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A: There are those who suspect Wildflower Center volunteers are the culpable and capable culprits. Yet, others think staff members play some, albeit small, role. You can torture us with your plant questions, but we will never reveal the Green Guru's secret identity.

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Ask Mr. Smarty Plants is a free service provided by the staff and volunteers at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.

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Friday - July 25, 2008

From: Los Angeles, CA
Region: California
Topic: Groundcovers
Title: Ground covering around cypresses in pool area
Answered by: Barbara Medford

QUESTION:

We have multiple cypress trees planted along our pool area..they shed way too much..but I'm looking for something to put under and around them over the dirt..do you suggest wood chips or a ground covering..the problem is they shed and its difficult to keep the area clean around them..but I'm tired of just looking at dirt around the bases..what do you suggest??

ANSWER:

Our first choice would probably be shredded bark mulch, which we think is attractive, keeps weeds down and the roots of the plants cool (or warm). However, we do see your problem-if you rake the leaves and other tree debris, it's going to be very difficult to avoid raking up the mulch you just so neatly put down. Were the trees there first or the pool? It just seems like a poor choice to plant trees that are going to cause the need for constant cleanup both in the pool and on the surrrounding area. However, you have the trees, you have the pool, let's see what other possibilities we can come up with.

Dichondra macrantha (Asian ponyfoot) was very popular in southern California in the 1950's and 1960's as a grass substitute for lawns. It is a native of New Zealand and Australia and in some places in the United States it is considered a weed. There are, however, members of the same family that are native to North America and might well serve the purpose here: Dichondra carolinensis (Carolina ponysfoot) and Dichondra argentea (silver ponysfoot). The silver ponysfoot is a particular favorite of ours, and, although it is a native of Texas and other southwestern states, should be able to do well in southern California. This will certainly hold and cover the dirt you are tired of looking at, won't need to be mowed, and maybe won't be too terribly difficult to rake for tree debris. Another possibility, native to California is Festuca californica (California fescue) which is 8 - 12" high, tolerates some shade but is best in full sun. This also does not need to be mowed, and is graceful and attractive. It should withstand raking fairly well. None of these will take a lot of foot traffic, but if you are just looking for something to make the area under and around your cypresses more sightly, they are worth investigating.

If you need a source of native plants, go to our Suppliers section, type the name of your town and state in the Enter Search Location box, and you will get a list of native plant nurseries, seed companies and landscaping professionals in your general area.


Dichondra carolinensis

Dichondra argentea

Festuca californica

 

 

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