Mower

Again, this old article does not conform to the ‘horridculture’ meme for Wednesday. It is not so much about bad horticulture as it is about ‘distinctive’ taste and landscape design.

Tony Tomeo

P80411After all the years it was out there, someone, somewhere must have gotten good pictures of it. I never did. Nor did anyone I know. It was something of a famous landmark in Santa Clara.

First, I should explain these pictures that my niece sent from here Mid City Heights neighborhood in Los Angeles. As you can see, this is a well kept middle aged home with minimal setback from the sidewalk. It is in a delightfully tree shaded neighborhood of comparable homes.

What are those black and white silhouettes of city skylines on those two plastic panels in front, you ask? They are a fence. Seriously. There are several similar panels around the perimeter of the front yard, at the edge of the sidewalk, and up the sides. They depict a variety of familiar landmarks, such as the Golden Gate Bridge, the Space Needle, the Eiffel Tower, the Tower…

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Lithodora

Lithodora has more names than colors.

Both the common and botanical names of lithodora are variable. Many know it as purple gromwell. The botanical name can be either Lithodora diffusa or Glandora diffusa. Many of the cultivars lack their species name after one of these two genus names. There might be less variety with the cultivars than with the names! Floral color is the primary variable. 

White blooming ‘Alba’ is uncommon. After all, lithodora is popular for its rich blue bloom, which ranges from light sky blue to indigo. As the name implies, ‘Blue Star’ flowers have a white edge around a blue center. ‘White Star’ flowers have blue around white. Flowers are tiny but profuse in sunny situations. The dense evergreen leaves are likewise small.

Mature plants are generally only a few inches deep and perhaps two feet wide. They can eventually get more than six feet wide by rooting as they migrate. Although they grow too slowly for large scale ground cover, they work nicely in a sunny atrium, around boulders, or with mixed perennials. Lithodora is susceptible to rot in pots or if watered to frequently.

Nomenclature Was Designed For Simplicity

Simple standardized nomenclature is getting rusty.

Buick Electra used to mean something. Chrysler Imperial and Lincoln Town Car did also. That was at a time when cars were still distinguishable. Instead of random numbers with a few letters, they had distinctive names. These names, although distinct, conformed to a standardized pattern. This pattern of naming was comparable to botanical nomenclature. 

According to botanical nomenclature, plants are identifiable by genus and species. Their ‘gen’us is a more ‘gen’eral designation than their ‘speci’fic ‘speci’es designation. A family is a larger and more general classification than genus, and in turn, fits into another more general group. Most of us are not concerned with the many classifications beyond family. 

For example, the botanical name of silver maple is Acer saccharinum. Acer is the genus. saccharinum is the species. Acer saccharinum is in the Sapindaceae family. (For botany, genus and species names are italicized, and species names are not capitalized.) Buick Electra is similarly in the General Motors family. Buick is its genus. Electra is its species.

Varieties and cultivars are even more specific designations within species. Some are the products of breeding. Some are naturally occurring. A cultivar is a ‘cultivated variety’ that does not perpetuate naturally like other varieties do. Most cultivars propagate by cloning. (Variety and cultivar names are capitalized and enclosed within single quotation marks.)

For example, Acer rubrum ‘October Glory’ is a cultivar of red maple. It exhibits a distinctly rounded canopy and foliar color in autumn that is superior to that of the simple species in the wild. It might compare to a Buick Skylark Gran Sport, which is essentially a cultivar of Skylark with a stronger engine. Botanical and automotive nomenclature are quite similar. 

Such similarities of nomenclature are no advantage. While cars forfeited their distinctive titles for mundane numeric designations, plants forfeited their species names for cultivar names. Such abbreviation of nomenclature interferes with accurate identification. Those unfamiliar with it may not know if Cercis ‘Forest Pansy’ is an Eastern or Western redbud, or something else.

Hanging Gardens of Babylon

Three years later, this ‘garden’ is getting more sunlight now that another large portion of the canopy of the associated tree collapsed, and more of what was structurally compromised got pruned away.

Tony Tomeo

P80328The ivy in this sycamore did not just climb up from the ground to hang over this big limb. If you look closely, you will see no vine coming up from the ground. This small patch of ivy as well as a small pyracantha, are growing in a decayed cavity on top of the big limb. The ivy may have climbed up a long time ago, and then rooted into the cavity before the original vine was somehow removed. Alternatively, the ivy might have grown from a seed that was dropped by a bird or ivy vines that are higher up in nearby box elder trees. It is impossible to say now.P80328+It is also difficult to say why there is such a large cavity on top of the limb. It could have originated as a large scar incurred from the impact of another large limb that fell from above…

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Fertilizer

Horses are not my favorite neighbors, but they (sort of) serve a purpose.

Tony Tomeo

P80325‘Fertilizer’ is a polite term for ‘recycled vegetation’.

‘Recycled vegetation’ is a polite term for something else.

This is not a synthetic type of fertilizer that gets tossed about or poured on. It gets added to compost and allowed to compost some more before being spread out as a mulch over the surface of the soil, just before chipped vegetation gets dispersed over the top. Alternatively, it sometimes gets mixed into the soil. It is quite useful. You can’t beat the price.

It is recycled differently from the compost or chipped vegetation (from a brush chipper). It is recycled through a horse, or more specifically, two horses. As the picture above suggests, it begins at the front of the horse, and ends at the rear of the horse, which is not pictured.

The horses happen to be quite efficient at recycling vegetation. They do it all the time. They are…

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Six on Saturday: Godzilla vs. Kong!

There are plenty of pictures, but not six to conform to a single topic. Only half here are horticulturally oriented. The other half are merely relevant to dysfunctional wildlife of the landscapes. Lily of the Nile was not such a major project as the removal of the carpet roses that occupied the site previously. We wanted to relocate them prior to spring, but that did not go as planned.

