Mindfulness Practice in a Wellness Garden

Stop for a moment. Consider just how valuable this present moment is. This moment is all there truly is.

The concept of practicing mindfulness involves focusing on the present situation and staying in that state of mind. This can mean awareness of your surroundings, emotions, breathing or enjoying each and every step of a really nice hike. Research in recent decades has linked mindfulness practices to a staggering collection of possible health benefits.

When the mind is left to itself, it wanders through all kinds of thoughts, including bad thoughts expressing rage, depression, revenge, self-pity, sadness… When we pander to these kinds of thoughts we reinforce those emotions in our hearts and cause ourselves suffering. For the most part, these thoughts are about the past or future. The past no longer exists and the future isn’t here yet. The one moment we actually can experience is the present moment, and it seems to be the one we spend the least time in.

Although mindfulness can be done anywhere, wellness gardens are generally a great place to practice, due to their design attributes. A well-designed garden will have all kinds of sensory input, nooks to hide in and a general respect of presence from others. (Like an outdoor library)

Lets Begin:
  • Find a secluded spot.
  • Turn your phone off, aside from a timer. Otherwise, you may obsess on when to end. Start with 5-10 minutes.
  • Get comfortable, whatever that means for you. Be able to relax your parts, though.
  • Start by concentrating on your breath. Breathe however is normal for you.
  • Next start to relax. I like to start in my toes. I tell my toes to relax. Then I work my way up my body… Legs, relax. Hips, relax. Tummy, relax.
  • After your body enters a relaxed state, you’re now going to focus on things around you. Don’t react to these things, just observe your surroundings without judgment. (e.g. – if you’re hearing traffic, don’t judge it as bad, just note that traffic is what you’re hearing, no more than that.) Start with one sense at a time. Seeing can be one of the easiest, however, it can also be overwhelming. I feel hearing is a good one to start with.
  • Close your eyes and hear what is around you. It may be birds, water, other people or traffic. Pick one and try to focus on it. Try to make the other sounds go away. Once you do that, stop this one and move on to another sense.
  • Smell the air. Inhale the fragrance of the flowers or maybe even what’s cooking for supper!
  • Feel the wind or sun on your face. If you’re close enough to a plant, touch it. Near water? Put a toe or hand in. Feel the sensations it offers.
  • Taste can be a bit difficult, but you can skip it, or bring a beverage, piece of fruit or a veggie with you.
  • For sight, take in everything around you, gently. Then, focus on whatever was the most pleasant for you.
  • After you have identified & focused on all available senses individually, you can try to combine the ones you enjoyed most. This may take a bit of time to master.
  • If you feel yourself starting to think about your life challenges at any point of the session, bring yourself back gently to concentrating on your breathing.
  • When you’re done, stretch. Embrace & thank all of the things you’ve experienced.

Do you have any other techniques you use to practice mindfulness?

Please let me know in the comments!!

© Wellness Garden Design

Feng Shui Garden Design

Feng Shui originated in China approximately 6,000 years ago. Feng Shui involves the arrangement of objects in relation to the flow of Qi (Chi, ) “natural energy” to bring about happiness, abundance and harmony. Literally, Feng Shui translates to “wind” (Feng) and “water” (Shui).

Bagua

There are many types of Feng Shui, however this post will describe one of the original forms called “Compass School”. This form uses “Patterns of Chi” which involves the use of a compass, hence the name.

Feng Shui uses the 8 directions of the compass represented by the 8 outer squares with the center square represents the center of your life.

Each compass direction has certain colors and elements associated with it: earth, water, wood, metal or fire (The 5 Elements). These colors and elements are used in the design to balance and harmonize the garden. Each of these areas is called a “gua” in Chinese. “Ba” means eight, therefore the “Bagua” means 8 areas.

Basic Feng Shui Garden Tips

Feng Shui is a concept you don’t learn in one reading. Mastery of the craft can take years of learning. However, the chart (or following verbiage) can give you a great start to the structure of your Feng Shui garden or spruce-up your current one. There are a variety of tools available in Feng Shui to unblock energy and balance the garden (and your life). So, if you feel you need some help in a certain area of your life, accent that specific qua.

  • Color adds emotional, physiological and social content to our lives. We associate certain things with color, such as holidays, events and emotions. In Feng Shui, color is primarily used to correspond and balance The 5 Elements.
  • Natural lighting is a simple way to bring more chi into your garden. Clearly, the most natural of light is sunlight and moonlight, which the garden has in spades. However, to supplement at night, use full-spectrum landscape lighting or fireplaces/pits work also.
  • Sound creates a strong connection to our natural environment. Attracting birds and other friendly wildlife can create a flurry of noises. Water features such as fountains and ponds will stimulate the movement of chi in and around your garden.
  • Any type of art can enhance chi. The selection and placement of art depends on what area of the bagua (8 areas) you need to activate. Your choice of art should reflect your specific tastes and relate positive images and feelings. Try to patch the art’s material with the element of the qua.
  • Plants and objects that utilize the wind such as grasses, large-leafed trees, wind chimes, mobiles and weather vanes attract chi into your garden.

