Tom Beshoar from Davey's St. Louis office talks about all the reasons to be thankful for trees this Thanksgiving season. You'll learn about some underappreciated tree species, tree benefits and the reasons Tom is thankful for trees in his own life.
In this episode we cover:
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Doug Oster: Welcome to The Davey Tree Expert Company's podcast, Talking Trees. I'm your host, Doug Oster. Each episode showcases one of Davey's certified arborists sharing advice with everyone about caring for your trees and landscapes. We'll talk about everything from introduced pests, seasonal tree care, deer damage, how to make your trees thrive, 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 this week by Tom Beshoar.
He's a district manager in the St. Louis area for the Davey Tree Expert Company. This is our special Thanksgiving edition, and we're going to talk all about why we're thankful for trees. Tom, I'm going to start off with, hey, it gives us both a job, right?
Tom Beshoar: It gives us a job. I love dealing with trees. I'm very thankful for what it's done for me and my livelihood. I've been doing tree work for a long time. I grew up in the business with my parents, and I grew a love for it. It's given me a lot of opportunities.
Doug: Let's start off there. Tell me about the way you got into the business.
Tom: My parents were originally from the Chicago area, and I started doing tree work basically when I was getting outside with my dad, probably around second grade, third grade. Every summer and every free time that I had, we did tree work, we did firewood, and I grew a love for it.
Doug: Then how long have you been with Davey and what got you there?
Tom: I've been with Davey for 24 years. Being from the background that I had, I went to Southern Illinois University Carbondale and got into the Plant and Soil Science degree program. I was getting ready to graduate and looking for a job, and Davey was right there. I applied and I've been here ever since.
Doug: Let's get into it. We're talking to a lot of tree lovers here that are listeners. Certainly, we're all thankful for trees in so many different ways, but besides our personal connection and our professional connection, let's just start talking about a few things that you're thinking of when you think why people should be thankful for trees.
Tom: Trees provide a beauty to the property itself. There's so many pretty and majestic trees out there. To me, when I pull up to a yard that I'm might be looking at the trees, and I see these big majestic trees, to me, it shows that there's a love for that tree itself and it works out really nice.
Doug: Let me go there with what you're planting or what you love to plant in St. Louis. Talk about some of the cool things that maybe don't get planted as much as they should that you really love as a tree expert.
Tom: I love planting maybe something- We try to think outside the box and plant something that's usually not there. Usually, I love the ginkgo trees. I think ginkgos are really pretty trees. There's a black gum, that just is a really pretty tree also. I also like the bald cypresses, I think they're just pretty trees. We just don't see enough of those here in the St. Louis area. That's something that I personally always try to push instead of the regular trees, what you usually generally see in these yards.
Doug: Let's talk about that black gum first, because if you're going to talk about being thankful for something, when that black gum changes color right now, that's a stunning tree, right?
Tom: It's very beautiful, it's got that majestic oranges, fall, rustic look to it. It's just a pretty, pretty, pretty tree. Another reason I like it, it doesn't have any problems with it. Very few insect problems, very few disease problems. We're in the business of taking care of trees, I want to plant something that the customer's not always continuously going to have to deal with, down the road. Maybe some fertilizer, but really, for the most part, we want to plan something that's going to be the best for the client itself.
Doug: Let me ask you about that bald cypress, because I don't know a lot about them. When I visualize what I think I'm thinking about, I'm thinking Florida with knobby knees and the swamp. No? Tell me about- [crosstalk]
Tom: No, for the most part, if you have it in a really wet area, you might get some cypress knees that may pop up for the most part, but most of these yards here in St. Louis, you don't get a lot of those issues. Really, for the most part, we're maybe a little bit heavier of the soil, and the knees aren't sticking up so much. They're just not sticking up so much. Really, where they are planted in the St. Louis area, we very rarely have any issues whatsoever. They work out to be pretty good.
Doug: I'm thinking, does it look like a dawn redwood?
Tom: For the most part, yes. Sure, it does.
Doug: A deciduous conifer. How big do those get?
Tom: Here in St. Louis, they can get everywhere from 70 to 80 foot. They get to be a pretty good size. They generally typically like obviously the more wet areas where they get some water, they're moisture-seeking. Because we do have a lot of heavy clay soils here in St. Louis, it just works out better to have those where they can seek out the moisture and help keep those soils generally drier.
Doug: Let's keep it going. Some other reasons to be thankful. I'm thinking just, hey, these trees make oxygen and we breathe that oxygen.
Tom: Sure. They do. They take in a lot of carbon dioxide. The heavier the tree population, the better off we are. Just with what they do between water runoff, and carbon dioxide, and producing oxygen, those are a lot of things to be very thankful for having trees.
Doug: I didn't think of water runoff. That's a good point. That's a big part of especially growing trees in an urban environment, right?
Tom: Sure, it is. If you have a continuously wet area, what we generally recommend here is plant something that's going to help soak up that water to keep your yard a little bit drier than what it is, because trees will do a very good job of that. The last thing we want to do is plant a tree where it's really dry, where it's not getting a lot of water. We got to make sure that's planted so it can get plenty of that.