1. Lily of the Nile is rad! I have been digging and splitting it since the seventh grade. I do not care if it is cheap and common. This replaces carpet roses that should not have been at the walk.

2. Angel’s trumpet needed to be removed from another landscape, so was relocated here. It is now in the process of replacing the foliage that it shed in the process. It is happier than it looks.

3. Angel’s trumpet wastes no time getting ready to bloom as quickly as it generates new foliage. The flowers are double white, and very fragrant. This particular specimen has a lot of history.

4. Godzilla hitched a ride in the work pickup on Friday afternoon. Well actually, it merely tried to, but got nowhere with me. I do not know how it got in, but I do know how it ‘safely’ got out.

5. King Kong was here earlier in the week. He (or she) fled long before Godzilla arrived. He also got a bit of help on his way, since I do not want him in the garden, or the trash, or anywhere!

6. King Kong does not look so scary in this coon trap. He did not get relocated so far away that he cannot return if he wants to; but if he does, will likely avoid the area where he was trapped.

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/

Rabbit Foot Fern

 

Rabbit foot fern has lacy leaves.

Rabbit foot fern, Davallia fejeensis, is one of those few plants that actually seems to be happier in pots, particularly unglazed terracotta pots that stay damp where its oddly fuzzy rhizomes creep over the edges. Besides, pots have the advantage of portability, so that appealing plants can be brought into the home as houseplants, even if only for a few months at a time. Rabbit foot ferns that lose leaves because the air in the home is too dry should recover if moved to a shady and humid spot out in the garden for a while.

The fuzzy rhizomes are as appealing as the foliage, and can creep a foot or even more if they wrap around a pot. They rot if buried, so should be spread out over the surface of the potting soil when small plants get put into larger pots. The very lacy foliage can get a foot deep in damp and partly shady spots. Foliage is shorter and more dense with more sunlight.

Late Night Terror For Foliage

Snails and slugs really crave hostas.

Snails and slugs really enjoy all the new seedlings and fresh foliage that is growing in the garden while the soil is still damp from earlier rain, and the weather is getting warmer. They are neither too smart nor too fast, but they are very hungry, and do their damage at night when no one is watching. They hide before the sun comes up.

The same lush foliage that they eat is also where they often live. However, they also live among lily-of-the-Nile and some ferns that they do not damage very much, as if they think that no one will look for them there. They also hide under any sort of debris and in valve boxes. Removing such debris and unwanted weed foliage diminishes their habitat.

Pieces of damp cardboard intentionally left out in cool and damp spots in the garden overnight can attract snails and slugs as they seek shelter in the morning, and then be flipped over during the day to collect and dispose of the surprised snails beneath. It is sneaky, but effective. People who happen to be up late can hunt for snails while they are out and about. Otherwise, hunting for hiding snails and slugs by daylight takes a bit more diligence.

Saucers or plastic lids containing puddles of beer is supposed to keep snails and slugs out drinking until they get roasted when the sun comes up. The problem is that the beer gets washed away whenever the garden gets watered. Besides, it does not really kill very many victims. Salt around the most susceptible plants likewise gets washed away, and can be toxic to the plants that it is supposed to protect. Keeping water in drainage saucers below potted plants is a problem for drainage, and allows mosquitoes to proliferate.

Copper tape that can be purchased from nurseries or hardware stores is an effective barrier for snails and slugs, but only if the susceptible plants are completely surrounded, and only if leaves or stems that extend over the copper do not touch anything outside. Copper tape can be self adhesive or stapled to wooden planters. Bare copper wire is just as effective. If wrapped around tree trunks, copper tape or wire should have some slack to allow for growth. An extra bit of self adhesive copper tape pressed against itself to form a tab that it can be pulled apart as needed should work well. Copper wire only needs a small loop of extra wire.

Squirrel!

Technically, this old article does not conform to the ‘horridculture’ meme for Wednesday. I just dislike squirrels.

Tony Tomeo

P80408Wildlife and domestic animals seem to follow me everywhere I go. When Brent and I lived in the dorms at Cal Poly, our room was known as the Jungle Room, not only because of all the greenery, but also because every little bird that got knocked out while trying to fly through the big windows at the dining room was brought to our room to recuperate. A baby squirrel that weaseled into my jacket while I was out collecting insects for an entomology class lived with us for a while. There were two baby ducks that need a bit more explaining.

When I moved south of town, where my roommates boarded horses, the horses worked diligently to open their gate to come to the house to eat my rare plants. The neighbor’s cattle sometimes did the same! When it rained, creepy crawdads came out of the ditch at the railroad…

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Grape Hyacinth

Grape hyacinth is very reliably perennial.

Are they reliably perennial or invasive? In ideal situations, old fashioned grape hyacinth, Muscari armeniacum, can get a bit too eager to proliferate and migrate. Not only do their bulbs divide efficiently, but their seed disperse beyond bulb colonies. However, bulbs do not migrate too rapidly for containment. Thorough deadheading inhibits seed dispersion.

Grape hyacinth provides some of the earliest spring bloom. Floral spikes of tiny rounded flowers do not get much more than six inches tall, but are delightfully abundant. The rich blue color is exquisite. Hybrids and other species can bloom with pale pink, pale purple, white, yellow, or various shades or tints of blue. The grassy foliage is somewhat rubbery.

If they do not migrate efficiently enough, established colonies of grape hyacinth are easy to divide in autumn. Of course, it will be necessary to mark their locations as their foliage dies back at the end of spring. Division is easier and faster than growing new plants from seed. If hybrids produce seed at all, it may not be viable. If it is, it may not be true to type.