Fantastic Design Plant: Coast Live Oak

This really is the most familiar and cherished California oak — the shrub that cities and high schools are named for. A large live oak is a shrub to treasure, protect and build a landscape around; it’ll dictate the microclimate of your garden, overseeing birds, moths and squirrels as well as what develops under. If you have the space, you can plant your own nursery-grown live oak. It will grow quicker than you think and most likely outlive you — live oaks in the wild live several hundred decades or longer.

Be conscious of possible bamboo maladies. Trees often succumb to soil diseases brought on by summertime watering. And, regrettably, a constant pathogen called sudden oak death is striking live oaks and dispersing throughout the state. Native oaks are so well loved and worthy of protection there are associations, like the California Oak Foundation, devoted to rescue them.

Las Pilitas Nursery

Botanical name: Quercus agrifolia
Common title: Coast live oak
USDA zones: 9 to 11 (find your zone)
Water necessity: Light; present trees usually suffer if watered in summer.
Light requirement: Full sun
Mature size: Potentially huge with time — around 70 feet tall with an equal spread
Weaknesses and tolerances: Susceptible to oak root fungus; avoid summertime watering. Subject to defoliation by pine moths. Most serious is sudden oak death, a pathogen that has been killing tens of thousands (or millions) of Northern California’s coast live oaks and relevant species for the previous two decades.

Distinguishing traits. About hilltops and valley floors, its dense canopy of foliage and thick trunk make an unmistakable picture of this disappearing agrarian and crazy California.

The evergreen leaves are oval, rigid and spiny. Notice here in this patch of suburban open space that grass does not grow under the tree, and that dropped leaves create a organic mulch — an attractive and healthy position to emulate in a garden setting.

Blasen Landscape Architecture

The best way to utilize it. A live oak is a shade maker, a shrub to build a fort in, to climb in, to hang a swing from. Younger trees, as in this layout by Blasen Landscape Architecture, look perfectly at home in wilder or casual sections of a garden.

Envision Landscape Studio

Because of their size and untidiness (falling leaves, catkins, acorns), live oaks are best at the edge of property, in a somewhat natural section. Do not plant lawn or ground covers beneath present trees that are old; this promotes root diseases. It is also better not even to pave the soil surface. Trees which you plant generally withstand lawn watering better; attempt to avoid summer watering. Mulch, gravel or stones undeneath, as shown here, is healthier and appears more natural.

Sutton Suzuki Architects

Live oak thrives and looks best with other California natives and Mediterranean plants, such as manzanita, ceanothus, lavender and rosemary. Pruning out whole branches can restrain the size somewhat, open up a opinion and neaten up the tree’s form.

Botaniscapes by Tracey

Planting notes. Young trees grow amazingly fast. You can start with nursery plants, available in containers from gallon dimensions to boxes 10 feet square. Pick single-trunk or multiple-trunk shapes. To make a naturalistic grove, plant several trees. Find live oak away from a lawn or other place which gets heavy summertime watering, and plant it in sunlight.

Make sure the drainage is good. Generally there’s no need to amend the planting soil. You’ll need to water the tree frequently, even in the summertime, for its first couple of decades. Provide a sturdy stake. If you live about wildlife, protect young tree trunks from rabbits, deer and other critters.

The main pest is the pine moth caterpillar, which can shred a tree every now and then. If you visit caterpillars falling out of the tree or descending on silk webs, or if you see signs of defoliation, call a professional tree service. Spraying for walnut moths is a major job.

The most fearsome threat to native oaks is sudden oak death, a pathogen that has been murdering Northern California’s coast live oaks and relevant species. (Not all native oaks are vulnerable.) The pathogen’s spores spread during the rainy season, and leaves of affected trees wilt and die; sap exudes from the trunk and branches. If you notice signs of disorder, call a professional arborist.

Las Pilitas Nursery

The best way to develop an oak from an acorn. It is not tough to start an oak tree from an acorn right in the ground. Your enemies will be the typical suspects: birds and squirrels. In fall or winter, start with a wholesome (no insect holes) dropped acorn.

In a sunny place, dig a planting hole 6 inches deep and 6 inches wide. Refill the hole with the excavated soil and bury the acorn sideways a inch deep. The acorn should sprout through spring. Water the soil and help keep it moist throughout the first summer at least.

To boost your chances of succeeding, plant at least several acorns a foot or two apart. Thin the survivors to leave just two or one. Produce a display of wire mesh to protect the sprouting seedlings from famished monsters.

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