Doug: Is that a case where bald cypress would be a good choice?
Doug: Anything else on that list to help out in that sort of thing that you can think of?
Tom: Yes, there's a few other trees. We typically will plant maybe some arborvitae, some foster hollies. They generally like a little bit of drier soil, but they will also soak up the moisture itself too. Some of your oaks too will generally do okay in wetter soils, but really, for the most part, we try to stick something inside that'll soak up the moisture.
Doug: How about just for the general feeling that plants and a forest and trees give you? There's another thing, I think, to be thankful for.
Tom: Yes, here in Missouri we're very blessed with a lot of mature oak trees and dogwood trees. We're a very heavily hardwood forests, a hardwood forested area. We're very thankful, the fall colors this year were just outstanding. When you have all these trees and you're able to drive down the highways and see this stuff and see the majestic trees, it's just so pretty to see all that stuff.
Doug: I'm glad you brought that up, because right now when we have that beautiful tree color, and you have a great year for that color, is there a way to quantify that? Do we know why the color of some years is fantastic and other years, not quite as good, or it just happens because that's nature?
Tom: I think there needs to be some contributing factors to that. Here in St. Louis, we had a lot of, I want to describe it as cool nights. We had very cool nights and then warm days. That seemed to quantify on how bright the colors get. The last month here, the fall colors have just worked out really well. Everything came together. The glue came together and made that perfect conditions for the fall's color. We haven't had colors like this in St. Louis in years, but we're this late into the season where we are continually having warm days and we're having those cool nights. It's a great combination.
Doug: Let's talk about taking a minute in our fast-paced lives and spending some time looking at these colors. I can't tell you how much I enjoy them. For me, I've got two Japanese maples that someone gave me 20 years ago that right now are on fire. One of them is a bright red, it's only for a few days on these certain trees. I have to remind myself, when I'm driving up and down the driveway and running in here to do a podcast or whatever it might be, to take a little time and enjoy this splendid show that nature's putting on.
Tom: I agree with you. There's so many different trees, you just have to take the time, just look at the different fall colors. We also have here in St. Louis a lot of hard maples, sugar maples, and the colors are just outstanding right now. You look at your ginkgos with the bright yellow colors, you look at your burning bushes with your bright red colors. Some of your other maples had the bright colors too right now. The sweetgums here turn reddish-orange and they've just got great colors. We're fortunate just with a lot of different trees with a lot of great colors that look really great.
Doug: It's funny, in all the time I've been doing this show and talking to arborists, black gums and sugar maples are two trees I hear a lot of, and certainly this time of the year, that's for sure. I want to talk a little bit about the ginkgo, because I'm based in Pittsburgh, it's a tree we use a lot in the city, but what is it? There's one of the two, female or male that has smelly fruit, right?
Tom: Oh, yes. If you plant a ginkgo, you want to make sure that you plant the male. Generally, when you buy these trees from a nursery, the nursery will be able to tell you which one you're getting. I don't think you can go to a nursery and buy female ginkgo. You may get it by mistake, but really, for the most part, if you go to a nursery, most of these nurseries are going to sell you a male ginkgo tree. People also love the ginkgo tree because they do drop their leaves all basically in, it seems like a day or two, and they're all on the ground. They drop the fastest.
Doug: Their fall color is-
Tom: It's just outstanding. It's beautiful.
Doug: We have a stand right along the freeway headed south into the city, and I get questions all the time this time of the year, "What are those trees in the city that have that bright yellow?" I say, "That's a ginkgo." Talk, if you can, just for a second, the toughness of a ginkgo. There's a reason we plant them in the city.
Tom: Yes, ginkgos really take pollution really well. They take water runoff really well. It's one of the trees, you could probably dig a hole in the middle of the street and plant this tree, and it's going to grow. It's just a hardy tree. As business, we're looking for trees that are not going to be an issue. We don't ever get called out to look at a gingko for insect problems or disease problems. Really, they are the hardiest trees, and they're just great trees. The only reason we may get called out to look at a ginkgo is, "Hey, what's the smelly obnoxious fruit?" It just doesn't smell nice. For the most part, there's just no other reasons we're being called out there for it.
Doug: You mentioned one other tree that I'm not sure everyone's thankful for, and that's the sweet gum. I have a friend here who works with trees that loves a sweet gum more than anything, but if you have to sweep up for what that sweet gum drops, you might not be very thankful.
Tom: No, the sweet gum, it's a love-hate relationship. They're great shade trees. Some of the biggest sweet gums that we've seen can be anywhere 80 to 90 foot, have a spread of 60 to 70 feet, and they're beautiful shade trees. The great fall color, but then they start producing that sweet gum ball, most people don't like that. They just don't like it. People can roll their ankles on it, it hurts if you step on it if you're barefoot. Most people just do not like that. Here in St. Louis, we have an abundant supply of sweet gum trees, let's just say that.
