Last updated: November 09. 2013 10:06PM - 880 Views

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Dudley Wooten

Outdoors Columnist

When I went into business, 30 years ago, the choices of mulch were very simple. 90% used bagged bark from local mills, 9% used bagged cypress, and 1% used red lava rocks or white marble chips.

We couldn’t have imagined then what changes were to come in the mulch market. We first saw cypress, graded into bark vs. wood and then put into smaller bags. We then saw the big bags only 2/3 full (just like potato chips) and just another marketing gimmick to create an illusion of more and sell you less. We then saw hardwood bark bagged and the cheaper wood cypress was on every street corner.

You have to remember as you read this, that this written by someone who was in business before Walmart and every convenience store thought they were in the landscape business. It is also written by someone with both horticulture and forestry backgrounds. I take mulch seriously and I expect my source to do the same.

As landscaping trends evolved over the years, so did mulch trends. We used pine chips at one time and pine needle mulch, but neither lasted long. The use of stone mulch has caught on, but not with most. We’ve used rubber tire mulch, both shredded and chipped, in black, brown, and red. This is a way to go green, recycle, and have color, but what about the tire shop smell, and what about a fire?

It would be obvious to most that the biggest craze in today’s landscape would be colored wood mulch. This is available in red, brown, and black, and in many degrees of quality. Some will be dyed bark and some will be dyed brush and pallets. Some will be a deep chocolate while someone else’s brown will be tan. A dark roan red is not to be confused with a bright orange-red. We would like to think that black is black, but some will be gray soon.

When you’re buying colored mulch be aware of several things. You will know the color you like when you see it, but what color will it be in a month? This is to ask how colorfast is it? Several things control colorfast, including the dye, the process, and the wood used. When colored mulch is made, it can be done with paint or dye, high or low pressure, and hard or softwood. The key is the penetration. The color goes deeper and last longer, if done with pressure on a softer wood. It is a much better mulch that is double processed also. This means that it goes through the shredding process twice. It is much more uniform and pleasing, with the sawdust and large chunks screened out.

Within each hardship lies opportunity. As many of you know, we had a local producer of colored mulch. They went out of business and that means that we can no longer go directly to the source for colored mulch, one pickup truck load at a time. This has caused me to research the market and order from 3 new sources to supply the best of the best.

I’ve been selling bulk mulch for 30 years and I’ve learned that mulch is about personal preference. We will usually sell or install about 45% black, 45% dark brown, 5% red, and 5% stone each year. A colored mulch that pleases your eye, holds its color, and is priced right will please both you and me.

When I select a mulch, I would choose one that best enhances or compliments the landscape and facility. The objective here is to merge with the shrubbery and not collide with or overpower your landscaping. This would be a subtle blend of color between mulch and roof, siding, or shutters. Another way to select mulch is to accent the shrubs. Green shrubs show on any color, while gold will show best on a black or dark brown mulch. To each his own. Got mulch?

Dudley Wooten can be reached at 740-820-8210 or by visiting wootenslandscaping.com

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