Citrus On The Sucker List

90501thumbA five pound kumquat is a problem! It means something went seriously wrong. Anyone who grew one would concur. They are huge, lumpy, and very insipid, with ridiculously thick pale yellow rind around a small handful of uselessly fibrous pulp. They are protected by dangerously sharp and rigid thorns that can get longer than three inches. Even their irregularly wavy foliage is unappealing.

In reality though, there is no such thing as a five pound kumquat. These huge but useless fruits, as well as the associated thorns and foliage, are those of ‘shaddock’, which is the most common ‘understock’ for almost all grafted dwarf citrus trees. It is what keeps such trees compact, so that they do not get as big as orchard trees. It was there all along, whether we were aware of it or not.

Most citrus trees are composed of two genetically different parts. The understock are the lower parts that develop roots that are unseen underground. The desirable upper parts that produce the familiar citrus fruits grow from ‘scions’ that are grafted onto the understock. Graft unions are just above grade, where the texture of the bark above is slightly different from that of the bark below.

‘Suckers’ are stems that grow from the understock below the graft unions. Because they are genetically identical to the understock rather than the scions, they produce the same fruit and exhibit the same physical characteristics as the understock would if it were growing wild. Suckers can overwhelm desirable scion growth, which is how kumquat trees can produce huge five pound fruits.

Other grafted trees and shrubs, particularly fruit trees, get suckers too. New suckers appear as new spring growth develops. They should be peeled off of the main trunks rather than pruned off. As brutal as this seems, it is more efficient than pruning. Soft young shoots should snap off quite readily. This technique removes more of the callus growth at the bases of the suckers, which could develop more suckers later. Big older suckers should be pruned off as closely and neatly as possible.

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Banana Slug

P90421They are not as dangerous as they look. Really. If they were, just one could do more damage than an entire herd of average slugs. The fortunate truth is that banana slugs consume only decaying plant parts and fungus. Yes, they literally cruise about the garden eating bits of decomposing debris that we may not want there anyway, and converting it into a very nutritious and nitrogen rich ‘fertilizer’. They are actually beneficial to home gardening.
Of course, this does not necessarily mean that we ‘want’ them in our gardens. They really do look scary. This one is only about four inches long, but larger ones can get nearly twice as long! Some rats are not that big! Their bright yellow color, which is typically brighter yellow than this one is, is an expression of defiance. They only stay out of the way because they prefer damp and shady situations. Otherwise, they do not care if we see them.
Contrary to popular belief, they do not really taste like chicken. They taste more like the blandest of escargot. If not purged with corn meal and partly deslimed with vinegar, they can taste much worse. Even if the myth about the slime on their undersides containing more vitamin C than a bucket of oranges is true, it does not justify licking them. It is more degrading to you than it is to them; and no one needs that much vitamin C anyway!
As revolting as they are, they are not completely disdainful. It is fun to point them out to friends who have never seen them before, but only after they have gotten close enough to be startled, and jump away as if being chased by something that can actually move . . . quickly. Banana slug races are also fun.

If Mushrooms Could Fly

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If mushrooms could fly, they might look like this. Doesn’t it look like it is ready for take off? Maybe it looks like it is dressed up as a ghost for Halloween. I thought it looks something like the flying nun. Regardless of what it looks like, it was so weird that I took its picture.

I can not explain why it is in this weird position. It appeared just as the weather was warming up, and most of the earlier mushrooms were already gone or deteriorating. Perhaps the upper surface dried out a bit in the sunlight, and tightened up on the lower surface that remained more hydrated. Since I did not go back after getting this picture, I do not know what it did afterward, or how long it lasted. Perhaps it really did fly away!

This mushroom was just a few yards from where I got the picture of those associated with oak root rot fungus, Armillaria mellea,which many of us know as honey fungus. https://tonytomeo.com/2018/12/02/the-humongous-fungus-among-us/ Those mushrooms grew and deteriorated back in December. The other five types of mushrooms that I got pictures of to post along with a later picture of the oak root rot fungus mushrooms for a ‘Six on Saturday’ post were found just a few more yards away in another direction. https://tonytomeo.com/2018/12/29/six-on-saturday-shrooms/ They did their thing later in December, but still a few months ago.

There are always some sort of mushrooms out and about in riparian environments closer to the creeks and streams. They are just not as abundant now as they were during the rainy weather late in winter. Those out in drier and warmer spots that do not get watered regularly do not often develop so late into spring. They seem to know how to exploit the favorable weather.

Six on Saturday: Azaleas

 

As the flowering cherry trees fade, the azaleas get their turn. Like the flowering cherry trees, the azaleas are not as spectacular as they were last year. I know it is relevant to the weather, although I do not know what the weather did to inhibit so much bloom with so many of the early spring bloomers. I know there was a lot of rain, but that should not have been a major problem. There was not much chill, but there should have been enough.

