Building a Treehouse: Choosing the Right Tree

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Nowadays, most children are heavily exposed to screens before the age of three and spend overwhelming amounts of time indoors rather than creating outdoor memories to last a lifetime.

People who grew up without the ubiquitous presence of screens are likely to recall one of childhood’s most nostalgic inventions – the treehouse. For parents who want to enrich their children’s upbringing and combat the negative social and physical effects of excessive screen time, installing a treehouse in your backyard may be the key.

If you’re thinking about adding a treehouse to your landscape design, strategy is key to ensure both safety and sustainability. Here are a few things you need to consider when choosing the right tree for your treehouse.

Location

Everyone knows the first rule of real estate: location, location, location. The same is true for choosing the perfect tree for your treehouse.

It is important to consider your specific needs when deciding where to build a treehouse. For a family of younger children, a treehouse close to your home may ensure that your kids do not stray too far on their adventures and remain in your line of sight. Be sure, however, not to locate the treehouse so close to your home that it presents a potential safety risk or disrupts the rest of your landscape design.

If your children are older and can handle a grander excursion, you may be able to build  your treehouse on a tree further back on your property, allowing your children to embrace a little independence and grow their developing imagination.

Age

Once you have determined the ideal location for your treehouse, consider the age of the trees in that area.

Safety is a top priority when building your treehouse and tist can be directly influenced by the age of the tree you choose. Older, weaker trees should be avoided when selecting a tree for a treehouse, but even young trees should be approached with caution.

Trees are (obviously) plants, so they continue to grow over time. When building around a tree that may continue to grow significantly, be sure that you have built your structure in such a way that allows for growth as you exercise regular tree care. The last thing you want is for a treehouse to burst at the seams after a few years’ growth.

Supports

There are a number of different factors to consider when ensuring that your tree will offer sufficient support for your treehouse.

The first option is to choose not one, but two trees between which to build your treehouse. If there are multiple trees near enough to each other, building across two trees may allow you to build a larger treehouse with double the support.

Regardless of whether or not you have the capability of building on two trees, the thickness and disbursement of the branches will be important for ensuring stability. Be sure the branches are sturdy and convenient enough for building a treehouse. Removing extraneous branches can be done easily with proper landscape maintenance, but it’s a much more difficult task to grow the right branches.  

Height

The internet is full of opulent photos of treehouses tucked away in the highest reaches of Amazonian canopies. While a sky-high treehouse may make for a scintillating Instagram post, treehouses placed far off the ground may not be the best idea.     

Especially with younger, more rambunctious children, treehouses placed in a tall tree may increase the risk of injury in the event of a fall. Generally, it is advised that treehouses for children should be about 10 feet from the ground.

Height can also be a risk factor when combined with risk factors from weather. When a treehouse’s center of gravity is higher from the ground, storms can present unforeseen danger. When subjected to high-speed winds, treehouse can act as a sail and multiply the stress put onto branches during a storm. Ideally, a well-built treehouse will be able to endure the weather typical of your area, but keeping a tree house low to the ground may be a simple step to ensuring stability.

Treehouses are a classic feature of landscape design that are often forgotten today. In an age when kids need time outside more than ever, incorporating a treehouse may be what helps to combat “tech-brain” and encourage imagination in ways that only outdoor play can.   

From tree planting to treehouse installation, The Parke Company is available and qualified to ensure that your treehouse is safe and artistically incorporated into your current landscape.

For more information on how to safely incorporate the whimsical delight of a treehouse into your landscape design, contact the certified arborists at The Parke Company and let their superior lawn services transform your property.
Give us a call (615-350-6033) or contact us online today to see how The Parke Company difference can work for you.

Ground Cover: Right or Wrong for Your Yard?

Ground cover

For homeowners, a lawn is both a blessing and curse. When a lawn is lush and well-maintained it greatly increases the property’s curb appeal. But if left unchecked for too long, a yard can quickly devolve into a warzone. Weeds, dead grass, tall grass, fungi, and other unwanted guests can infest this space at an alarming rate. It takes a lot more effort to undo the damage of these lawn problems than it does to prevent them from occurring. One way to protect a lawn from such chaos is by planting ground cover. But is ground cover the cure for every yard?

