The benefit of having a tree(s) in the front yard of your home:

I had this potential client that wanted to remove their 50 year old magnolia and flatten the yard and replace it all with one layer of gravel. Although I am all about being drought tolerant I think these good intentions are mis-guided. The mature magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora) sits in the front yard and shades the house contributing to energy savings for the house, it also offers a buffer to the kitchen window from the street and creates human scale for the neighborhood. Mature street trees in the front yard can add to the property value, create shade that can fight increasing urban heat. They also help clean the air and also help filter storm water run off.  Although the canopy has thinned out a little and the roots are mounded near the base of the tree I believe the tree is overall healthy. I asked a few of my arborist friends why it has mounded and thinned out. Here are a few responses…

Looks like it was thinned out by an arborist which increases airflow…not a bad thing’ the mounding could be due to shallow watering keeping the roots close to the surface and possibly thatch build up. It’s a non issue. ‘

‘The magnolias have been hit pretty hard by the heat waves. Also looks like a sidewalk panel was recently replace which probably damaged/pruned some roots. Could also be water stress from a multitude of reason from general lack of sufficient irrigation to pest and diseases.’

I plan on supplying the client with information and hopefully they let me try to revive the tree vs remove it. I still think we can offer them a low maintenance rock scape but we will need to be conscious of the change in temperature from the rock layer and add supplemental water to the tree as it’s used to the moisture from the lawn. I would love to surround the tree with a nice thick layer of organic mulch and keep most of the rock to the outer edge of the canopy and if they allow it, add a few decorative boulders and pots to keep some various interest to the rockscape. 


If you’re wondering about the value of your tree’s… check out this great resource…

Here is an example of the rock and mulch combination idea. Adding the flagstone stepping stones and a few accent boulders keep it interesting. I will spec large enough rocks so that if a blower is used it doesn’t blow away the rocks with the leaves. 
Happy Planting