When we talk about landscaping clients often ask about tree spades, and whether they are the best approach. As with most things we do, the answer depends. That’s never what a client is hoping to hear, but we recommend basing your decision on three factors – timing, desired impact, and budget. Let’s start backwards and work our way forward.
First, timing. My grandfather practiced landscape architecture into his 90’s, and used to say you plant trees for your grandchildren. No doubt he was exaggerating, but you get the idea. Trees (and a lot of shrubs) grow slowly, and are a patient man’s game. If you are working within an established landscape you can probably take the long approach, and fill in smaller plant material among the larger, existing plants.
Second, desired impact. This ties into timing. If you have a new house and are just establishing a landscape we’d recommend planting some larger trees to anchor the landscape. Once you are looking at trees that are 5” caliper and larger it is generally more cost-effective to spade the trees. Often times it is also the only option.
Third, budget. This is always the hardest part. We recommend establishing a preliminary budget and backing into it. Any reasonable nursery and/or landscaper should be willing to work through a few iterations of a potential planting plan until you’ve drafted something that fits your goals. Plan on larger specimen material where it counts – entrances, corners of houses & structures, and key view sheds – and smaller, faster growing material to fill in around it.
Below are pictures of a Ginkgo Biloba ‘Autumn Brilliance’ from Grelen Nursery that we planted for a client recently. They had just completed a full renovation of the house and surrounding property, and needed a larger tree to anchor the landscape and soften the transition from the lawn to surrounding woods. This was a great candidate for a larger, spaded tree because of its prominent location, and the client’s desire to jump start their landscape.
Fun fact about the Ginkgo… it is the one of the oldest trees on earth and has remained unchanged for hundreds of millions of years.