CANOPY BLOG

Volunteer Spotlight: Kathy Alford

By Katie Rummel on April 2, 2019

Kathy Alford

Meet Canopy volunteer, Kathy Alford! If you have been to a Canopy event, chances are you’ve met Kathy. Kathy wears many hats at Canopy: volunteer, committee member, staff, and friend. Along with her involvement with Canopy, Kathy also has her own tree pruning business! Her passion for trees and community are what keep her coming back to Canopy, and are two of the things that make her an amazing part of the Canopy team. We asked her a few questions about herself, trees, and Canopy.

You’ve been volunteering and working at Canopy for many years, how did you first become involved with Canopy?

Kathy: I had been working at Roger Reynolds & Wegman’s Nurseries, as the tree specialist and buyer. I had heard about Canopy while working at these nurseries. In 2007, I finally found time between nursery work, my own design and tree work, and horticulture classes to volunteer for my first planting, very modest by today’s Canopy standards, at Nixon Elementary School. The rest, as they say is history. I evolved into planting and pruning leader, joined the Program Committee, and am one of the founding members of the Tree Care Subcommittee.

What sparked your passion for trees?

Kathy: Growing up, my family spent almost all our recreational time outdoors — gardening, fishing, camping, hiking, etc. My brother and I climbed the tree in our backyard regularly. When I was 8 years old, we went camping in Yosemite. The shear size of the giant sequoias was awe-inspiring. Learning the largest of them were over 2000 years old was mind-blowing. I was hooked at that moment.

What is the best thing about working with Canopy volunteers?

Kathy: Volunteering with Canopy allows me to share my passion for trees with the world, albeit at a very local level. It’s extremely rewarding and gratifying to teach people about the importance of trees, especially at schools. Most of Canopy’s school plantings have been in underserved neighborhoods, on campuses formerly devoid of trees. Since 2007, I’ve helped Canopy plant over 2000 trees (not all by myself) on school campuses in our area. Canopy helped improve the learning environment by adding trees. Canopy helped cool the classrooms by adding trees.  Canopy helped add shade to outdoor spaces, formerly covered with only asphalt, by planting trees. Canopy helped improve the intellectual and emotional health of all the kids who helped us plant the trees, care for the trees, and now sit under the shade of those trees.

As someone who prunes trees professionally, what is your number one tip for people who are trying to learn how to prune trees?

Kathy: If you don’t know how to properly prune a tree (or shrub) please refrain from doing it. Take a class, workshop, hire a professional (me, for instance 😉 ) to help you learn to do the task properly. Every pruning cut, no matter how large or small, creates a wound to which trees must respond. Proper pruning is both a science and an art. Many things can go wrong when trees are not pruned properly, or pruned at the wrong time — diseases, infestations, rampant and wild reactive growth. When is the best time to prune trees? It’s species dependent. The best time to start pruning and training trees is when they are young, ideally beginning at planting time. Remediating structural issues when trees are young creates only small wounds that trees can easily heal or envelop. A little attention to young trees will save countless dollars down the road.

Do you have a favorite tree?

Kathy: All native trees, all over the world, are generally my favorites, especially when planted and growing in regionally appropriate areas. By far, my all-time favorite tree is ginkgo, sometimes called maidenhair tree. Ginkgos are living fossils, found in fossil records throughout the world, dating back 270 million years. Stretching the definition of what is a native tree, I feel ginkgos can be considered natives. Ginkgos are the most primitive tree on earth, having commingled with the dinosaurs. What’s not to love about that?

Interested in becoming a Canopy Planting Leader? Check out Canopy’s workshop coming up this Saturday April 6, Structural Pruning Basics, to learn about pruning trees and train to be a planting leader. Register today for the workshop through Canopy’s Community Forestry School.

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