Manzanita

Shrubby manzanitas develop sculptural stems with shiny cinnamon brown bark.

There are more than a hundred specie of Manzanita, Arctostaphylos spp., that range in size and form from creeping ground covers to small trees that can get almost twenty feet tall. (They are more commonly known by their cultivar names than by their specie names.) Arctostaphylos ‘Emerald Carpet’ is as the name implies a nice low groundcover for dry slopes. Arctostaphylos ‘Doctor Hurd’ is a shrubby small tree that is often pruned to expose strikingly sculptural trunks that are as smooth and rich brown as a chestnut.

Abundant trusses of tiny ‘urn’ shaped flowers bloom about now. Almost all are pale white. A few are pale pink. The subsequent red berries typically get eaten by birds before anyone else sees them. The evergreen foliage is quite dense. Individual leaves are rather small and disproportionately thick.

Manzanita should be planted while small, because larger plants are more susceptible to rot. New plants want to be watered to prevent desiccation until they disperse their roots. If planted in autumn, they get enough water from rain through winter (typically), so that they only want occasional watering through the following spring and summer. Once established, they do not want much water at all, and can be damaged by fertilizer. The happiest plants are satisfied with what they get from rain after they get established.

Good Weather Can Be Bad

This should be the rainy season.

As if the lack of rain is not serious enough, the lack of cool winter weather will also cause problems for gardening. Warmth is certainly not as bad as drought, and makes gardening and other outdoor activities more pleasurable, but it interferes with the schedules and cycles that we and the flora in our gardens rely on. Something as natural as the weather should not be so unnatural.

The earlier unseasonably cold weather convinced plants that it really was winter. The problem is that the weather then turned unseasonably warm, and has stayed this warm long enough for plants to believe that it is spring! Some established (not freshly planted) narcissus and daffodils that should bloom as winter ends are already blooming, and some that are naturalized where they get no supplemental watering are already fading from the lack of moisture.

Buds of dormant roses are not staying so dormant, and may soon pop and start to grow. Buds of dormant fruit trees could do the same. When the rain finally starts, it will likely damage and spread disease among freshly exposed rose foliage and newly developing buds. Fungal and bacterial diseases that get an early start will likely proliferate more than they normally do through the following spring. Rain can likewise damage and dislodge fruit blossoms.

The many plants in the garden fortunately have a remarkable capacity for adaptation to weird weather. Bulbs, roses, fruit trees and other plants should eventually recover and get on with life as if nothing happened. The weather is actually more of a problem to those of us who want an early and healthy abundance of roses and an abundance of fruit in summer.

It is still a bit too early to know how the weather will affect what happens in the garden this spring, but fruit production of many types of fruit, as well as bloom of some types of flowers is expected to be inhibited.

Anti-‘Environmentalism’

What this recycled article neglected to mention is that the surrounding forests have become unnaturally combustible because of a lack of management after clear cut timber harvesting more than a century ago. This combustibility contributed to the destructiveness of the CZU Fire last summer. This article conforms to the Horridculture meme for Wednesday.

Tony Tomeo

P80112++There will be no more updates after this last one for the dead box elders that had been leaning onto the historic Felton Covered Bridge. ( https://wordpress.com/read/blogs/135014809/posts/747 ) They are gone. A pile of logs and some debris are all that remain.

Because the area is a protected riparian zone, the remaining debris and logs may have been left there intentionally, as an important component to the ecosystem. Nearby dead trunks that will not reach the Bridge when they fall also remain, as well as many other larger dead box elders several yards upstream.

For now, the Felton Covered Bridge is reasonably safe from falling trees.

We can only hope it stays that way.

Environmentalism has a way of complicating things.

Environmentalism should be more concerned with prioritizing the natural ecosystem than preserving vegetation that is interfering with it. Much of the exotic (non-native) underbrush and even a few exotic…

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Dwarf Alberta Spruce

Dwarf Alberta spruce is densely conical.

Of all the live Christmas trees available, the dwarf Alberta spruce is perhaps the most practical. It is a shrubby little tree with a big name, Picea glauca ‘Albertiana’ ‘Conica’. (‘Albertiana’ is typically omitted.) It is a dwarf cultivar of white spruce that grows very slowly. It takes many years to potentially get eight feet tall and half as wide at the base. Wild white spruce can grow a hundred feet tall.

