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
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
Any thoughts, advice, warnings?
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.
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
Mike LaMana, MS
Heartwood Consulting Services, LLC
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
pam - gardengal
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.
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,
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