We all know that trees are beneficial to an urban environment. Trees provide a habitat for animals, give us oxygen, absorb CO2, filter pollutants and absorb storm-water. For our homes, they can reduce heating/cooling costs, provide screening from neighbors, and add value to your property. However, not every tree is best for every situation, that is why planning is necessary. Proper planning can save thousands of dollars for future tree and landscape services. Here we will discuss considerations when planting trees or shrubbery around your property.

Planting Near Structures

This is especially important when living in an urban environment where trees and houses are placed close together. Small defects in young trees such as a lean or poor structure can become problematic in the future. If the defect is corrected, the tree can be saved and potential damage to structures can be avoided.

There are many added benefits to planting trees next to structures. A row of evergreens is perfect for year-round screening from your neighbors. Key placement of trees can block the view of certain windows or even enhance the appearance of your landscape. Even the placement of smaller shrubs can block vehicle headlights shining into a window.

Trees also reduce heating and cooling costs during the summer and winter. Trees planted on the north end of a property block Northernly winds during the winter. Deciduous trees (trees with leaves) planted toward the south block the sun during the summer.

Special consideration must be given to overhead and below ground utility lines. Sidewalks, house foundations, driveways, and power lines can all be affected by a misplaced tree. To gauge the size of the root zone, Arborists use the drip line of a tree. The drip line is the outermost edge of the branch growth. Tree roots often grow beyond the drip line. Certain tree species are more aggressive than others when dealing with root growth. For example, the root flare of a Silver Maple can raise up sidewalks, fence posts, and driveways.

Landscape Considerations Before Planting

Knowing the tree species and how it relates to your site conditions is vital. Water management is often overlooked when considering a tree’s health. Too much water can kill a tree but placing tree with aggressive water absorption in a wet area could help soak up excess water. If an area tends to be drier, mulch can help the tree roots by retaining moisture. Mulch also protects the root flare from lawnmowers.
Understanding the sun in relation to your house is vital. There are trees that grow better with full sun or partial shade. Finally, be careful with soil conditions in urban areas. Builders often replace dirt with backfill and dress it with topsoil.

Planting for Curb Appeal

In 2007, Kathleen Wolf, a Ph.D. from the University of Washington, wrote in Arborist News, “Having large trees in yards along streets increases a home’s value from 3 percent to 15 percent”. When planting for curb appeal, branch structure, fruit appearance, flowers, bark or leaf color are things to consider. The structure of the weeping willow is often chosen for panoramic views due to the weeping appearance of the branches. In tight yards, Japanese Maples are popular because of the vibrant color and compact size.

The timing of seasons is another consideration. For instance, planting a tree with red berries or colorful exfoliating bark can add color during the winter. A colorful Crape Myrtle can spruce up the area during the early spring. During the fall, a Red Maple can bring beautiful leaf color to a fall landscape. Try if possible, to use the native species for your area when considering a new tree. Native trees help the community’s eco-system of trees.

Proper planning when planting a tree can save a property owner money in the long run. Issues with the young tree can evolve into big problems in the future. When planting a new tree, is best to consult with an arborist about the site and the tree species. These professionals who have seen a variety of situations involving different tree species. GV can guide you through the process. If you’re in the Washington, DC area and searching for a new tree, call us and we will be glad to help you select the right tree for your home.

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The winter months are a busy time of the year with festivities and family activities. This plus the colder weather often causes landscaping to be overlooked. There are many benefits to landscaping projects even during the winter.

The landscape, shrubs, and trees are in dormancy during the winter months. Winter maintenance makes sure your landscape will return healthy in the spring and prevents unexpected maintenance issues as well. Here are a few helpful tips for maintaining a landscape during the winter.

Yard Clean-up

Cleaning up your flower beds maintains a good visual appearance. Pick up all the leaves, dead branches, and smaller twigs from the beds. This will also give you a better understanding of what is happening in your flower bed and if anything needs to be addressed in the spring.

This would be a great time for a quick weeding on the warmer winter days. This makes sure that weeds are not present during the spring growing seasons. It’s a lot easier to remove the roots when they are dormant as opposed to when they are active. This is the first step before applying mulch that will protect the soil from frost.


Most people only mulch in the spring. It makes the yard look great and maintains moisture during the summer. However, we also recommend mulching in the winter because it provides insulation for the soil. Be careful not to create mulch volcanoes around trees as this can have a negative effect on root health. We recommend a mulch depth of 1.5-2 inches for the winter months. Mulch holds moisture and may cause root rot if mulch is too thick around the plantings.

When mulching, think about more than just your plants. Think about yourself. Consider the access points to your backyard. Factor in the easiest path of entry to make things easier. If you’re having mulch delivered, try to have it placed on a tarp in your driveway. If it is placed on the grass, make sure it’s moved in a timely fashion. This way you avoid lawn spots caused by dumped mulch. Also, when spreading it, never overload a tarp or wheelbarrow pass its capacity. This could put an unneeded strain on your body and the equipment.

Winter Trimming for Trees and Shrubs

During the winter, trees are dormant; thus it’s the best time for pruning. When pruned, the tree must heal over the opening made by the cut. On trees that have low water content, like Elms, pruning should be only done during the winter. Only remove deadwood from Elm trees during the summer. Removing live tissue on an Elm during the summer can introduce pests and diseases. This could even kill an Elm tree. Avoid heavy summer pruning or thinning on these trees.

During the winter, it’s safe to separate shrubs and trees through pruning. A trick for Crepe Myrtle is to remove the old flowers during the winter. If you do this, a more robust flower will bloom in the spring.

It is also easier to see the tree structure when the leaves are off. This is vital for removing any potential issues. Overgrown limbs, branch attachments, and poor structure are important to notice. Here’s a link for information on proper pruning cuts. If you’re not interested in heavy pruning yourself, we recommend removing the low deadwood and elevating low limbs.

When dealing with trees, it’s important to consider if heavy ice and snow could break a limb or split a tree. Limbs that seem overgrown or too long may pose a threat with heavy ice. If you have any questions with your tree’s structure, our Arborists will be glad to help assess both your trees and landscape.

Lawn Winter Tips

It’s recommended to perform lawn maintenance during the late fall and early winter. This ensures favorable spring conditions. The most important thing to do is pick up the leaves from your lawn. If leaves remain, they will cause spots during the winter and spring.

This is also a good time to amend your soil, if needed. It is our recommendation to perform soil testing before any amending. It’s essential to understand soil analysis before applying any additional nutrients or fertilizer. This will ensure that roots have the proper conditions for winter preparation.

Finally, avoid walking on frozen grass if possible. Most people do not realize that this does severe damage to their grass. Use walkways and paths. If you don’t have any, take the time to install them.

In the Maryland and Northern Virginia area, we are expecting a wet winter. We have received a large amount of rain this year. We and other professionals suspect it will continue throughout the end of winter. Thus, it is important to perform preventative maintenance. This will reduce surprise landscape issues and it ensures favorable growing conditions during the spring.

Holidays are a hectic time and sometimes we can’t accomplish everything we’d like to. Apply a couple of these suggestions yourself and let GV handle the rest. We have been in business since 2001 and are happy to share these tips to ensure that our clients have great looking landscaping.

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