Where The Green Ferns Grow

80829thumbThe list of what ferns will not do is more noteworthy than the list of what they will do. They do not bloom with colorful or fragrant flowers. The do not produce fruit. Very few turn color in autumn, and their color is generally nothing to brag about. Most ferns will not maintain their appeal through drought, or if neglected too long. Nor will they tolerate heat and wind, especially in full sun exposure.

Yet ferns are still popular for what they ‘will’ do. They provide remarkably distinctive and stylish foliage. They survive in spots that are too shady or perhaps too damp for other plants. Ferns will be quite happy in pots or planters, and some are happy to grow as houseplants. Ferns somehow avoid getting eaten by deer. If a fern gets tasted by a deer who does not know better, it will survive.

All ferns are perennial. Most are evergreen. Their foliage arches upward and outward from the terminal buds of stout rhizomes. Some ferns develop dense foliar rosettes. A few develop trunks by growing vertically instead of horizontally, and dispersing roots downward through their own decomposing fibrous rhizomes. Many ferns will get quite broad. Many are quite delicate and diminutive.

Ferns may not require too much maintenance, but the little bit of maintenance they require is somewhat important to keep them looking tidy. Old foliage should be pruned away as it is replaced by new foliage. This may be as simple as pruning away all old foliage just after new foliage develops early in spring. For some ferns, small batches of old foliage might get removed through the year.

The foliage of ferns is comprised of leaves known as ‘fronds’. With few exceptions, the fronds of ferns are intricately lobed or divided into smaller leaflets known as ‘pinnae’. (‘Pinna’ is singular for pinnae.) These pinnae are arranged on opposite sides of fibrous leafstalks known as ‘rachi’. (‘Rachis’ is singular for rachi.) Rachi are quite fibrous and tough, so should be cut close to the ground with pruning shears when they get groomed, rather than plucked.


Premature Color

P80819Halloween is my all time least favorite of the fake holidays. I will not elaborate on this now, but will say that the appearance of Halloween decorations as soon as the Fourth of July decorations were outdated on the fifth makes me dislike Halloween even more. Halloween is an autumn pseudoholiday. It is not meant for summer!
Autumn foliar color, or fall color, is known as such because it happens in ‘fall’ . . . or autumn. It is not meant for summer any more than Halloween is.
This little Japanese maple did not get the memo. Perhaps it thought that no one would notice if it got an early start. It was a nice bronze in spring and the early part of summer, and somehow managed to maintain good color without roasting when the mild weather so suddenly became more seasonably warm a while back, but is now turning this nice pinkish red as if it is done for the year. This picture is slightly more than week old, so this little tree has been slowing down for a while already.
I can not complain. I am actually impressed that this tree did not get roasted when the weather changed earlier. Japanese maples are susceptible to scorch in our arid climate, and the ‘lace leaf’ cultivars are the most sensitive. More resilient foliage, including English laurel cherry, got roasted.
What will this Japanese maple look like in autumn? I can not predict. It would be nice if it held the premature color through autumn and defoliated on schedule in winter. It might defoliate as prematurely as it colored, leaving it bare part way through autumn. The bark could scald if too exposed while the sun is still high and warm. The weather will determine what happens next.

The Bad Seed

P80818KThis salvia would probably look badder without it. Yes, that’s badder and not better. I mean, if all these slightly unsightly seeded stems were cut back, then the even more unsightly deteriorating foliage below would be more prominent. When one looks at it that way, the bad seed suspended above does not seem all that bad.

It is doubtful that the ‘gardeners’ who ‘maintain’ this site put that much thought into it. They are, after all, the same who ‘maintain’ the firethorn that is pictured in this article from June 27 (The Wrong Plant In The Wrong Place https://tonytomeo.com/2018/06/27/horridculture-the-wrong-plant-in-the-wrong-place/ ). There were probably too busy botching something else to notice that this salvia is in need of botching as well.

There is some unpruned black sage nearby that displays similar but smaller seeded structures on more irregular and arching stems, rather than vertical stems that stand upright. They too are somewhat appealing in a weirdly sculptural sort of way. They might stay like that until winter, when they will likely get pruned back as they deteriorate in the weather.

Sunflowers are commonly left after bloom just because finches and other seed eating birds like them so much. They do not get cut down until the birds are finished with them. To many, this is the main reason for growing sunflowers.