How to enhance the 8 squares of the bagua:

rock water fall

NORTH

  • Energy: This area represents your career or your path in life
  • Element: Water
  • Color: Blue or black
  • Type of adornment: Natural stone features or rocks with water

NORTHEAST

  • Energy: Corresponds to your personal, spiritual and educational growth
  • Element: Earth
  • Color: Yellow, brown, pink (other earthy tones)
  • Type of adornment: Bench to practice mindfulness or a Zen garden
zen garden
Wooden bridge

EAST

  • Energy: Symbolizes the family and your health
  • Element: Wood
  • Color: Green
  • Type of adornment: Anything made from wood

SOUTHEAST

  • Energy: Represents wealth and opportunity in your life
  • Element: Wood
  • Color: Purple, green, red, blue and gold
  • Type of adornment: Wooden garden art or wood pile for burning

Wood sculpture
swings at firepit

SOUTH

  • Energy: Symbolizes fame, success and recognition
  • Element: Fire
  • Color: Red
  • Type of adornment: A BBQ, fire pit or candles

SOUTHWEST

  • Energy: Brings love, relationships or peace
  • Element: Earth
  • Color: Brown, white, pink, yellow, red
  • Type of adornment: Patio with table for dining

dining area
yoga area

WEST

  • Energy: Is for creativity and dreaming
  • Element: Metal
  • Color: White, silver, gray or copper
  • Type of adornment: Jungle-gym, yoga/work-out spot or art area

NORTHWEST

  • Energy: Corresponds to travel and helping people
  • Element: Metal
  • Color: Gray, white, black, anything metallic in color
  • Type of adornment: Sitting area for family and friends

outdoor seating

© Wellness Garden Design

FAQ’s

How to Design a Feng Shui Garden

>Color adds emotional, physiological and social content to our lives. In Feng Shui, color is primarily used to correspond and balance The 5 Elements.
>Natural lighting is a simple way to bring more chi into your garden. Clearly, the most natural of light is sunlight and moonlight, which the garden has in spades. However, to supplement at night, use full-spectrum landscape lighting or fireplaces/pits work also.
>Sound creates a strong connection to our natural environment. Attracting birds and other friendly wildlife can create a flurry of noises. Water features such as fountains and ponds will stimulate the movement of chi in and around your garden.
>Any type of art can enhance chi. The selection and placement of art depends on what area of the bagua (8 areas) you need to activate. Your choice of art should reflect your specific tastes and relate positive images and feelings. Try to patch the art’s material with the element of the qua.
>Plants and objects that utilize the wind such as grasses, large-leafed trees, wind chimes, mobiles and weather vanes attract chi into your garden. Feng shui garden design

Where should I place objects in my yard to be Feng Shui?

NORTH: Natural stone features or rocks with water
NORTHEAST: Bench to practice mindfulness or a Zen garden
EAST: Anything made from wood
SOUTHEAST: Wooden garden art or wood pile for burning
SOUTH: A BBQ, fire pit or candles
SOUTHWEST: Patio with table for dining
WEST: Jungle-gym, yoga/work-out spot or art area
NORTHWEST: Jungle-gym, yoga/work-out spot or art area Wood sculpture

How do I Feng Shui my garden?

Feng Shui is a concept you don’t learn in one reading. Mastery of the craft can take years of learning. However, the chart (or following verbiage) can give you a great start to the structure of your Feng Shui garden or spruce-up your current one. There are a variety of tools available in Feng Shui to unblock energy and balance the garden (and your life). So, if you feel you need some help in a certain area of your life, accent that specific qua. bagua

Homemade Dirty Chai Latte

Nothing brings a smile to my face faster than a sip from a dirty chai latte! However, I’m not a big fan of the high cost or shoddy attempts some coffee shops make… I’ve literally see some pour it out of a box! The horror!

I finally started experimenting with making my own dirty chai latte. It took a few tries, however I finally tweaked it to amazing.

Ingredients for Basic Chai Tea:

I found all of the ingredients at Amazon.

  • 2 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon powdered vanilla bean
  • 1 1/2 cups black tea powder (TEAki Hut Instant Black Tea Powder)

Dirty Chai LatteThis is your basic chai tea recipe. It can be made in many ways. Mixing a teaspoon or two in hot water is the easiest way to make it, however it packs a powerful punch.

I make mine in my Mr. Coffee!

I use 3 teaspoons of chai mix for an eight cup pot. I also add two tablespoons of espresso to the filter.

After brewing, add your favorite sweetener and creamer. Done!

 
Add these Ingredients to Make Chai Latte MIX:

If you’d like to make the recipe fully out of powdered ingredients, continue with these.

  • 1 1/2 to 2 cups sugar (or sweetener of choice)
  • 1 cup nonfat dry milk powder
  • 1 cup powdered nondairy creamer
  • 1 cup French vanilla-flavored powdered nondairy creamer

How About these Options:

Chocolate Chai Mix: Add 1 teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa along with dry milk powder to the latte blend above. Follow serving directions above.

Chai Shake: Blend 1/8 cup Chai Tea Mix, 1/2 cup milk, and 2 cups vanilla ice cream in a blender.

White Chocolate Chai: Add 1 teaspoon of finely chopped premium white chocolate to your cup of Chai Tea Mix.

© Wellness Garden Design

Grasses for Autumn Color

Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’
Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’

Many folks think of trees and shrubs for fall color, however ornamental grasses also offer exceptional autumn color. Here’s a great list of grasses to add to your garden designs.

