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DIAMOND CERTIFIED EXPERT CONTRIBUTORS IN THE Bay Area – Tree Service CATEGORY

Simon Tunnicliffe is a 29-year veteran of the tree service industry and owner of West Valley Arborists, Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2010. He can be reached at (408) 827-8933 or by email.

Simon Tunnicliffe

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Simon Tunnicliffe: Outdoor Ambition

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

CAMPBELL — As a young man, Simon Tunnicliffe thought he might enjoy working in an office setting, but he soon realized he preferred an outdoor workspace. “When I was a teenager, the real estate market was really booming in my home country of England, so I thought about pursuing a career in the industry,” he recounts. “I enrolled in a work experience program, where I spent one day a week working in a real estate office. It didn’t take long for me to realize I didn’t like spending my days indoors, so I began looking for a career that would allow me to be outside. Tree service seemed like an obvious choice—I mean, what other job lets you climb trees and use heavy equipment, all while conserving nature?”

After earning his arborist certification, Simon began working locally in the tree service industry, but soon after he took his professional passion abroad, working by turns in Germany, France, California and Australia. Eventually, Simon settled on Northern California for his permanent residence, and in 2005, he founded West Valley Arborists, Inc. “The Bay Area seemed like an ideal place for me to start my own business,” he says. “Besides having perfect weather for working outside, the west coast has one of the world’s largest tree service industries.”

A resident of San Jose (where he lives with his fiancée, Sommer), Simon spends his time outside of work engaged in a variety of active pursuits. “Sommer and I are very active people, so we do a lot of fitness training, hiking, biking and kayaking,” he says. “We also like supporting independent local establishments like wine bars and restaurants.” When the opportunity arises, Simon and Sommer like to get away from it all by taking weekend trips to nearby destinations like Santa Cruz and Lake Tahoe.

In regard to his professional career, Simon likens running a business to a continuous balancing act. “I think you have to be a pretty well-rounded individual to be a successful business owner,” he says. “From overhead costs to managing employees to dealing with customers, there are a lot of aspects to juggle, so you have to maintain a balance. I think it’s also important to have a positive attitude, stay focused and not let the small things get to you.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he could retire tomorrow, Simon says he’d celebrate. “I’d throw a big retirement party, just to express my appreciation to my employees and all the people who have supported me throughout my journey. After that, I’d probably do some traveling. I have family in New Zealand, so that might be a good place to start.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Opa! Authentic Greek Cuisine in Campbell.

Q: Did you play any sports in high school?
A: I played rugby and cricket.

Q: What’s your earliest memory?
A: When I was five years old, my family lived in Spain, and I remember taking rides to the beach on our Vespa scooter. My parents would put my sister in between them while I crouched on the floor near the front—it was about as packed as you could get!

Q: What kinds of movies do you like?
A: I’m a big fan of the James Bond movies.

Q: Who’s the best James Bond?
A: That’s a tough one. I love Sean Connery, but I’m also a fan of Daniel Craig.

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Deep Root Fertilization

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CAMPBELL — Like any plant, trees require nutrients to grow and flourish. While trees typically derive nutrients from the soil, under certain circumstances they may not be able to get adequate nutrition, which can put them in a state of… Read more

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Video: Deep Root Fertilization

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CAMPBELL — Host, Sarah Rutan: When it comes to caring for the trees on your property, one healthful measure to consider is deep root fertilization. Today… Read more

James Cairnes is a 26-year veteran of the tree service industry and owner of World Tree Service, Inc., a Diamond Certified company since 2002. He can be reached at (415) 868-5904 or by email.

James Cairnes

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James Cairnes: Climbing to the Top

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

SAN ANSELMO — For James Cairnes, an adolescent injury became an unlikely catalyst for a lifelong career in an unfamiliar field. “I was in a motorcycle accident when I was 17 and ended up in the hospital,” he remembers. “The guy in the bed next to me was an arborist. I had no idea what an arborist was, so he told me all about it. I found it fascinating, and when I started college the following year, I enrolled in a three-year arboriculture program. It was sort of by chance, but it ended up significantly altering the course of my life.”

Today, as owner of World Tree Service, Inc., James says his favorite part of his job is going out on a limb for his customers. “I still like climbing, which is something I’ve enjoyed since I started. I also like looking after the long-term health of my customers’ trees and making sure they can exist in harmony with the surrounding wildlife and environment.”

