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Landscaping Around Trees

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Landscaping Around Trees

Meet your tree's needs first Not all trees are created equal. Each requires specific light, soil, and moisture conditions to survive and remain healthy. As you begin to plant your understory, make every effort to work with the situation you have. Some tree species, such as oaks (Quercus spp. and cvs., USDA Hardiness Zones 4–9), are extremely sensitive to major soil disturbance. Massive undertakings to alter the grade of the landscape or to change soil pH under a tree are difficult and often impractical. Adding a layer of soil that is more than 2 inches deep, for example, can reduce moisture and oxygen availabilities and hinder gas exchange to existing roots, causing trees to suffer or even die.A tree’s root system and canopy also determine how easy or difficult it will be to install a garden under a tree. It can be particularly troublesome to work among the extensive surface roots of shallow-rooted trees such as maples (Acer spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9) and elms (Ulmus spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9). The dense canopies and umbrella-like habits of trees such as conifers, Norway maples (Acer platanoides and cvs., Zones 3–7), and lindens (Tilia spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9) not only block sunlight but also deflect rainfall. Only the toughest plants have a chance of surviving in such conditions.
landscaping around trees 1

Landscaping Around Trees

Not all trees are created equal. Each requires specific light, soil, and moisture conditions to survive and remain healthy. As you begin to plant your understory, make every effort to work with the situation you have. Some tree species, such as oaks (Quercus spp. and cvs., USDA Hardiness Zones 4–9), are extremely sensitive to major soil disturbance. Massive undertakings to alter the grade of the landscape or to change soil pH under a tree are difficult and often impractical. Adding a layer of soil that is more than 2 inches deep, for example, can reduce moisture and oxygen availabilities and hinder gas exchange to existing roots, causing trees to suffer or even die.A tree’s root system and canopy also determine how easy or difficult it will be to install a garden under a tree. It can be particularly troublesome to work among the extensive surface roots of shallow-rooted trees such as maples (Acer spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9) and elms (Ulmus spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9). The dense canopies and umbrella-like habits of trees such as conifers, Norway maples (Acer platanoides and cvs., Zones 3–7), and lindens (Tilia spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9) not only block sunlight but also deflect rainfall. Only the toughest plants have a chance of surviving in such conditions.
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Landscaping Around Trees

When landscaping under mature trees, you will increase your chances of success by choosing plants that are suited to your site conditions. Here is a list of plants that can grow in the reduced light and moisture available under many trees.Shrubs1. Carolina allspice (Calycanthus floridus and cvs., Zones 5–9)2. Cutleaf stephanandras (Stephanandra incisa and cvs., Z 3–8)3. Ninebarks (Physocarpus opulifolius and cvs., Z 3–7)4. Snowberry (Symphoricarpos albus var. laevigatus, Z 3–7)5. Winterberries (Ilex verticillata and cvs., Z 5–8)Perennials and grasses6. Black snakeroot (Cimicifuga racemosa, Z 3–8)7. Columbines (Aquilegia spp. and cvs., Z 3–8)8. Foamflowers (Tiarella spp. and cvs., Z 3–9)9. Japanese forest grasses (Hakonechloa macra and cvs., Z 5–9)10. Japanese painted fern (Athyrium niponicum var. pictum, Z 5–8)11. Lungworts (Pulmonaria spp. and cvs., Z 2–8)12. Siberian irises (Iris spp. and cvs., Z 3–9)
landscaping around trees 3

Landscaping Around Trees

Not all trees are created equal. Each requires specific light, soil, and moisture conditions to survive and remain healthy. As you begin to plant your understory, make every effort to work with the situation you have. Some tree species, such as oaks (Quercus spp. and cvs., USDA Hardiness Zones 4–9), are extremely sensitive to major soil disturbance. Massive undertakings to alter the grade of the landscape or to change soil pH under a tree are difficult and often impractical. Adding a layer of soil that is more than 2 inches deep, for example, can reduce moisture and oxygen availabilities and hinder gas exchange to existing roots, causing trees to suffer or even die.
landscaping around trees 4