Another excuse to be lazy about deadheading spent blooms is that many will provide seed that can be collected for the next season, or merely allowed to self sow and naturalize. Leaving open pollinated vegetables out to go to seed is a common practice. For example, the last few radishes to be pulled might just be left to bolt, bloom and go to seed. Cosmos tends to throw its seed whether we want it to or not.

Six on Saturday: Out With The Old


The planter box downtown has been neglected for too long. ( https://tonytomeo.com/2017/11/04/my-tiny-downtown-garden/ ) I really must make some time to clean out the debris and a little bit of trash. There is nothing as interesting as when the concrete slurry was dumped into it by whomever was installing the tile in the bathroom of the adjacent building, but there are some odds and ends. One of the six trailing rosemary plants that was trailing so nicely over the southern edge is missing . . . as in someone cut it back to a stump. Someone dumped out an old dead houseplant right into the middle of the planter box, leaving an upside down pot shaped wad of potting soil, as if no one would mind. Right next to that, someone left a potted kangaroo paw, as if I might want to plant it into the planter box. It is all dried up and mostly dead . . . and I really do not like kangaroo paw enough to want to grow it there. Well, perhaps it is better to show you the drama than to write too much about it.

1. This is the potted kangaroo paw that someone left in the planter box. Anyone who does not notice how sloppy all the dried foliar debris on the ground around it is will be sure to notice how unsightly this dried kangaroo paw is. The pile of discarded potting soil was already bashed up and spread out before this picture was taken. I will probably plant the kangaroo paw somewhere else, just in case it survives. I do not want it here. The pot is nice.P80818

2. It has a name; Anigozanthos ‘Kanga Yellow’. Doesn’t anyone use species names anymore?P80818+

3. Right next to my planter box is a tree well with a London plane that has not grown more than a few inches in the past few years. When my nasturtiums really get to blooming and seeding, I sweep some of the seed into the tree well, where they bloom just as prolifically as they do in the planter box, but a bit later. I make it look like an accident. There is also a busted up houseleek in there. It grew from a piece of mine, and will regenerate when the rain resumes in autumn. It sort of looks like an accident too.P80818++

4. Just to the west of the slow London plane is one of a few old Southern magnolias that will be removed. They are disfigured and somewhat unhealthy, so are not worth salvaging as the pavement of the surrounding roadway, sidewalk and curb get replaced. Even if we wanted to salvage them, they would not likely survive the process. It is sad to see them go, but they were good street trees for a very long time, and certainly lasted longer than they should have been expected to. Southern magnolias commonly displace pavement. I really would not mind if the ailing London plane were to be removed as well, just because it it too pathetic to work around, but the tree huggers are intent on preserving it. When the magnolias get replaced with new redbuds or tupelos, the London plane will look odd, and will eventually get too big and break the new pavement. Oh well. My planter box and this tree are actually on Nicholson Avenue, not on Tait Avenue or Bayview Avenue.P80818+++

5. ‘X’ marks the magnolias who are condemned to death. I know they need to go, but it is saddening anyway. They were fun neighbors.P80818++++

6. Since there were no colorful flowers within my planter box, it was necessary to get this picture elsewhere. Brent might say this looks like the Academy Awards, with a bee on the red carpet rose. Well, I can not expect you to know how Brent thinks. You can omit ‘rose’, and think of ‘bee’ as ‘B’, and think of ‘B’ as a euphemism.P80818+++++

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


Dawn Redwood

70816If it has bark like a coastal redwood, and foliage like a coastal redwood, and a slender conical structure like a coastal redwood, it is most likely a coastal redwood. If it turns orangish brown in autumn and defoliates through winter, it is the much less common dawn redwood, Metasequoia glyptostroboides. It is one of only a few distinctive genera of coniferous trees that are deciduous.

Upon closer inspection, it is not as similar to coastal redwood as it initially appears. Besides being deciduous, the foliage of dawn redwood is softer and lighter grassy green. Individual leaves are more perpendicular to the stems. Trunks are more tapered, so that they are quite lean up high, and quite plump down low. Old trees can form buttressed trunks. Strips of bark might exfoliate.

Dawn redwood is by no means a deciduous alternative to the evergreen coastal redwood. Although it grows about as fast while young, it slows with maturity. Crowded trees get taller but lanky. Exposed trees stay shorter and broader, but because they are still relatively narrowly conical, they do not make much shade at first. Old trees are more than a hundred feet tall, but could get taller.

How Shade Is Made

70816thumbMany of our trees live at our homes longer than we do. Some of our trees were there before we got there. Some of the trees we plant will be there for whomever comes along after we are gone. Trees very often evolve into something very different from what they were intended to be. Nonetheless, since they are the most significant features of our gardens, trees must be selected carefully.