James took a circuitous route to get to his current residence in Marin County—he lived in Norway, Ireland and England before he reached adulthood, and when he was 25 years old, he took a trip to the United States that eventually turned into a permanent residence. “After living in New York for seven years, I was ready to head back to England, but first I went on a cross-country motorcycle trip to California,” he explains. “Soon after I arrived, I met a woman named Natalie Carey, with whom I would later co-found World Tree Service.”

Outside of work, James spends his time engaged in a variety of active outdoor pastimes. “My main sport is motorcycle trials, which basically consists of riding through obstacle courses of logs and rocks without putting your feet down,” he says. “I also like mountain and road biking, as well as surfing.” In keeping with his love of tree climbing, James also volunteers as a climber for WildCare, a wildlife rehabilitation center in San Rafael. “We rescue baby birds that have fallen out of their nests, climb up the tree and reunite them with their parents. I actually met my girlfriend doing this, since she works for WildCare.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, James says he’d set out for his longest ride yet. “I would ride my motorcycle to South America. I’ve done a few trips to Central America, so I’ve sort of been building up to this bigger excursion. While I’m down there, I’d like to do some rainforest tree-climbing work, like setting up tree platforms for documentary film crews.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite kind of tree?
A: I really like the California buckeye and the dawn redwood, which is unique in that it’s a deciduous conifer.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
A: Read a book by the fire.

Q: What’s your favorite book?
A: “Jupiter’s Travels” by Ted Simon, a British guy who traveled around the world on an old Triumph motorcycle. It was really influential in terms of my own motorcycle travels.

Q: Who’s the best James Bond?
A: Sean Connery.

Q: What’s the most death-defying feat you’ve ever attempted?
A: Bungee jumping at the Pipeline in New Zealand—a 335-foot jump!

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Does My Tree Have Sudden Oak Death?

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SAN ANSELMO — Sudden oak death has been a major problem in California for years, and it continues to concern property owners statewide. In some cases, however, what people perceive to be symptoms of this disease actually denote a much less… Read more

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Video: Does My Tree Have Sudden Oak Death?

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SAN ANSELMO — Host, Sarah Rutan: If you’ve identified signs of Sudden Oak Death on your oak tree, it’s possible that you’ve confused these symptoms with those of… Read more

Terry Powell is a 39-year veteran of the tree service industry and owner of Terry’s Tree Service, Inc., a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (925) 201-6321 or by email.

Terry Powell

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Terry Powell: Early Entrepreneur

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

LIVERMORE — While many children get their first taste of the vocational realm by performing yard work around their neighborhoods, for Terry Powell, it became a genuine entrepreneurial enterprise. “When I was about seven years old, I started doing chores around my neighborhood to earn money, from mowing lawns and pulling weeds to washing cars and cleaning garages,” he remembers. “Pretty soon, I started advertising my services by putting up flyers, and by the time I was in my early teens, I had about five guys working for me. Later, when I was in high school, I got into tree service. I loved it, and I’ve been doing it ever since.”

Since founding Terry’s Tree Service, Inc. in 1998, Terry has continued to find motivation in the thing that first attracted him to the trade: a love for trees. “I’ve always been an outdoor enthusiast, and I’m very passionate about nature. After all these years, I still get satisfaction from improving the health and beauty of my clients’ trees.”

Residing in Livermore with his wife, Diane, and three of their five children, Terry considers the Bay Area a perfect place to pursue his favorite outdoor activities. “We have a little bit of everything here as far as the landscape is concerned,” he says. “My family and I do a lot of fishing, hiking and camping, so it’s great to have areas like Lake Tahoe and Lake Del Valle so near to us.”

In addition to his professional career, Terry is a full-time family man—a vocation to which he devotes the majority of his free time. “With five kids, three of whom are still at home, life is very full,” he says. “Our family likes to stay active, both with outdoor pursuits and in-town activities like bowling. We also enjoy attending local events such as the Livermore Honey and Wine Festival. Basically, if there’s a crowd, we’re there.”

In regard to a personal philosophy, Terry espouses the importance of living intentionally. “I try to live my life one day at a time,” he affirms. “Life is an adventure, but it’s short, so it’s important to live it to the fullest. The best advice I could give someone is to not dwell on the past or worry about the future, but to just try to stay in the moment.”

