As the main architectural elements of our landscape, trees seem unassailable. However, as invulnerable as they may appear, trees are often hurt or killed by careless lawn maintenance around their bases. Line and blade trimmers can cut into the bark and penetrate underlying living layers that deliver life-sustaining water and nutrients to the tree. While edging is decorative, it also serves to remind us that even trees need protection from accidental damage.
Before deciding which edging material to use, understand that trees have basic needs. Extensive alterations to the landscape often involve large machinery and substantial changes in shape or grade that may damage tree roots. Bulldozers and dump trucks crush roots and reduce a tree's ability to take up nutrients and water. Burying tree roots under loads of soil may similarly damage them. It is important to leave the ground at its natural level and to avoid compacting soil around trees. When grade changes are unavoidable, constructing tree wells or retaining walls around trees helps to maintain the original level.
Edging for Easy Maintenance
For ease of maintenance, the University of Florida Extension Service recommends a simple metal or brick edging to separate trees from other elements in the landscape and protect them from damage. In addition to being easily maintained or replaced, the simple lines blend well with other landscape elements – quietly delineating areas so that landscape plants, outdoor furnishings and other features may take center stage. Native stones and the black vinyl edging make excellent unobtrusive substitutes as well.
If a natural looking landscape suits your tastes, think about planting a ground cover and allowing it to create an irregular circle at the base of your tree. Ivy, vinca, ferns, hostas and other low-growing shade-loving plants will form a carpet beneath the tree that will soon choke out competing weeds. Keep things neat without damaging the tree by mowing the ground cover several feet from the trunk.
Not everyone wants edging that blends or disappears into the background. If you like to jazz things up, you cannot do better than a bottle border around your favorite tree. Dig a shallow trench and set old wine or other interesting bottles upside down and touching within it. Back fill and compress the soil around the bottles to hold them upright for a real conversation piece in your landscape. Similarly, use glass chunks or “slag” to line the border.
Pretty and Seasonal Edging
You do not have to put in a permanent bed to have seasonal color around your trees. Build a solid edge to protect the tree from trimmers and get the full effect of a flower bed at the same time by sinking terracotta pots side-by-side, about 3-inches deep around the tree. Fill the pots with pansies or violets in cool months, salvia and marigolds in summer, brilliant orange and yellow chrysanthemums in autumn, and poinsettias or hardy dwarf holly in winter. If you prefer a less changeable decoration, use evergreen dwarf shrubs or ivies in the pots year-round.