A Real Professional Tree Hugger

Linda Dela Cruz
Wednesday - April 30, 2008
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Mark Leon
Mark Leon, owner of Sunshine Landscape Company Inc., at Haiku Plantations in an albezia tree that was deemed hazardous and had to be removed

If you find Mark Leon near a tree, he most likely won’t be sitting under it. He and his Sunshine Landscape Company Inc. employees will be working to assess any hazards - or he’ll be doing what he can to save the tree’s life.

What hazards from a tree? On one hand, the good things about a tree are that it is beautiful, it gives much-needed shade and it helps improve our air quality.

On the other hand, a tree can be dangerous if it falls on someone or on a home or business, or falls on the roadways.

Leon says one of the challenges of being a landscaper is educating people about trees.

“To top a tree literally means indiscriminate cutting of tree branches and limbs,” says the Kaneohe-based businessman. “There are people who want me to top a tree, but that may not be the best solution to the problem.”

Leon believes a professional such as himself should take care of the job as best as they see fit. He says if you don’t get the right professional, it’s like asking your dentist to take out your appendix.

“I’m looking for the long-term (customer) relationship,” says Leon. “We want the person whose grandfather passed down the tree from generation to generation. We are one of the few companies that will walk away from a job if we feel a customer wants us to do something that’s not good for the tree. Trees are living organisms. They should have dignity.

“You can’t just trim something the way someone thinks it should be done because you’re affecting the quality of life of the tree.”

Leon explains that one hazard of cutting trees in a certain way that some folks may request is that the new growth will be weakly attached. He notes that trees grow one to two feet per year, and when you top a tree it grows between four to six feet a year straight up instead of laterally - which isn’t good.

The solution, he says, is to deal with the tree in stages - that may take more time, but he knows how to do it. His company consists of four people including himself, and he is on jobs along with his crew, with his sleeves rolled up and his tools in hand.

Leon started out in 1990 as a yard worker, and he worked hard to get certified for several specialties dealing with contracting, landscaping, trees and irrigation.

Sunshine Landscape Company was recognized as one of 12 final-ists for the 2008 Landscaper of the Year award by Total Landscape Care Magazine and Case Construction Equipment.

As a finalist, Leon will be featured in Total Landscape Care Magazine, which goes out to more than 75,000 professionals this year.

Raised in Aina Haina, the Academy of the Pacific graduate lived on the Mainland for six years before returning home. A strong believer in education, Leon has plans to attend several tree conferences in San Jose, St. Louis and in Japan.

“I want to gain as much knowledge as possible and be better at what I do,” says Leon.

For more information, call 235-4328.


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