Doug: It's funny that as adults, we don't like them, and I guess as a kid if you're running barefoot, but as a kid, those sweet gumballs are pretty cool, I think. They're really fun for a kid, I think.
Tom: They are. I've had several clients say, "Hey, look, I paid the neighbor kid one penny per sweet gumball that they go and pick up in the yard." They have a unique feature to them. It's just a spine-looking ball. It looks like size of a golf ball. They're just very unique. Like I said, some people I know burn the sweet gumballs. They're just tough to deal with. I get the concerns with them, but if they're in the right spot, like with any other tree, they're just great at what they do.
Doug: You mentioned something else there that I'm thankful for, and that's the shade that trees provide. In my environment, that's less air conditioning that I have to run in the house. Talk about some of your favorite shade trees besides a sugar maple, because I know that's going to be one of the first ones on your list.
Tom: I think some of the oaks that we have here just provide really good shade, your wide oaks, your red oaks. Maples are some of the shade trees, but in the right spot, so can your bald cypress, any type of oak or maple are just great shade trees. It's just that they provide great shade, and like I said, even the sweet gum provides good shade. We're just blessed with a lot of good shade trees. It's very, very nice.
Doug: When you bring up oaks, the first thing I think of, and this is only because I've been doing this podcast, is all I've heard about oaks is how good they are for the environment as far as a place for wildlife, from little wildlife all the way up to big wildlife.
Tom: Yes. Here in St. Louis, we have a lot of pin oaks. Not the best of oak. It seems like every other yard's got a big pin oak, but they are a great haven, they're loaded with squirrels. Those can be a love-hate relationship with the squirrels because of the damage that they can cause. Really squirrels and raccoons and possums, you name it, these big oaks, they'll sit inside there. They're great havens for those.
Doug: I know from doing these interviews that also that's a tree for caterpillars too, like crazy.
Tom: Oh, yes, it sure is. The caterpillars will sit inside there. It seems like most of these pin oaks, they're a haven for all kinds of different things. We don't get a lot of webworm or insects really attacking. For the most part, we don't get a lot of that.
Doug: Tell me if I'm right or wrong on a pin oak. I'm putting out a statement. I'm thankful for my pin oak because I don't have to rake the leaves until later. Is that right?
Tom: Yes. Pin oaks, they're a challenging tree. They do hold on to their lease forever. It seems like every single pin oak here right now, and we're a week from Thanksgiving, also have their leaves, and they've got a great fall color. They hold on to their leaves. It seems like they don't get their date, they hold on to their leaves. You may have a foot or so of snow on the ground, and you've got leaves that are dropping on top of the snow itself. Usually, by next spring, those leaves will drop, and they'll produce new ones.
Doug: For regular listeners, I'm a broken record, I always tell the arborist I live in an oak forest. I'm thankful for the leaves for the shade, but [laughs] I've got a driveway, we call it Kilimanjaro, that I got to get those leaves off, but I'm thankful that I'm able to leave those leaves in places where all the good bugs and everything can be underneath, and I'm thankful that those leaves are going to feed my trees.
Tom: Sure they are. Really, we encourage anybody with those leaves, go ahead and just grind those leaves up, just put them back into soil so they can decompose and get back into soil. It's a natural fertilizer. Any decomposition of those leaves itself, we encourage clients just basically use a mower, try to grind them up and just let it try to biodegrade, get back into soil itself and feed it naturally.
Doug: Tom, tell me a little bit about the best part of your job and what you get out of it.
Tom: Me personally, I enjoy talking to the clients. I've formed a lot of good relationships over the years with a lot of my clients, and it becomes a friendship. They know that I'm out there, doing everything I can to protect their trees, to try to keep these things alive, because we realize the value of these things. We also realize the importance of these trees they have on their property. I just really enjoy, if I go to a property and see a tree that's basically sick, and if I'm able to do something to help that thing up, there's satisfaction in the fact that I know what I know to try to help that tree to try to come back to life. I really enjoy that part of the business itself.
Doug: I'm going to leave it right there because I know there are lots of people that are thankful that guys like you, Tom, are coming out to save their trees. I have the team from Davey coming out to work on my trees, and I'm thankful for that. Thanks so much for your time and for all that great information. That was fun.
Tom: I appreciate it. It was really good. It really is. I really do appreciate that. I enjoy talking about that. Trees are my life and I've made them my life.
Doug: I'm sure you'll agree we have lots to be thankful for. Tune in every Thursday to the Talking Trees podcast from The Davey Tree Expert Company. I'm your host, Doug Oster. Do me a big favor, subscribe to the podcast, and I just hope you're having as much fun listening as I am hosting the show. Talk about fun, next week my buddy Lou Meyer returns to the show. We'll cover everything you need to know about putting lights on your trees outdoors for the holidays and get some great gift ideas for your favorite tree lover too. As always, we like to remind you on the Talking Trees podcast, trees are the answer.
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