(Click here for Perennials with autumn color)

Grasses offering RED autumn colors:
  • Imperata ‘Red Baron’ – Japanese blood grass – under 2 feet – Foliage turns red in late summer – Plume-less
  • Miscanthus ‘Adagio’ – dwarf maiden grass – 3 feet high – Plumes emerge pink, then turns to white
  • Miscanthus ‘Grazella’ – maiden grass – 5-6 feet high – Foliage turns red in early fall – White plumes in August
  • Miscanthus ‘ Purpurascens’ – flame grass – 3-5 feet high – Foliage turns red in mid-summer, changing to deep burgundy in fall – Cottony plumes in August
  • Panicum ‘Ruby Ribbons’ – switch grass – 3-4 feet high – Foliage becomes red-wine colored by mid summer – Plumes appear in late summer
  • Panicum ‘Prairie Fire’ – switch grass hybrid – 4-5 feet high – Foliage turns deep red in early summer – Rosy panicles in late summer

    Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’
    Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’
  • Schizachyrium scoparium – little bluestem – 2-3 feet high – Foliage turns red-bronze in fall – Plumes are silvery-white in August
Grasses offering ORANGE autumn colors:
  • Sesleria autumnalis – moor grass – 12-18 inches high – Foliage turns warm rust in fall – Plumes appear summer into fall
  • Miscanthus ‘Nippon’ – maiden grass – 4 feet high – Foliage turns red-orange in fall – Reddish-bronze panicles develop in August
  • Sporobolus heterolepsis – prairie dropseed – 2-3 feet high – Foliage is fragrant and turns rust colored in fall
Grasses offering BURGUNDY autumn colors:
  • Panicum ‘Rotstrahlbusch’ – red switch grass – 3-4 feet high – Foliage emerges green with red tips, depending on the weather, may develop burgundy hue – Scarlet-red panicles emerge in mid summer
  • Panicum ‘Shenandoah’ – red switch grass – 4 feet high – Foliage develops burgundy tips in early summer – Burgundy panicles appear in mid summer

    Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’
    Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’
  • Miscanthus ‘Morning Light’ – variegated maiden grass – 4 feet high – Foliage remains variegated – Burgundy plumes fade to cream color
  • Miscanthus ‘Silver Feather’ or ‘Silberfeder’ – maiden grass – 6 feet – Foliage blends into burgundy, purple, and gold – Silver plumes in late summer
Grasses offering YELLOW autumn color:
  • Molinia ‘Dauerstrahl’ or ‘Faithful Ray’ – purple moor grass – 2 feet high – Foliage turns yellow in early fall
  • Molinia caerulea ‘Strahlenquelle’ or ‘Source of Rays’ –  purple moor grass – 1 1/2 – 2 feet high – Foliage turns golden yellow in fall – Purplish plumes appear from July through October
  • Molinia ‘Skyracer’ – tall purple moor grass – 7-8 feet high – Foliage turns golden yellow in fall – Airy, copper-gold plumes appear in July and August
  •  – switch grass – 3-5 feet high – Foliage turns bright yellow in fall – Pink plumes develop into buff colored seed heads
  •  Panicum ‘Northwind’ – switch grass – 5-6 feet high – Foliage turns golden yellow in fall – Seed heads are small

© Wellness Garden Design

Happy Friday the 13th

Happy Friday the 13th!! Do you have Paraskevidekatriaphobia or just the run of the mill Triskaidekaphobia?

It’s been estimated that $800 or $900 million is lost in business on this day because people will not fly or do business they would normally do. .. However, you could always stay home and cuddle-up with your internet device and read my posts all day!! =-)

Traditionally in numerology, 12 is considered the number of completeness: the 12 signs of the zodiac, the 12 Apostles, 12 hours of the clock, the 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 days of Christmas – the list goes on. The number 13 is considered a transgression, or going beyond completeness.

There are many historical tales as to why either Friday or the number 13 are bad news:
  • Frigga (Frigg) The Norse love goddess and wife of Odin, was worshiped on the sixth day of the week. Christians though of Frigga as a witch, thus considered Friday to be the witches’ day.
  • Another Norse legend tells of one fine day in Valhalla, home to the 12 Norse gods, a party was taking place.  Loki (the trickster) crashed the party (13th guest) and arranged for Hoder (the blind god of darkness) to kill Baldr (the beautiful god of light) with a mistletoe-tipped arrow, his only way to die. After Baldr’s death, the world got dark and mourned the death of the god. After that, the number 13 has been associated with gloom and doom.
  • The Last Supper was believed to be attended by thirteen people. The thirteenth being Judas. (That story sounds familiar?) Oh, don’t forget, Jesus was crucified on a Friday.
  • Eve’s offering the apple to Adam in the Garden of Eden, supposedly happened on a Friday.
  • Chaucer even alluded to Friday as a day on which bad things seemed to happen in the Canterbury Tales as far back as the late 14th century (“And on a Friday fell all this mischance”), but references to Friday as a day connected with ill luck generally start to show up in Western literature around the mid-17th century: “Now Friday came, you old wives say, Of all the week’s the unluckiest day.”   (1656)
So, what can be done to avoid the curse of Friday the 13th? Maybe try starting out your Friday with one of these folklore curse remedies.*frida 13th
  • Climb to the top of a mountain or skyscraper and burn all the socks you own that have holes in them
  • Stand on your head and eat a piece of gristle
  • Greeks think sponge baths cure you of curses
  • Spitting on the person or thing causing the curse will rid it
  • Place a black candle into the black bowl, fix the candle to the bowl using the wax drippings from the candle so that it stands alone. Fill the bowl to the rim with fresh water, without wetting the wick. Breathe deeply and meditate for a few minutes. When your mind is clear, light the candle. Visualize the power the spell cast against you as living within the candles flame. As the candle burns down, it will sputter and go out as it touches the water. The curse is broken when the flames go out. Finally, dig a hole into the ground, pour the water into it, then bury the candle.
Dr. Donald Dossey, author of “Holiday Folklore, Phobias and Fun: Mythical Origins, Scientific Treatments,” thinks he’s found the cure. Once a sufferer learns how to pronounce “paraskavedekatriaphobia,” he said in an interview with NPR, they’re magically cured.
* I found these answers on the internet. Thus, since I found these on the internet, they surely must be true and factual  😉

Keeping Cut Flowers Blooming Strong

Keeping your cut flowers as fresh for as long as possible is easy with this list of tips.

