UBC Reports | Vol. 48 | No. 9 | July
Campus Tree Team Stays on the Cutting Edge
Kindred spirits collaborate on the care of UBC's woods.
By Michelle Cook
If a tree falls at UBC, it turns out that there are people -- a
whole team in fact -- who will hear it.
The handful of specialists who tend to UBC's trees includes 22
landscape technologists -- a.k.a. gardeners -- and 15 labourers
to help them out.
Their mission: to protect, maintain and enhance UBC's landscape.
With more than 7,000 tagged trunks spread across 600 acres, it's
a big job.
On days that begin before dawn, the team spreads out across campus
to plant trees, prune them, brace them with steel cables, and combat
the diseases, construction damage and insect attacks that threaten
them. Upon a tree's demise, from old age or otherwise, they are
there to take it down at the end of its life.
As the stewards of the campus landscape, what really excites this
group is planting lots of new trees, shrubs and plants, like the
500 they recently added to the scenery at Cecil Green Park House,
for future generations to enjoy.
And then there are the days the tree team dreads. In September
1999, a fierce windstorm toppled more than 60 lofty giants in a
few hours. Crews rushed to campus to clear roads and keep people
away from hazardous areas. Several weeks later, they were still
But the demise of even one old soul can leave its mark on this
Head gardener Kreso Pavlovic remembers his saddest day on the job
was when he had to take down a majestic sequoia in front of Main
"It was under stress from changes brought on by construction
nearby," Pavlovic recalls. "Even though we saved the wood,
I was sorry that it didn't have the chance to live to 800 years
old. Losing trees is a lot like a person dying, but the best we
can do is think about replacing them."
Meet the tree team
Four people guide the bulk of the university's landscaping, including
tree care. With the help of a computerized tree inventory and a
$3.5 million annual budget, they are the ones who create new landscapes
and determine maintenance work.
Urban Designer/Landscape Architect
Years on campus: 4
His job: Designing landscapes for the UBC community out of
the office of the university architect Tom Llewellin.
His challenge: Making sure that all new landscape projects
fit seamlessly into the campus like pieces in a puzzle. "Every
change in this landscape, I'm involved in, but it's not about me
as a designer, it's about what I can do to help the university achieve
His roots: Urban and regional planning and landscape architecture.
His tools: A Computer Assisted Design (CAD) program and a
head full of ideas.
He's busiest: In summer. "Once the funding comes in
April, we have to get projects up and running for September."
His favourite campus tree: The magnificent White Elm on Agricultural
Rd. by the Hennings Bldg.
If he were a tree, he'd be: Grounded.
Years on campus: 3
His job: He looks after the logistics of campus landscape,
including the annual work plan, the operational budget, and the
His challenge: Logistics. "We really do have to prioritize
where we do the work. Some areas don't get visited more than once
a year. Other places like the Rose Garden get visited frequently
and are treated to a high level of maintenance."
His tools: A Geographical Information System (GIS) computer
program that maps the location of every tree on campus.
He's busiest: In winter, when all the major pruning and reconstruction
work is done.
His favourite campus tree: A "truly spectacular"
oak on Main Mall near the Barn.
If he were a tree, he'd be: A bristlecomb pine, because "it's
a tree that seems to survive in harsh environments and adapt well,
and I guess I've always considered myself to be able to do that."
Years on campus: 16. Two in his current position.
His job: Inspecting the trees for insects and disease, and
assessing hazards. "I help keep the aesthetics under control
on campus, but it's definitely part insurance policy too."
His challenge: Keeping the biggest trees alive and healthy,
and ensuring they don't get damaged by construction and campus expansion.
His roots: Horticulture. He's worked at the Botanical Garden,
owned an arboretum and written five local tree guides. He even gives
expert testimony in lawsuits involving trees.
His tools: A library of reference books and a pencil for
He's busiest: Year round. Winter is good for maintenance;
summer is best for inspection.
His favourite campus tree: A rare Chinese fir near Main Library.
If he were a tree, he'd be: A giant sequoia because "they
live to be 3,000 - 4,000 years old. Give me longevity."
Head Landscape Technologist
Years on campus: 26. Head gardener since 1992.
His job: Working with the crewsto bring the landscape architect's
vision to life, and keepingUBC's green areas beautiful and healthy.
His challenge: "The campus is twice as big as when I
arrived in 1975, but the size of the crews is still the same."
His roots: Originally from a farming community in Croatia,
Pavlovic's interest in soil and plants goes back to high school.
His tools: Good equipment - everything from leaf blowers
He's busiest: Late fall, early winter. "In this climate,
planting during the winter is best."
His favourite campus tree: The oaks on Main Mall.
If he were a tree, he'd be: An oak because "a single
tree in a big field provides shade for farmers, and a place for
people to gather under it."