Q: We have a small backyard with a small pond in one corner. When we had the yard landscaped, we ended up with two Melaleucas near the pond. Bottom line, the roots from the Melaleucas have taken over the pond. We have removed the trees and base, but wonder if the roots will continue to live and grow. Next, what trees can we replace with, if any, that don’t get too large or have invasive root systems that will cause the same problems? I hope you can help with this problem.
— Wayne Boswell
A: I can’t think of a tree whose roots would not grow toward water. You may want to plant farther away from the pond.
However, there is no chance of Melaleuca roots continuing to grow unless suckers are produced around the stumps and are allowed to flourish. As long as you remove Melaleuca suckers if they happen to appear, you will not have to worry about further root growth.
Tree roots grow only when there is leafy growth above ground; leaves manufacture carbohydrate that is sent down to roots, enabling their growth.
If you still want to grow trees near your pond, I would suggest certain palm trees whose root systems are not terribly extensive. You might want to try the multi-trunked Mediterranean fan palm (Chamaerops humilis), the feathery pygmy date palm (Phoenix roebelenii) or the single-trunk, cold-tolerant windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei).
Windmill palm grows more than 20 feet tall, even as its root system shows minimal development. I have seen windmill palms growing in Lancaster, a testament to their ability to survive freezing weather.
You could also plant those highly decorative, water-thrifty sago palms. Sago palms, botanically speaking, are actually cone-bearing cycads and have more affinity with pines than palms. A large variety of sago palm species are on sale at significant discounts at Maurice Levin’s Jurassic Garden nursery, 11801 Stagg St., North Hollywood. For more information, visit www.cycadpalm.com or call 818-759-0600.
One practice for deterring root growth is to install a root barrier — made of modular plastic panels — around the root balls of your trees. An alternative to planting trees in the ground is to grow them in large, decorative containers situated around your pond.
In one respect, you had the right idea in planting Melaleuca, a columnar tree that produces little shade, near your pond. Ponds require most, if not all, of the day’s sun to maintain their health. A shaded pond is an invitation to algae to be fruitful and multiply.
Also, you can grow water lilies, canna lilies and other colorful bloomers in a sunny pond, whereas a shady pond drastically limits your plant choices. While you may see occasional blooms among plants in a shaded pond, the floral display will be vastly inferior to what you can expect in a sunny pond.
Flowers: Think texture
When it comes to flowers, texture may capture your attention as much as color or fragrance.
Three flowers I recently encountered at Armstrong Garden Center in Sherman Oaks are texturally memorable and stay in your mind as fixedly as any sweetly scented bloom. As a bonus, the colors of these tactile sensations are also unique.
Dwarf chenille plant or firetail (Acalypha pendula) is truly a one-of-a-kind creation. Woolly red caterpillar catkins hang down in profusion from the stems of an otherwise modest plant that only reaches 1 foot in height. Typically grown in a hanging basket, it also can be planted in flower beds for a nonstop show of woolly red from summer to fall.
A globe amaranth known as Gomphrena ‘Fireworks’ is slowly becoming a garden staple. It grows into a 4-foot-tall-by-4-foot-wide mass of lime green foliage covered with purple flowers, whose glowing yellow tips impart a pyrotechnic aspect. Flowers have a wafer-like texture and last for many months in dry flower arrangements.
Amaranth, incidentally, means everlasting (in Greek, "a" is a prefix meaning without and "maranth" means wasting away).
As a companion to a globe amaranth, consider the paper daisy Bracteantha ‘Dreamtime Jumbo Red Ember.’ Its flowers really do have the texture of paper and, absolutely dry to the touch, are predictably suitable for dry gardens.
Paper daisies come in many colors and live up to expectations as cut flowers when detached from the mother plant in half-open mode. If cut when still in the bud stage, paper daisies never open and if cut when fully open, their vase life is minimal.
Tip of the week
There is a new compost on the market called EcoScraps that is made entirely from leftover, unsold supermarket produce. It is available at home improvement centers and nurseries. Costco is a major supplier to EcoScraps (of unsold fruits and vegetables) and a purchaser and retailer of EcoScraps compost products.
The EcoScraps founder was inspired to start his company one morning when he went to a restaurant to have breakfast and was confronted with an all-you-can-eat buffet. After loading his tray with a second breakfast, he changed his mind and went to dump it in the garbage. While doing so, he noticed an enormous quantity of discarded food in the garbage bin and had a thought: What if a way could be found to transform all this wasted food into something else? After much experimentation, he decided to focus on turning unsold supermarket produce into garden compost.
Currently, EcoScraps is only sold in the West, but there are plans to make EcoScraps available throughout the U.S.
To learn more about EcoScraps products, go to www.ecoscraps.net.