First, choose a clean vase or container for your arrangement. For hard-to-clean narrow-necked containers, simply add dried beans or coarse salt to the vase with water and swish. Here in limestone land (alkaline), I use some vinegar to rid the vases of white spots (calcium).

There are other options to using a vase, florist foam (called florist oasis). If the blooms are of a taller variety, a disk of chicken wire pushed into the neck will help hold them straight. Rocks, pebbles, or florist colored-jelly balls can help hold stems upright also.

The best time to harvest flowers from your garden is in the early morning when moisture is at it’s highest. When purchasing flowers from the store, never place them in a rear-window of a car, a windy location or where the sun hits them. Wrapping them in damp newspaper or paper towel will help them stay hydrated.

Aside from trimming off all leaves that could potentially be in the vase water, it is always good practice to trim at least an inch off the stem before arranging, if possible, cut under water. In addition to these two practices, here are some special treatments for some floral arrangement favorites:

Clemantis = Pour boiling water over the stems, then place them in cold water. Another choice would be to dip them in champagne for a few hours before arranging in vase. (Drink leftover champagne… 😉

Daffodils = Cut them in bud or barely open. Fill the hollow stems with water and plug with a small amount of cotton. This works for all hollow stemmed flowers. (delphinium, amaryllis). Don’t put other flowers with them, they give off chemicals harmful to other flowers.

Dahlias = Never cut in tight bud, as they will not open.

Poppies = Harvest while still in bud. Sear the base with a lighter or by dipping in boiling water.

Gladioli = Cut when lowest floret is opening, and remove a few of the top buds.

Hellebores & Lilacs = Smash or split the stems before arranging in vase. This technique works for all woody type flowers.

Lilies = Harvest while still in bud. As flowers open, trim off anthers to prevent the pollen from staining anything nearby.

Marigolds = When re-cutting stem, trim exactly at a node (where the leaf meets the stem). Condition the flowers before adding them to the main arrangement by setting them in a vase for an hour with a tablespoon each of sugar and bleach.

Pansies = Submerge flowers one to two hours in tepid water to revive. They also fair better when a few leaves are left on.

Peonies = Cut them when the buds are half open and coloring. Slit the stems one to two inches to aid with water uptake.

Tulips = Add a few drops of vodka to keep them from drooping. I like to add some vodka to my drink, too.

Clearly, arranging cut flowers could lead to getting tipsy 😉 Be safe out there!!

© Wellness Garden Design

 

Reduce Your Energy Costs With Landscaping

Landscaping can significantly reduce energy costs of heating and cooling the home. Some well-placed shade trees, evergreens and shrubs not only look great, but also keep the house cool in the summer and warm in the winter.

Not much solar energy enters our homes through the walls and roof because of the insulation. Sun shining through the windows accounts for about half of the unwanted heat in a house during the summer. Twice as much solar energy enters through the east and west windows as the south windows, particularly if there is a roof overhang on the south side of the house.

The sun and wind both affect the temperature of residences in winter. A substantial amount of warmth can be gained from the sun shining through a southern facing window in the winter when the sun is low in the sky. East and west windows can also provide solar energy gain in the winter. The solar energy from the windows may provide 4-18% of the total energy needed to heat the home. Although, escaping warm air, along with cold wind penetrating a home, increase the heating costs and account for 24-39% of the heating requirements.

How to Utilize Landscape to Save Energy

Windbreaks:

  • Create windbreaks to block harsh winter winds, generally using evergreens and different sized shrubs.
  • Commonly, the harsh winter winds come from a different direction than the cool summer breezes. Begin by placing an effective windbreak on the side of the house where the winter winds prevail. This can provide shelter for the home from cold winds, and therefore reduce heating energy costs.
A Well-Made Wind Break

A well planned windbreak, forces a large area of relatively calm air to form downwind from the windbreak.

To be effective, the windbreak should contain trees and shrubs that are the right height, thick enough, and in a long enough row to protect the house. The most proficient windbreaks are made of at least one row of dense evergreen trees whose branches extend to ground level. Windbreaks are planted in rows perpendicular to the wind direction.

Winter landscape
Winter Landscape

For us in the Midwest, the windbreak will run to the north and west of the home. A windbreak that permits 50-60% of the wind to penetrate (such as plant material) is superior to a solid barrier (such as a solid fence) because it creates a larger area of protection on the leeward (downwind) side.

Smaller yards do not have space for large evergreen trees, but the canopy of tall deciduous trees can provide a great deal of protection. To be effective, mature trees should cover at least half the canopy space. This will provide some defense from winter winds, and a significant amount of shading from hot summer sun.

Seasonal Solar Energy:

Enlarge the deciduous tree canopy in specific areas to either shade or not obstruct the solar energy.

Deciduous shade trees should be planted due west and east of windows. Shade trees in these locations will shade the late morning and afternoon sun, which produces the most heat to homes in summer. Be sure to research and choose the right tree for the location. The chosen tree should grow within 20 feet of windows and at its mature size, be 10 feet higher than the windows its shading.

Summer Landscape
Summer Landscape

Trees planted to the south of the home will have an opposing result on energy savings. In the summer, the midday sun is high, almost directly overhead. The resulting shadow of a tree will fall directly under the tree, and miss the house, providing no shading. Alternatively, in winter, when the sun is at a much lower angle, the branches will shade to the house, rather than letting the full solar heating benefits get through. Mature deciduous trees in summer block 60 to 90% of the sun. In winter, a mature tree’s branches and twigs will block approximately 30 to 50% of the sun.