I do not know if this will be the most subdued bloom ever witnessed here, but the limited color might be more apparent because the azaleas and rhododendrons were more spectacular last year than they had ever been. According to their bud set, the rhododendrons will be even less impressive than the azaleas. The dogwoods might have had the potential to be as spectacular as last year, but some were disadvantaged by structural pruning.

These six azaleas were the best of what was blooming here this year. The pictures were taken about a week ago. I should know the names of all the cultivars, but I don’t. They do not look the same in landscape as they do on the farm where they grow. I could guess on a few. The only one that there is no mistake about is #4, which is ‘Coral Bells’. Color is a bit off in this picture. #5 looks like ‘Hino Crimson’, but without bronzed new foliage.

Rhododendrons are coming along slowly but surely. They will not be ready for next week. Fortunately, as wimpy as our bloom is this spring, there is plenty to get more pictures of for next week.

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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/

Red Trumpet Vine

60420Red trumpet vine, Distictis buccinatoria, is more green than red. The tubular orangish red flowers with yellow throats are pretty while weather is warm, but not too abundant. Slightly distressed plants tend to bloom more abundantly. Each evergreen compound leaf is a pair of leaflets with a sneaky central tendril that will grab onto anything while holdfast discs get a more permanent grip.

Vines tolerate significant shade, but will find their way to sunnier situations where they grow more aggressively. They can easily reach the roof of a two story house, and grow out of reach in trees. Their holdfast discs will damage paint, and even shingles! Overgrown plants can be cut to the ground and allowed to regenerate.

Red trumpet vine wants to be watered somewhat regularly while young. Mature plants can disperse their roots well enough to find water if they do not get it directly.

Vines Are Naturally Social Climbers

70906thumbIf more of us knew how vines compete in the wild, fewer of us would grow them in our home gardens. Understory plants that are satisfied with the sunlight that reaches them through a higher forest canopy are the most passive. Taller trees compete for sunnier exposure above. Vines are the most aggressive as they climb and overwhelm trees to get the best exposure on top of everything.

English and Algerian ivies happens to be among the more efficient of aggressive vines. While young, juvenile growth creeps along the ground searching for victims. Once it encounters something to climb, the stems develop aerial roots so that they can climb vertically. Once the climbing stems reach the top of the support, they develop shrubby adult growth that blooms and produces seed.

In home gardens, ivy is a popular and practical groundcover. However, if allowed to climb as a vine, it can root into walls and ruin paint. Even if the vines are removed, the unsightly aerial roots remain. The shrubby adult growth can overwhelm and even shade out and kill the trees or shrubbery that originally supported it. If it climbs onto a roof, it can accumulate debris and promote rot.

Creeping fig is even nastier. Its network of clinging vines grafts together as it grows, and then strangles the supportive trees as they continue to grow within the constrictive network of grafted stems. Yet, it and Boston ivy work nicely and harmlessly on concrete freeway sound-walls where their aggressive behavior is a major advantage, and their clinging aerial roots are not a problem.

Wisteria and red trumpet vine are considerably better behaved, but even they will crush lattice and anything else they wrap around. If they get into trees, they quickly grow out of reach. They may seem to be more appealing than the trees that they climb are, but can strangle and kill substantial limbs. Even without aerial roots, red trumpet vine clings with holdfast discs that damage paint.

Even though many vines are practical for home gardens, their personalities need to be considered. Star jasmine and honeysuckle can either grow as groundcover or as climbing vines. They can get big, but are not often destructive. Potato vine works nicely on fences, but gets aggressive in trees. Carolina jessamine, lilac vine and mandevilla are some of the more complaisant of vines.

Horridculture – Pale Clivia Syndrome

P90417Back in the good old days, Kaffir lily, Clivia miniata, which is probably most popularly known simply as ‘clivia’, bloomed with big round trusses of exclusively bright reddish orange flowers. It was such an excellent color that no one thought to change it. Flowers of feral plants that sometimes grew from seed were potentially more orange and less red, but were flashy nonetheless. There was no need, and minimal potential, for ‘improvement’.

Then the allure of the ‘rare’ happened. Yellow Kaffir lilies had previously been so rare that very few had seen them. Once the rest of us became aware of their existence, many of us wanted them, only because they were so rare. However, after seeing them, some of us came to the conclusion that they were rare because no one wanted them when the species was first introduced, and cultivars with the best color were selected and perpetuated.

