Zinnia

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zinnia

The lineage of modern zinnias is too complicated to describe. Most are still known as Zinnia elegans, even though they have been bred extensively with several other specie to produce an impressive variety of flower forms and colors. The shortest varieties get only a few inches tall. Big varieties get about two and a half feet tall.

The two to five inch wide flowers, which bloom in phases from spring until autumn, can be yellow, orange, red, purple, pink, salmon, peach, chartreuse or bronzy brown. Some are striped or freckled.

Some flowers look like colorful daisies, with big petals (ray florets) neatly and flatly arranged around prominent centers (disc florets). The overly abundant petals of pom-pom types make rounded blooms with nearly obscured centers. Most are fuller than the daisy types, but not as plump as pom-poms.

Zinnias are warm season annuals that like good exposure and rich soil. The paired leaves are slightly raspy, like kitten tongues, and can be susceptible to powdery mildew. Deteriorating flowers should be deadheaded, although a few can be left for seed.

Everything Is Coming Up Roses

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Grafting combines good scions with understock.

When an individual rose shrub blooms with two distinct types of flowers, it seems to be doing a little extra. It provides the big, bold and strongly stemmed roses that it is grown for, along with daintier dark red roses. Eventually though, the small red roses become more abundant, and can crowd out the more desirable roses.

Almost all of the older roses that are grown for cutting are grafted. This means that the stems that provide such excellent flowers above ground are attached to genetically different roots. When such plants were young, the graft union was more obvious, where the canes branched out from the single stem just above the roots.

The stems above the graft union are known as the ‘scion’. The roots below are known as the ‘understock’ or ‘rootstock’. The two are grafted together because the scion blooms so well, and the understock develops stronger and more efficient roots. Scions are not expected to grow roots any more than understock is expected to bloom.

Adventitious stems that develop from the understock below the graft union are known as ‘suckers’, probably because they suck resources that should go the scion. They should be removed as soon as they get noticed, before they can dominate the scion. They become more difficult to remove as they mature.

If possible, fresh new suckers should get broken off from their origin instead of simply pruned away. It sounds violent, but is actually more effective. Stubs left from pruning are much more likely to develop more suckers later. Suckers that get pruned back repeatedly can develop into significant burls.

Old rose shrubs that were planted with an abundance of organic soil amendments tend to sink into the ground as the soil amendments decompose. If a graft union gets buried, it can be difficult to distinguish between suckers and good canes that develop above the graft union.

‘Tree’ roses have two graft unions. The branched scion on top is grafted onto a straight stem of a different variety. The straight stem is grafted onto the understock at ground level. The trendy carpet roses and some other modern roses are not grafted, so will not develop suckers.

Horridculture – Neglected Seedling

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They are so cute when they are young.

This was not planned very well. Actually, it was not planned at all. While sorting through the seed for a vegetable garden, I found a can of seed for winter squash that was a few years old. They might be close to five years old. I really do not remember. I did not expect them to be viable, but did not want to discard them without at least trying to test them for viability.

Rather than just put them in damp rag for a few days, I plugged a few seed into a spider plant on a windowsill, and forgot about them. I really did not expect to see them again. When the first one emerged, I though it was a weed, so plucked it out. When I realized what it was, and that it came out intact, I felt badly for it, and like the original seed, could not discard it.

I do not remember why, but at the time, I did not want to go out to can it in a real pot. Nor did I want to plug it into the garden while I was still getting other seed situated. I therefore planted into an empty eggshell from those drying for coffee. I scraped a bit of medium from a potted bromeliad. It was happy on the windowsill for maybe a few weeks.

The other seed germinated too, but were more carefully removed and plugged into the garden. Since the seed was still viable, I sowed more around the junipers outside. Somehow, in the process, I neglected to put the little seedling in the eggshell out into the garden with them. It has not been happy in here, so has not grown much at all.

Now that the winter squash are already growing well outside, and the summer squash are already producing, this unfortunate seedling still needs to go out to join them.

If I were to grow seedlings inside again, I would do so in some of the cell packs that we recycle from work. They are more efficient, less wobbly, and they do not look so ridiculous.

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Now it wants out!

Dragon Lily

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Dragon lily is striking and stinky.

Dracunculus vulgaris make a sinister impression by botanical name alone. Common names include dragon lily, dragon arum, dragonwort, black dragon, snake lily, stink lily and voodoo lily. That makes it sinister enough to be compelling. Although rare in nurseries, dormant tubers are available in season by mail order. Alternatively, established colonies happily share a few dormant tubers.

Dragon lily is quite easy to grow. It appreciates rich soil and regular watering, at least until it gets established. Once settled in, it might be satisfied with only monthly watering until it goes dormant in late summer. Because it prefers humid climates, it wants shelter from wind here, and may like a bit of partial afternoon shade. It is so adaptable that it unfortunately naturalized in some regions.