In addition to shading the house, trees or shrubs should be planted to provide shade to air conditioners. Be aware of where the fans discharge on the unit, as this could cause drying of the herbaceous screen. Keeping the surfaces of the air conditioner allows it to run more efficiently.

Additional Tips:

Foundation plantings of shrubs and small trees can also considerably reduce energy costs. In addition to reducing the amount of wind that hits a home, shrubs planted next to the house can provide insulation as it creates a dead airspace next to the foundation. Plant shrubs so at mature size there will be approximately 1 foot of space between the plants and the building.

If drifting snow is a problem in the yard, windbreaks of trees and shrubs can act as living snow fences to control the location of snowdrifts. Lower shrubs planted on the windward side of the windbreak will trap snow before it blows next to the home. Winds will funnel around the ends of a snow fence. If possible, the row of plants should extend beyond the snowdrift area. A minimum of two rows of deciduous shrubs and/or one row of evergreens are most effective for snow control.

© Wellness Garden Design

FAQ’s

How to reduce energy costs by installing plants.

Foundation plantings of shrubs and small trees can also considerably reduce energy costs. In addition to reducing the amount of wind that hits a home, shrubs planted next to the house can provide insulation as it creates a dead airspace next to the foundation. Plant shrubs so at mature size there will be approximately 1 foot of space between the plants and the building. Summer landscape

How to save money on energy with landscaping.

Trees planted to the south of the home will have an opposing result on energy savings. In the summer, the midday sun is high, almost directly overhead. The resulting shadow of a tree will fall directly under the tree, and miss the house, providing no shading. Alternatively, in winter, when the sun is at a much lower angle, the branches will shade to the house, rather than letting the full solar heating benefits get through. Mature deciduous trees in summer block 60 to 90% of the sun. In winter, a mature tree’s branches and twigs will block approximately 30 to 50% of the sun.

How do I build a windbreak?

Create windbreaks to block harsh winter winds, generally using evergreens and different sized shrubs.
Commonly, the harsh winter winds come from a different direction than the cool summer breezes. Begin by placing an effective windbreak on the side of the house where the winter winds prevail.
To be effective, the windbreak should contain trees and shrubs that are the right height, thick enough, and in a long enough row to protect the house.
For us in the Midwest, the windbreak will run to the north and west of the home. A windbreak that permits 50-60% of the wind to penetrate (such as plant material) is superior to a solid barrier (such as a solid fence) because it creates a larger area of protection on the leeward (downwind) side. Wind break

How to save money on electricity with landscaping?

By planting trees just the south of the home, there will be huge energy savings. In summer, the midday sun is high, almost directly overhead. The shadow of a tree will fall directly under the tree, and miss the house, providing no shading. In winter, when the sun is at a much lower angle, the branches will shade to the house, rather than letting the full solar heating benefits get through. Mature deciduous trees in summer block 60 to 90% of the sun. In winter, a mature tree’s branches and twigs will block approximately 30%to 50% of the sun.

Plant Trees Like a Licensed Arborist

If you’re not going to plant a tree correctly, why even plant it at all?

If you’ve invested in adding a tree to your yard, you’ll need to know how to plant it properly. Remember, your tree is an investment (at the least) and a part of the family, you should only do what’s best for it. Although the general concept of planting a tree; dig hole, place tree, bury tree, is pretty simple… However, it can go wrong fairly quickly during planting, yet take years for the mistake to become noticeable, thus causing wasted time and money.

Noooooooo! I won’t let that happen to you!

Let me teach you how to plant your tree correctly, so you can enjoy your newly planted tree for your lifetime and your grandchildren’s lifetimes!

We’ll start with a quick pictorial summary, then delve into the nitty-gritty details afterward!

These are small, PeeGee Hydrangea (Hydrangea paniculata Grandiflora) on a standards. These were grown in containers, but are in B&B (Balled & Burlapped) format since the client did not like them, I was the lucky recipient of these two free trees! As they were small and the rootball was solid, I chose to remove the burlap first (not recommended for amateurs!!), then felt the top to find the roots, which were right at the top. Next, I dug my hole 3 times larger than the rootball.

Move the tree into the hole, by holding the rootball, NOT by picking up the tree by the trunk! After that, I back-filled it about halfway with native soil and watered. After that water soaked in, I filled the remainder of the hole and watered again. Notice how I did not put any soil on the rootball? Be sure to water your new trees regularly. One long soak is better than three fleeting waters. Lastly, I love these type of Gator bags more than the Teepee types as they somewhat settle the soil with their weight and they will fit on bushy shrubs also.

This tree is at a perfect grade. It is about 1″ – 2″ higher than the soil around it. Next year, I will dig the grass out in between them and add some groundcover. For now, the grass is an insulator.

How to Plant a Tree Like a Licensed Arborist! 

Determine the depth of the top roots in the root ball

  • Start by systematically probe the root ball with a slim rod or screwdriver. At least two structural roots should be found in the top 1” to 3” inches of soil, 3” to 4” inches out from the trunk. On species prone to trunk circling-roots⊗, the top structural root should be within the top one inch of the root ball. Furthermore, if any circling roosts are found, prune them out.
  • Excess soil needs to be removed from the top in the backfill step of the planting process.

