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Raised Flower Beds

QUESTION: I have two large lacebark elms on the west side of my house. The roots are becoming unsightly around the bases of the trees, and I would like to use bricks to create a raised bed for flowers around each tree.

Since the house blocks morning sun, what should I plant that will withstand full sun from 2 or 3 p.m. until sunset? I don’t want to do anything to jeopardize my trees, which we planted seven years ago. A friend lost a large lacebark elm last spring, and he had a raised bed around it.  D.P., Dallas

ANSWER: You have answered your own question. Raised beds should never be built around trees. Lacebark elm is especially sensitive to this treatment. These imported trees are susceptible to cotton root rot.   If the roots that seem unsightly are the main structural roots radiating from the trunk, they are important and, at most, can be covered with a thin layer of shredded native mulch.  If the roots are circling and cutting into the tree, they should be removed. In this case, it’s best to consult a certified arborist.

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