What is Ground Cover?

Ground cover refers to several species of plant that grow low to the topsoil, including grass. These plants help keep the soil hydrated and cool while warding off unwanted weeds. Though grass is a type of ground cover, people often categorize it separately because it is the most common type of cover for lawns (i.e. when we think of lawns we think of grass). Ground cover comes in many varieties, including the succulent Stonecrop, colorful Creeping Phlox, and darker Brass Buttons.

Which Yards Benefit from Ground Cover?

In truth, just about any yard can use some ground cover. It’s partially an aesthetic decision, though it also makes a big difference in terms of lawn maintenance. The majority of ground cover plants don’t rapidly grow upward like standard grass. This means that lawn mowing isn’t necessary over these spots. Some species will require a little trimming here and there, but for the most part, ground cover is extremely low-maintenance.

Yards that often experience bare spots and/or weed growth are prime candidates for ground cover. Since these plants help maintain the topsoil, they can often grow in these otherwise barren locations, filling out one’s yard while adding new texture and color. Ground cover, as previously mentioned, also stops weeds from growing, essentially maintaining itself. Those who enjoy gardening can also make good use of groundcover. With so many options, you can create patterns and outlines using groundcover to create a border or fill in a garden and protect it from unwanted weeds.

Is Ground Cover Ever Wrong for a Yard?

In short: no. It’s really a matter of taste and practicality. If you don’t have time to maintain your lawn and can’t afford to hire lawn services, installing ground cover makes a lot of sense. It will save you time and money on every aspect of yard maintenance. However, many homeowners would rather have grass fill their yard. This simply requires more effort in terms of watering, weeding, mowing, and fertilizing. Most people opt for a combination of traditional grass and ground cover. This way, bare spots and problem areas can be addressed with minimal effort, and the lawn as a whole still retains that classic look.

Everyone wants a beautiful, healthy lawn. If you’re struggling to achieve or maintain this, The Parke Company can help. We provide customers with complete landscaping services, including irrigation, maintenance, tree removal and trimming, stump grinding, and more. Whether you want to try some new ground cover or simply fix up a damaged lawn, give us a call today at (615)-350-6033.

Emergency Tree Service – Recovery from a Storm Begins Before it Arrives

Hurricane Felix

Nashville is no stranger to violent weather. Hail and wind or even a freak snowstorm can substantially disrupt personal and business lives. While we don’t get hurricanes, we do get winds that are strong enough to uproot trees or snap off limbs and strip trees of foliage.

Yes, we get wind, but did you know that according to the CoreLogic® Windy City Index, in 2016 Nashville was the windiest city in the country with 21 wind related events? The metropolitan area experienced wind gusts of 72 mph that year.

When those events occur, it can create chaos. Trees will fall, limbs will snap, power will be lost, roadways – not to mention driveways – may be blocked, and the whole thing can become a Class A Emergency if first responders are hampered by debris.

You may think you are prepared, but our decades of experience at the Parke Company have taught us that there is always something more you can do.

An Extreme Example Nashville Can Learn From

When Hurricane Irma, a CAT 4 storm with sustained winds of 110 mph, made landfall in Naples, FL in 2017, residents expected the worst. Electrical power was out for ten days. It took two weeks before the water system was again safe enough to drink from the tap. Those were long periods of inconvenience, and in some cases, danger. But the longest and most persistent reminder of Irma was the four months it took to remove “natural debris.”

That “natural debris” consisted of uprooted trees, tree limbs, shrubs, and bushel after bushel of leaves. That natural debris initially caused life threatening situations. Not because they were leaning up against structures, but because they blocked roadways, causing serious delays in response times. Ambulances, fire department vehicles, police, and of course critical services like power company crews were severely hampered by trees blocking the highways and residential roads.

Initially, recovery efforts were focused on public roads. Piles of debris 20 and 30 feet high lined the roadways for months. However, that left homeowners (and HOAs) on their own to clear driveways and private roads. For many, that meant they were unable to leave their property except by foot for several days. For everybody, it meant that the sound of chainsaws and tree chippers became the background music for everyday life.

