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Thaumas P. Ehr, Landscape Architect

Trees,Shrubs and Groundcovers

“I don’t know no one who don’t like trees –cepting when they causes problems”. An Appalachian saying.

There may be some truth to this humble saying however, a specimen tree is a delight to behold: strong, majestic and healthy, it is nature at its best . However, that same tree placed too close to a home can damage a roof ,window or wall in storm, crush a car, take down a power line, block a road or harm a person. Usually the form of damage is to something else rather than to it.

Trees usually are not problems, thoughtfully placed trees compliment architecture, provide climate control and esthetically increase property value. Did you know that the International Society of Arboriculture (ISA) has formulas for determining a tree’s value?

Take a 16’ diameter mesquite tree say 30’ tall and 40’ diameter canopy.

By calculating the area of the trunk, pi (3.14) times radius squared( 8” times 8” = 64” ) = 201 sq. in. times $25.00 $5,025.00.Other factors include age, health, if it has multiple trunks and if it has been maintained. As you can see, trees do add some serious value to your home but, they can actually be a liability when not properly taken care of.

They need to be pruned at least once a year depending on the species, in the fall/winter or just before buds break out in spring ,although in South Central Arizona just about any time works,it is just easier when there is not so much foliage. You do not need to paint pruned limbs, if fact not painting helps to close the wound. Probably the best guide to tree pruning that is affordable at any bookstore or garden center is Sunset Magazine’s Western Garden Book. By a careful reading and studying the pictures you can get the hang of pruning easily, safely and it will save you expensive arborist bills, plus it’s satisfying and fun. For most residential situations this is a great resource.

However, a wee word of caution !

For very large trees don’t attempt to climb and trim unless you know what you’re doing. Ladders can be tricky to handle, so can some fancy footwork—and besides around here it is hot, hard work especially if you consider tackling a palm tree over 10’ tall. These situations are best left to the expert arborist. If you decide to have the work done and you have a specimen tree ( defined as over 15’ tall and wide ) make sure you get someone who knows what they are doing and not just a couple of guys with a truck and trailer—unless you absolutely know what they can do.

Get more than one bid, if a serious project—three bids and make sure one person is a certified arborist, ask for credentials. Check the work while they do it, at least the first time. Make sure they haul away the trimmings and leave your yard clean.

And don’t even think about paying until you are completely satisfied. It’s your home; if it looks funny, it probably is funny. And don’t be intimidated by a bald guy with tattoos in a big pickup truck; he works for you and you’ll pay him when it’s done the way you want it, not when he thinks he’s finished.

Shrubs are another matter. Most shrubs around here( unless you enjoy serious English garden topiaries) are pruned into shapes that resemble gumdrops, cupcakes, aspirin tablets or toilet paper rolls. Very bad forms and not sound arboricultural practice. All shrubs should be pruned in to a natural open shape. When trimmed into forms the interior of the plant gets woody and the roots are not in proportion to the small leaf area and the plant dies young—which makes the contractor money in maintenance and you’re out of a plant. Again, the Western Garden Book provides good guidance on this matter. Groundcovers should be pruned when you think they are rangy or junglizing your yard.

EHR Estate Management will make sure your landscape is maintained properly to industry horticultural standards, will complement your architecture, enhance the natural surroundings and your neighborhood.

As an Arizona registered landscape architect, I’ll be happy to visit with you regarding you situation or evaluate your estate.

Please feel free to contact me.

Best Regards,

Thaumas P. Ehr

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