The main disadvantage of the dwarf Alberta spruce as a live Christmas tree is the very dense foliage. It almost seems to be artificial. The small needles are only slightly bristly, and finely textured. Otherwise, dwarf Alberta spruce can remain potted as a Christmas tree for several years. It stays sufficiently compact to return to the home annually. It just does not want to be indoors for too long.

The strictly conical form of dwarf Alberta spruce is a distinctive feature in the garden. A pair of trees elegantly flanks a doorway or walkway. A row of evenly spaced trees instills formality to a linear border of bedding plants. Although they do not get too broad, they should have enough room to grow naturally. Pruning for confinement or clearance compromises their naturally symmetrical form.

Pot Plants Generally Burn Out

Small conifers grow into big trees.

Pot plants are very different from common potted plants. Potted plants sustain healthy growth within pots or similar containers. They can range from small houseplants to small trees in big tubs out in the elements. Those that do not live for long in a particular pot before outgrowing it can continue to live in increasingly larger pots. They are considered to be sustainable, rather than temporary.

Pot plants, conversely, are generally expendable. They come into the home or office at their prime, but stay only as long as they continue to perform. For some, this may not be more than a month or so. They typically live their entire brief lifetimes within their original pots. Many endured forcing techniques that are difficult to recover from. Some are little more than uncut cut flowers with roots.

Most pot plants are seasonal. Most are seasonal at Christmas time. These include poinsettias, amaryllis, Christmas cactus, azaleas, hollies, cyclamen, rosemary (in conical ‘Christmas tree’ form) and live Christmas trees. Chrysanthemums were seasonal for autumn. Miniature roses will be in season for Saint Valentine’s Day. Easter lilies and hydrangeas will be seasonal in time for Easter.

Recovery from forcing techniques that are necessary to grow unnaturally showy pot plants is not impossible. It just might be difficult. That is why most poinsettias, Easter lilies and miniature roses rarely survive in the garden. Some pot plants, particularly azaleas and hydrangeas, are cultivars that excel as pot plants, but not in a garden. Christmas cactus and hollies are more likely to thrive.

Some types of live Christmas trees are likely to survive as well. That may not be an advantage. Dwarf Alberta spruce can remain potted as a live Christmas tree for several years, and then do well in the garden. Other spruces may remain potted for a few years, but then demand more space in the garden. Most other live Christmas trees either do not recover in the garden, or grow too large, such as Italian stone pine or Canary Island pine.

Pebbles

Wow! This old article reminds me that I MUST get back to maintaining my planter box. I had been unable to do so with so much of everything else going on, and then by the time that I got more time to go back, I could not because of the Regional Stay Home Order.

Tony Tomeo

P80113My little planter box downtown that I wrote about last week and earlier must be the weirdest garden that I have ever tended to. ( https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/11/04/my-tiny-downtown-garden/ ) I certainly enjoy it. There are not many horticultural problems that can not be remedied by simply removing plants that should not be out there anyway. The weirdness though is just . . . weird . . . and unique to the situation of a tiny garden in such a public space.

I have had weird neighbors before. Hey, I live where I do. Well, a resident of Nicholson Avenue saw me working on my garden one day and stopped to tell me what I should plant in it for compatibility with the color scheme of the front garden of her home a block and a half to the west. You see, she payed a lot of money for her home, and I…

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Snow

Rhody did not go to Oklahoma with us in 2012. That was before his time. The little terrier in the illustrations of this recycled article is Bill, or Willow. He was not impressed with snow.

Tony Tomeo

P80110It seems that almost all of us in the Northern Hemisphere are talking about it. Those of us who lack it can get to feeling somewhat deprived. It looks so pretty in pictures. It seems like such a natural part of winter. To many of us, it is a good excuse to take a break from gardening, stay inside, and write more compelling articles than the more technical sorts written when there is more activity in the garden.

In California, we get almost everything. Although most of the most densely populated ares lack snow, parts of the Sierra Nevada get more snow than anywhere else in the world. Californians can go to the snow to ski, hike, take pictures and do whatever people want to do in the snow; but we do not need to live with it at home like most people in other states do.

