Talking Trees with Davey Tree

What to Expect from an Arborist Visit

December 01, 2022 Season 2 Episode 46
Talking Trees with Davey Tree
What to Expect from an Arborist Visit
Show Notes Transcript

Lou Meyer, business developer for Davey’s mid-Atlantic region, and Rob Dallmann from Davey’s Chesapeake office talk about what to expect when an arborist visits your property and what they enjoy about their Davey careers. 

In this episode we cover:  

  • What homeowners should expect when an arborist visits (0:45)  
  • Do most homeowners want to save their trees? (2:30)  
  • The feeling of saving trees (7:35)  
  • Planting trees in memory of a person or pet (9:38)  
  • What else to expect from an arborist's visit (10:22) 
  • How often should an arborist look at your trees? (12:23)  
  • Lou and Rob’s Davey careers and managing a tree care office (14:21) 
  • Why the job is right for Lou and Rob (19:22) 

To find your local Davey office, check out our find a local office page to search by zip code. 

To learn more about what an arborist visit is like, watch Rob Dallmann explain it in this Talking Tress YouTube video, Arborist Consultation: What to Expect

To learn more about why you should hire a certified arborist, read our blog, Benefits of Hiring a Professional Certified Arborist. 

To learn more about the risks of not using a certified arborist, read our blog, The Risk of Using an Uninsured and Unlicensed Arborist. 

Connect with Davey Tree on social media:
Twitter: @DaveyTree
Facebook: @DaveyTree
Instagram: @daveytree
YouTube: The Davey Tree Expert Company
LinkedIn: The Davey Tree Expert Company 

Connect with Doug Oster at

Have topics you'd like us to cover on the podcast? Email us at We want to hear from you! 

Doug Oster: Welcome to The Davey Tree Expert Company's podcast, Talking Trees. I'm your host, Doug Oster. Each week, our expert arborists share advice on seasonal tree care, how to make your trees thrive, arborists' favorite trees, and much, much more. Tune in every Thursday to learn more, because here at the Talking Trees podcast, we know trees are the answer.

I'm joined again this week by Lou Meyer and Rob Dallmann. Lou is a Regional Business Developer for the Davey Tree Expert Company in Maryland and Washington, DC. Rob is a District Manager for Davey in the Chesapeake office. Last time, I think we talked about things growing on trees. This week, I wanted to ask you guys, what should a homeowner expect when an arborist comes to visit?

Lou Meyer: That's a great question, Doug. A lot of times, that is initiated by seeing lichen on trees, and we get calls for that. There's a series of ways to approach arboricultural visits, and I'll let Rob talk a little bit about that.

Robert Dallmann: Okay, yes. For me as an arborist, I want to bring the highest level of professionalism to the property, to the client. I'm trying to provide as much information and also solutions for them in their concerns about their trees. There are certainly tree companies and even professional certified arborists who primarily just do removals, and there's a good place for them in the industry. I typically am looking for ways to save trees, and we certainly provide removals as well.

We at Davey Tree are not necessarily just going to be the point-and-shoot, "This is what I want you to do. Here's the tree I want you to take down." We are looking to do a holistic assessment of the trees on the property, get the concerns and the thoughts of people. We'd love to think that everybody loves all of their trees. The reality is that sometimes people have problems with their trees or also their neighbor's trees. Those are all things that we have to become problem solvers and creative thinkers to find solutions for these things.

Doug: In general, though, don't most people hope that you can save whatever the tree is when you come or is that not true? Because I love all my trees.

Lou: That's why you do a podcast about trees.

Doug: That's true. Tell me, when you go to a property, are most people like, "Save my tree, save my tree," or are they just like, "I hate this tree, it looks awful, get it out of here?"

Lou: We get a good mix of it. What we generally have is a specific item or specific issues that homeowners are concerned about. It could be the one maple on their property or these three dogwoods in the back. We want to talk about that. We want to get to know those customers more. What you're expecting on our visits is for us to listen to your concerns and counsel you on resolutions for those concerns. I think what Rob was getting to before was that holistic view.

