Spring Bulbs Begin In Autumn

Spring bulbs bloom months from now.

Spring bulbs lack immediate gratification. They will, of course, justify their habitation of the garden as they bloom next spring. For now, they are not much to look at, and do not stay visible for long. While dormant, they poses neither foliage nor significant roots. Most look something like small and disfigured onions. Burial in shallow graves conceals their uninteresting exteriors through winter.

Cool season bedding plants can effectively obscure the otherwise bare soil over the grave sites of some types of bulbs. Mulch might be best for those that should start to grow immediately or that will develop an abundance of foliage. While plants above them may need watering until the rainy season begins, dormant spring bulbs need no more attention. They disperse roots through winter.

Spring bulbs, including corms, rhizomes, tubers and tuberous roots, are oblivious to the discomforts of transplant while dormant. However, they want to wake from their dormancy in situations that are conducive to normal development and bloom. Some prefer shallow planting. Others require significant depth for stability. Most but not all spring bulbs perform best in small groups or colonies.

Narcissus, daffodil and crocus are the first spring bulbs to bloom as winter ends, or even earlier. Tulip, hyacinth, grape hyacinth, freesia, anemone, ranunculus and some types of iris bloom shortly afterward. Late iris, lily and montbretia bloom later, and some types are considered to be summer bulbs. Spring bulbs become available in nurseries while seasonable. Summer bulbs arrive later.

Most spring bulbs bloom only once. Plaiting them in phases a few weeks apart within their respective seasons can prolong bloom. Each subsequent phase begins bloom as the preceding phase finishes. However, narcissus, daffodil, grape hyacinth and others that can naturalize will bloom simultaneously after their first season. Most spring bulbs unfortunately do not naturalize reliably here.

Gladiolus and allium are summer bulbs that bloom once. Calla, canna and dahlia bloom through summer.

Anatomically Correct Horticulture

Tony Tomeo

P71026Certain fruits and vegetables were so much more palatable before studying botany. Knowing what they really are sort of puts a damper on things.

Real fruits, including those known as vegetables, are no problem. We all know what they are, and they have the seeds to prove it. Just like flowers reward pollinators with nectar, many plants use fruit to get animals and people to disperse their seeds. Therefore, the fruit is designed to be eaten.

The majority of vegetables are fine too. It seems natural to eat leaves, stems, roots and even flowers. Things get a bit weird with petioles of rhubarb, celery and cardoon, since the leaves are not eaten. Cinnamon bark and saffron stamens also seems a bit odd. What about maple syrup? Is it a vegetable too?

Then there are fruits and vegetables that are not what we think they are.

You will never look at…

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Butterfly

Tony Tomeo

P71022Before you send me a comment about it, I am already aware that this is a very bad picture. It was taken with my primitive telephone because it was convenient at the time. This tired looking butterfly might not have waited for me to get the camera. It passed away, seemingly peacefully, right there on the hood of the old Chevrolet. It did not seem to be injured in any way. It probably simply expired like butterflies do after breeding. It is a natural process that the butterfly did not seem to be too distressed about. It gets no obituary because I am not qualified to write one. We are not sufficiently acquainted. I do not even know the specie of this butterfly.

Now that he or she is deceased, I ponder the beauty of these insects. They are so graceful and very colorful. They flutter about like animated flowers…

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Six on Saturday: Another Quarter

Getting there is half the fun, but only half of that fun was illustrated last week. This it the remaining half of half the fun, . . . which is technically a ‘quarter’. The pictures are not very colorful. Mine are very often like that for Six on Saturday. I am sorry that I got no picture of Rhody.

1. Rhody’s meadow next door was a baseball field. It may eventually be restored. For now, compost piles occupy the edge of right field. The railroad bridge of last week is in the background.

2. Toasted leaves remain evident in undisturbed areas. There has been no rain to accelerate decomposition. It is disconcerting to see so many amongst combustible dried vegetation like this.

3. Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree lives here. It is a baby ponderosa pine, which seems out of place amongst redwood forests. Those are sickly Monterey pines in the background to the right.

4. Trinity Tree was about this tall in historic pictures from more than a century ago. It is only plumper now. It may have been rejected from earlier harvest because it is so thickly branched.

5. California buckeye seed pods, or whatever they are, look even sillier than what the English know as conkers of red horse chestnut, because they linger after summer defoliation. This is an odd species that defoliates during the arid warmth of summer, refoliates for late autumn, and defoliates again after it gets frosted in winter, only to foliate late in winter to repeat the process.

6. Yuck! I detest carpet roses. Besides this pink colony at the Depot, there is a red hedge in another landscape. Without a picture of Rhody, it seems polite to add at least one colorful picture.

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/

Angelonia

This annual can actually be perennial.

Angelonia is one of those warm season annuals that can actually survive through winter as a pernnial to bloom again next spring. It may even want to continue to bloom untill frost. The flowers can be blue, purple, red, pink or white, and look something like small snapdragon flowers. Most have spots or stripes of an alternate color or two in their throats. Some modern varieties have fragrant flowers. Plants can get a foot or two tall, and almost as wide. In sheltered spots, angelonia can be cut back as soon as it starts to look tired in autumn. Exposed plants might be happier if cut back significantly later, as winter ends. Old growth may be unsightly for a while, but can protect interior stems and roots from frost. Besides, pruning stimulates new growth that will be more susceptible to subsequent frost.

October Brings Cool Season Annuals

Warm season annuals are now passe.

As the name implies, ‘annuals’ need to be replaced ‘annually’. What is worse is that they do not even function for an entire year, but only for a specific season. Cool season annuals mostly work from autumn to spring. Warm season annuals mostly work from spring to autumn. Calendula is a popular cool season annual that may not last even that long, since it can mildew half way through winter.

Now that it is time for cool season annuals, it can be unpleasant to remove warm season annuals that are still performing well. In mixed plantings, new annuals can be phased in through autumn as older annuals deteriorate. Busy Lizzie (impatiens), wax begonia and other warm season annuals that are actually perennials can get cut back and overplanted with cool season annuals. The cool season annuals that temporarily overwhelm them can provide shelter from frost. As the cool season annuals finish next spring, the warm season ‘annuals’ can regenerate

However, not all cool season annuals need to finish next spring. Sweet William, cyclamen, chrysanthemum and the various primroses are popular cool season annals that are actually perennials. When the time comes, they can be overplanted with warm season annuals, so that they can regenerate the following autumn. In cool spots, sweet William and some primroses can actually perform all year. (Some people are allergic to primroses like poison oak.)

Alyssum and nasturtium really are annuals, but can function both as warm season and cool season annuals. They sow their own seeds so that new plants can reliably replace old plants without being noticed. The old plants only need to be pulled as they deteriorate. Alyssum is white, or pastel hues of pink or purple. Nasturtium is just the opposite, with bright hues of yellow, orange and red, with only a few pastel options.

Pansies and smaller violas are the two most popular of cool season annuals, since they function like petunias for cool weather. They lack few colors. Most have two or three colors. Ornamental cabbage and kale produce big and bold rosettes of pink, white or pink and white foliage. Kale has weirdly distinctive foliar texture. White, lavender, pink, purple and rose stock is the most fragrant of cool season annuals, and taller varieties are great for cutting. Iceland poppy has delicately nodding flowers on wiry stems. They can be pastel hues of white, pink, yellow, orange or soft red.

Planned Obsolescence

This is another recycled article. I still do not yet know when I can resume writing new articles.

Tony Tomeo

P71028For my exquisite 1979 Electra, planned obsolescence did not work out so well. It was probably a grand Buick for that time, and one of the last with tail fins! It was elegant. It was big. It was steel. It was made to last ten years or 100,000 miles . . . and that was it. Seriously, as much as I enjoyed that car, it did not want go to much farther than it was designed to go. It limped along for almost 20,000 miles more, but was not happy about it, and was really tired and worn out by the time it went to Buick Heaven.