I grew up…

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Six on Saturday: No Flowers – Again

These pictures seemed to be interesting when I took them. Only now I notice that there are no flowers here. Actually, there are not many flowers in the landscape where these pictures were taken anyway. Until last year, the facility associated with the landscape was used mostly during summer; so most flowers were selected to bloom during summer. Winter can be quite bland.

Also, for such a mild climate, winter can be surprisingly cool in some cooler exposed locales. Mild frost is normal. On rare occasion, if the weather is just so, puddles can get a thin layer of ice.

1. Lemon ripens this time of year. This pale greenish yellow color will become brighter yellow soon. I suspect that these are ‘Eureka’ lemon, but they crop very heavily in season, like ‘Lisbon’.

2. Flowering cherry will be spectacular in spring, but looks horrid now. This particular tree does not defoliate completely until just prior to bloom. It does this annually. This tree is ‘Kwanzan’.

3. Silver wattle is an an aggressively invasive exotic species locally. Fortunately, there is not much within the landscapes here. Now there is even less. I know it will regenerate from its roots.

4. Argyle apple is a silly name for this Eucalyptus cinerea. It grew from the lignotuber of an overgrown tree that was discarded from a retail nursery in Los Osos. The silver foliage is striking.

5. Lawson cypress also has strikingly silvery foliage. It is not as silvery as that of Argyle apple, but is slightly more bluish. The color of both species seems to be more striking through winter.

6. Ice is rare here, but possible. Of course, it is not as bad as it looks. It is very thin. Winter weather is innately mild here, which limits cultivation of apples and pears than require more chill.

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/

Mugo Pine

Mugo pine is more shrubby than tree like.

Most shrubs and many perennials get larger than the diminutive mugo pine, Pinus mugo. The most common type grows very slowly as a dense and rounded mound only a few feet tall and maybe twice as wide. Only a very old specimen might reach an eave. The paired dark green needles are about one or two inches long. The symmetrical brown cones are a bit shorter. Mugo pine is also known as Swiss mountain pine and because of a misprint in the eighteenth century, mugho pine. Although native to mountains in Europe, mugo pine is most popular in Japanese gardens and for bonsai. Because it grows so slowly, it can be happy in planters and large pots. In large urns of regularly changed flowering annuals, it can be a nice permanent and evergreen centerpiece.

This Parade Needs Some Rain

Now, this is something you don’t see every day in a chaparral climate.

The lack or rain has really gotten serious! This winter so far has been the driest ever recorded. The past two winters had already been unusually dry. Even when the rain starts, it will be considerably behind schedule. Some seriously torrential rain will be needed to catch up.

As much as we like to think of gardening as something that brings us closer to nature, it demands unnatural volumes of water. Only established native plants or plants that are native to similar climates can survive with the limited moisture that they get from rain. This is why gardens get watered as much as they do.

Lawns of course require the most water because their shallow root systems require such frequent watering, and also because their vast foliar surface area loses so much moisture to evapotranspiration (evaporation from foliar surfaces). Lawns are the first and most prominent of landscape features to succumb to water restriction. Flowering annuals are the next to succumb, because they too want regular watering, especially while they are not getting any from rain.

Fortunately, lawns, annuals and other plants that want an abundance of moisture need less now because they are dormant or considerably less active through winter. Besides, evapotranspiration is inhibited by cooler temperatures, shorter day length, and most of the time, by higher humidity. It is nothing like the warm and arid (minimal humidity) weather during longer days of summer.

Many large and established shrubs and trees can survive quite easily with very minimal watering or even none at all. Established oleander, bottlebrush and juniper may not be as vibrant without watering, but should survive. If they notice a lack of water at all, it would not be until they start to grow again in spring. Mature trees take even longer to notice a problem.

Deciduous plants that are now bare really do not consume much moisture at all and really only need enough moisture in the ground to keep their roots from desiccating. This will only be a problem if the soil is very sandy and drains too efficiently to retain adequate moisture, or if freshly installed plants have not had enough time to adequately disperse their roots into the surrounding soil.

Automated irrigation systems should still be operated only minimally or not at all through winter. However, because of the unusually dry weather, they may need to be used a bit more than usual for this time of year to keep some things from getting too dry.