Landscape Myths Busted: Part 2


Landscaping Myths Busted: Part 2

Many who have tackled a complex and expensive landscape design in year one have experienced disappointment as year two unfolds. In a few instances, some element did not survive because of the wrong location, improper soil, or another undefined reason. Below are a few more landscaping “myths.”

“Topping Trees” is Beneficial

According to the Florida Landscape Management Association, “topping trees” (shortening or removing upper limbs) to limit the growth of trees is a harmful practice. Professional landscapers and arborists never do this except when a tree comes too close to a power line. Even then, the pruning should be limited. Topping removes much of the leaves and limbs that produce the tree’s “food.” Your tree can actually starve while it tries to regrow the limbs and leaves.

No Maintenance Landscapes

There is no such thing as no maintenance landscaping. Low-maintenance ones can be beautiful, but water, fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides are still important in those desert landscapes that consist mostly of sand, gravel, and some low water plants. “No maintenance” means complete abandonment which brings very little pleasure to the owner or neighbors.

All Trees Should Be Staked

Newly planted trees should only be staked if necessary. Staking new trees is appropriate when the area is regularly exposed to high winds, if the tree is located near heavy pedestrian traffic, or when it has a disproportionately smaller root system compared to the upper parts. If staking is needed, make sure to regularly check the attached wrap or rope to make sure it is not embedding itself into the trunk.

Adding Sand to Clay Soil

When planting, many believe that adding sand to clay soil will create a looser soil that is more amenable to root expansion. The problem is that when water is added, the soil could essentially turn to concrete. Professional landscapers recommend mixing the clay with an organic like peat, compost, or manure.

If Little is Good, More is Better

Plants require a certain amount of water, pesticide, fertilizer, and herbicide to thrive. Keep track of how much of these additives you add, no more than the instructions, so that your plants and trees can grow normally. Overdoing any of these likely will result in a disaster.

Contact a Professional Landscaper

A professional knows how to design and maintain the best landscape for your area. Save money and improve the results by working with a knowledgeable landscaper.


Step-by-step guide to choosing the right landscape designer

tree_boss_04Landscape design should be a collaborative effort to be successful. The collective visions of the client, landscape contractor, and designer should meld to produce a gratifying result for everyone, particularly the client.

Selecting the right landscape designer is a similar process to identifying the right construction contractor, architect, or another professional who will be performing relatively significant modifications to a homeowner’s property.

For the landscape contractor, the designer plays a vital role in the project since the design and implementation are the elements that will be judged. Customer satisfaction of the end product impacts the reputation of the contractor, no matter how well the plan had been executed.

Thoroughly Understand the Customer’s Objectives

What does the owner wish to have when the project is complete? Understand the goals and the budget restrictions and a general idea of unique topographical features. Know what the client does not want before starting.

Develop a List of Candidates

Create a slate of possible candidates from discussions with other industry professionals and past clients. Focus particularly on ones who work with projects of similar type, scope, and budget. Cross check candidates with others whom you trust who may have had experience working with particular individuals. Check out some of their recent design projects.

At this point, you should have a list of at least three potential candidates. Contact each with a description of the project and ask them to meet to discuss ideas.


Meet with the core candidates. How easily you interact, share ideas, and develop a sense of compatibility will drive your decision. Understand the designer’s philosophy and past solutions to specific problems. Discuss the upcoming project and allow the candidate to expound on the potential direction. Determine if the candidate’s approach will be compatible cost-wise with what you estimate to be the target budget.

Make Your Choice

Personal compatibility, professional demeanor, proven expertise, and the cost will drive the final decision.

Meet with the Client

The contractor and newly selected designer will meet with the client to discuss the owners’ objectives and to walk the property to understand the possibilities and limitations, and to share ideas. The landscape designer may begin to measure areas and catalog existing characteristics such as trees and shrubs, native plants, wall structures, and water sources. Mapping the position of the property relative to the prevailing sunlight provides a vision of possibilities when the actual planning begins.


The History of Landscape Design


Evolution of Landscape Design

Landscape design is one part science and two parts art form. Landscape architects and contractors fully understand that their mission is to create an appealing exterior for clients to enjoy while outside, and to admire when inside. Eye-catching features and flowing harmony should be on display during any season.

Centuries ago, people began to realize the inherent beauty, value, and tranquility of developing and tending gardens. No longer growing vegetation simply for food, new landscapers recognized that plant cultivation was a cooperation with Nature that allowed individuals to observe nature, animals, and insects close up. Gardens provided a place to relax, reflect and entertain

Landscape Design: The Challenge

As landscape designers and contractors are well aware, many factors affect the planning of a landscape project. Elements such as soil types, climate, topography, drainage, groundwater, native plants, and irrigation are the fundamental considerations. Other human related issues include traffic patterns, “fixed” elements, fences, lighting, and, of course, permit and zoning issues.