When asked what his future retirement might look like, Terry says he’d kick things off by embracing a new hobby. “When I retire, I plan to start skydiving, which is something my wife won’t let me do until the kids are out of school. Another thing I’ve always wanted to do is get an RV and do some more traveling. In addition to seeing a lot of notable sights, it would give me a chance to visit some of my distant friends and family members whom I don’t get a chance to see often.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What’s your favorite kind of tree?
A: Oak. I’ve always loved the twisted, freeform shapes of their branches. I especially like the Oak trees here in the Valley, some of which are 400 years old.

Q: Do you prefer fiction or nonfiction books?
A: Nonfiction, because I mainly read books that pertain to my industry.

Q: If you could immediately master a musical instrument, what would you choose?
A: The fiddle—Charlie Daniels is one of my favorite musicians.

Q: What’s your favorite smell?
A: Mountain air.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: Antique glass bottles. I actually had one of the largest antique bottle collections in the Bay Area until the Loma Prieta earthquake wiped out most of them.

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The Benefits of Proper Tree Maintenance

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LIVERMORE — The upkeep of trees on a property is an important yet often overlooked aspect of home maintenance. In addition to having their health periodically assessed by a professional, you should keep your trees well-trimmed via regular pruning and… Read more

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Video: Proper Tree Maintenance

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LIVERMORE — Host, Sarah Rutan: In caring for your landscape, its important to know how to properly prune your trees. Today we’re in Livermore with… Read more

Chris Chapman is a 22-year veteran of the tree service industry and owner of Horticultural Services, LTD, a Diamond Certified company since 2005. He can be reached at (925) 388-6963 or by email.

Chris Chapman

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Chris Chapman: Cultivating a Livelihood

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

ORINDA — Chris Chapman spent much of his childhood working outdoors, and even though he didn’t realize it at the time, he was cultivating a future livelihood all the while. “When I was growing up, my dad used to send me off to different places to work during the summers,” he remembers. “I spent one summer putting up hay and chasing cows in Montana, another working with a big game outfitter in Colorado, and yet another working agriculture in California. During college, I got involved in landscaping and ended up starting my own business. After 10 years, I was looking for a career upgrade, so I got certified as an arborist and have specialized in tree service ever since.”

Today, as owner of Horticultural Services, LTD, Chris says his favorite part of his job is seeing the long-term effects of his work. “I like seeing the gradual changes that take place on the properties we work on. It’s very rewarding to service a distressed tree and then come back a couple of years later to see it healthy and flourishing.”

Originally from Southern California, Chris now resides in Concord with his wife, Gael, and their two children, Jack and Marilyn. When asked what he appreciates most about living and working in the Bay Area, Chris cites the ideal outdoor working conditions. “With the great weather we have, the Bay Area is the best place in the country to do this kind of work…probably one of the best places on the planet, for that matter.”

Outside of work, Chris furthers his outdoor enjoyment with hobbies like gardening and cultivating bonsai trees. He also enjoys hunting, fishing, reading about military history and keeping up with his two older children: Jessica, who lives in San Diego, and Trevor, who is currently attending college.

In regard to his professional career, Chris espouses the importance of honesty. “If I look at a job and it’s apparent that it doesn’t require my level of expertise, I’ll let the client know and refer them elsewhere,” he explains. “I’ll tell them, ‘I can do this for you, but so could a gardener, and you’d get a better price.’ I just prefer to be honest rather than stick my hands in people’s pockets or try to sell them services they don’t need.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Chris says he would get to work on expanding his home garden. “The space is kind of limited where we live, so we’re mainly growing things in containers. If I had some more room, I’d triple the square footage of my garden and get ready for the coming season.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: Are you a dog person or a cat person?
A: A dog person.

Q: What’s your favorite local restaurant?
A: Rocco’s Ristorante Pizzeria in Walnut Creek.

Q: What’s your favorite thing to do on a rainy day?
A: Read a book.

Q: What’s your favorite book?
A: Besides the Bible, one of my favorites is “Guadalcanal: Starvation Island” by Eric Hammel. It’s a military history book about the United States’ first offensive in the Pacific during World War II. It’s an absolutely fascinating account.

Q: How do you like your eggs?
A: Scrambled.

