to break, or fall, or something like that.
Briana Frank: Both of those things and they’re very unpredictable because you can’t see where they are weak. We’re having a different set of rules due to the way that other cities have dealt with this insect, and we know that removing an infested ash tree is requiring more safety precautions than other trees because of this unpredictability, so to keep everyone safe and also, for homeowners to save money.
Briana Frank: If you know you’re not treating your ash tree, it is 100% going to die. Your tree is not going to magically be resistant. Nothing is going to keep it there. It’s going to die. It is much less expensive for you to remove that tree while it is still intact than wait until you need a crane or you have to have special equipment to come and take that tree out because it’s so brittle that no one wants to deal with it.
Scott Robison: If you’re a homeowner with ash trees and you haven’t had them treated yet, is it too late or should you be dialing tree health management while you’re listening to this podcast?
Briana Frank: You should be if you haven’t treated your tree. Absolutely. It depends. There’re trees that we’ve turned down that people that have called us this year that said, “Hey, we never treated our ash tree.” There’re trees we’ve turned down and there’re trees that we are emergency treating right now. Ultimately right now, at this point and time in June, the adults are emerging, the females are going to lay their eggs, those will hatch towards the end of June, and that is the stage that is most detrimental to the trees.
Briana Frank: The larvae that hatch eat away the cambium layer, so it’s not the adult insect that we’re particularly worried about, it is the larvae insect. We want to make sure that if your tree is leaked out. If it has no more than 20% canopy loss, then its cambium is likely intact enough to be able to still take up the insecticide. Once the insecticide is inside of the tree, it’s going to kill whatever borers are in there and then, whatever continues to feed on the tree.
Scott Robison: Got it. Let’s be clear, right? The cambium layer is part of the vascular structure of the tree?
Briana Frank: That’s right. The xylem and the phloem.
Scott Robison: Right. Oh yeah. I remember that.
Briana Frank: It creates [inaudible 00:28:14] outer two inches of the tree, making ducts.
Scott Robison: Right. Got it. Okay. I had to reach back into the mental archives for that one.
Briana Frank: Yeah, that’s a fun one.
Scott Robison: Cool. All right, we’re going to take a quick break, and when we come back, we’re going to talk more physical … Why we care about our trees in the first place, other than they look pretty.
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Scott Robison: Okay, and we’re back. Briana, why do we need to take so much care of our trees, other than they’re expensive when you buy them, typically, and they look really nice. What’s so important about trees?
Briana Frank: Well, there’s many things. They give us lushness for little in return. One of the things that I am going to tell you about is something called iTree. It is, basically, a benefits calculator for trees in our area. It’s this cool website, it’s www.treebenefits.com. You click on the calculator and you can enter in an area code and the size of a tree, and it’s going give you the overall quantifiable benefits of what your tree offers, and some of those things are oxygen, which is pretty cool.
Scott Robison: Seems this site is cool.
Briana Frank: Yes. We actually know that if you have a big tree in your backyard, you’re breathing cleaner air than if that tree wasn’t there. Your microenvironment is cleaner. It’s not because of the oxygen output. It’s because all of those leaves also filter a ton of dust and chemistry from the air. We know that tree root systems spend a lot of their time absorbing storm water run off. If it’s not being absorbed by your tree, it’s washing chemicals, litter, et cetera from the roadways and parking lots into our waterways.
Briana Frank: That’s a pretty awesome benefit. Now, that we’ve had this huge epidemic of emerald ash borer, we know what it’s like to lose a huge percentage of our urban canopy. We, also, know that stormwater runoff is one of the biggest deals in removing all these ash trees. When we’re taking out 30% of our urban canopy because they’re ash, you’re looking at thousands and thousands of water that used to be absorbed by a big tree, now going into our lakes.
Scott Robison: Full of all the runoffs from the roads and all that.
Briana Frank: Oh yeah.
Scott Robison: Awesome.