Florida expects this kind of weather. For the people and the government, hurricanes and tropical storms are front of mind from July through October. When Irma hit, some of the best prepared cities and counties in the state were essentially “out of business” for five days, only gradually coming back to “normal” over the next four months.

Nashville does not expect this kind of severe weather, but there is still a lesson to be learned. Communities and property owners need an emergency plan that includes the impact of “natural debris” on the safety and protection of people and property.

Planning for and Recovering from an Emergency Tree Event

When property owners think about their landscaping, it’s usually about how, when, and who will do the lawn maintenance, tree trimming, fertilizing, aerating, and other routine landscaping services. Those same questions should be asked (in advance) when the landscaping is no longer nice and neat but residing in places it shouldn’t, like on top of a car in the driveway or poking through a second-floor window.

To accomplish that, you need a plan:

  • Know what you have. For many homeowners, inventorying their trees can be accomplished on one hand. But for businesses, HOAs in gated communities, and larger estates in Franklin, Brentwood, Gallatin, and other communities, it’s wise to know what is at risk. A survey by a certified arborist can identify, plot, assign an economic replacement value, and evaluate the health of every tree on the property. The arborist can also make recommendations regarding preparation for specific trees. Knowing what the potential dollar cost is at risk, and what can be done to mitigate those risks, is a great starting point to prepare for severe weather.
  • “Who ya gonna call?” If you haven’t decided before the event, you’ll probably be able to get Ghostbusters to respond before you find a qualified landscaper. Severe weather didn’t just hit your lawn. The entire area will have a demand for these companies. Don’t assume your existing landscaping service is equipped to handle your emergency needs.
  • Appreciate the scope of the problem. If you have never been through extreme weather, it’s difficult to appreciate the effort needed to clear tree damage. If you have a mature hardwood like white oak, hickory, cherry, or maple that is 60 feet tall with a 20 inch diameter, it can weigh close to 5 tons. The same size pines will run about 40% of that. That’s a single tree! To clean up and remove 10,000 pounds of debris requires chainsaws, tree chippers, a stump grinder, forklift, high wall truck, and skilled labor that knows how to use it all. Again, that’s for a single tree. Toss in the special skill and equipment required to remove trees leaning on structures or property and you have a requirement for resources not normally found in a “mow and blow” lawn service.

Information is the key to preparing for a tree disaster. The survey conducted by the arborist gives you the base line you need to mitigate the damage and control the costs of that mitigation. Understanding the value of your risk allows you to make informed decisions on what preparation work makes sense (removal of unhealthy trees, cabling, trimming, etc.) and to negotiate contracts in a non-emergency environment.

At the Parke Company, we have extensive experience with emergency tree service. We have the resources, the skilled crews, and the capacity to respond in a timely fashion. If you believe you can benefit from a professional tree disaster plan, give us a call and we can get the process started. Our certified arborist will survey the property and then prepare a step by step process that optimizes recovery.

Take panic out of the equation. Partner with the Parke Company and enjoy the peace of mind that you are ready for the next big blow.

Springtime Seasonal Landscaping Maintenance in Nashville

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Spring has arrived in Middle Tennessee, and people are once again spending more time outside their homes enjoying the great outdoors – even if that “outdoors” is just out back on a patio or deck. Spring is a time for new beginnings, and homeowners in Nashville, Brentwood, Cool Springs, and other communities who have invested in beautiful landscapes need to take a breath and remember they have some springtime lawn issues to deal with to protect those investments.

The Parke Company, a leading landscaping service in Nashville, firmly believes that proper lawn maintenance not only keeps the lawn and shrubs healthy, but can add to the value of the property as well. Investing in landscaping yields many benefits, but it does take some work and care.

So, let’s get started. Here are two simple spring lawn maintenance tasks to get a Nashville landscape off to a great start.

Mulching

Nashville can get hot quickly. Protecting plant beds with a couple of inches of mulch will help retain moisture, keep the soil cool, inhibit the growth of weeds, and give your plants a healthy head start. At the Parke Company, we offer a variety of traditional mulches along with two alternatives that may prove more beneficial.
Pine straw is an excellent renewable, organic, lightweight mulch that holds better than traditional mulch on slopes. If you have a planting bed that is built on an incline, pine straw may be your best solution. Shredded pine tree mulch is also an effective mulch, with the added benefit of a pleasant pine aroma.