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Proper Tree Irrigation

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ORINDA — Irrigation is crucial for established trees, but in order to be effective, it’s important to follow proper procedure. For example, a common mistake people make with tree irrigation is watering the trunk. Since a tree absorbs water through its… Read more

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Video: Proper Tree Irrigation

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ORINDA — Host, Sarah Rutan: While it’s important to regularly water the trees on your property, it’s equally crucial to use the proper techniques. Today we’re in… Read more

Alex Llamas is a veteran of the tree service industry and owner of SexyTrees.com, a Diamond Certified company. He can be reached at (707) 931-0935 or by email.

Alex Llamas

diamond certified contributor profile and expert article

Alex Llamas: High Aptitude

By James Florence, Diamond Certified Resource Reporter

ALAMO — When asked how he got involved in tree service, Alex Llamas recounts a unique opportunity that combined his handy aptitude with his love for altitude. “When I was in college, I got a part-time job helping a retired teacher maintain his property, which he had turned into a public park,” he remembers. “He taught me everything he knew about pruning and maintaining trees. Plus, I did a lot of rock climbing back in the day, so climbing trees was just natural for me.”

Despite these influencing factors, Alex didn’t pursue tree service as a career after college—not right away, at least. “In college, I majored in concrete engineering, and after I graduated I got a job as an estimator with a concrete repair company,” he explains. “However, not long into the job, I got laid off. That put a bad taste in my mouth—I didn’t like the idea of being dependent on someone else for employment. That’s why I decided to start my own tree service company. I got a $5,000 loan from my dad, bought liability insurance and printed some business cards. That was in April of 2012, and my business has continued to grow during the last five years.”

Today, as owner of SexyTrees.com, Alex says his favorite part of his job is seeing the long-term results of his work. “Unlike a lot of tree service companies, we always try to do what’s best for the tree when we’re pruning or performing other types of maintenance. When a customer calls us for service again a couple of years later, it’s rewarding to see how the trees have progressed and how healthy they are.”

A resident of Concord, Alex says he appreciates the close-knit character of his longtime hometown. “This is where I grew up, so I have a lot of family and friends here. A lot of times, they ask for advice or help with their trees, so it’s nice to be able to give back in that way. I like being part of this community.”

Outside of work, Alex likes to take advantage of all the Bay Area has to offer. “My wife, Pamela, and I stay pretty active in our free time,” he affirms. “We do a lot of camping in the summer and enjoy checking out different national parks. We also enjoy the city life and going out to restaurants and concerts.” Additionally, Alex likes spending time with family and friends at barbeques and similar get-togethers.

In regard to his professional career, Alex espouses the importance of respect and communication. “Wherever we’re working, I always remind my guys to treat the customer’s property like it was their own,” he says. “I also place a high priority on client communication by making sure we listen to them and understand their needs. I think those two aspects—respect and communication—are the keys to customer satisfaction.”

When asked the first thing he’d do if he were to retire tomorrow, Alex says he’d take his love for altitude to an exotic location. “I would go tree climbing in the jungles of Mexico. There are massive trees there with huge spikes on their trunks, and I’ve always wanted to climb one of them.”

Ask Me Anything!

Q: What kinds of music do you like?
A: I’m very eclectic in my tastes—I go from classic country like Willie Nelson to Mexican corridos and salsa.

Q: Are you an early bird or a night owl?
A: A little bit of both—it depends on the time of year.

Q: What was your favorite toy as a child?
A: A rope. That may sound weird, but a rope is very versatile—you can use it to lasso a cow, climb a tree or whatever.

Q: Do you collect anything?
A: I collect rocks, pine cones and cross-sections of wood.

Q: Who are your favorite comedians?
A: Dave Chappelle, George Lopez and Carlos Mencia.

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Deep Watering Your Trees

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ALAMO — When a tree looks unhealthy, it’s usually due to stress from a lack of water or nutrients. A simple way to address this problem is to use a deep watering tool. All you need to do is connect a garden… Read more

The Benefits of Mulch for Trees

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ALAMO — An easy way to promote the health of the trees on your property is to apply mulch. Mulch offers several benefits: • It insulates the soil, which minimizes sun and wind evaporation following irrigation. • It keeps weeds down,… Read more

Assessing Tree Service Tools

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ALAMO — When hiring a tree service company, it’s important to look at the types of tools its technicians use and how they’re maintained. After all, you should expect a professional to use professional tools and techniques to ensure the utmost quality… Read more

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Video: DIY Deep Watering for Trees

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ALAMO — Host, Sarah Rutan: If a tree on your property is looking unhealthy, you may need to employ a tactic known as deep watering. Today we’re in… Read more

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