Horticulturists are by nature, nonconforming. I happen to find it difficult to conform to what makes us nonconforming. Trends are fleeting. Old technology that has worked for decades or centuries is still best. Although I am not totally against chemicals, I find that almost all are unnecessary for responsible home gardening. Pruning is underappreciated, and fixes many problems.
Dormant pruning is the best pruning. It happens while the subject plants that benefit from it are dormant and unaware of such procedures. Such procedures would be significantly more distressing to plants while they are vascularly active. In comparison, spring pruning may seem to be cruel and tortuous. Nonetheless, it is justified for particular applications.
For most plants that benefit from dormant pruning, the worst time to prune is immediately after the best time. Such plants are most vascularly active while blooming and refoliating during early spring. They become more resilient to pruning as they finish bloom and their foliage matures. This generally applies to plants that benefit from spring pruning as well.
The primary difference between plants that prefer dormant pruning and plants that prefer spring pruning is their primary purpose. Several plants that benefit from dormant pruning produce fruit. Plants that benefit from spring pruning merely produce profusion of bloom. Dormant pruning concentrates resources. Spring pruning allows maximum spring bloom.
For example, flowering plum is like a sterile but prettier version of fruiting plum. It merely blooms impressively without subsequently fruiting. There is no need for dormant pruning to concentrate resources into fruit, or to compensate for fruit weight. When and if pruning becomes necessary, it can happen after any unwanted growth has contributed to bloom.
Flowering cherry, flowering crabapple and flowering quince may actually prefer dormant pruning like their fruitful relatives do. However, like flowering plum, they also bloom more abundantly prior to spring pruning. Unrelated dogwood, redbud, forsythia and even New Zealand tea tree likewise benefit from spring pruning, which is the same as late pruning.
In moderation, blooming stems of plants that get either dormant or spring pruning can be delightful as cut flowers. A few unpruned stems can remain after dormant pruning for that purpose. They only need proper pruning when harvested or after bloom. Likewise, plants that get later spring pruning after bloom can likely spare a few stems while still blooming. Alternatively, such stems should be conducive to forcing.
Flagging (sudden necrosis of distal foliage) used to indicate the beginning of a sudden end.
Phytophthora ramorum is the pathogen that initiates Sudden Oak Death Syndrome, which is known simply as SODS. Monarthrum scutellare, which are known as ambrosia beetles, and are the secondary pathogen associated with the syndrome, infest and kill tanoak and coast live oak that are infested with Phytophthora ramorum, about as quickly as symptoms are observable.
Hypoxylon thouarsianum is a tertiary but merely opportunistic pathogen associated with the syndrome. By the time it gets established within galleries excavated by the ambrosia beetles, the affected trees are almost completely necrotic. That first ‘S’ in SODS is there for a reason. It is an efficient process. Death occurs too suddenly for affected trees to drop any of their leaves!
Each of these three pathogens causes distinct symptoms. Phytophthora ramorum causes trees to bleed black tar-like fluid…
Trails here are closed because of damage incurred by the earlier torrential rain. It will be a while before the damage is repaired. I have not seen this particular portion of the trail in a long time, so I do not know what condition it is in now. I know that it was very vulnerable to erosion.
If a tree falls in a forest, . . . it might get recycled.
Exploitation of the vegetation here involves so much more than collecting seed from old bloom, dividing overgrown perennials, or processing cuttings from pruning scraps. It goes beyond the reassignment of lauristinus, canna, African iris, deodar cedar and perhaps others that I wrote about earlier. Flowers, fruits, vegetables and herbs are mundanely obvious assets.
The landscapes and forests here do so much more than beautify and provide shade. When a tree falls in a forest (and makes a sound even if no one is there to hear it), it might get processed into firewood or lumber. Some of the foliage that falls in landscaped areas goes to the compost piles. Even debris that gets removed from here gets recycled as greenwaste somewhere else.
Rain is expected for today and Sunday. It rained a bit yesterday morning. This is normal for winter here. It will not prevent us from resuming seasonal work that was interrupted by the not so normal and epically torrential rain and associated flooding earlier. A bit of the mess associated with that earlier extreme weather remains, but is not so much of an encumbrance. Spring flowers such as daffodil have been blooming for a while. Flowering cherry buds are plumpening. One flowering cherry and the only flowering apricot are in full bloom. Meanwhile, other crews work to keep the power on.
