Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemum is famously diverse and colorful.

Chrysanthemum compensates for its lack of fragrance with rich color and variable form. Centuries of breeding have produced countless shades and tints within the yellow, orange and red range. This includes pink as a tint of red, cream as a tint of yellow, and bronze as a shade of orange. Some reds and pinks are precariously close to purple or lavender. There is, of course, white as well.

Flowers may be solitary big pom-poms, multiple small buttons, or anything in between. Many are daisy types, mostly with bright yellow centers. Spider chrysanthemums have strangely elongated and hooked ray florets, which are generally thought of as ‘petals’. Some chrysanthemums that would otherwise bloom with many small flowers can be groomed to bloom with fewer bigger flowers.

Chrysanthemums with compact growth and uniform bloom are popular as short term annuals for autumn. Their primary bloom phase is impressively profuse. Unfortunately, few get an opportunity to bloom again. Other cool season annuals replace most of them for winter. In ideal situation, with rich media and regular watering, chrysanthemums can actually perform as short term perennials.

Color Is Not Black And White

Annuls must change with the seasons.

Several months ago, warm season vegetable plants replaced cool season vegetable plants. More recently, new cool season vegetable plants began to grow from seed, to replace warm season vegetable plants. Annual vegetables grow only within specific seasons. As they finish, they relinquish their space to those that grow in the next season. Annual color operates in the same manner.

‘Color’ is another word for ‘annuals’ or bedding plants that provide colorful bloom. Those that grew earlier were warm season annuals or summer annuals. Those that replace them through autumn are cool season annuals or winter annuals. Of course, there is nothing black and white about color. Some color from last summer can linger late. Some for next winter prefers an early or late start.

Furthermore, much of the color that cycles through gardens as annuals actually has potential to perform as perennials. If cut back and obscured by more seasonable color through their dormancy, some types can regenerate when it is again their season to perform. For example, cut back busy Lizzie that bloomed last summer can overwinter underneath primrose, and start over next spring.

Marigold and chrysanthemum can start bloom early, before summer ends, but may not perform for long. Some chrysanthemum bloom only once, before vacating their space for other cool season color that does not mind starting later. Cyclamen and ornamental cabbage happen to prefer late planting, to avoid Indian summer. Warmth causes cabbage to bolt, and promotes rot of cyclamen.

Pansy, viola and various primrose have always been popular. Sweet William, Iceland poppy and stock are not as common. Stock should be, since it is so delightfully fragrant. Both nasturtium and alyssum bloom nicely through either summer or winter, depending on when they started to grow from directly sown seed. Some fibrous begonia can perform through winter if sheltered from frost.

Most color does well from cell packs. Nasturtium should only grow from seed. Chrysanthemum and cabbage might be better from four inch pots. Cyclamen may only be available in four inch pots.

Arachnophobia

Tony Tomeo

70927lthumbsparePerhaps I should see this movie. I hear that it is pretty lame. I sort of wanted to see it because it was filmed in Cambria, about thirty miles to the northwest of where Brent and I were in our last year of studying horticulture at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo at the time. Yet, I never select movies. I always leave that up to whomever I am seeing the particular movie with. None of my friends ever wanted to see Arachnophobia. The one friend who you would think would want to see it because of where and when it was filmed wanted nothing to do with it. You see, Brent, the famous horticulturist and landscape designer who works outside where spiders live, is afflicted with Arachnophobia.

About a year before the filming of Arachnophobia began, in early 1988, Brent lived in Sequoia Hall at Cal Poly to the…

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GREEN

Tony Tomeo

P71112

GREEN – Greening Residential Environments Empowering Neighborhoods – allocates resources, procured from both municipal funding and private donations, to the installation, maintenance and protection of trees in public spaces within the collective urban forest of Los Angeles, and to the enforcement of environmental justice.

How is that for a mission statement?

It is no coincidence that GREEN is also Brent’s last name. He is quite vain. Really though, it works.

Brent has been planting street trees since we were in school in the 1980s, and did his first big project of thirty trees in the median of San Vicente Boulevard on his thirtieth birthday in 1998. This January, twenty years later, he will be planting fifty more trees.