The fragrance of dragon lily attracts insect pollinators that are drawn to dead animals. Those of us who enjoy unusual plants find it amusing. Everyone else thinks it stinks. Blooms that produce the fragrance are spectacular, with a big and flared purplish red spathe around a slender black spadix. They may stand nearly three feet tall, among lightly blotched and deeply lobed palmate leaves.

Stinky Flowers Serve Their Purpose

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Some beetles like stinky flowers too.

From a human perspective, flowers should not be stinky. They should be pretty and colorful, and perhaps delightfully fragrant. Many flowers in landscapes and home gardens actually are. After all, they are grown for their appealing bloom. Many plants that provide only foliage produce wind pollinated flowers. They are not particularly pretty, colorful or delightfully fragrant, but not stinky either.

Flowers do what they must to pollinate each other. Since they are inanimate, they rely on pollinators or wind to disperse their pollen. Those that rely exclusively on wind produce an abundance of very fine pollen, but waste no effort on attracting pollinators. All other flowers use customized combinations of colors, patterns, textures, fragrances and flavors to attract their preferred pollinators.

There are all sorts of pollinators. Bees are the most famous. There are many other insects too. Hummingbirds and butterflies are very popular. Bats do their work at night while no one is watching. Of all the pollinators though, flies are likely the least popular. Many of the flowers that produce fragrance to attract them are not exactly popular either. Alas, fly pollinated flowers are stinky flowers.

Stinky flowers are naturally uncommon. Apparently, not many flowers want to rely on flies. Stinky flowers are even more uncommon in home gardens and landscapes, for the obvious reason. Paw paw and carob production relies on stinky flowers. A few of the various arums grown for dramatic bloom are stinky too. Philodendron bloom is quite stinky, but very rare among foliar houseplants.

Pear and hawthorn do not rely on flies, so are only incidentally and mildly stinky.

Fortunately, stinky flowers are not often a problem. Paw paw trees are rare here. Carob trees bloom somewhat briefly. If philodendrons bloom at all, they produce only a few flowers which can get pruned off. Regardless, fragrances of stinky flowers are generally not as strong as appealing floral fragrances. They neither disperse as efficiently, nor linger as long. Some are too faint to offend.

Riots

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This is one of the several Canary Island date palms that Brent Green saved from poachers on the embankment of the Santa Monica Freeway.

Since I began posting my gardening column articles here, and supplementing with blog posts, I have deviated from horticultural topics only a few times. I will now do it again. I had earlier selected a horticultural topic for this post. It will wait for now.

Brent Green, my colleague down south, called me on the telephone to tell me to watch the news. I did so, but only briefly. It was just too crazy. So far, I have made a point of saying nothing about Coronavirus. I said nothing about those who protest the violation of their right to spread disease that will kill others. I mentioned nothing about the racist murderers in Minneapolis.

Now I see that people are senselessly rioting and looting in several cities in America.

The office building of the Canyon News, one of the newspapers that I write for, was clearly visible in the background as police helicopters showed looting of stores on the historic Rodeo Drive in Downtown Beverly Hills, in the region of Los Angeles. Police cars and palm trees were burning. From three hundred and fifty miles away, I can see it online.

This is not demonstration or protest. It is looting. It is mere opportunistic thievery. Those involved are not at all concerned about social justice, their own Communities, or that Black Lives Matter. They are exploiting an already bad situation to plunder what they can get away with.

This is happening in the Community where Brent Green has been planting his Birthday Trees (in quantities that corresponds to his age at the time) in public spaces for the past twenty two years. This is near where Brent Green saved several Canary Island date palms on the Santa Monica Freeway from poachers. This is a region that many people care about.

Fung Lum

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Acer robustum, Chinese maple?

Fung Lum was an architecturally imposing Chinese restaurant in Campbell years ago. It was more famous for the facade of the building than for the food. Although the food was purportedly excellent, not everyone ate there. Everyone in town knew the building though. It was prominently situated right on Bascom Avenue, at a time when the region was still somewhat suburban.

The meticulously pruned and groomed landscape in the minimal space between the ornate facade and sidewalk was mostly rather low so that it did not obscure the architecture. The tallest features were strategically situated to be unobtrusive. Except for only a few of what seemed to be big, sprawling but low profile Japanese maples, there were no other significant maple trees.

‘Fung Lum’ means ‘maple grove’. Commercials on the radio said so. When I was a kid, I therefore expected to see at least a few maples that grew as trees rather than low sprawling mounds in the associated landscape. I figured that the maple grove must be out back where the parking lot was. I sort of wondered if their maples were Chinese, and what Chinese maples were like.