We're not just looking at that one maple or those three dogwoods. As we're walking past the oak in the front yard, we're peering at that as well to see if there are any issues. Because, yes, to your question, some people want to save every tree on the property, which is admirable. Some people want to cut down every tree on the property, which is not admirable, but is reality. We have to find a balance to that.

Robert: We're residential commercial arborists. We work for a business, right? People are calling us for a variety of reasons and at a variety of points in their life. They could be a young couple that just moved into a new house then they feel it's overgrown. It could be a couple that's lived in their house for 30 years and they've been maintaining it. It could be a master gardener. It could be somebody who is just sick of dealing with sweetgum balls. That's a very common one.

Personally, I get a lot of comments about trees being messy, and there's no such thing as a clean tree. I try to persuade people to think of the leaves and things as the tree's gifts to the earth. That's part of what keeps the soil healthy. Part of what Lou's talking about there, again, with the holistic view of the property, is an urban forest on a particular private piece of land there's going to be, in a landscape, individual trees. The reality of trees is that they're really not individual, so to speak. They're living in a system in an ecological environment.

Their root system is tied in, and what's affecting one tree might be affecting another. Their dynamics back and forth, like Lou mentioned, dogwoods. Well, dogwoods in nature, in a forest system, prefer dappled shade underneath of overstory trees like oak trees. If the oak tree is dying, that may end up affecting the dogwoods. A professional and educated arborist should be looking at those things and informing clients, "Well, if you take this oak tree down, it may affect your dogwoods as well."

Doug: That's what I like when I get a visit from my Davey arborist. That's how I found out that I had hemlock woolly adelgid. That's how I found out that I had an oak tree that had canker. Otherwise, I wouldn't have known.

Robert: Why did you originally call us out?

Doug: I was looking out into the woods, and I saw an oak tree that it wasn't leafing out. I said, "Uh-oh." He came to take a look at it, and then he looked up at this other one and just said, "Ooh." He asked me, "Did that leaf out last year?" I said, "I think so. I'm almost sure it did." Then this year, it doesn't look good. It's got to go. That's just the way it is.

Robert: The association of the oak tree in the forest in the back, or in the woods in the back, and your oak tree closer to your house.

Doug: Yes. Then I have oak wilt going through one side of the forest. Again, I live in an oak forest. When you were talking about the gift of leaves, I enjoy the gift of leaves in the forest. The gift of leaves on the driveway and the patio, not the same type of gift for me. That's the yin and the yang of living in an oak forest. You get these beautiful trees. You get all that wonderful shade. Boy, in the fall, I'm not sure if I'd use the word gift. I like the way you put that. Tell me a little bit about the feeling when you do go to a property and you save a tree.

Lou: Oh, it's wonderful. People, by and large, love trees. Even the folks that don't like trees love trees. They just don't like them next to their house or over their playgrounds. To be an arborist is a lot of fun. You get to see different properties and see different people and talk about things that they love. People have very strong emotional connections to trees. Trees are living beings, but they're also like accessories to our houses. They're more like your pets in your roof because they're living beings. When you can successfully turn around the decline of a beloved maple or a spectacular sycamore, you can see the emotional impact in your clients, and it's a wonderful feeling.

Robert: Trees obviously also are very symbolic throughout history and mythology and everything. People will plant trees in memory of a person or a pet or some kind of event. Then also, because of their long lifespans, somebody who does love a tree and is looking at the tree more like a pet than anything else, they've been watching this tree grow for 20 years maybe and it's an important part of their life. There's nothing better than helping somebody figure out a solution to their problem. In that case, that's where we are-- I don't like to use the term doctor, but as far as trees go, to be a tree doctor and have your prescription work out and the tree turns around and continues living and starts to do better is a great feeling.

Doug: When somebody does ask you or wonders, can I plant a tree for a loved one or a pet, encourage or discourage that sort of thing?

Lou: We encourage planting trees for any reason, especially if you have a emotional tie to them. You're much more likely to care for them, the tree. You're much more likely to invest in them. It's a wonderful idea.

Robert: Yes, I totally agree. Finding maybe the right tree. tree for a particular situation. I've had people call and ask. You get the oak tree, which is strong and long-lived, or a dogwood tree, which is delicate and pretty. It's the spice of life. There's a tree for anyone.