1. Debris of all sorts remains on the banks of Zayante Creek downstairs. This might be a futon. I hope that it came from an exterior patio, and not from within a home upstream.
2. Zayante Creek is right where it should be now. It was slightly above the arch just prior to midnight of New Year’s Eve. The crew’s galley is inside the windows to the upper left.
3. After all that torrential rain, another crew came to prune trees for clearance from new utility cables. The work was not bad, but they could not remove this log from the cables.
4. After the crew finished pruning a particularly large coast live oak that survived all that torrential rain, the big oak fell. Yes, it fell AFTER the storms, and AFTER it was pruned.
5. As if that were not bad enough, it left this big limb hung precariously on the new cable that they installed immediately prior to the rain! It is heavy and hooked by a small stub.
6. Landon’s Tree blooms as if none of this drama ever happened. It is a flowering apricot that grew from the understock of a purple leaf plum that was cut down several years ago.
Portuguese neighborhoods in San Jose and other big cities might be identifiable by the presence of the otherwise rare cork oak, Quercus suber. After all, they are native to Portugal, as well as Spain, Sardinia, Corsica, Sicily and the coast of the Mediterranean Sea as far east as the eastern tip of Italy on the north, and the northwest corner of Libya on the south.
Like redwoods, cork oak is one of the few species of trees that survive forest fires by being less combustible. Their foliage and small twiggy stems may burn, but larger limbs and trunks are insulated by very thick cork cambium (bark). Most other trees that are adapted to burning either disperse their seeds as they burn in order to get a head start at reforestation afterward, or simply resprout from their roots.
Ironically, this bark that is intended to help the trees survive was actually the reason why trees on the north coast of Algeria were so extensively and detrimentally harvested during French colonialization. Corks made from the bark were needed for the wind industry in France. Fortunately, cork in Algeria is now harvested like it is in other regions, without harming the trees that produce it.
Compared to other oaks, cork oak is not too large. It can get a bit more than fifty feet tall and nearly as wide, but takes a century or more to do so. It can actually stay proportionate to urban landscapes for a very long time. Roots are mostly complaisant. The main problem with cork oak is that it drops its evergreen foliage constantly, and drops floral debris and acorns for a few months.
Gnarly trunks and limbs with spongy bark are the main appeal. The one and a half or two inch long leaves are not so interesting. They are barely convex, often with a few blunt lobes, and dull grayish green from below.
More than a week ago, many of us were astonished to witness countless drops of water miraculously falling out of the sky! What could this be? Where did this water come from? It is actually not such a mystery. These unfamiliar falling drops of water are merely a type of weather known as “rain”. “Rain” is actually nothing new, and happens every winter. Typically, there should have been an abundance of “rain” by this late in winter.
The problem with “rain” is that it is wet. Whatever it encounters also becomes wet, and often messy. Wet dirt becomes mud. Wet roads are hazardous to traffic. It is uncomfortable to go outside to do any gardening when everything is wet and muddy.
However, “rain” is very important to everyone’s survival. It is what moves water from the oceans back onto land, so that it can be collected and used for the many things that water is needed for. “Rain” also brings needed water to gardens, landscapes, and even the forests outside of urban areas. In one way or another, every living thing needs “rain”.
But wait! There’s more! “Rain” so efficiently waters gardens and landscapes that no other watering is needed! Most watering systems should therefore be turned off as long as there is enough “rain” to keep everything wet. Even when the “rain” stops, cooler temperatures and higher humidity keep things from drying as efficiently as they would during warm summer weather. Consequently, most watering systems can remain off until after winter, when the “rain” stops until next winter, and the weather gets warmer.
Actually, the only plants that may want water are those that are sheltered from the “rain”, and perhaps a few large potted evergreen plants that continue to lose enough moisture by evaporation from their foliage to get a bit dry between periods of “rain”. Even these sheltered and potted evergreen plants use less moisture this time of year because they are less active, and evaporation from their foliage is limited by the weather.
Remember; for plenty of moisture that is one hundred percent natural and absolutely free, try “RAIN”!