Landscape Design Over the Centuries: The Art’s The Landscape Guide offers a historical view of the development of landscaping design that has changed over the last centuries. Here’s a brief review.

Pre-1800s: Naturally, before the ages of more advanced technology, landscaping was simply a manual process with little advance “drawing board” planning. With few exceptions, landscapers tended to allow their creations to evolve, adding and removing as they deemed necessary. Of course, many classic and historic gardens evolved over centuries in such places as China, Japan, England, Egypt, and even Babylon among others.

1800-1900: Around 1800, the idea of a preliminary sketch using a drawing board or “clean hands” planning approach began. Master plans and 2-dimensional drawings became the norm with other artists and craftsmen, creators of new devices and more elaborate food presentations. Landscape designers used this pre-design approach well before picking up a shovel.

1900-1972: During this period, landscaping’s era of “modernism” evolved to encompass more than gardens and lawns. Vast projects like office parks, retail malls, and massive housing developments sprung up that involved geometric designs for carefully placed trees and shrubs surrounded by megatons of concrete and asphalt.

Post-1972: The computer age has moved landscape design from 2-dimensional planning to 3-dimensional visualization. In fact, the 4th-dimension, time, can simulate changing seasons in a landscape design. Computer simulations also create a range of perspectives to envision how elements appear from any vantage point.


Why Irrigation for Trees is Important

drought-resistant-plantsDuring a period of abundant rain, mature trees should not require supplemental watering. However, according to the University of Minnesota Extension, water comprises 80-90% of the leaves and root tips and up to 50% of trunks, stems, and roots. Water is also a vital requirement to:

  • Activate photosynthesis which results in growth, flowering, and seed production
  • Move nutrients through the entire tree for growth and survival
  • Cool the plant

Tree owners should also note that much of the water absorbed by tree roots ends up being lost through evaporation, both from the soil and even after entering the tree.

When water is absorbed by the tree’s roots, it travels by a process known as transpiration through an interconnected route of roots, stems, and leaves. Much of the water then evaporates through the stomata on the underside of the leaves.

Since so much of the moisture disappears, some moisture must be present in the soil at all times to keep the tree healthy.

Watering Mature Trees

As a tree grows, the roots tend to spread out in a circular pattern from the trunk below the surface. The roots nearer the top are the ones that typically absorb the most water. These smaller feeder roots spread approximately 12 to 18 inches below the surface for mature trees.

To determine if a tree needs water, dig a small hole near the base with a trowel. If the soil is dry at approximately 9 to 12 inches down, it is necessary to replenish the tree’s moisture.

You may also notice the beginning signs of wilting as the soil dries. Wilting means a lack of moisture, and watering is essential to revive the tree or shrub.

Watering New Trees

Gardening Knowhow suggests watering new trees depends on the amount of existing moisture and drainage characteristics of the soil. Irrigation for trees applies to transplants, as well as very young plants. A newly planted tree should be watered once per day for two weeks and then weekly for the first year. The soil, however, should always be kept moist, but not soaked.

Value of Mulching

One way to enhance the health of trees or shrubs is to add mulch around the base of the tree. The mulch should be spread at least 12 to 18 inches from the trunk. Adding mulch minimizes evaporation and keeps down moisture stealing weeds and grass.

Landscape Trade Shows


No matter how experienced you are in the landscaping industry, there are always new developments in equipment, products, and ideas to inspire your coming year. Attending one or more landscape expos or trade shows will inspire a fresh approach to meeting customer needs and revitalizing your business proposition.

The years, 2017 and 2018, appear to offer more opportunities to meet, learn, and grow in the industry. Here are a few upcoming landscape trade shows that may inspire new ideas.

Landscapes 2017, October 18-20, 2017 in Louisville KY

This trade show aims at bringing insights to every function of your landscaping business. Seminars, workshops, and idea exchanges will allow each member of your team to network growing opportunities and innovations.

Nursery and Landscape Expo 2017, August 10-12 in Dallas TX

Find new products and share ideas at this Texas venue. Over 1,000 booths will present new ideas for garden centers, landscapers, growers, parks and recreation specialists, and landscape suppliers. More than 6,000 attendees will have a choice of 25 different education opportunities.

Green and Growin’ 18, January 18-19, 2018 in Greensboro NC

While the 2017 version has passed, it is not too soon to prepare for the 2018 version. This year, Green and Growin’ 17, one of the most popular landscape industry trade shows, provided On Point Education and On Point Marketplace opportunities to learn about new developments in the industry. Attendees can earn CEUs for their continuing education programs while shoppers can find the latest and greatest plant products.

Some of the industry’s most prestigious figures were guest speakers at the trade show.

GROW! 2017, February 8-10 in Dayton OH

The business oriented GROW Conference is focused on helping companies in the industry to learn more about:

  • Finding and keeping talent
  • Improving profitability
  • Standing out against competition

The 2017 version will bring speakers from all different disciplines including landscaping, eco-landscaping, trees, and ground system designs.

