Tree Base Flower Box

Valerie Burge
by Valerie Burge
7 Materials
2 Hours

We have a cute little Japanese Maple tree on our front lawn. I love the tree – but do not love playing twister with it, while I’m mowing the grass around it. LOL

Note: In order to give the tree plenty of oxygen, I kept the soil level very low (3/4") and didn't pack it in around the trunk. If you want to try this idea, make sure to take these precautions to keep your tree healthy.

So I decided to make a shallow planter box around it. I picked up two 8-foot 3.5 x 3.5” pressure treated garden ties.  

Garden ties

Then I cut them both in half, to make a 4 x 4’ box.

I laid the four pieces of wood around the tree and measured from the tree trunk to the box on all four sides to make sure the box was centered. Then I dug up all the weeds and trimmed the grass as short as possible inside the box.  

Then I screwed the wood together using 5" deck screws - two screws on each corner.

I placed cardboard on the ground to kill the grass. I removed all the tape, stickers and labels from the boxes to make sure I wasn’t burying anything environmentally unfriendly. The cardboard will break down fairly quickly.

I filled the box with soil. I kept is shallow and fluffy because I didn’t want it to be too deep or heavy over the tree roots.  

Update: After receiving feedback from an experienced horticulturist in the "questions" section below I removed some of the soil - down to 3/4". I also pulled the soil away from the tree trunk - there's basically just a sprinkle near the trunk now - enough to cover the cardboard.

The two cut ends of wood that were visible (the other two were inside and not visible) I stained with provincial gel stain, applied with a cloth.

Then I added a few flowers to the box. I decided to just plant a few things this year, so the cardboard boxes will get lots of moisture and break down faster. But I’ll add a few more perennials next summer. 

I will keep a close eye on the tree to make sure there are no ill effects. But the local garden center staff assures me this shallow bed will not damage my cute little tree. 

And here it is! It will be so nice not having to get into pretzel positions while I’m cutting the grass!

After learning that I shouldn't put soil too close to the trunk I relocated the sweet william flowers that I had planted up against the trunk. I love the way it looked - but I love the tree more and want to ensure it remains healthy!

Sweet William perennials

And this is how it looked after I removed some of the soil and relocated the flowers I had planted up against the trunk. I think it still looks very pretty. And it still serves the exact same purpose I built it for - easier mowing around the tree. :)

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Frequently asked questions
Have a question about this project?
3 of 27 questions
  • Can you plant a Japanese Maple in a large pot? Had to move from my home of 31 years to an apartment. I’d like a touch of me! Maybe a dogwood also?

  • Valerie Discon Valerie Discon on Mar 12, 2022

    Did you ever consider using artificial flowers against the tree? I do not have a green thumb and kill everything I touch LOL so I started doing artificial flowers in front of my house in the dirt and yep I put them right in there and I get so many compliments on how beautiful my flowers are I changed them with every season and for every occasion very cheap to do I go to the dollar store!

  • Bak80045242 Bak80045242 on Mar 26, 2023

    Did you make holes in the cardboard for the plants you put in?

    every fall I put lots of leaves in my beds, the cover them with cardboard weighted down with rocks. In the spring, I turn under what’s left of the leaves, and I’ve been throwing the cardboard out. This year, I’m getting some new black dirt, so I’ll

    leave the cardboard in place and cover it with the new dirt.

Join the conversation
3 of 268 comments
  • Mbf56001528 Mbf56001528 on Dec 17, 2021

    I am impressed with the great participation and helpful suggestions for the post. 2 additional tips: Tree roots may be damaged by "wet feet" if you plant under a tree, make sure the water, fertilizer, and sun requirements are compatible. Also, even though there are some really good suggestions, the Master Gardener program through Universities has an agricultural vibe, they can be a real good source for anyone with questions about growing stuff in any part of the country.

  • He-74223268 He-74223268 on Dec 06, 2022

    I'm thinking about it, however, I thing I would use bricks instead. Thanks.