Briana Frank: I always have a couple of examples that I put into this calculator. If I give a client, on the east side of Madison, who has a 30 inch ash tree, plug it into this calculator, it tells me … I did it and brought it up on my computer. It tells me that that tree is responsible for absorbing 3,614 gallons of storm water in one year, so multiply that-
Scott Robison: I have a hard time getting my head around what that much water looks like. How many rainstorms are we talking about for one tree then. Do you know what I mean? It’s such a big number. It’s hard to get a feeling of what that looks like.
Briana Frank: Totally. You can’t ultimately manage that much water, but we’re looking at millions of gallons with all of the trees that are being removed. U.W. Stevens Point did a really cool cost-benefit analysis on should we treat ash trees and keep them or should we go for an eradication? Cut them all down and start over. In pretty much every analysis, it came out better to maintain these trees if they were large and healthy because of all of the benefits that we get.
Scott Robison: Got it. I looked it up. There are 660,000 gallons in an Olympic size swimming pool, so we’re talking millions of gallons, we’re talking about multiple and big size swimming pools of stormwater runoff. Yeah. Okay. Got it.
Briana Frank: A lot of times, we will get calls from architects, et cetera asking us what types of trees that they can use to increase home energy efficiency. The cool thing about deciduous trees are they shade in the summer, and then they lose all their leaves, and they let the sun come through and heat up in winter.
Briana Frank: It’s a perfect relationship as far as creating environments that we all want to be in.
Scott Robison: Got-
Scott Robison: Got it. I mean, I guess that means those are the ones you probably want to have closer to your house and put the cypress trees and other evergreens sort of further away? Is that how you’re thinking about it?
Briana Frank: Yep. I mean, those taller evergreens will kind of cast a column of shade. They’ll have other benefits too. I mean, a big benefit to a lot of evergreen hedges are, one, screening, and two, reducing noise pollution. We have a lot of people that are planting them along highways to enjoy their backyard.
Scott Robison: Sure.
Briana Frank: I mean, who wants to look at … Who wants to hear and look at a loud line of traffic every day at 4:30 p.m.?
Scott Robison: Definitely not me. We just moved over to the university houses and having lived right on University Avenue for the last two years, I’m definitely enjoying the lack of road noise, that’s for sure.
Briana Frank: Totally.
Scott Robison: My wife grew up in Paris, so she’s a little more used to it. I don’t think it bothers her quite as much. Let me start that one again. You know, I know I remember reading at some point, I think maybe you and I have talked about this over lunch before, about just the mental and emotional benefits of having trees in your yard, outside your window. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Briana Frank: Sure. I think a lot of our data that quantifies social benefits is also a result of Emerald Ash Borer and money got put into this because it is such an epidemic and it’s affecting so many people. We’ve had a number of studies done that have shown that trees create happier employees when they get to look outside their window and see a tree rather than a parking lot. Overall, lower healthcare costs and higher productivity.
Briana Frank: But, for me, some of the biggest, coolest studies that were done, were done by the US Forest Service. They had spent lots, I think almost two decades, collecting data from all across the country and especially in the places where trees were removed due to Emerald Ash Borer.
Briana Frank: In those areas, they were able to link the removal of all these trees because initially we didn’t respond fast enough to have these trees treated. We didn’t really have a lot of choices. They just kind of barrelled … This insect barrelled through these cities and they lost their entire … 30% of their canopies.
Briana Frank: They did studies in those particular cities and some of them were actually in Michigan. They had found that they had most deaths linked to respiratory disease and they had mortalities due to cardiovascular illnesses more so than any other city around.
Briana Frank: It’s pretty compelling to see that there’s quantifiable studies showing that we are literally healthier and we are breathing better because we have an urban canopy.
Scott Robison: Got it. That’s great. That’s nice to have that validation because you already know that you feel better, at least I know I feel better, when I’m out in the woods or have my windows open, but it’s nice to have that data to support that feeling.
