Six on Saturday: A Bit More Color

Since the Fire, my Six on Saturday posts have been rather gloomy. Titles such as ‘Pompeii‘, ‘Revelation‘ and ‘Revelation II‘ are appropriately descriptive. More color is in order.

1. Silvery bark of a silver maple is sort of colorful. Hey, the next five really are more colorful. I planted this tree as a young twigling in the Santa Clara Valley when I was in high school. It had a second trunk, which I layered as another tree for the front garden. This tree is in back. I would like to get a copy for my own garden. This is now an old picture that I got during evacuation.

2. Orangish red bloom is that of ‘Pollack’ zonal geranium, which is grown more for its very variegated foliage. However, this bonus bloom is on a specimen that reverted to be less variegated.

3. Peachy Peruvian lily looks pink to me, but is not quite as pink as the pink sort. There is a yellow sort here too. They certainly are prolific. In 1986, I worked with these as a cut flower crop.

4. White phlox self sowed here last year or earlier, and have performed splendidly. There are more this year than there were last year. It would be excellent to get a few more for next year.

5. Blue annual morning glory grew up with my tomatoes. Oddly, they did not do so well where their seed were actually sown intentionally, in pots on the deck up above the vegetable garden.

6. This is my favorite picture this week. I can not read what, if anything, is written in paint on this rock. It looks like someone enjoyed painting it, and placing it to be found out in the garden.

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/

Tree Of Heaven

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Tree of Heaven or tree of Hell?

‘A Tree Grows In Brooklyn’ documents the resiliency and invasiveness of the common but typically undesirable tree of Heaven, Ailanthus altissima. Once a single female tree get established, the extremely prolific seeds get everywhere, including cracks in concrete. The resulting seedlings conquer wherever they are not dug out. If cut down, they just resprout from the roots.

Male trees smell horrible while blooming for about a month in spring or summer. They are pollinated by flies, so naturally smell like what flies like. The tiny yellowish or tan flowers hang on panicles that can be a foot and a half long. Female blooms are not as big, prolific or objectionably fragrant. However, stems, leaves and all other parts of both genders smell rotten when handled.

Tree of Heaven, which has earned the alternative names of ‘tree of Hell’, ‘stink tree’, ‘ghetto elm’ and ‘ghetto palm’, is no longer a tree that gets planted by choice. It is typically a tree that plants itself, and on rare occasion, happens to grow into a good situation. They should not be allowed to overwhelm more desirable trees, or get too close to concrete or other damageable features.

Young trees grow very fast to about forty feet tall. Older and slower trees do not get much taller, although sheltered trees can get twice as tall, with elegant gray bark. They do not live much more than fifty years. The big pinnately compound leaves are surprisingly pretty. On vigorous shoots, individual leaves can get as long as two and a half feet, with leaflets as long as six inches.

Leaves Are Starting To Fall

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Falling leaves are messy before colorful.

Autumn color is different every year. Sometimes, early and sudden cool weather after a mild summer promotes good foliar color that lingers longer while relaxed trees slowly realize that they should probably start to defoliate. Sometimes, early wind and rain accelerate defoliation of otherwise good color. There are a few variables that trees must adapt their performance to.

Warm and arid weather two weeks ago started the process of defoliation suddenly and a maybe slightly early this year. Even before the weather gets cool, deciduous trees are already starting to shed the oldest of their foliage that they do not need in order to hold their youngest foliage a bit later into autumn. Evergreen trees do the same to limit desiccation.

Slightly breezy weather that was so pleasant after such heat was just enough to start dislodging deteriorating foliage. Now, leaves are already starting to fall before they develop much color. Redwoods and pines are likewise dropping browned needles. Fortunately, trees that are the most colorful in autumn tend to hold their foliage better until the weather gets cooler.

It is impossible to predict how colorful trees will be this autumn; although if storms are as healthy as predicted, the mild temperatures may inhibit color, while wind and rain dislodge colorful foliage. Regardless, it is already time to start raking falling leaves and needles. They can get messy, and when the rain starts, they can stain pavement and clog gutters.

When more foliage falls later in autumn, it will need to be raked from ground cover, surviving portions of lawn, and any other plants that collect it, so that it does not shade out the sunlight.

Hetz Blue Juniper

A juniper with blue spruce color.

Some junipers that were so popular in the 1950s are now somewhat rare, or redundant to modern cultivars. Although not as common as it once was, Hetz blue juniper, Juniperus chinensis ‘Hetzii Glauca’ is still practical for modern gardens. Most junipers with such bluish gray foliage are either low and sprawling, or upright and tall. Hetz blue juniper exhibits an elegant outwardly flaring form.

