Town Topics — Princeton's Weekly Community Newspaper Since 1946.
Vol. LXIII, No. 36
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
Coldwell Banker Princeton Office

Prudential Fox and Roach, Realtors

Gloria Nilson GMAC Real Estate

Henderson Sotheby's International Realty

N.T. Callaway Princeton Office

Stockton Real Estate, LLC

Weichert, Realtors

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Iris Interiors

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Weather Forecast

It’s New to Us by Jean Stratton

TLC FOR TREES: “We look forward to seeing our company grow and to focus even more on the plant health care program, which is a safe way to monitor the overall health of trees and shrubbery.” David Wells (left) has joined his father Robert Wells in the long-time Princeton company, Wells Tree & Landscape.

Full-Service Plant Health Care Program Offered by Expert Wells Tree & Landscape

It’s September. Where did the summer go? People are still enjoying the outdoors and spending time admiring their gardens and landscapes, but before you know it, it will be time for fall clean-up, including pruning, fertilizing, and preparing plantings for winter.

“Fall is a good time to clean up the property and to add compost; it’s also a good time for pruning and planting new trees,” points out Robert Wells, owner of Wells Tree & Landscape. “It’s also a wonderful time to fertilize. One of the tenets of tree care is to treat the plant slowly over time. Many of the problems with trees could have been prevented if they had been treated earlier.

“Also,” he continues, “a lot of problems can be avoided if people take proper cultural precautions. Sun, shade, and wind conditions should all be taken into consideration when planting. And be careful not to put too much mulch around a tree. This can create too much moisture and be an attractive environment for insects.

“Another thing, preparation is so important. The old saying: ‘A $10 hole for $1 tree is definitely true’.”

Mr. Wells certainly knows about trees. After more than 30 years in the tree business, he continues to find it both challenging and rewarding. “After all these years, one of the most satisfying things is caring for trees I’ve planted in the past,” he notes. “It’s the continuity of it. And trees are all different.”

Mr. Wells opened his business in 1973, after receiving a B.S. in plant science from Cook College and becoming a state certified tree expert. He is now very happy that his son David has joined the business.

Plant Science

“David is also a graduate of Cook College in plant science and a New Jersey Certified Tree Expert. He will be focusing on our plant health care program. This kind of overall plant care, which is a form of integrated pest management, emphasizes regular visits and regular monitoring of the landscape to look for special problems in order to reduce the amount of spraying. There is still some spraying, but the whole idea of plant health care is to reduce spraying by focusing on specific areas. You don’t have to spray everything. We’ve gotten away from blanket spraying and now we target just the plant with the problem. We use fertilizers and products that are from naturally-derived chemicals.”

As its name suggests, Wells Tree & Landscape offers all phases of tree and shrub care, including pruning, fertilizing, new plantings, removal, and spraying. “We are arborists, tree care professionals,” explains Mr. Wells, “and we definitely stress the plant health care concept.”

There has been a huge change in landscaping practices over the years, he adds, including the use of safer products and safer practices, such as the plant health care idea.

“A plant health care program usually includes a series of visits throughout the year, and we generate a map of the property,” explains David Wells. “Depending on the size of the property and amount of plantings and their condition, four to six seasonal visits a year is typical.”

The Wells experts will evaluate the property, condition of the trees, shrubbery and soil, and determine the best course of treatment. As part of the eastern hardwood forest, Princeton has fairly acidic soil and a great variety of trees, says Mr. Wells.

In addition, he emphasizes the desirability of diversity. “A diverse landscape includes a variety of plantings. Older trees, young trees, various sizes and types, including native and non-native or exotic trees.”

Native Plantings

“We like to focus on native plantings,” he continues. “One of the most important things we can do for the environment is right in our own back yard.”

Also, points out Mr. Wells, homeowners should be aware of certain invasive plantings, such as honeysuckle, multiflora roses, and Norway maples. These tend to take over and push out other plants.

David Wells is pleased that “so many people are becoming more knowledgeable, and are interested in safer products. Everyone is very concerned about the environment.”

This has been a very rainy summer, he adds, and the results of that are evident not only in greener grass, needing more frequent cutting, but fungus on some trees, and in worse case scenarios, trees could die if their roots sit in water over time.

“On the other hand,” points out Robert Wells, “There have been very few gypsy moths because of the rain.”

Other problems affecting trees in Princeton include bacteria leaf scorch on red oaks, first identified by Mr. Wells in 1991. “This is hard to treat and can eventually kill the tree. Additional problems include apple scab and apple rust on crab apple trees, causing them to drop their leaves, which can be treated in the spring; and anthracnose fungus on dogwoods.”

Certificate of Insurance

In winter, both Robert and David Wells advise against applying salt near trees, which can seep into the roots. They also suggest homeowners be aware of a tree service company’s credentials before contracting with it. “It’s important for people to check the company’s logo to see that it is the International Society of Arborists, and make sure they have a certificate of insurance and certification.”

Robert Wells was formerly chairman of the Princeton Township Shade Tree Commission for 15 years, and was involved with the Pettoranello Foundation for 10 years. He is currently Associate Director of Arboriculture Outreach at the Morris Aboretum of the University of Pennsylvania.

During his 30-plus years in business here, he has had many interesting projects and occasionally some out-of-the-ordinary experiences. On one job, he was asked to retrieve a buried urn containing the ashes of a client’s mother. “We were taking down a tree,” he recalls, “and several owners had lived in the house since the ashes had been buried under the tree. Our client got permission from the current owner, and when we were grinding up the stump, we found the urn.”

What he has enjoyed most is helping his many clients transform their landscapes and with proper maintenance keep them flourishing. “What I like most is to go to a property that has changed hands, and rejuvenate a landscape that has been let go. We can find all kinds of hidden treasures, such as special trees that had been planted 60 or 70 years ago, but were not taken care of. That is what’s fun and creative.”

Now he and his son look forward to many more years of helping to keep the Princeton community’s trees thriving. Princeton residents have a strong interest in their trees, and take them seriously, notes Mr. Wells. Providing them with proper care can help to ensure that they achieve their life span in the best condition.

Wells Tree & Landscape can be reached at (609) 430-1195. Website:

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