Not many companies get to celebrate a 40th anniversary these days. Woodwinds tree care specialists is such a place, having established a reputation for quality, service, and a genuine love of their work.
A family business, it includes Sam deTuro, Jr., Chairman, and Pepper deTuro, President, part of the second generation, who joined the company in 1991. His sister, Tina deTuro Alvin, worked for the company 11 years as general manager.
Sam deTuro, Jr. knew that he didn't want to sit at a desk in an office. As a boy in Plymouth Meeting, Pa., he liked the outdoors. "I hunted, fished, and trapped, and was a Boy Scout, enjoying camping and hiking. I always liked variety and outdoor activity," he recalls.
It was natural, then, for him to attend Pennsylvania State School of Forestry, followed by 10 years managing several branches of the F.A. Bartlett Tree Expert Company. With that experience as a foundation, Mr. deTuro decided to open his own business, and in 1967, he established Woodwinds in Princeton, currently located at 4492 Route 27.
Lots of Trees
"When we opened, we wanted an area with a lot of trees and with people who cared about their trees' health," he points out.
Princeton filled the bill nicely, and it has been a mutually satisfying relationship. The vast majority of Woodwinds' residential clients are from Princeton and the neighboring area, with regular customers comprising 85 percent of the residential business.
"We originally started as a full-service tree care and landscaping design/construction company," explains Mr. deTuro, "and I wanted a generic name relating to the environment.
The name "Woodwinds" quickly caught on, appropriately reflecting the company's focus, despite occasional calls from musicians and music students. "They'd call and ask if we sell or repair clarinets and oboes, and we still get calls like that," says Mr. deTuro, with a smile.
"I always wanted to keep the company small," he adds, "and in the beginning, I did all the hands-on work as a tree surgeon. Today we are called 'arborists'. It was important for me to go out on the projects and see every job in progress every day. You want to pay very close attention and have on-going communication with the clients."
In time, Woodwinds totally focused on tree and shrub care, offering landscape advice only when it related to tree health or survival, in connection with placement, exposure, or drainage problems.
Today, the company works statewide on commercial, institutional, municipal, and managed communities (town houses), as well as residential.
Mr. deTuro has seen many changes in tree care over the years. "50 years ago, when I started in the business, it was all pest control the use of pesticides to spray trees. It was really a kill-all witches' brew. There had been very little scientific research then, and people just didn't know. It wasn't until Rachel Carson's book, A Silent Spring. that people began to think about it.
"In the mid-1980s. we started to use a plant health care program and to convert from cover sprays four times a year to a regular program of monitoring a property. We use beneficial insects, cultural practices, such as removing larva and eggs, feeding, and pruning when necessary. Through regular monitoring, we can catch small things early. We do a minimal amount of spraying, just targeting an area, if needed, and we use safe products, such as horticultural oil and bio-rational products."
Mr. deTuro points out that, as always, prevention is the best policy. If trees and shrubs are kept healthy, they are much more likely to resist pest infestation and other problems.
"The primary focus is on treating and feeding the root system below the soil," adds Pepper deTuro. "That way we can prevent problems. More and more, organic root feeding results in less dead wood. Dead wood is often the reason to prune. We feed from March to mid-December, depending on the needs of the trees."
Noted for its wealth of handsome and established trees, Princeton offers a rich variety, including maple, sycamore, beech, oak, and hickory, and they are all different, requiring different care. Woodwinds emphasizes the individuality of each property, and always provides an assessment of what is needed for the health and well-being of each species.
Year-round maintenance with seasonal oversight is a plus for keeping trees healthy. Winter brings special problems concerning safety, such as additional weight of ice and snow on branches. It may be necessary to brace and cable at-risk trees.
"Also, it's important to winter-proof broadleaf evergreens, such as holly and rhododendron to reduce moisture loss," points out Sam deTuro.
Looking ahead to spring, which can include new plantings, people should take extra care with the placement of new trees, says Pepper deTuro. "I am regularly involved advising clients about the placement and care of new trees. Soil, sun, drainage, and deer are all issues. You don't want the tree in the wrong place and to struggle with survival."
Readers may also be concerned about the expected onslaught of gypsy moths this summer. If left unchecked, in the caterpillar stage, they eat ravenously, devouring leaves. It is possible for homeowners to take preventive steps now, point out the deTuros. "If you see a buff-colored mass on the bark of the trees, this is the eggs. You can scrape or scratch them off and put them in the garbage to prevent them from hatching later."
Continuing to thrive after 40 years in business, Woodwinds remains committed to the health of the trees they care for, say the father and son team. "The thrust of the business is the same; the goals are the same, but after 40 years of scientific research, there are new ways to achieve the goals."
"There's a lot greater concern for the impact on the environment," adds Sam deTuro. "I must say I was surprised when we were able to reduce pesticide use by 85 percent while keeping trees and shrubs as healthy as before and even more so. The extent and success of the plant health care program has been outstanding. Our motto is 'Partners in Ecology'. We want to continue to enjoy being outside, interacting with the clients and the trees and solving problems."
Woodwinds is open Monday through Friday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. (609) 924-3500.
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