Mature specimens can get taller than six feet, and as broad as ten feet. The dense evergreen foliage is not quite as blue as that of blue spruce, but is nonetheless striking amongst deeper green. Straight stems point sharply outward at about the same low angle, but in all directions. Removal of lower growth from old and overgrown specimens might reveal peeling bark and sculptural limbs.

Established Hetz blue juniper with warm and sunny exposure is nicely undemanding. Occasional irrigation through the warmest summer weather maintains color and foliar density. However, color naturally fades slightly and slowly through summer. If possible, selective pruning should completely remove obtrusive stems from their origins. Otherwise, stubs might compromise the natural form.

Juniper Turns A New Leaf

Hollywood juniper was formerly overly popular.

Juniperus, which is the entire genus of juniper, had been languishing in a bad reputation for too long. The problem likely began nearly three quarters of a century ago. More people than ever were enjoying leisurely suburban gardening. Many appreciated the resiliency of juniper cultivars. At that time, a few species of juniper were gaining popularity. Evolving cultivars sustained new demand.

Unfortunately, these modern and once distinctive cultivars of juniper eventually became passe and too common. As practical and resilient as they truly are, they collectively shared the stigma of a minority that were problematic. Their problems were disproportionately evident merely because of their commonness. Many matured at the same time, so developed problems at the same time.

Realistically though, the majority of the garden varieties of juniper that grew during that time were quite practical. Those that started in the 1950s, but developed problems in the 1990s, performed satisfactorily for four decades. Not many other types of plants perform as reliably for as long. Many problems resulted from selection of cultivars that were inappropriate for particular applications.

Although all junipers are evergreen foliar plants that provide no obvious bloom, they are remarkably diverse. The most popular sorts are low and dense shrubbery. Others are lower and sprawling ground cover. Some are small trees. A few species grow more than thirty feet tall! Branch structure is mostly densely compact, but can be sculpturally irregular, rigidly upright or gracefully arching.

Foliage is generally rich deep green. Some cultivars exhibit yellowish new foliage that fades to green through summer. A few are variegated with creamy white. Several popular cultivars are gray or bluish gray. Leaves of almost all popular cultivars are scale like. Some have needle like leaves. A few have both. Even without prominent bloom, a few cultivars produce appealing tiny berries.

It is time for the many cultivars of juniper to grow beyond their former bad reputation and turn a new scale or needle.

Six on Saturday: Revelation II

Conditions here have certainly improved.

1. Ash regularly reminds us of how close the fire got. There is not as much as there was two weeks ago, but it still lingers in sheltered spots and on sticky foliage. At least no new ash is falling.

2. Smog also lingered early in the week. The sun looked like one of the moons of Tatooine. I worked inside for the early part of the week. It was not a good time for working out in the garden.

3. Then, this happened. The entire sky was this color for a while. The air still tastes like smoke, and remains rather toxic. It is a bit hazier now. Regardless, it was easier to resume gardening.

4. The redwoods and firs on the ridge in the background behind the utility pole are just outside of the fire zone. Everything beyond them is within the fire zone. The forest does not look very different from how it looked prior to the fire. Only a few brown spots can be seen from here. The fire must have burned only underbrush in this region. I know it was much worse elsewhere.

5. Horticulture is SERIOUS business here. (Actually, this is just parking for a cabin that happens to be named ‘Acorn’.) Vegetation management is a priority at cabins that are now residences for some who lost their homes to the CZU Lightning Complex Fires. The Conference Center has been closed because of the other ‘situation’ anyway. Firefighters stayed in some of the lodges.

6. White chrysanthemums are in order. After, all this ‘should’ be a gardening blog. These bloomed on old plants that were left behind after a wedding in the chapel here more than a year ago.

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/

Glossy Abelia

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Arching boughs of pink abelia blossoms.

With indiscriminate pruning, glossy abelia, Abelia X grandiflora, will never develop its natural form, with elegantly long and thin stems that arch gracefully outward. Sadly, almost all get shorn into tight shrubbery or hedges that rarely bloom. If only old stems get selectively pruned out as they get replaced by fresh new stems, mature shrubs can get eight feet tall and twelve feet wide.

Against their bronzy green foliage, the tiny pale pink flowers that bloom all summer have a rustic appeal. In abundance, they can be slightly fragrant. The tiny leaves are not much more than an inch long. Vigorous young canes that shoot nearly straight out from the roots slowly bend from the weight of their bloom and foliage as they mature.

Partial shade is not a problem for glossy abelia, but will inhibit bloom somewhat. Young plants want to be watered regularly. Old plants are not nearly so demanding, and can survive with notably less water. If alternating canes is too much work to restore old and neglected plants, all stems can be cut back to the ground at the end of winter. New growth develops quickly.