Here and there, I will be writing more articles about these projects. They are too involved to write just one article about. For now, I would like to mention the Facebook page…

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Six on Saturday: LOG!

What rolls down stairs
alone or in pairs,
and over your neighbor’s dog?
What’s great for a snack,
And fits on your back?
It’s log, log, log

It’s log, it’s log,
It’s big, it’s heavy, it’s wood.
It’s log, it’s log, it’s better than bad, it’s good.”

Everyone wants a log
You’re gonna love it, log
Come on and get your log
Everyone needs a log
log log log

Hopefully, no one remembers this. Anyway, vegetation management has become something of a priority recently, and has been generating a bit of firewood.

1. LOG! From Blammo! Actually, this one is from a bigleaf maple, Acer macrophyllum. It is an exemplary specimen, artfully displayed against a backdrop of sawdust scattered over asphalt.

2. Pseudotsuga menziesii, Douglas fir is cruddy firewood that can ruin carpet inside a car if moved while green and sappy, but most was gone by the time I got this picture. It is all gone now.

3. (Notho)lithocarpus densiflorus, tanoak is much better firewood. It is also my least favorite of native trees here. It smells like bad salami while in bloom, and produces irritating tomentum.

4. Ligustrum japonicum, waxleaf privet is not native. It was likely a remnant of a prehistoric landscape, rather than self sown. The few logs are nothing to brag about, but will burn like olive.

5. Umbellularia californica, California bay was claimed before it was stacked, so was outfitted with a sign that read, “This bay is not free. (This ain’t FREEBAY!) LOL – LOL”. It smell badly!

6. Acer macrophyllum, bigleaf maple, according to the sign, is for Aunt Jemima. It is one of my favorite native species, but is notably uncommon, so I am none too keen on cutting any down.

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

Chrysanthemum

Chrysanthemums are just right for autumn.

Mild autumns and arid summers keep chrysanthemums on a different schedule here than in most other regions. They can get planted in spring to grow through summer and bloom through autumn; but because they can take a bit of work, they are more often planted while blooming in autumn. Although commonly grown as autumn annuals, they are perennials that can regenerate next spring, grow through summer, and bloom even better the following autumn.

Centuries of development in Japan have produced more varieties of chrysanthemums than can be documented. There are really some weird types grown for cut flowers or by hobbyists. Garden varieties are mostly limited to simpler flowers that do not need much thinning or staking. Color ranges through all sorts of hues and shades of yellow, orange, red, pink and bronze, as well as a few purplish colors, cream and white. Many have yellow centers. The aromatic foliage is alluring to some, but objectionable to others.

Snails, Weeds And Falling Leaves

Gardening does not slow for autumn.

The coloring of foliage is a bit slow this autumn. The cooling nights after such warm weather is bringing some of the deciduous foliage down while it is barely yellowing. Honeylocust and black oak have already gotten notably sparse without much notable color. Hopefully, the more colorful sweetgum, flowering pear, pistache and gingko trees will retain their foliage later into cooler weather, so that they can put on a worthy show before filling compost piles.

It is probably slightly too early to clean gutters and downspouts. Unless the rainy season somehow starts first, this should probably wait until most of the foliage that is expected to fall has already fallen. Lawns, certain ground covers, decks and pavement should be raked as needed though. Decks and pavement can get stained from the tannins that leach from decomposing foliage. Lawn and ground cover do not like the shade under the debris.

However, slugs and snails really dig the mess. Fallen foliage keeps the ground cool, damp and shaded. Raking leaves does not eliminate slugs and snails, but inhibits their proliferation. There are always plenty of other hiding places. As the weather eventually gets cooler and damp, snails that stay out in the early morning should be collected and disposed of. Of course this technique is not convenient for everyone, since most snails hide before the sun comes up. Small slugs hide earlier in the morning and are even more unpleasant to handle.

Once found, neither slugs nor snails are too elusive . . . or fast. Yet, plucking and collecting them is not a fun job. Once collected, no one knows what to do with them. They can be put into plastic bags and disposed of; and will eventually succumb. Some people prefer to simply toss them onto a dry and sunny driveway or roof where they succumb more quickly and get taken by birds. Snails may need to be squashed to limit mobility.