Landscaping Around Trees

A tree’s root system and canopy also determine how easy or difficult it will be to install a garden under a tree. It can be particularly troublesome to work among the extensive surface roots of shallow-rooted trees such as maples (Acer spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9) and elms (Ulmus spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9). The dense canopies and umbrella-like habits of trees such as conifers, Norway maples (Acer platanoides and cvs., Zones 3–7), and lindens (Tilia spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9) not only block sunlight but also deflect rainfall. Only the toughest plants have a chance of surviving in such conditions.
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Landscaping Around Trees

Start with small plants to reduce soil disturbance It’s best for the tree if you disturb the soil only where you are installing new plants. If turfgrass is growing—or attempting to grow—under your trees, it needs to be removed. Avoid stripping the grass, which not only is backbreaking work but also damages a tree’s fine roots. Try instead to smother the grass with five or six sheets of wet newspaper, topped with a layer of organic mulch 1 to 2 inches deep. The downside of this method is that it may take two to three months to kill the grass. Chemicals such as glyphosate (Roundup) will kill the grass faster and allow you to plant sooner, but it’s important to avoid spraying herbicides on the tree because they can be absorbed through the bark.When purchasing plants to grow under trees, think small. When you find the plant you want, buy it in the smallest size available. Smaller plants require a petite planting hole that will minimize the disturbance to tree roots. You may have to buy more plants, but you’ll have an easier time tucking them among the tree’s roots.

Landscaping Around Trees

It’s best for the tree if you disturb the soil only where you are installing new plants. If turfgrass is growing—or attempting to grow—under your trees, it needs to be removed. Avoid stripping the grass, which not only is backbreaking work but also damages a tree’s fine roots. Try instead to smother the grass with five or six sheets of wet newspaper, topped with a layer of organic mulch 1 to 2 inches deep. The downside of this method is that it may take two to three months to kill the grass. Chemicals such as glyphosate (Roundup) will kill the grass faster and allow you to plant sooner, but it’s important to avoid spraying herbicides on the tree because they can be absorbed through the bark.When purchasing plants to grow under trees, think small. When you find the plant you want, buy it in the smallest size available. Smaller plants require a petite planting hole that will minimize the disturbance to tree roots. You may have to buy more plants, but you’ll have an easier time tucking them among the tree’s roots.
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Landscaping Around Trees

Tree roots require oxygen and water in order for the tree to thrive, but in soils with little porosity, particularly clay soil, little water and air exists below the soil surface. For this reason, tree roots often grow shallow or above ground, with erosion helping to make them even more visible. Landscaping tree roots and trunks is problematic because the tree becomes accustomed to exposure, so simply covering the problem with soil can invite rot and infestation, as well as smother and ultimately kill the tree. Instead, you must landscape around the problem and slowly acclimate the roots to soil coverage.

Solution: Check for plants that would work well in your space. If it’s a really hot, sunny spot, maybe you want to go with a succulent. Or, get a great landscaping book for your area to help you figure out what to plant and when, as well as how and when to fertilize.
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Mistake: There is a lot of sticker shock in the world of plants. People often think “it’s just a couple of plants, how expensive could it be?” Landscaping is actually 30 percent more expensive than any other type of home improvement project. Another area that gets underestimated is the budget, and one of the biggest factors in a budget is the labor involved. It always costs more, and people cost the most.
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Plant ground cover plants in the soil between tree roots, but be careful not to cut or damage the large, primary roots. The foliage of ground cover plants covers unsightly exposed roots, but does not restrict oxygen flow. Select plants with low sunlight and water needs or water frequently so plants don’t suffer among thirsty trees. Ground cover plants recommended for U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 10 include showy dewflower (Drosanthemum floribundum), Serbian bellflower (Campanula poscharskyana), wild ginger (Asarum caudatum) and hardy iceplant (Delosperma cooperi).
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2Plant ground cover plants in the soil between tree roots, but be careful not to cut or damage the large, primary roots. The foliage of ground cover plants covers unsightly exposed roots, but does not restrict oxygen flow. Select plants with low sunlight and water needs or water frequently so plants don’t suffer among thirsty trees. Ground cover plants recommended for U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 8 through 10 include showy dewflower (Drosanthemum floribundum), Serbian bellflower (Campanula poscharskyana), wild ginger (Asarum caudatum) and hardy iceplant (Delosperma cooperi).

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