Planned obsolescence used to mean something completely different in landscaping. Yes, we all know what it means now; that many of the so called ‘sustainable’ modern cultivars last only a few years so that they need to be replaced sooner than older cultivars…

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Valley Oak

Valley oak is the grandest oak.

From the northern end of the Sacramento Valley to Santa Catalina Island, valley oak, Quercus lobata, is as Californian as Valley Girl. It inhabits mixed riparian forests and low hillsides up to about 2,000 feet, but prefers alluvial valley meadows in between. Although unpopular for landscaping, it sometimes self sows into home gardens. New landscapes sometimes develop around old trees.

Valley oak is one of the biggest of oaks, and the tallest oak of North America. Mature trees can be more than a hundred feet tall, and several centuries old. Trunks may be more than ten feet wide. Such big trees make big messes of acorns and deciduous foliage, which shed for weeks. Unfortunately, old valley oaks within new landscapes are susceptible to spontaneous limb failure and rot.

Where space is sufficient, new valley oaks are for future generations. They develop their distinctively sculptural branch structure slowly through several decades. If irrigation is not excessive, roots are remarkably complaisant. The evenly furrowed gray bark is rustically distinguished. The elegantly lobed leaves are about three inches long and half as wide. Yellowish autumn color is subdued.

Deciduous Trees Defoliate Through Autumn

Too many fallen leaves get messy.

September 22 was the equinox. Here in the Northern Hemisphere, days will get slightly shorter as nights will get slightly longer. The intensity of the sunlight will diminish as the sun moves farther to the south. The weather will of course get cooler. In this particular climate, the rainy season will begin. Deciduous plants, as well as some evergreen plants, will respond accordingly to the changes.

Deciduous plants defoliate as they go dormant for part of the year. A few defoliate through hot and dry summer weather. Otherwise, almost all deciduous plants defoliate for dormancy through cool and stormy winter weather. They are more resilient without foliage that is sensitive to both frost and wind. While days are short and sunlight is diminished, foliage would not be very active anyway.

The foliage of many deciduous plants gets remarkably colorful during defoliation. Sweetgum, pistache and ginkgo are famously colorful. However, many deciduous plants, such as valley oak and silver maple, are not impressively colorful. Regardless, all deciduous plants that defoliate for winter will eventually start to do so, or have started already. Several evergreen plants shed debris too.

Gravity is a force that is more reliable than weather. It pulls foliar debris downward onto roofs, roadways, decks, patios, lawns and whatever happens to be below deciduous trees.

The timing of defoliation is ironic. Gutters and downspouts that were empty all summer now collect debris as the rainy season begins. They may need cleaning more than once if deciduous trees above defoliate slowly. While patios and decks get less use, they need more raking to avoid staining. Fallen leaves promote rot in turf grass and ground covers, and inhibit penetration of sunlight.

At this time of year, it is difficult to believe that evergreen trees are generally messier than deciduous trees. Deciduous trees tend to defoliate only once annually, although some drop bloom or fruit separately. Evergreen trees drop about as much debris, but do so for a longer season or continuously throughout the year.

Yuccas

Tony Tomeo

P71022+Yuccas are almost as useful as aloes are for gardening in chaparral or desert climates. I say ‘almost’ because most are not quite as friendly. The leaves are outfitted with nastily sharp tips. It is how they protect themselves from grazing animals in the wild, but it is not such an advantage in home gardens. Some actually have the potential to be dangerous where someone could bump into them. The leaves of Joshua tree can puncture leather. Some types of yucca get so big that they make it difficult to avoid their nasty leaves, even if planted in the background.

That being said, for those of us who do not need to worry about endangering children, dogs or anyone else out in our gardens, yuccas are very distinctive and handsome plants. Their striking foliage radiates outward from dense foliar rosettes. Large spikes of creamy white flowers that bloom in summer…

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