For the Love of Trees

BY KELLIE RAE SMITH | PHOTOGRAPHY BY HOLGER OBENAUS

Jessica Pares has always loved the earth. From an early-on gardening hobby to co-owning a successful tree business for 15 years, she’s never been afraid to get her hands dirty. But recently, Pares, a certified arborist, decided to branch out and embark on her own with New Leaf Tree Service, a company that has kept her crew busy since its summer debut.

What separates New Leaf from the other guys? Well, for one, just that: “They’re all guys,” Pares says. “I think there’s one other woman who is associated with another company, but I’m the only female-owned-and-operated tree service here in Charleston. I think a tree service owned by a woman is a good way to go because not only do I have an eye for details, but my cleanup is meticulous. Surely some guys out there clean up well, but I clean up meticulously.”

According to Pares, a tree deserves as much love as well-crafted landscapes full of carefully clipped shrubs. When she’s at work, her creative sensibilities are apparent, and her passion for pruning completely takes over.

“I love pruning. I have a crew that does the pruning, guys that climb the trees and cut branches, but I stand on the ground and point,” she says as she demonstrates her techniques. “It’s kind of like designing the tree, and if you think about it, trees are like big sculptures.”

But it’s not just a matter of ridding a tree of dead bark and limbs to sculpt it into a masterpiece. Her job also involves soul-crushing decisions to uproot some truly beautiful trees that have become neighborhood fixtures. Sometimes, it’s the only thing that can be done, but not all is lost. “I always say a little blessing over a tree when we have to remove one,” she says, “especially a beautiful live oak like the one we recently removed from a playground. I know it’s for the best…for the safety of kids…but that was a bittersweet project. The firewood from the tree went to people
who wanted it, and the tree got reused in a number of ways. A couple of builders came by to take pieces to make tables. So, even when I’m doing a job that, karma-wise, isn’t that much fun, I try to make sure the tree is put to good use.”

Pares knows trees are good for more than many people may realize. She encourages people to develop a new outlook when it comes to caring for the look of their home and its surroundings.

“Look up. Trees that have deadwood and are asymmetrical, or haven’t been tended to in years, can really mess up the look of your yard. I want people to look up in their trees, not only for aesthetics, but for their safety…and also for the safety of their trees.”

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