Scott Robison: I’m a big believer in movement and being outside and climbing trees. Anything you can you speak a little bit? I don’t know that you could speak necessarily to the physical benefits of climbing other than as great apes, we are brachiation animals, right? We are both capable of and need to express that movement pattern. Brachiation is swinging on the monkey bars, right?
Briana Frank: Totally.
Scott Robison: Hand-to-hand.
Briana Frank: Yes. A lot of us pay lots of money to have our trainers show us how to do it.
Scott Robison: Totally, are you still training at the Monkey Bar Gym?
Briana Frank: I am.
Scott Robison: That’s really the name of a gym here in town. It’s pretty clear that hanging, pressing, climbing, is essential for optimal head, neck, shoulder, upper back health. But how can you pick trees? How can you develop trees? I think you talked about this a little bit already, right?
Scott Robison: Where you’re shaping the tree as it’s growing. How can people choose and then help shape trees so that they are good for climbing, both for their kids, but also for themselves, because it turns out, folks, your body is the same now, as it was when you were little, just bigger. You still need to climb and swing and do all those things. How can people make better climbing trees for themselves?
Briana Frank: Totally. That has a lot to do with what we were talking about before with structure, but some of the coolest climbing trees are cool climbing trees because they have those low branches with like nearly a 90 degree attachment to the trunk, so you have an entry point to the tree. Once you’re inside of it, then it’s easy to move around and crawl through those trees. Just encouraging people to let those lower branches develop and duck when they mow.
Scott Robison: I might be guilty of doing that, sorry.
Briana Frank: Duck. It’s good for you to duck too.
Scott Robison: That’s a great point.
Briana Frank: The natural squat. Also, to make sure that you have a safe tree. A basic arborical practice and creating that nice branching structure with that great central leader, is going to make sure that that tree doesn’t have attachments that are easily broken and dangerous for the public.
Briana Frank: Also, just if you really want a great climbing tree, the best trees are going to be slower growing trees because they’re going to have dense wood and they’re also going to have less deadwood over time.
Briana Frank: If you have a tree in the backyard and you want your kids to climb it, take a look up there and if you see big hangers in the tree and hangers are branches that are broken and hanging there, that’s why they call them hangers … Call an arborist and have the tree pruned. Let your kids climb away.
Scott Robison: Are there any particular tree species that you like? I know you mentioned slower growing, so that’s looking like walnuts and things like that?
Briana Frank: Oak.
Scott Robison: Oak. Sure.
Briana Frank: White oak, burl oak. Ultimately, I mean, there’s a lot of tree species if they’re well taken care of, that can work. I love sugar maples. They’re the Wisconsin State tree and they’re not like other maples in that they’re a little bit slower-growing and they’re a stronger maple of the maples.
Briana Frank: They generally have a nicer structure than our Norway maples and the crosses, we call them, the Fremanii maples. The Autumn Blaze maple is a cross between a silver maple and a red maple. Those are fast-growing trees that have pretty poor branching structure, but hickory is a nice tree to plant. It all depends on how much space that you have.
Scott Robison: How old your kids are or how old you are, I suppose.
Briana Frank: Yes. If you plant a small oak tree at this point in time, you are essentially planting it for the next generation, which is a great thing to do. It’s hard to get a climbing tree in one’s lifetime. If you are going to plant something a little faster growing, you know there are medium growers, like a Ginkgo tree. A Ginkgo tree’s a fantastic structured tree that grows much faster than an oak, but not as fast as something like a silver maple.
Scott Robison: Yeah, but some of the Ginkgos smell terrible. Which ones are those?
Briana Frank: They generally don’t sell those anymore, but that’s all female Ginkgos because they had fruit and the fruit, that is, that smells terrible. The males are fruitless, so most of the Ginkgos that you would buy in a nursery would all be males. I don’t know of a single nursery that would dare sell female Ginkgo trees, but we have known a few Ginkgo trees to be transgender.
Scott Robison: Really?
Briana Frank: It’s happened a few times where the genetics have flipped and the said-to-be-males in actuality did produce season fruit.
