maple w/flowerbox around it

Hey, all.
I'm in Eastern Minnesota - this past November I bought my first house & am now just starting to get the landscaping in order.
It's got a magnificent, mature maple tree in the backyard. Right now it's got a 3 foot high "flowerbox" around all sides, circling the entire trunk (timbers in an octogon shape, filled with dirt, planted w/ hostas). The flowerbox thing has been on there for years, I'm sure.
A part of me wants to get rid of the flowerbox to solve two things, #1. give me a little bit more yard space, and #2 make the landscaping look more natural, and less "old lady-ish"
I don't want to damage this tree, and am a little worried that exposing the bottom 3 feet of trunk that had been previously covered would not be good for the tree.
Perhaps by removing this flowerbox course by course from the top down with plently of time between layers would be less shocking to the tree.
Any thoughts, advice, warnings?
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A trunk certainly should not be buried three feet in soil. I'm not expert enough on maples that I'm saying this with absolute certainty, but if the bottom three feet of the trunk was buried in soil, the maple should have died. So either the box hasn't been there as long as you suspect (not long enough to kill the tree) & it is an emergency to get it off the trunk before irreversible damage is done, or the planter really is as old as the tree which was planted from the top, so may be rooted three feet above the rest of the ground, & removing the boxed-in circle of soil will expose its roots, as it has been in essence a containered tree that might or might not like liberation. Usually a Japanese maple's roots are very shallow under the soil & travel out a great distance from the root crown; if the root or rootcrown becomes more deeply imbedded oin soil, the tree can't thrive. Your predicament is intriguing & I hope it is resolved to good effect & you report back how it worked out.
-paghat the ratgirl
--
"Of what are you afraid, my child?" inquired the kindly teacher.
"Oh, sir! The flowers, they are wild," replied the timid creature.
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ARRRRRRGHHH!!! The bottom 3' feet of trunk should not have been covered in the first place...especially with a s. maple. Please remove the darned thing before your landscape specimen develops Verticillium disease or some such scourge.
--
Mike LaMana, MS
Heartwood Consulting Services, LLC
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Having read and agree entirely with the previous two posts, another thought occurs - is it possible this flower box has a wooden backing as well, such that the tree trunk has not come into direct contact with the soil in the flowerbox? If so, the situation is not quite so dire, as hopefully there is a bit of air space between the two surfaces and the tree's health has not been seriously compromised, although soil piled 3' high over a portion of the tree's root system is NOT a good thing. If this is the case, then removal of the box should pose no major problem. You may, however, find that some of the tree's roots have grown upward into the box. Trimming them off should not be a big concern either, unless they are of significant diameter. They will most likely be primarily feeder roots, which the tree will quickly replace.
pam - gardengal
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On Tue, 01 Jun 2004 13:22:48 -0500, woj product

Tree trunks should never be buried. The tree would benefit from a layer of compost from the trunk to the drip line--but even here, the compost should not be piled against the trunk. Hostas transplant well any time of year.
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On Tue, 01 Jun 2004 13:22:48 -0500, woj product

Yesterday I removed the flowerbox container and gently removed the dirt that was in it, freeing the tree from it's hideous cage.
Whoever installed this thing put gravel in the bottom, plastic sheeting around the inside of the container, and piled the dirt right up against the trunk of the tree. I would imagine that a few more years like this would have really damaged this tree.
For now, I think it's going to be ok. I made sure not to gouge the bark as I removed the dirt, and the previously buried bark looks pretty solid, not rotted away.
Not to get too metaphysical - but when I was all done I did put my hand on the tree and told it that I hoped it would be ok. Can't hurt, right?
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Sounds like the right thing to do.
Marilyn
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