I probably should have been content in believing that the mix of holly oaks, flowering pears and other common trees in the neighborhood were maples. No one else noticed a discrepancy. For all I know, the name referred to a maple grove in China. Maybe the Japanese maples out in front were the grove. They could have been Chinese. Maybe I put way too much though into this.

Now, I actually work with what is purported to be some sort of Chinese maple, perhaps Acer robustum. It really does resemble a Japanese maple. It produces the foliage that can be seen to the right in the last (sixth) picture that I posted early this morning. If it really is a Chinese maple, I would not be surprised if cultivars of this species were what lived in front of Fung Lum.

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This is the sixth picture from this morning.

Six on Saturday: Timber! II

 

Horticulture is not all flowery. It includes arboriculture, which is the horticulture of trees. As both a horticulturist and arborist, I get t0 work with it all. Not only do I work with arboriculture, but I get to work part of the time in forests of coastal redwoods, which are the tallest trees in the World. Compared to these redwoods, Douglas firs are rather average.

1. At about noon on May 7, this big Douglas fir fell unexpectedly. Since it was not cut down intentionally, no one actually yelled “Timber!”. This picture is recycled from a post from May 10.P00510-1

2. This is what it looks like now. Even though a bay tree fell on top of the Douglas fir and bridge after the picture above was taken, damage was minimal. Parts of the banister were replaced.P00530-2

3. The Douglas fir was less than eighty years old. It started growing here in the early 1940s. My grandparents might have met it when it was a baby. By the way, I did not count all the rings.P00530-3

4. The carcass of the Douglas fir is now more than twenty feet below. The light brown chips to the upper left are from the top of the tree that needed to be cleared from an adjacent roadway.P00530-4

5. This unfortunate maple really was an exemplary young specimen before it got clobbered by the big Douglas fir and bay tree. Not only are the limbs stripped off, but the trunk is fractured.P00530-5

6. The third trunk from the left is what remains of the bay tree that was leaning on the Douglas fir, and then fell on top of it. The top limb extending to the right is now about to break too.P00530-6

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/

Catmint

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Catmint is mellow like old denim.

Not to be confused with closely related catnip, catmint is a resilient perennial for sunny and warm spots. Nepeta faassenii had always been the more familiar catmint. Modern varieties include a few other specie and hybrids. The various catmints work like the various lavenders or trailing rosemary, without getting so shrubby.

Unless they lean on something or climb through shrubbery, stems do not often get any higher than a foot as they spread to two or three feet wide. A few stems around the edges can grow roots through winter, to spread more the following year. New plants are easy to propagate by division of some of the rooted stems before spring.

The diagonal flower spikes that bloom most profusely as weather warms in spring are the color of faded blue denim. Some catmints bloom white or pink. The finely textured foliage is grayish green, although some varieties of catmint have chartreuse or greener foliage. Spent bloom can get shorn off to keep new foliage neat.

Mild Weather Is Still Problematic

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Minimal frost delayed certain spring blooms.

It is amazing that so many orchards are so productive in California, and that so many similar orchards had formerly been productive in the urban areas in which so many of us now live. Nowadays, it takes so much work to care for just a few fruit trees in home gardens. Horticulture is not what it used to be.

Diseases and pests get transmitted all over the world at a rate unlike at any other time in history. It is just too easy to buy and sell infected plants online, and get them delivered without adequate inspection. Many varieties of plants that are so easily imported may not perform as reliably as the more traditional varieties.

Modern landscaping does not make fruit production any easier. Most deciduous fruit trees do not get pruned adequately or properly. Many get too much water. Almost all must live in crowded landscape conditions where diseases and pest proliferate. Sanitation (removal of infected plant parts) is rarely as efficient as it should be.

Then there is all this crazy weather! First, the winter does not get as cool as it should. Then, it does not get warm enough in spring. It is all so difficult to keep track of. Many plants do not know how to respond. Those that stay dormant through cool weather got an early start. Those that like warmth in spring started late.

The unfortunate deciduous fruit trees that need both a good chill through winter and nice warm spring weather are really confused. Early blooms were ruined by brief late frosts or brief rain showers. Some delayed blooms were not synchronized with pollinators. Some of the minimal fruit is developing slowly.

Even the fruitless or ‘flowering’ relatives of the deciduous fruit trees are annoyed by the weather. Many flowering cherry trees that should have bloomed profusely prior to foliation delayed bloom until lower foliage started to appear. However, both bloom and foliation are so slow and sporadic that upper stems stayed bare quite late.

Flowering crabapple trees, which generally bloom after flowering cherries, actually bloomed more reliably, and were not delayed as much. Hopefully, fruiting apple and pear trees, although late, will be more productive than so many of the cherry, apricot, plum, peach and nectarine trees will be this year.