How did low-water groundcover do during late-summer heat?

In an attempt to find a drought-tolerant ground cover for his Irvine homeowners’ association landscape, Jim Harrison introduced kurapia in selected areas this summer. Harrison wrote that it was “planted in July, filled in nicely in August, and survived well in September heat.” 

He found it to be a “great substitute for brown grass problems. We are expanding the use in mixed shade/sun areas; it uses the same sprinkler time as low-water plants watered from the same valve.” He did mention that “some dog owners are concerned about the increase of bees” since bees do sting dogs, as you may know. I would suggest monthly mowing of the kurapia since that generally prevents kurapia flower development. The kurapia had been installed in sod-like strips.

I received another email from Irvine, this one detailing the history of a Japanese maple that was planted in an enormous ceramic pot five years ago. It is doing quite well in an area where it is exposed to sun in the early morning and shade throughout the afternoon. However, it now has an unkempt look and so the question arises as to whether it should be treated to an artistic pruning or lacing in the manner of well-trimmed trees growing in the ground. A desire is also expressed for a “graceful, understated maple” similar to those at the Huntington Gardens in San Marino. 

Upon seeing a photo of the tree, I noticed that shoot terminals on the ends of its branches appeared to be dead. This is commonly seen on trees in a root-bound condition, meaning that its roots are circling the interior of the container. After five years in the same container, even a slow-growing tree like a Japanese maple will probably have such roots and so it would be advisable to remove the tree from its container, cut back a third of the roots in symmetrical fashion and, while you’re at it, replace the existing soil with a fresh batch. Of course, a tree growing in a container can be pruned for aesthetic reasons, as long as it is done sparingly and with great restraint.

I also noticed that there appeared to be some ferns growing out of the container. It is never a good idea to plant anything in a container where a tree or other woody plant is growing. Even where a tree is growing in the ground, it is best not to plant anything directly underneath it unless the undergrowth has shallow roots and requires a bare minimum of irrigation.

I received a letter from someone with a large jacaranda tree that is lifting the edge of their driveway. They have received a suggestion to cut away roots from the tree leading to the driveway and prune the tree as a solution to the problem. They also asked if I could supply the name of a competent arborist who could do this work.

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