Dig a saucer-shaped planting hole three-times the root ball diameter

remove excess soil
backfill your hole
  • To maximize soil oxygen levels, plant the tree 1” to 2” inches above grade
  • The root ball MUST sit on undug soil, which stabilizes the tree and prevents sinking and tilting. Measure after each shovel-full if you have to!
  • A saucer-shaped planting hole allows the root system to grow rapidly to 400% of the root ball volume before being slowed by the lower oxygen levels in the site soil. This is enough to minimize post-planting stress in normal planting situations.
  • The wide, saucer-shaped planting hole gives the tree more tolerance to over-watering and waterlogged soils. A wide planting hole also allows for root ball wrappings to be removed after the tree is situated in the planting hole.
  • A labor-saving technique is to dig the planting hole about two times the root ball diameter with somewhat vertical sides, then widen the hole into the desired saucer shape with the shovel during the backfill process.

Set the tree into place and remove container/wrappings

tree crook
  • In the event that the tree has a “dogleg or crook” (a slight curve in the trunk just above the graft) the inside curve must face north to avoid winter bark injury. This is a good practice to follow, however if you must place it differently because of aesthetics, you may need to wrap the trunk the first couple of winters to prevent sun scald on the trunk.
  • Next, vertically align the tree, with the top centered above the root ball. Due to curves along the trunk, the trunk may not necessarily look straight.

In this next step, techniques vary for Container-Grown Trees and Balled And Burlapped (B&B) Trees.

Container-Grown Nursery Stock:

Container-grown nursery stock describes a variety of production methods where the trees or shrubs are grown in the containers (limiting root spread to the size of container). In some systems, like pot-in-pot and grow-bags, the container is in the ground. An advantage of container stock is that it can be planted in any season.

  • First, lay the tree on its side in or near the planting hole.
  • Next, wiggle off or cut off the container.
  • Shave off the outer 1-1½ inches of the root ball with a pruning saw or pruners. This is to deal with circling roots.
  • Tilt the tree into place with the inside curve of any graft crook facing north.
  • Check the depth of the root ball in planting hole. If needed, remove the tree and correct the hole depth.
  • Align vertically. A tree will NOT straighten out if planted crooked.
  • For stability, firm a shallow ring of soil around the bottom of the root ball
firm rootball
  • The ideal container-grown tree has a nice network of roots holding the root ball together. After removing the container, guide the tree into place.
    If some of the soil falls off (often on the bottom), it may be necessary to adjust the depth of the planting hole. Backfill and pack the bottom of the planting hole to the correct depth.
  • Fabric grow bags must be removed from the sides. They are generally cut away after setting the tree into place.
  • Paper/pulp containers should be removed. Most are slow to decompose and will complicate soil texture interface issues. Pulp containers often need to be cut off, as they may not slide off readily.
  • In handling large trees (3-inch caliper and greater) it may be necessary to set the tree into place before removing the container.

Field-Grown, B&B Nursery Stock:

Field-grown, balled and burlapped (B&B) trees and shrubs are dug from the growing field with the root ball soil intact. In this harvest process, only 5-20% of the feeder roots are retained in the root ball. B&B nursery stock is best transplanted in the cooler spring or fall season.

To prevent the root ball from breaking, the roots are balled and wrapped with burlap (or other fabrics) and twine (hence the name B&B). In nurseries today, there are many variations to the B&B techniques. Some are also wrapped in plastic shrink-wrap, placed into a wire basket, or placed into a pot.

An advantage of the wider planting hole is that it gives room for the planter to remove root ball wrappings AFTER the tree is situated in the hole.

Based on research by the ISA, standard procedures are to remove root ball wrapping materials (burlap, fabric, grow bags, twine, ties, wire basket, etc.) from the upper 12 inches or 2/3 of the root ball, whichever is greater, AFTER the tree is set into place. Materials under the root ball are not a concern since roots grow outward, not downward. It is still a good idea to remove as much as possible.

Planting instructions

  • Remove extra root ball wrapping added for convenience in marketing (like shrink-wrap and a container). However, do NOT remove the burlap (or fabric), wire basket and twine that hold the root ball together until the tree is set into place.
  • Set tree into place with the inside curve of any graft crook facing north.
  • Check the depth of the root ball in planting hole. If needed, removed the tree and correct the hole depth.
  • Align vertically.
  • For stability, firm a shallow ring of soil around the bottom of the root ball.
  • Removed all the wrapping (burlap, fabric, twine, wire basket, etc.) on the upper 12 inches or upper 2/3 of the root ball, whichever is greater.
  • If circling roots are found, shave off the outer 1-1½ inches of the root ball with a pruning saw or pruners.
  • The consensus from research is clear that leaving burlap, twine, and wire baskets on the sides of the root ball are not acceptable planting techniques.
    • Burlap may be slow to decompose and will complicate soil texture interface issues.
    • Burlap that comes to the surface wicks moisture from the root ball, leading to dry soils.
    • Jute twine left around the trunk will be slow to decompose, often girdling the tree.
    • Nylon twine never decomposes in the soil, often girdling the trees several years after planting.
    • Wire baskets take 30-plus years to decompose and may interfere with long-term root growth.
  • With tapered wire baskets, some planters find it easier to cut off the bottom of the basket before setting the tree into the hole. The basket can still be used to help move the tree and is then easy to remove by simply cutting the rings on the side.

Backfill

When backfilling, be careful not to over-pack the soil which reduces large pore space and thus soil oxygen levels. A good method is to simply return soil and allow water to settle it when irrigated.

Soil “peds” (dirt clods) up to the size of a small fist are acceptable in tree planting. In clayey soils, it is undesirable to pulverize the soil, as this destroys large pore space.
Changes in soil texture (actually changes in pore space) between the root ball soil and the backfill soil create a soil texture interface that impedes water and air movement across the interface. To deal with the interface, the top of the root ball must come to the surface (that is, no backfill soil covers the top of the root ball). Backfill soil should cover the root ball knees, gradually tapering down.

