Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Common Landscape Faux Pas


You just visited your local garden center and have fallen in love with a particular shrub and you want is planted just outside your big front window. But as love at first sight usually gothis is bound to have an unhappy ending.  

On January 11th, Donna Kay of the Calusa Garden Club had a Zoom presentation on Common Landscape Mistakes. Donna is very qualified to speak about landscaping specific to Florida as she is a Landscape Design Consultant. She is also a Collier County Master Gardener since 2004 and a Master Naturalist for Coastal, Wetlands and Uplands. Having lived in Marco for 24 years, Donna has a vast experience in gardening for our area. 

We are not all landscape experts and the following will help illustrate some of the common landscape mistakes we see in our own yard and even in some professionally installed landscaped designs. 

  • Plants leaning toward the sun and too close to the foundation wall. According to Donna, these plants need constant shearing and the back part of the vegetation will eventually die from lack of ventilation 
  • Large trees planted too close to the house – is almost a standard practice in older homes. Donna stated she had a mahogany tree that was planted too close to the house and the roots went underneath her foundation. Plants are constantly growing taller and wider.  
  • Photos provided by Donna Kay | Hat racking—or tree mutilation where a tree is turned into a hat-rack leaving stumps sticking out without leaves or twigs. When you cut off more than a fourth of a tree’s canopy, you are starving it of the nutrients needed as it depends on its leaves to manufacture food through photosynthesis.

    Rule of thumb – When in doubt, plant farther from the house. Go a minimum of 6’ to 8’ from the edge of the house.  

  • Trees planted too close to the seawall – Donna had a gumbo limbo planted too close to her seawall and it would have pushed her seawall outward. She had it moved. 
  • Rule of thumb  Always consider the mature size of a tree before selecting a planting site. 
  • Planting too close to a walkway infringes on a comfortable walking space and will need constant shearing. 
  • Planting in front of a window – windows are made for looking out and letting light in. Suggest planting the shrub in front of the stucco. 
  • Planting under a power line – in Marco we have Shady Ladies planted underneath the power lines on Bald Eagle Drive and LCEC regularly will need to cut the branches to avoid touching the power lines. 
  • Mulching too deep and too close to the trunk of the tree – roots need to breathe and too deep a mulch holds water and cause diseases. You only need 2-3 inches to stop weed growth.  
  • Mulch pulled away from the trunk like a donut – applied too deep will not allow the roots to breathe. 
  • Topping a shrub hurts its growth and deforms its natural shape – Hedges cut too severely, too short or too narrow or cutting in the same place all the time—in time will thin out and look unhealthy and die. Cut it a little more rounded at the top for the leaves to grow. 
  • Hat racking is also referred to as “tree mutilation” where the tree is turned into a hat-rack and end up with a few large stumps sticking out without leaves or twigs. Donna suggested that when shaping a tree, you need is a certified arborist.  
  • Hurricane cut on palms – According to Doug Caldwell, a landscape entomologist with the University of Florida Collier County Extension program, “hurricane haircut,” removes nutrients especially potassium, which keeps palms green and thriving. The more you cut, the more browning you will cause as the palm tries to absorb lost potassium from fewer fronds and eventually your palm will die.” certified arborist knowhow to prune a palm 

Hope these common landscape mistakes have started you thinking about your own yard and how you can improve it with proper planting maintenance and pruning. 

Calusa Garden Club has other members who are also certified National Garden Club Landscape Design Consultants such as Sue Oldershaw and Dale DeFeo.  



One response to “Common Landscape Faux Pas”

  1. Susan LaGrotta says:

    Thank you Maria, for providing this article for the public. The details and photos are a great source of information!

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