MANTS 2018, January 10-12, 2018 in Baltimore MD

While the 2017 version has already past, the Mid-Atlantic Nursery Trade Show is a must see for landscapers and nursery owners. This show attracts individuals and companies throughout the horticulture industry including nursery operators, landscape designers, garden centers, landscape contractors, greenhouse growers, lawn maintenance companies, and landscape architects. Over 11,000 people attended the 2016 MANTS, a testimonial to the importance of their programs.

Large or small, all of these trade shows have unique opportunities to offer.


Tree Handling Equipment

tree_boss_04ProLine Equipment

Highly specialized ProLine equipment and tools help professionals move large trees, pots, and other materials from one place to another. Attached to skid steers, these tools require minimal human labor.

During the years of moving live trees of various kinds and sizes, Heritage Oak Farm of Indiana developed a complete line of specialized tools to transport and transplant from their location to their customers’ sites.


The Grabber is a custom designed extension attached to a skid steer to allow the operator to maneuver an entire tree by grasping the balled root system. With a single operator, the Grabber can pick up, load the transport vehicle, and then place the tree wherever it is destined. Capable of handling root-balls of 14″ to 54″ in diameter, the telescoping arms can reach over 8′.

Swingin’ Grabber

The Swingin’ Grabber attached to a skid steer works similar to the Grabber, yet it can operate in tight spaces or aisles. The equipment may rotate 90° to pick up a pot or root ball to the right or left, then straighten to be moved away for loading.


A Forques attachment is designed to pick up and carry multiple trees at once. The extensions are capable of transporting three 24″ root-balls at once and are also suited for removing boulders.

Pot Handler

Many trees at nurseries are grown and matured in pots. To facilitate moving these items, the ProLine Pot Handler skid steer attachment arms encircle the container for gentle lifting and placement. The Pot Handler can lift pots up to 40″ in diameter.

Tree Tyer

Another attachment, the Tree Tyer, is designed to encompass the tree with circular arms to gently compress the limbs for easy tying and transport.

Pot Forks

ProLine Pot Forks attachment is a skid steer attachment consisting of up to ten parallel tines that can be set to carry 100 one-gallon pots at a single time. The Pot Forks are adjustable for larger sized pots.

Tree Auger

Another indispensable ProLine tool is the Tree Auger. Set at a 25° angle this tool makes easy work of hole digging for any size tree, requiring no hand clean-out.

ProLine Shovel

The Shovel attachment is perfect for culling trees, digging trenches easily, and removing mulch and debris from a location.


Available in 48″ or 60″ lengths, the Grapple attachment collects and carries large logs, branches, and boulders.


Proline Tree Grabber

Landscape Equipment Tree Spade

Landscape Equipment Tree SpadeThe ProLine Tree Grabber, developed by Heritage Oak Farm, is a custom designed tree transporting tool that attaches to a skid steer to allow a single operator to lift, place, and download trees of varying sizes. The Grabber attachment can fit any late model skid steer and saves time and labor while providing a safe transport.

Because the Grabber, Swingin’ Grabber, and other equipment were specifically designed by experienced Heritage Oak Farm Nursery employees, the systems are intended to minimize physical labor while managing high volumes of material.The developers know that trees and shrubs must be efficiently and carefully loaded and transported to ensure satisfied customers.

How Does the Grabber Work?

A single operator can lift, move, load, and unload a tree with a root ball up to 54 inches in diameter. The Grabber comes with unique paddles that gently cradle the root ball of the tree or plant without causing any damage to the root system. The hydraulics driven Grabber and skid steer can haul the tree or plant over rough terrain without any damage to the root ball system.

The Tree Grabber equipment easily attaches to the skid steer and works with the auxiliary hydraulic systems.

Grabber Models

Grabbers are equipped with paddles or Forques, depending upon the requirements of the job. The Forques attachments are straight parallel extensions capable of carrying several similarly sized or single large trees at one time.

The ProLine Grabber comes in two models and with different capabilities. The Grabber 20/36 may be equipped with paddles or Forques, weighing 335 lbs with paddles. This model has a reach of 100 inches.

The Grabber 32/54 can also accommodate paddles or Forques and weighs about 295 lbs with paddles. The 32/54 can reach up to 84 inches.

Swingin’ Grabber

To make efficient use of real estate, nurseries place trees in relatively narrow rows that limit easy access by larger pieces of equipment. The Swingin’ Grabber is an attachment that operates much like the Grabber, yet it can swivel 90° left or right to pick up a tree ball. After gently lifting the tree, the skid steer operator can rotate the Swingin’ Grabber back to the original position and easily depart, either forward or backward, from the aisle.

ProLine Grabber MINI™

The Grabber MINI performs all of the same functions as the Grabber, yet it is attached to a walk-behind skid steer for tighter spots.