Today we’re continuing our Landscaping Training blog series with more advices about tree care. It may seem like something you wouldn’t need to worry about (that’s what my landscapers are for!), but it never hurts to know what the landscaping professionals you’ve hired should be doing to maintain your external facilities. We’re providing a quick guide, to give you insight and help you determine if the landscape management for your property is up to par. Check back each day during this series to find out what you need to know! We’ll have an index of the entire series, available on the final post.
Trees – Conifers and Palms
Coniferous trees are those that bear cones. Pines, spruce, firs, cypress, and cedar are all coniferous trees. Junipers and yews are also coniferous, but are not trees: they are shrubs and bear no cones.
Pines, depending on the variety, can be used for either shade or as specimen trees. Other coniferous types are usually used as specimens, to enhance the aesthetic appearance of landscaping.
Most coniferous trees, especially pines, like to be left alone. Too much pruning or shaping can eventually kill the tree. They should never be topped. Lower limbs can be carefully removed for security or safety reasons. Dead wood can and should be removed.
They all have very shallow feeder roots, with the roots that provide nourishment close to the surface. If soil is compacted near the base by construction equipment or heavy foot traffic, the tree will, over time, die. In new housing developments in Florida, native slash and long leaf pines near newly constructed houses usually die within a year or two, due to trucks compacting the ground around them.
Pests and systemic diseases can also harm many conifers. Symptoms are usually a browning of the needles. If one tree in a group starts to turn brown, whether is it caused by pest or disease, the other trees nearby, especially those touching the infected tree, will usually die also. Once the needles turn brown it’s too late. The best prevention is to remove any sick tree as soon as browning of the needles is noticed.
There are many different types of pines and other than the length of their needles are difficult to tell apart. The two most common pines native to Florida, the slash pine and the long leaf pine, both look very similar. The slash pine has two to three needles per cluster and the long leaf has four or more. Knowing the difference is not that important as growing habits, pests, and diseases are similar in all types.
Palms thrive throughout the tropical and sub-tropical regions. Though there are hundreds of species only a relative few are used in landscape applications. The leaf of a palm tree is called a frond and all palms have either fan shape or feather shape fronds depending on the species. Sable and Washingtonia are examples of palms with fan shape fronds and coconut palms have feather shape fronds. The fan shape resists high winds better. The fronds of palms of the feather shaped type tend to shred in high winds.
Palms are evergreen and adapt to transplanting readily. These two qualities have promoted their use as landscape plants. When proper staking of newly planted trees is practiced, palms establish themselves relatively quickly. Trimming of palms is necessary only to remove dead fronds and seedpods or to clear obstructed walk and drive patterns. Growth is generally slow with most palms.
Seeds are produced in large pods throughout the year. One pod can produce hundreds of seeds. If the seeds are left to ripen and fall to the ground, seedlings will sprout at the base of the parent tree giving the appearance of weeds and requiring the use of herbicides.
Trimming the seedpods from the tree before ripening occurs is the best practice. The seeds produced by most palms are about an inch in diameter and turn yellow, orange, or red when ripe. Coconut palms are an exception and are not used extensively as the seeds are large and can cause personal injury when they fall to the ground.