Even though it is too late to prevent most types of weeds from dispersing their seed, a few types continue to disperse seed as they deteriorate through autumn and winter. Weeds in areas that get watered last longer and disperse their seed later than those without watering. Perennial weeds that are still green in dry areas areas will be easier to pull after the first rain.

Serously?!

Articles such as this one from three years ago are why I now typically write to comply with the ‘Horridculture’ theme on Wednesdays.

Tony Tomeo

P71104Gardening is not for everyone. If you are reading this, you probably enjoy gardening. There are many more people who simply are not interested in it. Some tend to their own gardens in a basic manner just to keep their homes looking good. Most hire gardeners to maintain their landscapes for them.

I use the term ‘maintain’ very lightly. What they really do is keep the lawn from getting too deep, and other plants from getting too overgrown. Very few really care how they accomplish these basic requirements.

I could go into the detail about how they brag about saving water while wasting enough to drown trees, or how they shear everything within reach into nondescript . . . whatever they get shorn into, or how most problems that arborists encounter in their work are caused by gardeners. Instead, I am just gong to talk briefly about two examples of…

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Ginkgo

Ginkgo is turning clear bright yellow.

Where autumn chill is minimal, the best and brightest yellow autumn color is that of the ginkgo, Ginkgo biloba. Some know it at the maidenhair tree. Except for older trees that produce messy and stinky fruit, it is a notably clean tree. Perhaps it is too clean. It drops nothing all year, but can defoliate too soon once it develops it striking autumn color. Minimal chill actually prolongs the process.

Ginkgo is dioecious, with separate genders. Modern cultivars for landscapes are male, so produce no obnoxious fruit. Female cultivars that produce nuts and fruits are not commonly available in nurseries locally. (As objectionable as their aroma is, the nuts and fruits are edible.) Some people may be allergic to the pollen of mature male trees. Many mature trees predate modern cultivars.

Trees are somewhat slender and perhaps sparse while young. They develop a broader canopy as they age. Trees can get more than fifty feet tall, with sculpturally irregular branch structure. Foliar venation radiates outward from the petioles. Leaves, which are about two or three inches long, therefore have the shape of fishtails. Leaves on current season stems are cloven into paired lobes.

Autumn Color From Deciduous Foliage

Deciduous foliage can get delightfully colorful.

Autumn does not get cool enough locally to prevent everything from blooming. A few plants can bloom sporadically all year except only during the coolest part of winter. A few plants naturally bloom in autumn. Cool season annuals begin blooming before warm season annuals finish. Flowers can potentially provide plenty of autumn color if necessary. A mild climate can be a major advantage.

It can also be a disadvantage. Minimal chill causes deciduous foliage to start to get messy before it starts to get colorful. Some deciduous plants shed completely before getting chilled enough to develop appealing autumn color. A few others do not even get cool enough to defoliate completely. They instead retain their shabby old foliage through winter until new foliage replaces it in spring.

Nonetheless, several adaptable deciduous plants get sufficient chill to develop impressive autumn color here.

Sweetgum, Chinese pistache, flowering pear and ginkgo are likely the four best deciduous trees for autumn color locally. Sweetgum and Chinese pistache produce the most impressive ranges of vibrant colors. Flowering pear is comparable, but with less yellow, and more rich deep burgundy red. Ginkgo lacks such range of color, but develops the brightest and clearest yellow autumn color.

Boston ivy, crape myrtle and persimmon get about as colorful as sweetgum, even if incidentally to their primary duties. Crape myrtle is popular for its abundant and richly colorful bloom in summer. Persimmon is a fruit tree. Boston ivy obscures graffiti and helps muffle sound on freeway soundwalls. Cottonwood and black walnut turn bright yellow, but in the wild rather than in refined gardens.

Even for the locally mild climate, there are plenty of deciduous plants that provide foliar autumn color. Trees are the most familiar. Vines and shrubbery are also popular. Because this mild climate is marginal for some of them, color is likely to be variable from year to year. Unfortunately, some that perform satisfactorily for inland locations may perform less satisfactorily in coastal conditions.