Artificial seems to be no worse than the real deal.
There is no right answer. For lawns that is. Horticulturists who actually enjoy horticulture . . . and are not specialists of turf . . . loath them. (Yes, there are horticulturists who are specialists of turf.) We merely tolerate them because they are so useful for so many applications, and they do happen to be very visually appealing within or in the foreground of interesting landscapes.
After all, lawns are the vegetative green carpeting that covers otherwise bare ground without interfering with the flow of pedestrian traffic. For parks and other public paces, it is better than other types of ground cover, mulch, pavement or lowly mown naturalized weeds that would grow if nothing else were there to occupy the space. For athletic fields, there are no alternatives.
They are just so unnatural. Most plants in our garden are…
Floral fragrance is likely the primary asset of sweet box, Sarcococca ruscifolia. However, the splendidly glossy and evergreen foliage is as appealing as that of any of the various boxwoods. It is darker and richer green, with orderly arrangement on nimble and arching stems. Individual leaves are small but larger than boxwood leaves, and with pointier tips.
Sweet box blooms during winter, with deliciously fragrant but tiny pale white flowers that are not much to see. They are unlikely to get credit for their impressive fragrance without close investigation for its source. Vigorous plants may produce a few rich maroon berries that contrast delightfully with the rich green foliage. Cut stems work well with cut flowers.
Because it is naturally an understory species, sweet box not only tolerates partial shade, but actually prefers it. Harsh exposure fades its foliage. The dense foliage on wiry stems adapts to low hedging. It is better with alternating cane pruning to remove old stems and promote fresh basal growth. Overgrown specimens respond quite favorably to coppicing. They grow to three feet high.
Oregon gardens get to display superior peony bloom for spring and summer. That is one of several advantages of winter chill. Some plant species appreciate a bit more chill than they can get here. It enhances their performance. However, chill also limits winter bloom. Not many plants want to bloom while the weather is cool, and pollinators are less active.
That is one of several advantages of mild winter weather. It allows flowers that bloom for autumn to bloom a bit later. It allows a few of the flowers that bloom for spring to bloom a bit earlier. There is not much time between the last flowers of autumn and the first flowers of spring. Winter bloom is not as important here as where winters are longer and chillier.
Even if less important here, reliable winter bloom might be a bit more challenging. Some plants that bloom for winter in other climates might be hesitant to bloom for winter locally. After all, they prefer to bloom while the weather is cool. Mild chill might be unsatisfactory. Cool season annuals are unpredictable, but are likely the most reliable for winter bloom.
Of the popular cool season annuals, cyclamen is actually perennial. If not removed at the end of its season, it goes dormant for summer, and regenerates for subsequent winters. It does not bloom as profusely as it originally did, but adds color to mixed small perennials or ground covers that do not bloom for winter. Some types of primrose are also perennial.
A few perennials bloom sporadically and randomly throughout the year, including winter. African daisy and euryops daisy typically do not bloom as much as they do during warm weather, but can. Euryops daisy may actually bloom best during winter. Bird of Paradise flowers mature so slowly that those that begin during autumn might finish through winter.
Witch hazel, daphne, heather, mahonia and winter jasmine bloom for winter, but perhaps not as impressively as for other climates. Some camellia bloom abundantly while others bloom sporadically. Bergenia may bloom later here than for other climates. Forsythia and some spring bulbs, especially daffodil, bloom so early that they seem to bloom for winter.
These and a few others that I procured after this article posted have provided me with too many cuttings. I shared most with neighbors. However, all these rooted cuttings are still quite small, after a few years.
Dragon fruit became a fad on the West Coast of California several years ago. They were probably always around, but had previously been rare. When they inexplicably became more popular and common, they did so down south first. Their popularity migrated to the Santa Clara Valley a few years later. It probably will not go much farther though, since they are sensitive to frost.
It is not a bad fad, at least relative to most others. Dragon fruit, which is also known as pitaya, happens to be very easy to grow and propagate from cuttings. Locally, it needs protection from frost, but no more than other popular tropical plants. It recovers from minor frost damage quite efficiently. Pruning scraps can be rooted and grown as more plants for friends and neighbors.
Of course, I dislike fads. I am not impressed by the fruit, which might lack flavor…