Okie Mowers

Blogging was still new to me when I wrote this recycled article. That is why the links are . . . . well, you will see.

Tony Tomeo

P80120They are excellent at weeding and vegetation management too, particularly where brambles are too thick to get through. They also convert unwanted vegetation into useful fertilizer. Goats are remarkably versatile and useful machines around the garden.

The goat in this picture is no ordinary goat. She is a pygmy fainting goat. Her kind were bred to faint when startled, in order to keep a predator occupied instead of eating other more desirable livestock in their herd. What a strange job description! When we went to Oklahoma a few years ago, we stayed on a farm with quite a herd of these small and pleasantly mannered goats.

It was winter while we were there, so there was not much to do in regard to vegetation management or gardening. There were a few blackjack oaks near the homes that I pruned up for clearance and just to neaten them up a bit…

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Kitty City

Horticultural trivia is not always relevant to horticulture, as this recycled article demonstrates.

Tony Tomeo

P80124Los Gatos is named after bobcats. More specifically, it is named after an interchange that was named after bobcats; La Rinconada De Los Gatos. There are a few theories about how and why it was named after bobcats. The most popularly accepted theory involved the remarkably violent demise of everyone involved, leaving no one to document it as accurately is it has been repeated for generations. Don’t question it if you ever hear it. It is quite entertaining. I prefer to think that we do not need an elaborate excuse for naming our town after native wildlife. The bobcats were here. People noticed them. BINGO – La Rinconada De Los Gatos.

Regardless and contrary to what my colleague Brent would tell you, ‘Los Gatos’ does not mean ‘The Ghettos’ in Spanish.

Other towns in California have horticultural names. Some are named for horticultural commodities that were grown there. Others are…

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Six on Saturday: Ill Wind

There are no flowery pictures here this week. Nor is there a picture of Rhody. I know that everyone loves Rhody. Also, I had been trying to include something flowery as everyone else does. Instead, I got only pictures of damage that was caused by very strong wind that blew through here on Monday night and Tuesday. I missed it while at my other work, but now have a major mess to contend with. Redwoods are very big and very messy, even without wind. With wind, they are very dangerous too. No one can remember stronger wind here.

1. Electricity sometimes gets disabled prior to strong wind. This wind storm disabled the electricity first. Debris such as this needed to be removed before the electrical service was restored.

2. Decayed dead trees blow down easily, even without much drag. They are not as heavy as viable trees, but are not as flexible either. A few stubs of broken limbs perforated this lodge roof.

3. Stairway to photinia was too silly to not get a picture of. The photinia looks as if it had always been there. I certainly did not expect it to fall over. We took the necessary steps to remove it.

4. Redwoods are hundreds of feet tall. Even small limbs that fall from such heights come down with significant momentum. This limb punctured the roof and this plywood porch ceiling below.

5. Several limbs such as this perforated this same roof. Abundant other debris was raked and blown off before these limbs could be removed, and the roof could be patched. Rain is expected.

6. This roof, as well as the house below it, got the worst sort of damage when this big fir came down. Sadly, this is not the only home that was destroyed by falling trees. Several cars died too.

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/

English Boxwood

English boxwood is a classic formal hedge.

Good old fashioned boxwood hedges really look silly if just a single missing plant get replaced with a different cultivar (cultivated variety) or specie. Most of the older boxwood hedges are the traditional, but somewhat yellowish Japanese boxwood. Most middle aged hedges are a relatively newer cultivar that is a bit greener. Modern boxwood hedges are more likely a cultivar of English boxwood, Buxus sempervirens.

English boxwood resembles Japanese boxwood, but has slightly narrower leaves that produce a slightly more objectionable aroma when shorn or otherwise disturbed. These opposite (paired) glossy leaves are only about a quarter to half an inch wide and about twice as long. The color is slightly darker with a more ‘olive’ tone. Wild English boxwood in Europe can grow as small trees. Most garden varieties are fortunately much shorter and more compact, which is why they are so popularly shorn into small formal hedges. They also do well as topiary. ‘Aureo Variegata’ is variegated with nicely contrasting cream colored leaf margins.

Maintenance Gardeners Often Need Help

Gardeners can rake leaves and mow lawns, but may not be qualified for some of the more specialized horticultural techniques.

Even some of the most avid of garden enthusiasts get some of the work in the garden done by maintenance gardeners. In many regards, even the common ‘mow-blow-&-go’ gardeners can be very helpful. As long as they are not expected to work with trees or shear anything (or everything), they can be remarkably efficient at the tedious and most demanding of tasks that are not much fun. For example, and as the job description implies, they can mow boring lawns and blow inert pavement. We can tend to our own meticulous chores, such as pruning roses and burying bulbs.

However, as professionals, gardeners must be as efficient with their time as possible, so rarely have the luxury of devoting the sort of attention to our gardens as those of us who enjoy gardening as a leisure activity. Consequently, they tend to be more generous with automated irrigation than they need to be. The immediate symptoms of insufficiency are more apparent than the symptoms of excess; so too much seems to be better than not enough. To make matters worse, the driest area of a lawn or bed is the limiting factor for automated irrigation, since everything else that gets watered along with the particular dry spot gets the same frequency and duration (volume) of irrigation.

At a time when many of us are already trying to use significantly less water, it is frustrating to notice any waste. In most gardens, lawn uses more water than everything else combined, but is also the part of the garden that many of us relinquish to maintenance gardeners who are not always there to notice waste. Regardless of any drought or water conservation, excessive irrigation is expensive and unhealthy to trees and many other plants.

Unfortunately, irrigation schedules can not be prescribed, but must be determined by direct experience with the lawn or landscape being irrigated. Even without rain, lawns and landscaped areas require less water through the (normally) cooler and shorter days of winter. The trick to rationing is to give the garden only as much as it needs to survive without allowing it to get too dry, which will undoubtedly cause some friction with any gardeners who may work with it.