Scott Robison: That’s amazing. That sounds like something out of Jurassic Park. Ginkgo tree crossed with a frog or whatever it was.
Briana Frank: Super rare, unlikely to happen.
Scott Robison: Fair enough.
Briana Frank: But, it’s possible.
Scott Robison: I was just thinking about that. I went to Dickinson College, which has, it turns out, female Ginkgo trees all over campus. It was such an ordeal every spring that it was just a running gag with the improv comedy group on campus.
Briana Frank: That’s awesome.
Scott Robison: Yeah. It’s awesome in retrospect, I suppose. It was not the greatest smell.
Briana Frank: Right.
Scott Robison: To circle back here a little bit, Brianna, you own Tree Health Management. You guys are a full service tree health company. Talk about what you guys are doing right now and what do you have to offer folks in terms of all these different things we were talking about throughout this conversation.
Briana Frank: Sure. Like I said, we’re working on a lot of disease and insect management right now, but some things that we’ll be getting into and we also spend a lot of time on our remodeling and construction projects are a big one and especially now that the weather is nice, everybody wants their deck built or their home expanded. Once you start cutting into the root system of a tree, you really need an arborist on site.
Briana Frank: People don’t understand how detrimental and unsafe root damage can be. It’s not just the health of the tree, it’s if you’re getting into the structural root system that’s holding your tree up and you’re rendering that tree a safety hazard, once your project is all done and all the roots are buried, it’s pretty hard to tell what happened.
Briana Frank: We don’t see construction … Trees live on stored sugar, so some of that damage isn’t visible for three to five years after it happens. Then, the tree starts to die and an arborist is called and by then, no one knows here-or-there, or maybe the house has even changed hands. It’s really difficult to …
Briana Frank: There’s usually signs that construction’s been done and root damage has been done, but it’s much more of a process to try to figure that out after the fact. We work with a lot of municipalities and storm sewer projects that are being installed. We work with utility companies to install lines through the root systems of trees underground to make sure that those are safe.
Briana Frank: We also work with a lot of realtors. People buying homes at this time with mature trees. It’s really important, but they know what care is involved. If somebody’s looking at a big tree removal because it’s an unsafe tree or it’s an ash tree and they don’t know that when they buy a house, that certainly is going to cost more than a new furnace.
Scott Robison: Wow!
Briana Frank: We spend a lot of time having home inspectors come in and tell us the seal on our toilets isn’t working properly, but we totally neglect the enormous tree in the backyard.
Scott Robison: Yeah, that 50 foot tree that’s looming over your roof.
Briana Frank: Right. You know, that’s going to cost a $1,000 plus to prune and, if it’s something like an untreated ash tree, might be anywhere from $2,000 to $10,000 to remove.
Scott Robison: Yikes!
Briana Frank: Those are all pretty significant costs that could land on a new homeowner’s lap if they’re just not thinking about it.
Scott Robison: Got it. Well, I’m glad Briana, I’m glad you’re here to take care of that. You clearly know your stuff and love your stuff. I know how passionate you are about trees and taking care of them. Where can people find you and what you’re up to?
Scott Robison: Sorry, I interrupted you. You were going to say?
Briana Frank: We’re happy to set up consults at any time to let people … Some people know what they want when they call but if you have no idea what trees you even have, those are our favorite projects. We’re happy to walk you around your property and go over all of your tree species and how to maintain them over time.
Scott Robison: Got it. That’s awesome. Alright, Briana. Thank you so much for taking time out of your busy day to talk with me and all the listeners. We’ll look forward to seeing you soon, I hope.
Briana Frank: Thank you. Have a great day, Scott.
Scott Robison: Well, that’s it for this episode of the Integration Bodywork Podcast. If you enjoyed it, please be sure to subscribe and leave us a five star review on iTunes. That’s how other people find the show.
Scott Robison: If you’d like to find our more about me and what I’m up to, you can go to the website, www.integrationbodywork.net where you can see show notes for this episode and subscribe to the famous weekly newsletter. Thanks for listening. I’ll talk to you next week.