The recommendation that shade trees near the home should be deciduous is cliché but accurate. It makes sense that the trees that provide cooling shade in summer will also allow warmth and light through while bare in the winter. Evergreen trees are better for obscuring undesirable views around the perimeter of the garden, where they will not shade the home too much through winter.

The problem is that many modern gardens are too small for such diversity. Modern homes are so close to each other that evergreen trees are more important for obscuring views. Consequently, evergreen trees that provide privacy between homes and gardens might also function as shade trees. Limited space also means that trees affect neighboring homes and gardens significantly.

This is why so many of the small trees (that are known almost disdainfully by some arborists as ‘microtrees’) are so popular. Japanese maple, flowering cherry and smoke tree that were once popular for atriums and small enclosed gardens are now popular shade trees. Realistically though, some modern backyards are not much bigger than what was once considered to be an atrium.

Small evergreen trees or large shrubbery, like Australian willow, mayten, photinia and the larger pittosporums, work nicely by providing both privacy and shade for small areas. Contrary to popular belief though, evergreens are generally messier than deciduous trees. They drop small amounts of foliage throughout the year instead of dropping most or all of their foliage within a limited season. Flowers or fruit add another dimension of mess, even for deciduous trees like crape myrtle, flowering crabapple and saucer magnolia.

Horridculture – DEATH

P80815KIt is quite natural. Death, I mean. Every living thing does it at one time or another. Even the oldest bristlecone pines that live for thousands of years eventually do it. The Monterey pine in this picture did it quite efficiently. The three crows perched on top make it look extra dead. You know, not merely dead, but very dead. If this tree were in my own garden, I would be totally saddened by its death, but there is nothing that I could do about it.
The smaller dark objects suspended in the now dead limbs are pine cones. Monterey pine starts to produce pine cones at a young age, and of course, produces more with age and increasing size. As mature trees begin to deteriorate, they produce even more cones as they concentrate their resources into seed production for the next generation. This elderly tree knew that death was imminent. After all, death is natural.
Compared to other trees that are native to the neighborhood, such as valley oaks that live for centuries, and coastal redwoods that live for thousands of years, Monterey pines are ‘short-lived’. They live only a century or so, and may not live half that long in urban situations, particularly in more arid climates. They are endemic to the Monterey Peninsula, where they live within an ecosystem that, prior to urban development, naturally burned at least every century or so, before they got to be too old. In fact, their natural life cycle was directly relevant to how combustible the forests were, and how efficiently fires spread through them; but that is another topic.
The main concern here is that death is natural. The tree in this picture died a natural death. It can not be blamed on global warming, climate change, big industry, the President that we all seem to hate even though enough of us voted for him to become president, or my old car that, after almost half a century, is still not a hybrid. We can complain about death all we want, but we can never stop it.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day August 15 – Summer Weather Continues . . . Mostly


We were fortunate to have missed out on the unpleasant warmth that most everyone in the Northern Hemisphere experienced. It was warm here, but no warmer than is normal for summer. The only difficulty is that it got so warm so suddenly after such mild weather early in summer. Some of the flowers that were blooming at that time finished a bit earlier as a result of the weather.

Flowers that are blooming now are somewhat on schedule. Chrysanthemum does not see to have much of schedule, but that should be expected. Although I would guess that they are early, those who know better tell me that naked lady is right on time.

Those in other climates have no problem talking about the end of summer or even the incoming autumn already. I am not ready to give up on summer. I will likely be talking about it still in September. I can talk about autumn in October.

These pictures were taken on the Santa Cruz County side of the Santa Cruz Mountains above Los Gatos, closer to Felton. The climate is more coastal than the chaparral climate of the Santa Clara Valley, although both are within USDA Zone 9.

