If you’re happily looking around at your commercial property’s newly planted trees and shrubs, and it looks perfect, somebody messed up.
It shouldn’t look perfect yet.
Trees and shrubs grow — and grow — and allowing space for that growth over the coming years is part of great commercial landscaping planning — and planting.
Plant trees and shrubs too close together, or in the wrong spot, and you’re looking at some expensive fixes. Who’s going to hold your hand as you watch, devastated, as an expensive tree removal company rips out a dozen big trees that were planted too close together?
Money doesn’t grow on, well, you know.
“It’s important to stay honest with the client about the need for evolving gardens,” says Richard Sweeney, landscape architect at Level Green Landscaping.
Sweeney offers a few top tips skilled commercial landscapers follow to make sure your trees and shrubs can stay put for the long haul.
Sunny? Shady? How’s the Soil?
You want your commercial landscaping plants to love where they’re planted. It takes some planning.
“The biggest thing is the micro-environment for each plant,” Sweeney says.
That’s a fancy plant guy way of saying put each tree and shrub in a place where they’ll thrive — not just for a while, but for years to come.
Sun lovers in the sun. Shade lovers in the shade. Don’t put shrubs that love fluffy, fertile soil in a spot where frequent foot traffic compacts the soil.
Makes sense, right?
“If a tree or shrub needs full sun, don’t plant it on the north face of a building,” Sweeney says. “It will get powdery mildew and eventually die.”
Put down your tropical drink with the little umbrella — we’re talking commercial property parking lot islands. Not exactly gentle breezes and refreshing sea spray. These islands pose tough conditions for commercial landscaping plants.
Parking lot islands don’t usually have irrigation. The soil is often compacted.
Plant the wrong trees and shrubs here and you'll just have to start over again later, wasting time and money.
“You also don’t want to plant shrubs and trees on an island too close together,” Sweeney says. “If one gets a disease, it will transfer to the others if there isn’t enough breathing room.”
Speaking of Breathing Room…
“It’s common to plant trees and shrubs too close to a building foundation,” Sweeney says. “An evergreen is nice and cute when it’s a baby, but if you’re not paying attention that it can grow to 60 or 80 feet, your foundation will be in trouble.”
Mature tree roots are actually stronger than concrete, he says, and will penetrate the foundation.
“It’s a huge cost to take a big tree out,” he says. “Plus you‘ll have to pay for expensive foundation repair.”
But what if you really, really like that tree for that spot?
“Maybe you can get a similar tree, but a smaller variety,” Sweeney suggests.
Some trees drop stuff. You don’t want to place them in a spot where that’s a problem.
Everybody loves Crape Myrtle, with its gorgeous flower clusters. It’s a show stopper, and a popular commercial landscaping plant.
“You can plant a Crape Myrtle, but know that the flowers that drop stain concrete,” Sweeney says.
A landscape architect can tell you that ahead of time, so you don’t waste money on a tree that’s in the wrong spot.
Commercial Landscaping Takes Patience, Please
“People want things to look good as soon as possible,” Sweeney says. It’s human nature to want your property to look like an established shady glen the day after the commercial landscapers leave.
But planting too many trees and shrubs too close together will create an expensive headache down the road.
“If you over-plant, as these plants mature you’ll have maintenance nightmares and diseases,” Sweeney says. “You’ll have to do a lot of maintenance. A lot of moving, transplanting, cutting back, cutting down. It’s a lot of unnecessary expense.”
Need an example? Just look around. Many properties in Maryland, Virginia, and DC have trees that are 10, 20, 40, even 60 years old, towering 30 or 40 feet tall. They started out little. Look at them now.
Don’t Forget About Winter
“When commercial properties have snow plowing done, the snow can get piled on the parking lot islands where the plants are,” Sweeney says. “You need shrubs that have a strong branching pattern and that can tolerate salt.”
Just like that friend from Florida who wears a hoodie when it’s 63 degrees, some shrubs can’t handle a mid-Atlantic winter.
Let Level Green Plan Your Commercial Landscaping Trees and Shrubs
Get your commercial landscaping installed right the first time, with a skilled plan that puts your trees and shrubs right where they belong — for the long haul.
Our plant experts love finding just the right trees and shrubs for the right spots — with a thoughtful plan designed to last.
At Level Green Landscaping, we provide commercial landscape maintenance services — including tree and shrub planting — in Maryland, Northern Virginia and Washington DC. Our clients include commercial, office, mixed-use, retail, HOA, condominium, municipality and institution properties.
Call us at 202-544-0968, or request a free consultation online to keep your commercial property looking great.
We’d love to hear from you.