Doug: What else should I expect when I have an arborist come?

Lou: The nuts and bolts of it is you should expect a certified arborist or qualified person to show up at your door. In some states, they require licenses. We operate out of Maryland. Maryland requires you to have a tree expert license. You expect them to show up at your door, walk the property with you, assess the trees that you have concerns about. Don't be surprised if they look at trees that you don't have concerns about because we're trying to get a view of the whole property.

I like to compare it to going to a doctor. If you go to a doctor for a broken finger, the first thing they're going to do is take your blood pressure, and your pulse, and your vitals. You say, "Yes, but I'm here for a broken finger." Well, the diagnostics are, figuring out if there's deeper issues within this patient, and that's why we're looking at the entire property. Is there something that you're missing because you just don't see it and we're professionals and we do? Walking the property to assess it. You should expect that this person will discuss this with you afterwards, and come up with a proposal for work if it's necessary.

A proposal should be clearly outlining any prescription for work, whether it be pruning, or removal, or plant healthcare, feeding your trees. They should be discussing proper diet for your trees, proper mulching if there's issues there. Don't expect it just to be, "Hey, there's the maple. What's wrong with it?" "Well, we need to remove a branch." That's it. It's the end of the transaction. Expect to have a discussion. Then a prompt follow-up with a proposal either on-site or emailed to you shortly thereafter with instructions on how you take the next step to finish up.

Doug: I get an email the same day, probably within an hour or two.

Lou: That's what we shoot for.

Doug: I like that. I like to know right away just like, okay, now I know what I'm in for. How often should this happen? How often should this arborist be coming to take a look at my trees?

Robert: That's a great question. It depends on the property and the trees on the property, obviously, and then also the concerns of the client. We have clients that every time there's a spot on a leaf, they send you a picture. Really, at Davey, that's what we're going for. When somebody sends us a picture of the pine tree with browning leaves in the fall, we can say, "Yes, pine trees do lose their older needles, their inner needles, and that's fine."

It could be every year for somebody like that. Could be every three years if you've got mature trees. I think three years is a good timeframe. Even if you've got a newer landscape, if it's a landscape that you care about and you plan to live there for a long time. Every three to five years is probably a good timeframe because even with younger trees it gives you a chance to do some structural pruning or see those issues.

Now, where we have properties with full plant healthcare programs, we'd like to get somebody on their property just about every month so that we can notice issues sometimes like when it's raining, we're there at various times. We see the pooling water or a variety of issues like that, that the guy who delivers the mail sits with his truck running next to your pine tree. There's a lot of things that can happen and the exhaust is burning the needles. Something like that. In general, I would say every three years is a good basic rule.

Doug: I think I have my arborist here about every six months. I'm keeping Davey Tree in business.

Robert: Awesome.

Doug: You guys are going to be okay.

Robert: Thank you.

Lou: We thank you.

Doug: I want to switch gears a little bit. I want to go into the business that you guys do. Can you tell me a little bit about what goes into managing a tree care office? Because you guys did that, right?

Lou: Yes. Before I got into the position I'm in now, I was Rob's assistant district manager. We both covered the Chesapeake region, which is central Maryland, everything in between Baltimore and DC out to the eastern shore. We had-- what? 20, 22 personnel that we managed, two sales arborists, and-

Robert: Office staff-

Lou: -two office staff.

Robert: -plant healthcare technicians. Then obviously tree climbers and then their crews, which might be a second tree climber or somebody just to be on the ground. Typically, always that's where you start out. You begin on the ground and then you work your way up. At Davey, as an employee-owned company, that's what we want to see. We want to see career employees that we can help train, and that we can actually invest in them and make their lives better over the course of a long career. There's a lot that goes into it. It's managing people both on the sales side of things outwardly and also in the office inwardly. Dealing with the things that they're dealing with and helping them get through their lives by hopefully making their jobs as easy as possible. Although we do do sometimes a hot, sweaty, difficult job.

Lou: There's also the glorified part of it. The happy part is really that employee management of seeing them succeed and helping develop their career. There's also a lot of back-office stuff that you deal with running an office too, though. Things like DOT paperwork, Department of Transportation. We often say it in our company because it's so big that we're a trucking company that happens to do tree work. There's a tremendous amount of paperwork that has to be done to keep a fleet like this running and compliant.