Naked lady started blooming about a week ago, just long enough for the first of the bloomed flowers to start deteriorating in the background. I thought this was somewhat early, but a colleague, who is incidentally not at all horticulturally oriented, informed me that this is exactly the right time for them. When I was a kid getting ready to go back to school, I remember them blooming in September in Montara, but that was many miles away, and in a somewhat different and more coastal climate.8bd1

Chrysanthemum is another flower that I think of as blooming later, and even into autumn. Yet, these have been blooming since late spring. There are different cultivars that bloomed at different times. These are the latest, but are already starting to deteriorate. Perhaps those that already finished will bloom for another phase in autumn. It is difficult to say. I think that they bloom whenever they want to here.8bd2

Peruvian lily is blooming for a second phase, which really is right on schedule. The main and most prolific bloom phase was in late spring. After those flowers finished and deteriorated, the finished stalks got plucked, leaving only a bit of vegetative stems sprawling on the ground, and a few unbloomed stalks that are blooming now. After bloom, the finished stalks will probably get cut in half, but not plucked. That technique removes the seed capsules and keeps the tall and lanky stalks from falling over, but also leaves a bit of foliage to help the lower vegetative growth recharge the system for bloom next year.8bd3

Rose blooms all summer. Some of the hybrid tea roses bloom in more obvious phases after their most prolific first phase. Floribunda roses like this one bloom so steadily that there is not much separation between phases. This particular rose is in a pot that was not likely watered enough through the earlier warm weather, so subsequent bloom was not expected. Some of the petals are a bit roasted around the edges.8bd4

Zonal geranium blooms about as steadily as floribunda roses do. They would bloom right through winter if there did not need to be cut back before spring. Some zonal geraniums put out quite a bit of new growth recently. It will be awkward to cut them back at the end of next winter. The stems that are fresh and new now will still be in good condition right through winter, so I will not want to cut them back like I should. The flower of this zonal geranium is the same color as the rose above.8bd5

San Marzano tomato is NOT what this tomato is. It was labeled as such, but looks more like common ‘Roma’. No one is complaining. There is certainly nothing wrong with it, except that it is not what was expected. Hey, this unknown tomato is the same color as the zonal geranium above, which is the same color as the rose above. All the other flowers above are from plants that are in the storage nursery at work. These tomatoes are in a colleague’s garden adjacent to the nursery.8bd6

Garden Bloggers all over America and in other countries can share what is blooming in their gardens on the fifteenth of each month on “Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day”, hosted by Carol Micheal’s May Dreams Garden at http://www.maydreamsgardens.com


80822Not all annuals last as long as petunias do through summer, or pansies do through winter. Some fill in for the in between seasons, or if longer term annuals do not last quite as long as they should. Cockscomb, Celosia plumosa, blooms best now that it is about halfway through summer, and then finishes as weather gets too cool for it in late autumn, not so much more than two months later.

The common name of cockscomb is actually derived from another species, Celosia cristata, which blooms with oddly stunted and flared blooms that supposedly resemble the combs of roosters, but the most popular varieties are so stunted that they actually look more like little fuzzy brains. Celosia plumosa blooms are more feathery, like those of pampas grass, but only three inches long.

The red, orange, yellow and pink blooms are as brightly colored as a pinata. Mixed colors, which might include softer pink, are the most popular for six packs and seed. White is notably lacking from popular mixes, and is only rarely available separately. Some varieties have bronzed foliage. Cockscomb lasts more than a week as a cut flower, but blooms on rather short and stout stems.

Seasons Are Constantly In Flux

80822thumbGardening requires planning. There is always planning. The vegetables that are getting harvested now are developing mostly on plants that were put out in the garden early last spring. Some of those plants were grown from seed sown even earlier, late last winter. Now that it is more than halfway through summer, it is time to plan for cool season vegetable and annuals for next autumn.

There is still no need to rush cool season vegetables and flowering annuals that will be purchased as small plants in six packs or four inch pots. They are only beginning to become available in nurseries, and get planted a bit later. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and kale are popularly purchased as small plants because not very many are needed, and they are reasonably inexpensive.

However, if varieties of these vegetables that are not expected to be available in nurseries are desired, they must be purchased as seed. If space allows, they can be sown directly into the garden early in September. Otherwise, they can be sown now into flats, six packs or small pots to grow into small plants that will be ready when warm season plants relinquish their space later in autumn.

Root vegetables like beets, turnips and carrots should not be grown or purchased in flats or pots. They get disfigured by transplant. Therefore, they should be sown directly into the garden through September. Carrots should perhaps be delayed until halfway through September. Turnip greens and leafy lettuces should be sown directly as well just because they get distressed from transplant.

Almost all cool season vegetable plants can be grown in phases, or several small groups planted every two week or so, in order to prolong harvest. Those planted first develop and are ready for harvest first. By the time they are depleted, the next phase should be ready. However, because most cool season vegetables develop somewhat slowly, and individual plants within each group develop at variable rates, planting only one early phase, and one late phase, perhaps with another phase in between, might prolong harvest more than adequately.