Landscaping under a tree poses some challenges because of the extra shade the tree provides, and because of leaves that fall into the landscaping, making the area difficult to clean. Overcome these challenges by keeping the landscaping simple and open or by using material that allows for using a blower in the landscaping.
Raised Beds and Seating
Raised beds with built-in seating provide a shady place to sit under the tree, plus they are easier to clean during the fall when the tree drops its leaves. Annuals, perennials or small evergreen shrubs give the area color, while the raised beds give the area depth. The raised beds can be created from any material that works in the landscaping, including logs, stucco, or stone--such as bricks, pavers or false stone cemented onto wooden boxes.
Pavers come in many different colors and shapes. Place the pavers around the base of the tree, leaving at least 1 foot between the pavers and the tree trunk, so that the tree gets plenty of water. Mix several different colors of pavers for a different look. Pavers are also used to outline a flowerbed under the tree. Choose thicker pavers and layer them two high for a walled look, or chose 1-inch tall pavers to create an outline.
Mulch comes in various materials and colors. Pulverized wood chips are commonly found as red cedar mulch, which has a deep red color, or other wood chips, which are various shades of tan. Pulverized wood chips add color to landscape under a tree, but must be replaced at least yearly, depending on the type of plant growing in the beds under the tree. Rubber mulch is made from used tires and is available in various colors and sizes. The color of the rubber mulch does not fade as fast as pulverized wood chips, and it lasts for more than one season. Depending on the manufacturer, rubber mulch could last as long as several years without replacement.
Vine plants can be trained to fill an area around the bottom of the tree. Strategically placed trellises allow the vines to climb in areas, giving the under-tree landscaping more depth. Vines allowed to grow over the ground are easily managed so that they stay within the boundary under the tree. If the vines are annuals, cleaning up in the fall is simple. If the vines are perennials, simply cut the vines close to the ground, then rake the area to clean out the leaves. If the tree produces easily composted leaves (such as a maple), blow some of the leaves out of the area, leaving some to remain in the bed and act as natural compost.