My grandfather used to say, “A child is like a tree. If you plant a tree, stake it, water it, and give it plenty of sunshine, it will grow tall and straight.”
—Laurie Bogart Wiles
IN OCTOBER 2004, TAMMY KOVAR founded Biological Tree Services, a sustainable landscaping service located in Sarasota, Florida that uses environmentally friendly, biological soil amendments to improve the health, vigor, and grandeur of oaks, palms, pine trees, and general landscapes. As CEO, she was awarded Entrepreneur of the Year, and Biological Tree Services was awarded Small Business of the Year and the Governor’s Small Business of the Year for the state of Florida.
“I started my company as a passionate hobby to help rejuvenate stressed trees for builders and developers. I have been involved with landscape sales and organic technology since 1987. I know the importance of organic and biological processes in plant health. My philosophy is simple; we provide professional, courteous service while evaluating and planning along with you for your property, to provide your landscape the best possible long-term solution. Our service level exceeds expectations,” is how Tammy describes Biological Tree Services.
Mother, environmentalist, horticulturist, world traveler, and an avid hiker, ELYSIAN publisher Karen Floyd interviewed Tammy in 2017 for Elysian Magazine and asked her to share her life lesson. Tammy said, “Make sure you put yourself first, and that you look out for you, and don’t let anything interfere with your life objective. Because life goes by really fast, and you will not get there if you let clutter get in the way.”
Interestingly, when Karen asked Tammy this question, it was in the context of raising her two daughters—Bailey Lane Dordon, her youngest, who works with her mother at Biological Tree Services, and her daughter, Emily. And as we revisit Tammy to find out where she is now, we discover a different story—one, just under the skin, of a mother’s deep love, perseverance, and positive attitude for both daughters…and especially, for Emily.
Emily was born with a defect called Turner Syndrome, a chromosomal anomaly that emerges at birth with heart issues—in Emily’s case, a narrowing of the aorta that required surgery when she was a mere five days old. As she grew up, the child faced one physical and developmental obstacle after another.
“She had a lot going on during her childhood,” Tammy recalls. “The most challenging part of Turner Syndrome is the nonverbal learning disorder. I am sure you have met people before that can’t look at you in the eye or do not read your expressions. They get too close to you because they cannot discern physical boundaries. Emily had to be taught about having a bubble.”
Over the years, with the support of her family, teachers, and the entire community, Emily faced all her challenges—and, like the trees her mother nurtures and fertilizes to new beauty, Emily blossomed.
“I never told her she could not do it, and no one around her told her she could not do it. So, I think you have to be that parent that just loves your child, and the sky is the limit,” Tammy says.
The gift of independence Tammy gave her daughter is one most mothers would not be as courageous to bestow upon a young daughter, let alone one with such physical challenges as Emily. Despite extreme scoliosis, by the age of 10 Emily had earned her black belt in Karate. Keen to visit Japan, she traveled on a flight captained by her uncle and stayed with family friends for ten days.
Emily began playing the piano when she was 13 years old. Initially, a bassoonist studying under Fernando Traba of the Sarasota Orchestra, in 2011 Emily decided to pursue her love of music further at Interlochen Center for the Arts in Traverse City, Michigan. She quickly discovered her love of all keyboard instruments, including the piano and pipe organ, and went on to earn her Master of Music degree in Piano Performance at the University of Georgia, under the direction of Dr. Martha Thomas. She graduated cum laude from Lawrence University and was awarded a full scholarship in piano performance at the University of South Florida, where she earned a master’s degree.
Emily’s repertoire as a pianist is diverse, covering everything from Bach and Chopin to lesser-known composers, such as Brett Dean. Emily is an avid chamber musician and enjoys collaborative playing, performed Schubert’s Piano Quintet in A major, “Trout”, D. 667 in June of 2017. She subsequently performed Debussy’s Etude No. 1 at the UGA piano symposium in January 2019. Recently, she was in Majorca, where she played Chopin on his piano in his historic home in Valldemosa, which he shared with his companion, the great French woman novelist who wrote under the pen name George Sand.
If you ask Tammy Kovar what her greatest achievement is, she would tell you all about her daughter, Bailey, and how proud she is to have her follow her footsteps at Biological Tree Services.
Then she would tell you about Emily.
Today Emily Blandon Kovar is 26 years old. And, like the trees her mother nurtures and fertilizes to new beauty, Emily, too, continues to blossom. This week, she begins her new job as Professor of Music at Clemson University. As Grandpa would say, “A child is like a tree…”