Trees, Friends and Conversation Starters

Posted on: February 7, 2019

For those of you who regularly read this blog, you may find yourselves weary of my frequent professions of my love for all things trees. Yes, it is true, I do love trees. After all, save the inevitable fall leaf clean ups what is not to love about a tree? Sure, I know that talking about trees can be a boredom-inducing subject for those who do not spend their lives growing or planting them. Chances are pretty decent however, if you are reading this blog then you, too, have at least a little tree love as well. If so, welcome to my blog, fellow tree dork. I’m glad to have you here with me.

So what if all of us tree dorks got together in one place and decided to have a party? HA! We actually have such an event, otherwise known as the MANTS show in Baltimore! It’s an annual festival of tree dorks that happens in early January. It’s a predictable affair. Pretty much everyone who is anyone in the plant industry is here for three days to do some business, rub some elbows and maybe have a cocktail or two! Ruppert Nurseries occupies the same booth spaces year after year. Each year we work hard to outdo our booth display from the year before. Check out a Facebook post I did in January of 2012. I chuckle every year when I first arrive at the show knowing that I’m going to catch up with a lot of old friends and make some new ones but most of all, I’m going to talk a lot of trees!

One of the best parts of the MANTS show for me is having the opportunity to talk to others in the industry with whom I have done business for many years. There are a lot of really knowledgeable nursery people out there. It is possible that my infatuation with Dr. Michael Dirr, the guru of all things trees, borders on unhealthy, but I spend an unreasonable amount of time each year at MANTS trying to orchestrate a legitimate reason to talk to him! A few years ago, he actually stopped by the Ruppert Nurseries booth and he graciously signed a copy of his book for me. It was the highlight of my MANTS show career!

Those of us who have been in it for what might seem like forever will likely remember Russell Watson from Robin Hill. What a consummate gentleman and master plantsman he was! His presence in our
industry will forever be missed. I have a particular memory of Russell that actually doesn’t have much to do with trees. Back in January of 2002, I came to the show with my newborn son Christopher. I didn’t want to miss the show but I was just six weeks postpartum and wasn’t ready to leave my first born with anyone just yet. (This son by the way, is now a Junior in high school!). I stopped by the Robin Hill booth to say hello and Russell pulled me aside. He slipped a cool $100 bill in my hand and said, “Congratulations. Use this money to start a college fund for this young man.” Wow. Who does that sort of thing these days? A rare few, that’s for sure.

I truly love finding people who share this tree love with me. It’s a great day to be at work when you have a customer at the nursery with real tree geekish curiosity. It makes a tagging trip so much more fun and rewarding when you get to impart some wisdom and maybe even learn something new. We can turn a 2 tree tagging trip into an all day affair when there is an engaged customer in the passenger seat. But on the flip side, sometimes you get a customer who isn’t particularly interested in their task of tagging a tree order. These folks are usually assigned the task and typically don’t come to the nursery with any prior tree knowledge. It’s just another task on the list rather than something to which to look forward. We accommodate those visits as well but it’s a sad, sad day when your tree humor doesn’t find a welcoming audience.

Trees bring us together by giving us places to gather, spaces to admire and the shade under which to sit and enjoy everyday moments. Many people might not have an opinion or even notice the trees in their lives. But, the loss of a tree can be immediately felt even if you never noticed it in the first place. Ever have a tree come down in your yard only to realize how important it was to your landscape or to the shade it created in your home? Some people never even think about their trees until they have to.

Do me a favor will you? If you have the chance to come visit our nursery this year, take one thing that you learned from us and use it in a sentence. I’m serious! Imagine where your cocktail party conversation might go when you throw out there, “Did you know that a large tree can lift up to 100 gallons of water out of the ground and discharge it into the air?” Cue mic drop…. BOOM!

(Please excuse the blatant grammar error below… I didn’t make this gif… I just borrowed it!)

I’m thankful for the calm of February so I can write this tongue and cheek blog about my tree love. We are only 44 days away from the official start of spring and then we’ll all be lucky too have time the necessities, let alone crafting silly tree blogs. I hope we’ll hear from and see many of you in the coming months. Now’s a good time to visit Ruppert Nurseries before it gets too crazy. Come on out! After all, how else will you get your cocktail party conversation starters?!


Ronda Sneider, CPH

ISA Certified Arborist