Having graduated with a degree in horticulture and started my own landscaping business, I can’t help but notice misplaced trees and shrubs and incorrect pruning and mulching as I’m out running errands around town. Some are understandable, others inexcusable, particularly in a situation where the culprits are professional landscapers:
- The “Mulch Volcano” – I see this a lot in commercial settings, mostly in parking lots of shopping centers. Mulch is piled up in the shape of a volcano around the trees in the medians/islands, 3 or 4 times the amount than what is actually needed to retain moisture and smother weeds. That much mulch can lead to disease because the roots and bark are smothered and cannot get oxygen. Additionally, roots can begin to grow out of the trunk ABOVE the soil, where roots should not be growing.
- “Crape murder” – excessive and incorrect pruning of crape myrtles. I see so many crape myrtles being pruned too far down the trunks, chopping off much of the natural, sculptured canopy of the tree. Over time, this leads to knobby bulges below the cut and very leggy new shoots above the cut. Instead, crape myrtles should be pruned by only cutting back the longest shoots or any branches that are crossing each other. If people are having to cut the tree way back as described above, it’s probably the wrong plant for the space and a more compact, dwarf tree should be planted instead.
- Arborvitae and Leyland cypress planted in shade – Understandably people love these two shrubs because they provide an excellent privacy hedge and stay a lovely green color year round, and grow quickly. But people don’t often realize that conifers, the group of plants that Leylands and cypresses fall under, do not tolerate much shade. They really need a full blast of sun most of the day. Too much shade invites disease and poor, lanky growth.
- Azaleas sheared into a square hedge – technically this isn’t a “mistake”, per se, but it bothers me to no end because Azaleas have a nice natural growth habit and azaleas forced into a tight square shape just doesn’t look right to me.