Dealing with a Big Old Tree in Your Yard: Should You Keep It?

Having a big old tree in their yard is a dream of many. But it can be tricky to work around such a tree. It’s as beautiful as it is potentially dangerous. What if a hurricane topples it and damages your home?

But on the other hand, a big old tree can provide a statement piece in your garden. It can provide ample shade, and if your yard space is huge, the whole area can be an event venue. You can hold an intimate wedding there or a Thanksgiving gathering. The tree will make for a gorgeous backdrop in photos.

Not all big trees are created equal, however. Before doing anything with it, consult an experienced arborist. They’ll advise you about tree care and whether it’s safe in the first place to keep it.

But for the meantime, these ideas are worth considering:

1. Cut Down the Tree

This is probably the last thing you’re expecting, but not all trees can benefit your yard. A big, centenarian tree might have roots that cause structural damage. Those roots can change the drainage pattern across your property. They may even block water and stop it from running out of your house or yard.

If the tree is a silver maple, chances are it has already done that. It’s often impossible to resolve the issues they cause without cutting through the masses of roots. And doing that injures the tree, causing its limbs to weaken and become prone to toppling over. They would become a safety hazard as a result.

Hence, in that case, it’s better to cut down the tree. The same advice applies if the tree is planted too close to your house. Its roots can lift your walkway. The branches can rot the eaves or drop juicy berries that’ll make a mess around the house. If you can avoid these inconveniences, then it may be advisable to keep the tree.

2. Prune the Branches

pruning a tree

If the tree isn’t a disturbance in your yard, prune the branches. Ensure that no part of the tree touches your windows, as that can cause damage or pest infestation. It’s also a security measure.

Ideally, it’s an arborist who should be pruning a tree. That’s because pruning isn’t simply trimming down the branches. It also deals with the tree’s height, shade, growth, and dead branches. Plus, time matters in pruning. After the spring growth, for example, you should avoid pruning because you may injure live tissue. Hence, if you haven’t pruned a tree before, rely on your local arborist.

3. Decorate the Stump

If you decide to cut down the tree, don’t just abandon its stump. It can have a new purpose, such as being a decorative yard feature.

An oak stump, for example, can be transformed into a gnome house. Install wooden shingles at the top, and make wooden windows out of scrap wood. Surround the stump with shrubs and flowers. This holiday season, it’d be fun to adorn it with fairy lights.

You can also use the stump as a pedestal for a water feature. Consider a birdbath. Use a terracotta dish or any other basin or bowl. Then add stones or a small solar fountain. Soon the birds will flock around it and have their fill of water. Plant tall shrubs or a smaller tree near the stump to provide a cool shade for the birdbath.

4. Build a Deck Around It

If budget permits, build a deck around the tree, whether it’s still standing or has been removed. Your deck will look especially good if the tree has wide-spreading limbs. You’ll have a generous shade overhead and a stunning focal point that’ll never cease to impress your guests.

5. Landscape Around It

To make your big old tree even more eye-catching, landscape around it. You can build a raised bed around it, filled with rocks, shrubs, and native grasses. It’ll become a dreamy rustic garden.

Another great idea is to delineate it. Instead of building a raised bed, lay rocks around the tree’s perimeter. Then cover the ground with grass or dead nettles. Despite its name, dead nettles are very much alive. They produce clusters of white, pink, or yellow flowers. Don’t forget to add a light fixture to showcase the tree at night.

If you’d rather keep things clean and minimal, use the classic hack, which is to hang a swing on a sturdy branch. Make it an egg swing so that you can use it comfortably. That would make a lovely Instagram-able spot.

Trees are such a wonder that they’ll look perfect even if left alone. But of course, as a feature in your yard, we want them to look glamorized. Just be careful when deciding what to do with a big old tree, because nature can be unforgiving when it is wronged.

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