Human resources, marketing. One of the benefits that we have as Davey managers is that there's a tremendous support system back at Kent, Ohio, our headquarters on through the regions themselves of people who help us with these tasks on a daily basis. Everything from hiring and onboarding new employees with the HR department, to putting out just spectacular marketing pieces from the marketing division. Like I said, the DOT is a big part of it.

We have an entire institute back at Kent that does a lot of research for us. If we come up on questions in the field, we can take clippings, send it to the lab, and they'll diagnose it for us. From the management perspective we are playing both sides, the employees and corporate and the clients as well. It's a real fun position wearing all those hats.

Robert: We also have to mention safety. That primary concern when you're working at height, working with heavy objects and sharp equipment.

Doug: Well, it just amazes me when the team comes here, how they're able to take a tree down with things all around it, and yet you wouldn't even know it after they leave. It's just amazing. You expect something to fall on another tree or something like that, but they just have the expertise to get it out of there and that makes my life a lot easier, that's for sure.

Robert: Again, that's one of the things that we're looking for employees who we're going to help train and maybe they start on the ground. By the end of five or 10 or maybe even 20 years, they're very proficient at what they do and they're all communicating. We've got a good team, we've got a good culture, everyone can communicate. We always also encourage even the person who just got onto the crew to be able to say to the most experienced person on the crew, "Hey, that doesn't look right," or, "Can you explain that to me? I'm worried about this." Whether it's a climbing setup or a rigging setup, or even just like we were talking about, the health of the trees and taking the time to explain that and build up the next crew leader for the next manager.

Doug: In the time I've been doing this podcast, I've heard countless stories of people who started on the ground moving brush, and now our district managers and all sorts of other positions. Before we go, from both of you, I'd like to hear a little bit about what you get out of your job, why the job is right for you.

Robert: I'll start with that, Doug. I didn't know that arboriculture culture, that there was an industry, a company like Davey. I didn't know that it was a thing until I started my first tree-- it really wasn't tree care, it was tree work. For me, it's being outside, it's being around nature. I've always loved trees and nature. I think I remember doing a report on the world's largest trees when I was in the fourth grade. On the nice days especially, when you go into the bank or an office setting and people say, "Man, I wish I could be outside." Well, I get to be outside. There's always something new to learn about trees, about nature, about people from the sales side of things.

Going on to somebody's property and learning about the house, the place where you are, and the people who own the house. Then also when we're doing that project, like when you're talking about if we are taking out a dead tree or improving a young tree as it's growing. Doing some structure pruning, you get to see that project play out as the day goes on. When you're done with your day, you get to look back on what you've done. When I go past, for instance, I've climbed trees at the Smithsonian and at the National Gallery of Art, and every time I go by there I get to say I pruned those trees.

Lou: For me, I just love the interaction with the people. I love meeting new clients, seeing new sites. In my current role, I have a huge geographical area that I cover. Going from Western Maryland to Eastern Maryland, down into DC all the time to see the sites. We take care of some really neat places down there like Rob was saying, Smithsonian, State Department, Department of Justice. You get to go down there and play around with their trees.

You're like, "Holy mackerel. For a kid from Cincinnati, Ohio, this is pretty cool." I just love to see all of those things. I like nature a lot. I like trees, but I like animals just as much. I love seeing turtles out in the field. You're looking at a tree and a tree frog hops off. It's so neat to be there for that and to relate those things to my friends and my children and to develop that interest with them. I love that.

Doug: Well, I'm going to leave it right there. It was great fun to talk to you two guys again. I think when we do this again we should do it like this. We should have both of you guys out at the same time because, again, it was just so much fun. Thank you so much for your time and all that great information.

Lou: Doug, thank you.

Robert: Thanks, Doug.

Doug: Well, I enjoyed talking to both of those guys in case you didn't notice. Tune in every Thursday to the Talking Trees podcast from the Davey Tree Expert Company. I am your host, Doug Oster. Do me a favor, subscribe to the podcast so you'll never miss an episode. As always we like to remind you on the Talking Trees podcast, trees are the answer.