By Jon Picker
Arboriculture is an evolving practice in Asia, and one firm is not only helping train local arborists, but also assisting in the preparation for some major events in Hong Kong. Asia Tree Preservation, Ltd. (ATP) was incorporated in Hong Kong in 2007 and is comprised of certified arborists who relocated from the Chicago area to China with plans to offer tree care services and arboriculture training to the Asian region. Since its inception, ATP has engaged in multiple training efforts, major projects, has helped prepare for a PGA European Tour event, and has even been involved with efforts leading up to the 2008 Summer Olympic Games.
Preserving turf through proper pruning
As Harvard biologist Edward O. Wilson, author of the 1975 book Sociobiology, once stated, “I believe that the reason that people find well-landscaped golf courses ‘beautiful’ is that they look like savannas, down to the scattered trees, copses and lakes…” But trees on a course may, at times, hinder turfgrass growth. In Golf Course Tree Management, Sharon Lilly stated, “Golf course superintendents may curse the trees for the problems trees cause in caring for the turf. But this is a love/hate relationship for the superintendents because they realize that trees are critical to the course.”
Because of the need for tree management, the Hong Kong Golf Club (HKGC) hired Certified Arborist and Landscape Manager, Prisca Tsui. The 122 year-old course at HKGC is lined by hundreds of Melaleuca and Eucalyptus trees, some as tall as 30 meters (100 feet). Trees of this size can cast large shadows on the turfgrass, making it difficult to grow. In addition, wind-damaged trees and dead limbs can be hazardous to golfers. However, trees are also an important part of a golf course. “Turfgrass can be replaced, but a full-sized tree takes years to grow,” said Tsui. “Pruning trees can reduce potential danger to people, as well as keep trees healthy in the long run.”
To manage trees of this size requires a high level of experience and expertise. As the practice of arboriculture has only recently been introduced in Asia, Tsui requested the help of Oriental Landscape of Swire House Group and Asia Tree Preservation, Ltd. in preparation for the PGA European Tour’s UBS Hong Kong Open in November 2007.
The preparation for the Hong Kong Open involved the pruning of more than 50 trees to allow more light for turfgrass growth, while maintaining the form and function of the trees.
Tsui’s plans for creating a long-term solution for golf course tree management included the training of a tree management team. She requested ATP to train her staff in chain saw field safety and maintenance. This involved two days of intense training in chain saw use and personal protective equipment.
“The training was eye-opening, even for someone who has used a chain saw for a long time,” said Tsui.
Don Picker, managing director of ATP, said, “The chainsaw safety course should prepare them for the dangers of using a chain saw, both on the ground and in a tree. With continued study and practice in arboriculture, I’m convinced HKGC will have a strong, self-sustaining, tree management program.”
Shedding some light on Olympic equestrian
From left: Don Picker, Jeff Legue and Jon Picker of Asia Tree Preservation
In August 2008, HKGC will be the venue for the Olympic equestrian cross country course. From the Beas River Country Club and the adjacent Hong Kong Golf Club, a 5.7-km temporary cross country track, 10 meters in width, is being constructed. Sam Bauer, equestrian course superintendent, requested the help of ATP’s arborists to increase both airflow and sunlight on the horse jumps and surrounding areas for the purpose of turfgrass growth, as well as to allow more light for live worldwide video coverage of the event.
“Many of the horse jump zones have been built in locations with trees to add obstacles and to create ‘effect’ for the course design,” said Bauer. “But the lack of sunlight in Hong Kong makes managing turfgrass a difficult task. In addition to this, trying to grow turf in locations shaded by trees becomes even more challenging. Asia Tree Preservation was brought in to prune/thin trees to allow more sunlight to reach my turf canopy and increase airflow. The work that ATP did has shown a dramatic increase in my turf quality, and the best part is that I can’t even tell that they were here.
“Tree pruning has had obvious benefits in increasing airflow and light penetration,” Bauer added. “In addition, we are using supplemental lighting and high-powered fans to help reverse the effects of these microclimates.”
Jon Picker is a Certified Arborist, and member of Asia Tree Preservation, Ltd., Hong Kong. He can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
For an interview with ATP, click here