Regardless, yellow Kaffir lily suddenly became a fad. Traditional bright reddish orange Kaffir lilies became passe. All the while, those subscribing to the fad seriously believed that yellow was better and more desirable than reddish orange simply because it was so very rare. All the while, yellow became increasingly popular, increasingly available . . . and no longer rare. All the while, reddish orange became unpopular, uncommon . . . and rare.

So now what? Why is yellow more popular than reddish orange now? Yellow is insipid and pale. Reddish orange is vibrant and bright. Furthermore, yellow is so dreadfully common. Reddish orange is quite rare. According to the previous justification for the popularity of insipid pale yellow Kaffir lily, bright reddish orange Kaffir lily should be popular now, not because they are so much more colorful and appealing, but because they are RARE!P90406++++

These are in Brent’s garden.

Snowball Bush

90424Long before hydrangea blooms with its distinctively round floral trusses of abundant small flowers, the snowball bush, Viburunum opulus ‘Roseum’, shares its own unique version of similar bloom. Although the cultivar name suggests that the bloom would be pink or red, it is exclusively white. Hydrangea will bloom later, mostly in pink or red, with some in blue or lavender, and a few in white.

The snowball blooms of snowball bush are about thee inches wide, so are smaller than those of hydrangea, and do not last quite as long. They bloom early in spring, without subsequent bloom. The two or three inch long deciduous leaves might turn surprisingly vivid orange and red before defoliating in autumn. Mature specimens easily get taller than ten feet, and might reach fifteen feet.

Snowball bush eventually develops a relaxed and unrefined style that fits nicely into woodsy landscapes. Autumn foliar color is better with full sun exposure, but a bit of partial shades promotes a slightly more open branch structure that displays the spring bloom better. Pruning should be done after bloom. Snowball bush prefers somewhat regular watering and rich soil, but is not too finicky.

Gophers Go For Spring Vegetation

90424thumbHibernation is a luxury enjoyed by different animals in different climates, where much colder weather inhibits activity through winter. Gophers take no such extended time off here. They merely work less diligently through the cooler and rainier times, and maybe get out of the way if the soil they live in gets too saturated. Their minimal damage had probably been easier to miss or ignore.

Now it is spring! The weather is warming. The soil is draining. All the roots and vegetation that gophers eat are growing. The gophers that were here and somewhat active all through winter are really making a scene now, as they clean mud from their homes and excavate new tunnels. Babies are growing up fast and leaving home, and excavating new homes of their own. What a mess!

Many of the primitive techniques that were used in the past to mitigate gopher problems are ineffective, impractical or even dangerous. Pouring gasoline into tunnels and waiting a few minutes to ignite the fumes can start fires anywhere such tunnels resurface, and possibly out of view! Bare razors dropped into tunnels are potentially dangerous to anyone who happens to dig them up later.

Traps take some work and experience to set properly, but are still the best way to deal with gophers. They do not involve poison that can be dug up and eaten by someone else, or eaten by a gopher who staggers from underground to get eaten by someone else. As long as dogs are not allowed to dig them up, traps are likely only be dangerous to gophers and those setting the traps.

Conventional traps are set in pairs, in each of both directions of a lateral tunnel that is found by excavating back from the tunnel under an active gopher volcano (pile of displaced soil). Once set, the tunnels must be back filled to eliminate air circulation into the tunnel, which would warn a target gopher of intrusion. A bit of weedy vegetation added before back fill might help attract a gopher.

Setting gopher traps is easier to read about than to do safely. It is best to learn how to do it from someone who is proficient at it..

See Anemone

P90414This really is something that I did not expect to see. It may not look like much. It is just a raspy anemone with bites taken out of it, blooming later than it should. What is so impressive about it is that it was not planted here last year. It was planted during the previous year, then bloomed on time last year, and then died back like anemones normally do. I did not plant it, of course. It is in a planter where volunteers contribute whatever they like.
In case you are wondering why I am writing about it as if I did not expect it to bloom again, I didn’t. For whatever reason, anemones typically bloom well only once here, in their first season after they get planted. They may produce foliage for the following season, or maybe even several seasons, but very rarely bloom again. It annoys me that they are even sold locally. Nurseries should no better than to sell bulbs that do not perform well here.
I have always believed that anemones, like a few other types of bulbs, do not get enough chill in winter to bloom again. This is a rather mild climate. There are certain cultivars of apple that do well where winters are cooler that would be dissatisfied with the minimal chill they would get here. (Incidentally, this last winter was not unusually cold.)
There is also the possibility that anemones can not maintain their foliage long enough through the arid spring and summer weather to sufficiently regenerate their resources to bloom again. The foliage begins to appear in conjunction with bloom, then grows more as bloom finishes, but then dies back as the weather gets warm in spring and summer. The weather is not hot here, but it is rather arid.