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Landscaping & Design/determine if trees should remain


we will be purchasing a newly constructed home from a contractor and are wondering if it is better that we instruct the backyard to be cleared from all trees and shrubs and later on plant trees should we desire or if we should ask that some trees remain. Our concerns with clearing the yard completely is that new trees will not be mature thus not providing shade like a mature tree. On the otherhand, we are unsure if we should trust the discretion of the contractor on which trees should remain. Considering that the backyard is not that large, we would only want trees bordering very close to the properly line and not in the middle taking up too much space. Your insight on this would be much appreciated!

Hi Carol. Sorry about the delay answering your question.

This is something that I have some personal experience with. I have been in a similar position.

I opted to save most of the native trees on my lot, and design my yard to blend in to the natural habitat.(A look that really made a difference.)

In my case my yard was 2.38 acres though. What I did remove were unhealthy trees and shrubs. This eliminates competition for water and sunlight thus improving the health of what I kept.

This becomes challenging if you are modifying the grade of the yard for drainage or other purposes. When the excavation and final grade are being done, inexperienced equipment operators can easily kill a tree, or cause it to severely stress by pushing too much dirt against the trunk in the grading process. They can also disturb the root systems, break branches and damage bark.

This often has the same effect of a poorly planted or transplanted tree or shrub. It may take a year or two to recover from the stress. or possibly even die.

So, there is some risk involved with trying to keep trees.

On the other hand, planting your own trees is costly and STILL has some risks.

You can spend more money to have larger trees, but consider having them installed by the nursery instead of the landscaper.

Not all landscape companies are equal.

The most professional landscape companies have very few problems with tree replacement. This is due to experience, equipment, and the care they take when handling and planting it.

Trees are delicate and need to be handled properly. They also need to be planted at the right height. I don't want to paint a bad picture here, but I have seen some tree butchers in my day. They may or may not replace a tree under warranty either. Even if they do, you have just lost a season of growth.

A nursery should always warranty their own installs unless it is neglect on your part. I recommend not to plan any vacations for a month or two after a landscaping job for this reason. The first few weeks of care are critical in establishing plants, shrubs, grass, and trees.

Smaller trees have a shorter period of transplant shock than larger trees. It is a known fact that a smaller tree can often "catch up" a couple of years growth on a larger tree due to this fact. So choosing a 12 ft tree over an 8 foot tree may not always have the advantages that people think they do. But the price goes up for each year of care at the nursery.  

So this is a little bit of food for though for you.

I also suggest a trip to your local nursery for their feedback. This is their area of expertise.

I hope this enlightens you on a few issues that I have encountered in the business.

Best of luck with your new home.


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Kevin Goulding


I can answer questions about construction techniques for dry-laid ( mortarless ) projects with natural stone and manufactured products as well. I can give details on preparation work for hardscaping in harsh northern climates with deep winter frost. I can also provide you with PDF files with thorough step by step how-to's on many other landscaping projects in your yard. I can answer questions on planting and transplanting trees, how to seed a yard, how to sod a yard and how to properly work with edging and landscaping fabrics. I prefer not to give information on softscaping unless it is related to my climate/hardiness zone. I am in zone 4.


10 years of landscaping and training other landscapers.


I have been studying landscaping technique for many years. I spend many hours reading, researching and cross referencing different techniques used all around the world. I have also taken a landscape design course through ICS so I could understand basic residential design. I have used all the tips and different techniques I have studied, and put this together with my experience as a landscaper to write a series of how-to modules. My modules are thorough, and very easy to read and follow.

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