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Downers Grove man’s trees turn heads

DOWNERS GROVE – Every spring, Bob Gilchrist’s wife warns him against getting on top of the 10-foot ladder to trim his trees into a mushroom-like shape.

About the same time every year, neighbors walk by and tell him how good the two pin oaks look.

“So I do it again,” the 71-year-old said.

Bob and Madie Gilchrist built the home and planted the trees in 1972 at 633 Millbrook Drive in unincorporated Downers Grove. Every year since the mid-’70s, he has trimmed the trees in an style inspired by his grandfather.

“My grandfather had a farm down in southern Illinois,” he said. “He used to show me how he’d trim his trees and bushes. He’d trim them all fancy like that.

“My grandfather never saw these trees, but he would have been proud of them.”

As the trees grew taller, Gilchrist became innovative. He has an 18-foot long pruning pole to snap sprouts over the top and middle of the tree. He also fashioned an electric trimmer to an 8-foot pole for other hard-to-reach spots.

“I made that 20 years ago,” he said. “Now they have them at Home Depot.”

Some days, he said he catches himself thinking “a cherry picker would be nice.”

The initial spring trim takes him more than 10 hours between the two trees, he said.

After that, he tidies up the sprouts and other ambitious branches that breach the half-sphere shape about every two weeks.

Soon, he said he might heed Madie’s advice and stop the climb to the top of the ladder.

“I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be doing that,” he said. “It’s kind of dangerous.”

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