“Trees are vital in creating livable cities,” says the winner of a big award for her lifelong commitment to tree planting and conservation.
NANCY BULEY is on a roll, winning awards and recognition for her vigorous and effective tree advocacy. “I call it tree evangelism,” says Buley. “I’m always out stumping for trees.”
As communications director at one of the country’s largest tree nurseries, J. Frank Schmidt & Son in Boring, Ore., it’s Buley’s job to promote the trees her company breeds, trials and introduces onto the market. She’s also an active volunteer and board member for Portland’s “Friends of Trees,” a nonprofit dedicated to planting street trees and revegetating natural areas. She says she was as blindsided as she was thrilled to receive the 2014 Frederick Law Olmsted Award from the Arbor Day Foundation for her lifelong commitment to tree planting and conservation.
Buley is an Oregon native who grew up in the woods along a river. “Trees have always been a big part of my life,” she says. She has a degree in journalism, with a minor in horticulture, and worked as a newspaper reporter and in landscape construction.
When she started at J. Frank Schmidt & Son 20 years ago, it was just a summer job. “I made myself useful,” is how Buley describes her advent to her current job at a company that devotes 2,000 acres to tree production and sells more than a million trees a year worldwide. She hosts international visitors, including a recent group from Japan, works on the company’s Web page and catalog, and takes great pleasure in connecting people with the information they need to grow the right tree in the right place, and to grow it well.
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Which led Buley to teaching landscape architects about trees, including students at the University of Oregon.
“They’re the perfect audience because they learn so little about trees in school,” she says. “I tell them to please, please leave adequate planting space for trees in their designs.”
In recognition of her outreach efforts, the American Society of Landscape Architects has made Buley an honorary member.
“I hope to make green infrastructure as important as gray infrastructure,” Buley says. “Trees are vital in creating livable cities.”
She says we tend to take trees for granted in the Northwest, partly because of our abundant forests, but also because they’re so easy to grow here. Buley has found the Northeast to have a long history of tree stewardship, and the Midwest to highly value trees for the welcome shade they cast, as well as for how difficult they can be to grow there. Mostly she hopes we’ll all recognize trees as essential to our well-being and make space for growing them more of a priority.
And Buley’s own garden? She started out raising vegetables, but trees seem to follow her home from work (strapped onto the roof rack of her Subaru, she says). Gradually her garden grew too shady to grow food. The trees jumped the fence into her fields, and she’s now running a little nursery called “Treephoria.”
Despite trees at work and trees at home, Buley isn’t the least jaded. She loves parrotias, and the snakebark maple Acer x conspicuum ‘Phoenix.’ The horizontally layered dogwood known as the wedding cake tree (Cornus controversa ‘June Snow’) is one of her favorites. “I’ve been known to sell trees right out of my garden if the price is right, but not this one,” says Buley.
For someone who has lived and worked in Boring for 20 years, Buley, in her enthusiasm and advocacy for our green world, is anything but.