Ten Minutes with Russell Plumb
An acrobatic arborist
Photo by Jonathan Doster
Russell Plumb took a job at the age of 16 working with a landscaping crew. His love of plants and trees soon sparked the desire to become an arborist. Over the years, his career has taken him to Bermuda, Vancouver, NYC, and Europe, working on some of the most beautiful properties in the world. Whether he is in the forest climbing up a 250-foot tree, competing to be a tree-climbing champion, or pruning trees in a private courtyard in Manhattan, Plumb says he loves what he does.
What do you love most about your line of work?
I love the diversity of my job—that every tree is different and that each job brings different challenges. And I love that trees are alive and moving while I’m climbing around in them.
What are some of the most important historical trees you’ve worked on?
In Vancouver, I worked on the preservation of the Hollow Tree in Stanley Park. In the UK I worked on 450-year-old ash trees known as “ancient pollards.” Closer to home, last year I joined a team of arborists from Connecticut, Massachusetts, and New York to prune the Dover Oak in Pawling, the largest registered white oak in New York State and a landmark on the Appalachian Trail.
After living all over the world, how did you come to settle in Kent?
My wife Emma is a New Yorker and grew up spending weekends and summers in Kent. Our relationship was originally all over the map—we met when we were both working in Bermuda, and then ended up long-distance when I was in Vancouver, England, Germany. Eventually I moved to New York for us to be in the same place, and then we started spending more and more time up here. When we got married and wanted to start a family, it was an easy decision to make Kent home.
From an arborist’s perspective, what makes Litchfield County a special place?
Litchfield County is full of beautiful properties with a great diversity of trees. I think anyone who comes to this area recognizes what a special place it is. But as an arborist, I get a unique perspective of the landscape, when I’m moving through the canopy of a tree and get to take in a view that only another arborist may have seen.
After five years of competing you are now the 2017 New England Tree Climbing Champion. What do you enjoy most about these competitions?
The best part about tree climbing competitions is the camaraderie—it’s a competition, yes, but it’s also a chance to meet up with old friends and make new ones. Everyone who competes is passionate about trees and tree climbing, so we all enjoy the opportunity to share the latest techniques, pick up new tricks, and just generally have a fun time together.
What are some simple things we all could be doing to help the trees and forests?
Certainly it’s always important to be environmentally conscious. Climate change is absolutely having a heavy impact on trees—droughts, floods, and other extreme weather conditions are causing havoc—so reducing those impacts is critical. Of course, it’s important to have a Connecticut-licensed arborist assess your trees regularly.