Planting Trees. Do It Once, Do It Right

I often say that anyone can put plants in the ground and our real niche at Designing Eden llc, the thing that differentiates us from most others, is our ability to create kick ass landscape designs. A craft we’ve been perfecting ever since I graduated with an Associates Degree in Horticulture and a Bachelors Degree in Landscape Architecture 30 years ago. The thought that anyone can put plants in the ground is true to a certain extent. The question is can someone do it well enough that plants not only survive but thrive for the long hall? This takes some knowledge. In my experience, even most landscapers can’t seem to grasp the concept of proper tree and shrub planting. That blows my mind! Isn’t this what they do for a living? We see examples of horrible tree plantings more than we see properly planted trees. I’m not the only one having these concerns. I met a  local arborist at one of our projects in Litchfield County years ago. I invited him to one of our landscape projects in Washington because the house went through a major renovation and I was in charge of putting the landscape back together. I was worried about the beautiful, large trees that existed on the property. There had been a lot of large construction equipment used throughout the project and most of the area around the trees was not protected and was damaged. I wanted to do something called air spading to alleviate any compaction issues and he was the only one I could find who offered the service. First, the arborist complimented me on our work. He then mentioned that his whole business is based on following all the Litchfield County landscapers around and fixing their planting mistakes. I was lucky enough not to make his dirty list.

What he said didn’t surprise me. Improper planting is rampant throughout Litchfield County. Trees planted 6″-12″ too deep, buried in mulch, wire baskets not removed or even pulled back, nylon roping not removed and burlap not pulled away or removed. The results of improper tree planting is struggling trees years later.  In New Milford, I’ve witnessed trees being planted improperly, struggle their whole life, tons of work done over the years to coddle the trees only to get pulled out and replanted improperly once again. Do you know what we call that? An annuity! It’s shameful and an embarrassment to the landscape industry.

This is what a proper tree planting should look like. There still could be things like uncut nylon roping, or a wire basket in place that could affect long term growth but this is a good start.

Proper tree planting

Unfortunately, this is what is often seen in newly planted landscapes of Litchfield County.

Improperly planted tree

When we took over another property in Washington, I mentioned that a lot of the trees on the property were planted too deep and we should remove the excess soil. When we did that, this is what we found on one of the Kwanzan Cherries. Not only was the tree planted almost a foot too deep, but some nylon rope was not removed during planting. Over time, as the stem caliper expanded the nylon roping girdled the tree. We decided the tree should be removed and replaced. I was so interested in this tree that it is now planted on my property so I can see what happens to it over the years.

Girdled tree from Nylon Rope

Oh my!

A tree can last hundreds of years if planted properly. A lot of trees struggle from the outset and won’t last more than a decade or two due to improper planting and that’s unfortunate.

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Richard Schipul
Richard Schipul

For the last 30 years, I have owned the landscape company Designing Eden LLC based in New Milford, CT. We offer landscape designs, landscape installations and garden maintenance services in Fairfield and Litchfield County Connecticut. I am currently the only Nationally Certified Landscape Designer in Litchfield County and sit on the board of the Association of Professional Landscape Designers and Mad Gardeners.

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