The art of tree trimming
Published: Thursday, June 28, 2012
Updated: Thursday, July 12, 2012 15:07
Most people may not think of trimming trees as being a “traditional art form,” but to Cal State Long Beach alumnus Tash Kushi, there is no other way to trim a black pine tree.
The Earl Burns Miller Japanese Garden hosted a workshop Sunday to educate spectators about the unique technique of trimming black pine trees. Professional Japanese tree trimmers have been volunteering their services to the garden annually for 25 years.
Kushi is the president of the Southeast Ueki Tree Trimming club, and he brought nine club members to the workshop. The Ueki club worked with the Torrance Tree Trimming club to trim the black pines.
“This started in 1987, so I was here the very first time that this started 25 years ago,” Kushi said.
According to Kushi, the garden has been open for 30 years, and during the first five years, the black pines were too young, so they did not need to be trimmed.
“The trees grow differently because of the climate,” Kushi said. “We try to make it look the same, but it’s a totally different climate.”
The black pines are hand-trimmed with different sized tools. While trimming, the gardeners have to go in between the branches to get the dead plants out the way that will allow the sun to shine through.
According to Kushi, the trees need to be trimmed in such a careful manner because of the overall health of the tree.
“Without the trimming, it becomes a big bush,” Kushi said. “There’s no shape or anything. We need to trim it to let the sun come through, so really it’s for the health of the tree.”
The trimming of the black pines is looked at as an art, so finding workers to trim the trees can be expensive. Not many people specialize in trimming these types of trees, and according to Kushi, the best way to get trained is to go on the job and learn.
“The tree is very expensive,” Kushi said. “The cost of the tree itself can be several thousands of dollars each. That’s why you have to really maintain these trees. Long Beach State saves a lot of money because if you hire someone, say like myself to trim the trees, it might cost $150 each tree.”
Kushi has his own black pine tree trimming business, serving clients from Santa Maria to San Clemente.
“In reality, I owe a lot of my life from Long Beach State,” Kushi said. “I graduated from Long Beach State. I met my wife — she wasn’t a Long Beach State Student, but her cousin who introduced us was. My wife and I have been married for 23 years now, so we owe a lot of our life to Long Beach State. It means a lot to me to give back to Long Beach State.”
Kushi has been trimming the garden’s trees himself for about 22 or 23 years, he said, because he missed the trimming a few times.
“You think you graduate and you’ll never see the school again, but then you end up coming back,” Kushi said.
Following the workshop, guests were able to view a 30-minute movie about the history of tree trimming at the garden.
“We wanted to communicate not only the maintenance of the trees, but also the culture of the trees, so we created a video,” said Jeanette Schelin, director of the Japanese Garden.
After the film was over, the three tree trimming clubs were presented with plaques thanking them for their services to the garden.
“One of the things that we begin to realize is that this collection could not come about without the influence, the care and the investments of many people,” Schelin said.