Ed Hopkins looks to nature in his work as an arborist
Trees, shrubs and landscapes surround us. Here in New England, lush greens, bold crimsons and barren branches frame picturesque seasonal views. Ask Ed Hopkins, president of Urban Tree Service, A Tree Health Company Inc. of Rochester, New Hampshire about nature, though, and you’ll get a bit of a different perspective.
Hopkins was born of nature. Raised as a Boy Scout, he spent much of his time outdoors hunting and fishing. He is still most comfortable camping under the stars, working on restoration projects or spending time on his four-acre property that is bounded by conservation land. Often lauded for his stewardship with historical landscapes throughout New Hampshire, Hopkins is a leader in his profession and a wealth of environmental information; imparting his knowledge of Mother Nature comes naturally to him.
Exactly how does a motorcycle-riding arborist adopt such an attitude toward the land? By going back to its roots. For Hopkins, studying the history of early American settlements—where properties were enhanced and sustained by nature—provides valuable information for his line of work. For inspiration, he recently took a motorcycle trip to explore the late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century architecture of buildings in upstate New York.
“It was a prosperous time and the material culture is so interesting. European influences in architecture dating from that era are something you just don’t see much anymore,” said Hopkins. “It was a time when everything was handmade and people were resourceful in the true sense of the word.” Plots of land were cleared with the intent to use every piece of the earth, from wood, to granite, to clay for bricks. And the products that derived from these natural resources were not only aesthetically pleasing, they were long-lasting and complemented one another.
Hopkins brings these same principles to his work with Urban Tree Service. His approach is very organic—a direct result of his knowledge of the ways of early American settlers who themselves adopted a wise-use-of-the-land approach from Native Americans.
When called to a job, for example, Hopkins urges homeowners to consider how they can work with the land to maximize the benefits available to them. What trees provide shade? What areas demand more sunlight? Where is the natural drainage on the property? How can the homeowner maximize energy-efficiency? Hopkins looks for the value of the land in its existing state.
“I have lived my whole life trying to understand the natural environment. I work with trees every day. It’s my life,” Hopkins said of his 32-year career as an arborist.
He is quick to add that he is not in the business of cutting down trees. In fact, Hopkins does what he can to keep them alive and well; his overarching goal is to leave as many trees and shrubs as possible, and to use them for the benefits of privacy, shade, sunlight, efficiency, beauty and home equity. A tree’s health and the homeowner’s safety are his main priorities; Hopkins pays particular attention to trees that have not received adequate care.
Hopkins himself lives in a late seventeenth-century replica home built from trees he removed from the property. His home was created out of its natural environment, just as many in the pre-American Revolutionary era would have been. “It’s about utilizing the land for what it is,” Hopkins explained.
In 2009, the International Society of Arboriculture named Hopkins one of seven “True Professionals of Arboriculture” for his positive commitment to the science of arboriculture. His work can be seen throughout northern New England and along the coast, from the Hamilton House in South Berwick, Maine, to Portsmouth’s Strawbery Banke, to the Barrett House in Ipswich, Massachusetts. His work on these properties has largely focused on pruning original trees that have become overgrown to provide more sunlight to the perennial gardens and, in some cases, to repair storm damage due to harsh weather. Hopkins has also had the opportunity to prune very large, overgrown trees that have stood on the property of Arlington National Cemetery in Washington, D.C. since its inception in 1864.
“Everything we do as human beings can be undone by Mother Nature,” said Hopkins. “So working with nature is in the best interest of mankind.” At a time when being green and eco-friendly is in some respects trendy, being truly environmentally conscious is a much greater commitment. For Ed Hopkins, it is also a way of life.