If your lawn has debris and litter left over from the winter weather, we have an option you may be interested in. We offer a chopping and grinding service (using a Vermeer shredder) that will take your “waste” wood, branches, stumps, brush, and other organic debris and shred it into mulch.

Inspecting the Health of Plants and Shrubs

How well have your plants, shrubs, and trees survived the winter? A quick inspection can reveal common problems, hopefully early enough to get plant-saving intervention. Look for new growth on all the plants. New growth is typically an indicator of a healthy plant or tree. If you spot dead patches in shrubs or tree limbs that are bare, you should have a professional look at them.

If black spots appear on leaves, it could be an indicator of azalea lace bugs. If these spots appear on new growth, then you need to explore treatment options to prevent spread. Boxwoods are a favorite in the Nashville area, and they are also a favorite for boxwood leaf miners. Flip the leaves over and use a handheld magnifier to look for their eggs.

Finding these signs early is essential. Too many times, the conditions are allowed to progress to the point where there are no viable treatments and replacement is the only option.

Of course, if you would like a professional to make these evaluations, feel free to call us. We can have a qualified technician or arborist do a thorough inspection and create a treatment plan specific to your plants’ condition. You can count on the Parke Company for the best in tree service, lawn maintenance, and landscaping. Call today.

Mulching in Winter: The Benefits of Fresh Mulch in Colder Months

the parke company winter mulching

It’s winter in Nashville, and tending to gardens and shrubs is probably the last thing on your mind. “That would be a mistake,” say the experts at the Parke Company, Nashville’s leading landscaping service and tree service company. Dry winter winds and the occasional winter warm spell can do real damage to your dormant and evergreen plants.

While Nashville winters are relatively mild, when the temperature drops below 25 degrees and the last of the hardy annuals turn brown and crumble, it’s time to do winter mulching. Why mulch in winter? Unlike spring mulching, which is done to suppress weeds, retain moisture, and warm the soil, the principal reason to mulch in winter is to insulate the soil and prevent damage from dry winter winds.

Insulating the soil to keep it frozen prevents dormant plants from sprouting during brief warm spells in winter. Changes in air temperature can also cause expansion and contraction of soil. Left unchecked, this soil movement can push a plant’s roots above the surface, where they can be damaged by cold winds. Keeping the ground frozen through mulch insulation minimizes the risk of this occurring.

Mulching in Winter

What to Use as Winter Mulch?

Remember last fall when you were raking leaves and doing a major leaf pick up? If you stored those leaves in a leaf bag, now is the time to break them out to be used as winter mulch. You can use any loose insulating material, keeping in mind that you will need to remove it in the spring.

Here are a few ideas for mulch material:

  •        Pine needles
  •        Straw
  •        Shredded leaves
  •        Shredded bark
  •        If the first freeze comes after Christmas, you can use boughs from your Christmas tree – great material because they are easy to remove in the spring.
  •        Snow is actually an excellent insulator, but you can’t count on that in Nashville.

What and How to Mulch in the Winter

We’ve already discussed insulating your flower garden, so let’s talk about other areas to protect.

If you have a fallow vegetable garden and you didn’t plant a cover crop, you can use a layer of leaves. If your vegetable garden is fenced, you can use it to “store” all of your extra leaves. In the spring you’ll have a ready supply of mulch material.

Evergreens and semi-evergreens, like rhododendrons, can become dried out by winter winds. You can protect them by covering the plants/shrubs in burlap. Make sure the burlap is not resting on the shrub or it will freeze to the bush. Stuffing leaves between the burlap and the bush will prevent that.

Another option is to spray the shrub with an  anti-desiccant, like Wilt-Pruf. As an aside, an anti-desiccant will prolong the life of your Christmas tree and also makes a good covering for carved pumpkins.

When to Remove Winter Mulch

The short answer is after the thaw, but that can be tricky. Easter snowstorms are not totally unknown in Nashville. Basically, when the smell of mud is in the air, it’s safe to remove the mulch.

If you have questions or need assistance with winter mulching, please don’t hesitate to call us at the Parke Company!