Thursday, May 28, 2015

Caveat Emptor

So, we've been in the process of contracting with a local arborist and tree care company to do some work. Specifically, take down the dead river birch and mugo pine, grind out those stumps, and then do some basic pruning of the maple and linden out back. The maple especially needed a good shaving but the linden could have used some.

I found the company thru the ISA website. Did research on them on various online forums. They checked out. Their quote looked good. So I sent back the work order with an email stating that I wanted a copy of their workers comp insurance for my records and a request to call me to schedule a time for the work to be done. I hadn't heard back, but I figured it's a busy time of year and wasn't in a huge rush.

Yesterday I got home and was shocked to see the birch and mugo were gone. The stumps hadn't been ground out though, which I found curious. Then I went out back to see if they'd pruned the maple and linden. And this is what I saw:
I think I started screaming. I'm honestly not sure. I was so horrified.

Because here's what it looked like last summer:
They'd lopped the top off. At least 2 to 3 feet of the central leader, completely gone. They'd left all the competing laterals in place and didn't do any other structural pruning. I couldn't believe it. There was no reason to do that.

Here's a photo of the tree just starting to leaf out from earlier this spring.
See the lovely structure? The strong leader? How straight it is? I had just been bragging about this tree to my father not 5 days earlier.

The maple wasn't nearly so bad. They'd done some decent cleaning up, but left a bunch of upper competing laterals at the crown as well.
I stormed into the house, shaking with rage and yelled "WHAT DID THEY DO TO MY TREE?!" Eric was suitably horrified; G and C were startled because mommy does not yell. I continued ranting and raving.

Eric finally suggested "You should call them."

"They're closed." 

"So? Leave a message. You should call and they should hear how angry you are."

So I did. I generally don't like doing that sort of thing. I knew it was going to completely ruin someone's day to get in and the first thing they hear is Angry Lady Message.

But. BUT! I looked at my tree. And called. And let it loose.

I don't remember exactly what I said, but I know I used the phrase "destroyed my tree" and signed off with "Please call me on my cell phone at BLAH BLAH BLAH. Thank you." And then felt a little funny having signed off so polite but whatever. Old habits die hard.

So this morning I was driving C to the doctor when at 7:58 my phone rings. It's the service company, returning my call.

After some civil back and forth, we arranged to meet up after I'd dropped C off at daycare after his appointment.

He arrived on time, introduced himself.  I don't know if this was the guy who'd been out the day before and didn't ask because I didn't want him to become defensive. I started up with the fact that they shouldn't have even been there, and he replied that I would have to talk to the office manager, because once the work order landed on his desk that it was ready to go. I forgot to ask why he hadn't called to either schedule a time or at the very least let me know that they'd be there. Another question for the office manager, I guess.

We then went out back to look at the trees. I was calm and civil, but firm. I did let a little of my outrage and frustration show thru because, dude. MY TREE.

We started with the maple, that being the closest and least controversial tree. I pointed out that the general pruning was fine, but that there still needed to be some clean up done. I pointed out the very clear split at the top of the central leader, the remaining competing laterals. He agreed immediately with what I was saying.

We then moved on to my poor, butchered linden.

He explained the work order stated to strongly prune back competing laterals to encourage growth and do general . I said "That's fine and dandy. That's NOT what was done. That's the OPPOSITE of what was done. The central leader was CHOPPED DOWN and ALL OF THE LATERALS were left in place. And NO other pruning was done!" He looked more closely and agreed. Apologized. We agreed on the approach he should take to fix it. He went to get his gear and go to work and I went inside and sat at the kitchen table to work and keep an eye on him.

Long story short, here's the end result.
The maple looks much better. Very clear central leader now. Nicely trimmed.

And the linden?

She still looks so sad and stumpy. My heart is broken. But it's an improvement and he did a good job taking care of pruning out the body of the tree. There's a reasonably strong lateral to the left that looks like it should be able to take over as the central leader.

Here's a close up of what the top looks like now.
So we're in wait and see mode for this year. She'll need some careful pruning at the top there to encourage Lefty to take over. Fortunately she's a strong, healthy tree and has proved to be a vigorous grower.

I still have to call the company's office and speak with their owner or manager. Because they have some explaining to do.

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