Optional Staking

When properly planted, set on undug soil, most trees in the landscape do not require staking or underground stabilization. Staking may be desirable to protect the trees from human activities. If the tree is in a windy location, staking may be necessary.

Install staking before watering so the planting crew does not pack down the wet soil. After the first year, remove the stakes for two reasons; one to be sure growth is not hindered by any cables and secondly, the tree will need to learn how to deal with the wind (by growing stronger). Consequently, if its left staked, it may blow down after it’s larger.

Water to Settle Soil

Water after staking so to not not compact the wet soil installing the stakes. Watering is a tool to settle the soil without overly packing it. Be sure the new tree gets enough water to settle the soil, then at least 1” of water a week, more if it is hot and dry.

Final Grade

With the wide planting hole, the backfill soil may settle in watering. Be sure to check the grade after watering.

well planted tree

Mulch

Do not place mulch directly over the root ball on newly planted trees. As a rule of thumb, 3” to 4” inches of wood/bark chips gives better weed control and prevents soil compaction from foot traffic when placed over the backfill area and beyond. Additional amounts of mulch may reduce soil oxygen.

At the same time, do not place wood/bark chips up against the trunk. Do not make mulch volcanoes!! On wet soils, mulch may help hold excessive moisture and be undesirable. Wood/bark chips are not suitable in open windy areas.

© Wellness Garden Design

These species are prone to girdling roots.
Austrian pine, Pinus nigra
Black gum tupelo, Nyssa sylvatica
Bradford pear, Pyrus calleryana
Bur oak, Quercus macrocarpa
Cherry, Prunus spp.
Crabapple, Malus spp.
Dogwood, Cornus spp.
Elm, Ulmus spp
Fruitless mulberry. Morus alba
Gingko. Gingko biloba
Green ash, Fraxinus pennsylvanica
Hackberry, Celtis occidentalis
Hemlock, Tsuga canadensis
Holly, Ilex spp.
Honeylocust, Gleditsia triacanthos
Juniper, Juniperus spp.
Littleleaf linden, Tilia cordata
Norway maple, Acer platanoides
Norway spruce, Picea abies
Pin oak, Quercus palustris
Poplar/Cottonwood, Populus spp.
Red maple, Acer rubrum
Red oak, Quercus rubra
Sawtooth oak, Quercus acutissima
Scotch pine, Pinus sylvestris
Shumard oak, Quercus shumardii
Siberian elm, Ulmus pumila
Silver maple, Acer saccharinum
Spruce, Picea spp.
Sugar maple, Acer saccharum
Sugarberry, Celtis laevigata
Sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua
White oak, Quercus alba
White pine, Pinus strobes
Zelkova, Zelkova sp.

FAQ’s

What’s the right way to plant a tree?

If you’ve invested in adding a tree to your yard, you’ll need to know how to plant it properly. Remember, your tree is an investment (at the least) and a part of the family, you should only do what’s best for it. Although the general concept of planting a tree; dig hole, place tree, bury tree, is pretty simple… However, it can go wrong fairly quickly during planting, yet take years for the mistake to become noticeable, thus causing wasted time and money. roots even with ground

Do I have to remove the burlap from the tree roots?

Yes!! Based on research by the ISA, standard procedures are to remove root ball wrapping materials (burlap, fabric, grow bags, twine, ties, wire basket, etc.) from the upper 12 inches or 2/3 of the root ball, whichever is greater, AFTER the tree is set into place. Materials under the root ball are not a concern since roots grow outward, not downward. It is still a good idea to remove as much as possible. root ball

How deep should I plant a tree?

Start by systematically probe the root ball with a slim rod or screwdriver. At least two structural roots should be found in the top 1” to 3” inches of soil, 3” to 4” inches out from the trunk. On species prone to trunk circling-roots⊗, the top structural root should be within the top one inch of the root ball. Furthermore, if any circling roosts are found, prune them out.
Excess soil needs to be removed from the top in the backfill step of the planting process. Don’t plant any deeper than the top root. water bags

Beware of the Mulch Volcano

mulch volcano from hell

Creating mulch volcanos is one of the worse things you can do to a tree.

I am so saddened when I see trees mulched up to their lower branches, called ‘Mulch Volcanos’. If the truck of your tree looks the same as a telephone pole, there’s too much mulch on it!!! The tree should flare out where it comes out of the ground.

In my opinion, this has to be the worst volcano I’ve seen in my entire life…

Monkey See, Monkey Do….

Sadly, homeowners see mulch volcanos and think this is the correct way to mulch, and the vicious cycle continues. Professional landscapers do it all the time just to fill their pockets, telling you it’s horticulturally correct. Don’t fall for it! You DO NOT need to add mulch to your beds yearly. It is a good idea to cultivate what is still there, though. My advice is to apply biannually or only where it may have eroded.

There are many problems that a mulch volcano can cause. Girdling roots, poor growth, mold to name a few… However, crown rot rates as a number one worst issue. One stiff breeze is all it will take. Notice in the photo to the right, the trunk snapped off right at the mulch-line. These types of happenings can cause some costly repairs. Mulch volcanoes are sneaky. This tree looked completely healthy. Sometimes a tree with a lot of gumption will grow large, however the bigger they are, the harder they fall.

fallen tree
mulch volcano surgery

Saving trees from the damages of mulch volcanoes is a tedious job.

Depending on the size of the tree and how long the tree has been improperly mulched, there are couple ways to fix the problem:

  • Digging it out by hand
  • Using pressured water

After removing the mulch, prune errant roots and check the trunk for damage and disease.

