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05 February . 2020

Sweetwater’s 33-foot-tall Red Oak tree wins Texas landscaping award

Anyone who’s ever planted a new tree in their yard probably remembers digging a hole about the size of one of those five-gallon buckets you get from home improvement stores.

Can you imagine digging a hole that’s 12 feet wide and 5 feet deep? That’s how big the hole had to be for the 33-foot-tall Shumard Red Oak tree that crowns Sweetwater’s Hilltop Park.

The installation of this 22,000-pound-tree was so complex, it won a silver Excellence in Landscaping award from the Texas Nursery & Landscape Association.

Here’s the story of how Austin’s ECOSystems Landscape Services planted this tree in Sweetwater, taking careful steps to make sure that it will grow and thrive for many years to come. They began by excavating that 12-foot-wide by five-foot-deep hole that would allow for installation of soils and the large root ball, which was eight feet square by three feet deep. Knowing the importance of proper drainage for such a large tree, they installed a French drain that ran from the bottom of the hole and released on the side of the hill. This ensured that the tree would not be in jeopardy of overwatering or root rot in the future.

Once the tree arrived on site, they used a combination of skid steers, lifts and eventually a front-end loader to truck the tree to the top of the hill. With the dramatic slope and extreme weight of the tree, it was paramount to use spotters and safety coordinators at every step.
After the slow climb to the top with the tree, they confirmed the final planting height of the tree in relation to the final grade. They used a structural soil and planting mix that would allow for drainage, proper compaction and security for the newly planted tree. Several checks with a level ensured that the hole was prepared properly for the tree.  

Another safety briefing took place before ECOSystems began to lower the tree into position in the hole. Once the tree was in place, they began to backfill the hole, compacting and wetting the soils as they went.

The final steps included installing hardwood mulch, along with four stream bubblers on their own irrigation zone. They also anchored the rootball with specially constructed rebar anchors and framework to protect the tree against high winds. 

This award-winning tree at Hilltop Park will be a beautiful place for Sweetwater residents to gather throughout the year, to relax amid the circle of lounge chairs and enjoy inspiring views of the surrounding Hill Country.

The park has been seeded with wildflowers for a dazzling spring display, and native grasses and cacti will offer beauty and interest all year round. In the fall, the Shumard Red Oak displays dramatic color.

Learn more about living at Sweetwater, which devotes more than 700 acres to parks, trails, community centers and natural open spaces.

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