Litter Box

This old article conforms with the Horridculture meme for Wednesday. I can not post a link here, so this is the previous article: https://tonytomeo.com/2018/01/20/six-on-saturday-cat-walk-in-the-kitty-city/

Tony Tomeo

P80120+++++Perhaps I should elaborate on the ‘litter boxes’ in the ‘Six on Saturday’ post earlier this morning. As I already mentioned, they are in the same parking lot as the Leo and Leona sculptures. They were formerly inhabited by Italian cypress trees that would now be like those nearby if they had survived.

This is no joke. Someone really selected the tree that provides the least shade for hot pavement, and attracts the most birds to do what birds do on parked cars.

Because they were installed as large boxed specimens, and were watered generously enough to maintain swampy conditions in the surrounding soil, most of the cypresses could not disperse their roots fast enough, and consequently got blown over onto parked cars in their first or second winter. The survivors took many years to get established, and were bound to big and unsightly lodgepole stakes for years.

Rather than…

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Grapefruit

Grapefruit originated as an unlikely hybrid.

Citrus have been in cultivation for centuries. Most breeding and selection was intentional. Even the strange breeding of orange and lemon for the familiar ‘Meyer’ lemon was deliberate. Grapefruit, Citrus X paradisi, is a peculiar one though. Its parents were unknown when it mysteriously appeared in Barbados in about 1750. It is now known to be a hybrid of orange and pomelo, both exotic.

The original grapefruits were ‘white’ grapefruits, with tart and pale yellowish flesh. ‘Pink’ grapefruits, with milder flavor, and blushed flesh, appeared a century and a half later, in about 1906. Those with rich pink flesh are known as ‘red’ grapefruits. Some mildly flavored modern white grapefruits are hybrids of grapefruit and pomelo. Such breeding makes them 75% pomelo and 25% orange.

Both modern and traditional white grapefruit trees are more vigorous than pink and red grapefruit trees. Dwarf white grapefruit trees grow slowly, but might eventually get more than fifteen feet tall. Standard trees can get as big as shade trees. They are too productive for home gardens. Pink and red grapefruit trees rarely get taller than eight feet. Grapefruit foliage is evergreen and lustrous.

Citrus Fruits Ripen Through Winter

Mandarin oranges are at their best.

Winter seems like an odd time for fruit to ripen. Winter weather is cool enough to inhibit vascular activity in plants. That is why most plants are dormant to some extent through winter. Most familiar fruit trees are deciduous, so defoliate in winter chill. Stone fruits ripened through early summer. Pome fruits ripened through late summer and autumn. Nonetheless, citrus fruits are now in season.

The various citrus fruits and their cultivars ripen at various times through their season. Like stone fruits and pome fruits, they are on distinct schedules. Furthermore, climate affects ripening. Citrus fruits that ripen earlier than other cultivars in a particular climate may ripen after the same other cultivars in another climate. A few cultivars produce sporadically, or notably later than citrus season.

Such cultivars are justifiably popular. For example, ‘Eureka’ lemon is a mutant of ‘Lisbon’ lemon. ‘Lisbon’ lemon works well for orchards because all the fruit ripens within a limited season. ‘Eureka’ is more practical for home gardens because it instead produces sporadically throughout the year. A few fresh lemons are always available. The winter crop is abundant, but not too overwhelming.

Mandarin oranges are the first citrus fruits to harvest, even if they are not the first to completely ripen. Because their rinds fit so loosely, they are the most perishable of citrus fruits. They will oxidize and dehydrate before they rot. Tangerines are the same, since they are merely American descendants of Mandarin oranges. ‘Rangpur’ lime is not a lime at all, but a sour Mandarin orange hybrid.

Oranges, lemons and grapefruits, although ripening now, can remain on their trees for quite a while. The tartness of grapefruits mellows with age, and might be preferable after a few months. The same applies to the acidity of lemons. However, too many lingering citrus fruits can inhibit bloom. Some limes are supposedly best before totally ripe. All citrus fruits stop ripening when harvested. Juice of the various citrus fruits can be frozen for storage if necessary.

Winter Coat

Rhody helped with this recycled article.

Tony Tomeo

P80117Wire haired terriers know how it works. They wear wiry hair through summer to shade their skin while allowing cooling air circulation. Their softer and fuzzier undercoat that develops in autumn provides better insulation from cold weather through winter.

Beards are not naturally so adaptable, but can be manipulated to function better. Thick beards might insulate and deflect wind through winter. Short beards may not work as well in that regard, but might absorb warmth from sunlight if still darkly colored. As weather gets warmer in spring, beards can simply be removed to optimize cooling air circulation, and eliminate the extra insulation. However, long and gray beards can provide shade without absorbing much warmth from sunlight.

Have you ever noticed that plants that live near foggy coasts or in the lower levels of shady jungles and forests are the darkest green? They want to absorb all the sunlight they can…

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Vasona

Almost half a century later, those old Vasona trees are just like I remember them.

Tony Tomeo

P80114Only a few bits and pieces of natural native vegetation can be found on the floor of the Santa Clara Valley. They are primarily in spots that were not useful for some sort of development. Almost all of the big coast live oaks and valley oaks that lived in the flat areas are gone. Riparian vegetation still survives on the banks of creeks, and in adjacent areas where it has not yet been cleared.

Vasona Lake Park is a Santa Clara County Park situated around the small Vasona Reservoir just north of town. Although much of the natural vegetation was cleared a very long time ago, and exotic vegetation was either added or naturalized, several big native trees remain, including several California sycamore trees.

Because these grand sycamores were more common here than anywhere else in our childhood world, and we did not know what they were, my younger brother…

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