The Right Way to Mulch a Tree

Here is a tree properly mulched, you can clearly see the root flair at the top of the mulch line. The area for mulch ring is also the same distance out from the trunk as the crown is. Grass prevents the tree from getting moisture, along with stealing all the nutrients available in the soil. Sometimes it’s not possible to make the ring this large, however make it as big as possible. Lastly, only put enough over the area (3″) to control weeds and to help the area retain moisture.

Correct mulch
This tree is not only properly mulched, it has the right sized ring around it too.

© Wellness Garden Design

What is a Mulch Volcano?

A tree that is mulched up to its lower branches is called a ‘Mulch Volcano’. If the truck of your tree looks the same as a telephone pole, there’s too much mulch on it!!! The tree should flare out where it comes out of the ground. Mulch volcano

How do you Mulch a Tree Properly?

Here is a tree properly mulched, you can clearly see the root flair at the top of the mulch line. The area for mulch ring is also the same distance out from the trunk as the crown is. Grass prevents the tree from getting moisture, along with stealing all the nutrients available in the soil. Sometimes it’s not possible to make the ring this large, however make it as big as possible. Lastly, only put enough over the area (3″) to control weeds and to help the area retain moisture. Correct mulch

Save Your Forest – Eat Garlic Mustard!

Seems many folks are taking advantage of the forest preserves during the quarantine, which is awesome, as nature can heal us both mentally and physically!

However, sadly, due to the same quarantine, volunteer work days at the forest preserves have been cancelled. These workday delays will allow invasive species to get a stronger foothold in the forests.

Since we’re about to come into Garlic Mustard season in the Midwest, maybe you could do the forest and yourself a favor? Pull as much of it as you can!

How to Find It!

Alliaria petiolata is a biennial flowering plant in the mustard family and tastes great! It was brought here by early settlers, who spread the seeds freely as they traveled, to help folks who traveled through in the future.

This prolific weed can be found growing almost anywhere, but prefers a shady location. Procuring this herb is as easy as traveling to your nearest forest preserve. Removing native plants from protected parks is illegal, but because of garlic mustard’s invasive status, most parks will encourage you to take all you’d like.

This herb can be a bit evergreen, and these ‘old’ leaves will be a bit bitter. It s best to harvest the young, lighter green leaves for eating. It will also start blooming in our area soon, making it easier to find. It is very easy to identify, with its serrated leaf and strong garlic smell.

Spring rain makes the ground soft which helps with removal of garlic mustard’s tap root. This root only goes down for about an inch, then takes an abrupt turn. When you pull slowly, you can feel which way the root goes and pull accordingly. If all of it is not removed, it will grow back like a dandelion.

Garlic Mustard

During the first year of growth, plants form rosette clumps of heart shaped, slightly wrinkled leaves that smell like garlic. The next year plants flower in spring, producing white flowers, and as the flowering stems bloom they stretch into a spike-like shape. This pain-in-the-butt plant has enough energy in it, that if you pull it while it’s blooming, it can still produce seeds, which are released during the early summer.

So what can be done about this invasive species? EAT IT!

Garlic Mustard Recipes:

Garlic Mustard Pesto
Garlic Mustard Pesto

Garlic Mustard Scallion Cakes

2 eggs, 1 bunch scallions, chopped 1 pkg flour tortilla, 1 cup garlic mustard – chopped, 2 tsp sesame oil oil for frying. Mix scallions and garlic mustard. Beat together eggs and sesame oil. Brush on side of a tortilla with egg mixture. Sprinkle on scallion/garlic mustard mixture. Brush egg mix on another tortilla, then put on top of 1st tortilla with egg side down (repeat until all tortillas are used). Cover with plate and weigh down with cans to seal tortilla (about 15 minutes). (Separate cakes with wax paper.) Heat oil in heavy pan. Brown cakes on both sides (~2 minutes total). Drain on paper towel. Cut into wedges and serve.

Garlic Mustard Tossed Salad

4-6 leaves ruby red leaf lettuce, 4-6 leaves Romaine Lettuce, 1-2 handfuls tender garlic mustard leaves, French sorrel and bronze fennel, one leaf each 1/3 cup mandarin orange slices, drained 1 slice of smoked salmon, 1/8 cup sunflower seeds, croûtons.

Wash and crisp all the leaves and tear the lettuce leaves into a salad bowl. Cut the garlic mustard leaves, the French sorrel, and the fennel into narrow strips and add to the salad. Cut the oranges and the smoked salmon into thin strips and place in the salad. Sprinkle on sunflower seeds and fresh, herbed croûtons. Dress lightly with Italian dressing. Serve immediately.

Stuffed Garlic Mustard

20 medium garlic mustard leaves, 5 wooden spoonfuls of sausage, 4 wooden spoonfuls of rice, 2 Tbsn. chopped garlic, mustard leaves, 1 Tbsn. lemon juice.

Mix rice and sausage and stir well. Add chopped leaves and lemon and toss. Put a teaspoon of this mix on a medium leaf of garlic mustard. Hold leaf together with a toothpick. Serve on a plate.

©Wellness Garden Design

Can I Pull Garlic Mustard at My Forest Preserve?

Yes! This prolific weed can be found growing almost anywhere, but prefers a shady location. Procuring this herb is as easy as traveling to your nearest forest preserve. Removing native plants from protected parks is illegal, but because of garlic mustard’s invasive status, most parks will encourage you to take all you’d like. Garlic Mustard

How Do I Get Rid of Garlic Mustard?

Spring rain makes the ground soft which helps with removal of garlic mustard’s tap root. This root only goes down for about an inch, then takes an abrupt turn. When you pull slowly, you can feel which way the root goes and pull accordingly. If all of it is not removed, it will grow back like a dandelion.