Six on Saturday: When It Rains, It Pours


The frequency and duration of rainy weather here is not very much more than in the rain shadow where the inland base of the Santa Cruz Mountains merges into the Santa Clara Valley. However, the volume is about triple! My former neighborhood in town just about fifteen miles away gets about one foot of rain annually. The average annual rainfall here is about three feet.

That extra two feet sometimes seems to fall all at once.

1. Rain got heavy enough for me to bother recording this first of six brief videos. I do not know why the lights upstairs were pulsating and blinking. The downspout seems to be jet propelled.

2. This was certainly more than I expected. Off to the left, there were only two sandbags to put in front of a doorway that is three sandbags wide. This was a major problem. I did not panic.

3. Now I panicked. I called for help, but my radio was too wet to operate. There was nothing anyone could do anyway; or so I thought. I stopped the camera and went upstairs to investigate.

4. Removal of debris from the grate over this drain fixed everything fast. This was more than I expected too. We all know that this drain is partially clogged. The water and hail was freezing!

5. Within a minute or so, the water drained away surprisingly efficiently, leaving this icy mess on the small patio between the two stairways. It was like a Slurpee mixed with redwood debris.

6. More of the grungy Slurpee remained on the lower patio outside the doorway that lacked adequate sandbags. Water barely crossed the threshold to dampen a few square inches of carpet.

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

Horridculture – NO TRESSPASSING

NO TRESPASSING? . . . No respect!

Growing fruit takes a bit of effort. Trees that produce the fruit must be planted and maintained for all the many years that they produce. They might need to be irrigated through summer. Most need specialized pruning every winter.

Canning surplus fruit takes a bit of effort too. All the jars must be cleaned. All the fruit must be collected, processed and cooked. The jars must be packed and boiled and so on.

Drying fruit is less work than canning, but takes a bit of effort nonetheless.

Where I lived in town, I grew a peach tree closer to the apartment building to the north, and a fig tree closer to the apartment building to the south. I maintained both trees meticulously. Many of the neighbors appreciated the fresh fruit. At the end of their season, there was (almost) always surplus peaches for canning. Sometimes, there were surplus figs for drying.

I really would not have minded if there had not been surplus fruit. It would have been better to have it consumed by the neighbors while fresh, than after it had been canned. Besides, it would have been less work for me.

One summer, there was a major surplus of peaches. We wanted to can them as efficiently as possible because we know how perishable they are. We planned to do all the canning on a Saturday, so got all the jars from the attic and washed them on Friday afternoon. The canning pots and utensils were ready to go. We had purchased lids and several pounds of sugar.

Also on Friday afternoon, the so-called ‘gardeners’ came to the apartment building next door to the north.

The major surplus of peaches, every last peach, was completely gone when we went to collect early Saturday morning.

Now, really, I don’t mind sharing. That is what the tree is there for. I really don’t even mind if a few people want to take all the surplus fruit. I just want to be told about it before I make plans and prepare to do something else with it. What really angered me was the complete disregard for those of us who put the effort into growing all those excellent peaches.

The fig tree to the south produced an early crop of figs before the peaches, and a late crop of figs after the peaches. Each crop lasted a long time, so there were not often too many figs at any one time that needed to be dried. Most were eaten fresh.

I often noticed an annoying absence of figs each day after the so-called ‘gardeners’ came to the apartment building next door to the south. It was not as bothersome as the missing peaches, since I got quite a bit of figs in between. What angered me was that every fig that could be harvested at the appointed time was taken, leaving none for anyone else.

Unidentified Cyclamen

What species is this naturalized Cyclamen? hederifoliumcoum – feral persicum – or something else?

Could this be Cyclamen hederifolium? Perhaps it is some sort of Cyclamen coum, or possibly feral Cyclamen persicum. I really do not know. Common florists’ cyclamen is the only cyclamen that I have any experience with. I grew it as a perennial when I was in high school, but never saw any feral colonies growing from self sown seed. I have never met the other species before.

Several colonies of this naturalized species of Cyclamen grow wild in the garden of a colleague. No one knows how they got there. I noticed them while procuring specimens of what might be other species that I have been wanting to grow, even though I am not certain of their identities either. I suspect that one could be Sorbus americana, and that another could be Rhus glabra.

I have been wanting to try growing Cyclamen hederifolium or Cyclamen coum since I saw it in pictures of home gardens in other regions. It looks something like common florists’ cyclamen that I enjoyed growing so many years ago, but more natural and relaxed. As much as I like florists’ cyclamen, the brightly colored flowers look a bit too synthetic for naturalistic landscapes.

Even though interesting species of Cyclamen have been available online and from mail order catalogs for at least the past several years, I have been hesitant to try any. I just do not know if they would be happy in forested landscapes where I want to grow them. Not many perennials perform well with so much overwhelming and mildly toxic debris from redwoods and live oaks.

Now I can see that they perform well enough here to naturalize, even under big and messy coast live oaks. In fact, I am now concerned that they have potential to become invasively naturalized in surrounding forests.

They Don’t Know When To Quit

The good news is that these billowy white blooms were not wasted.

The main difficulty with such a mild climate is that many plants do not get sufficient chill in winter. Several types of apples do not perform well here without it. Only a few are productive in Beverly Hills (in the Los Angeles region), where I sometimes need to modify my gardening column accordingly. A few of my neighbors here somehow grow peonies; but I do not even bother.

Even plant that require more chill than they get here seem to be aware that it is cooler at this time of year. Their deciduous foliage turns color and eventually falls to the ground. They just want the weather to get a bit cooler and to stay cooler for a bit longer before they are convinced that it is really winter. Otherwise, they think that autumn simply merges directly into spring.

I really do not know what hydrangeas are thinking though. They perform about as well in milder climates of Southern California, and may not bother to defoliate completely if old foliage can linger until it is replaced by new foliage. In the mildest climates, bloom is merely subdued through winter, but might continue sporadically. I am not convinced that they need any chill at all.

The hydrangeas here get pruned shortly after the roses, and almost as severely. (They are a bit more complicated than roses, and a bit less cooperative, but respond well to their pruning.) I started the process on Thursday with a few that needed to be relocated, and will be finishing on Wednesday or Thursday. Most of the remaining yellowed old foliage falls away in the process.

Their lingering bloom is a bit more disconcerting. I hate to waste what the old hydrangeas put so much effort into producing. Some of the best blooms were outfitted with a bit of eucalyptus foliage (since they lacked their own) and given away to others who work here. However, there were invariably some undeveloped blooms that were just discarded as they got pruned away.

Undeveloped bloom was merely discarded with the rest of the debris.

Hydrangeas seem to appreciate a good chill, but do not seem to need it, or expect it to last for very long. I sometimes wonder if I could just groom them to remove old canes throughout the year rather than pruning them aggressively in winter. I do not remember ever pruning any in Southern California, but might expect them to be less responsive to the even milder weather.

For me, they would be easier to prune where winter is cool enough for them to be completely dormant. Without foliage, it would not seem like I would be pruning them while they are still active. Without bloom, I would not be concerned about the waste. I could just prune them like so many other deciduous plants. There really are a few disadvantages to mild winter weather.

Hydrangeas that were transplanted got pruned and dug bare root.

Six on Saturday: White Album


‘Album’ is Latin for ‘white’. That is why ‘album’ or a derivation of it is the species or varietal name for several plants. That does not apply to any of these six though. They are just incidentally . . . and coincidentally white. Even though white is my favorite color, I really did not intentionally select these because they are white. I just wanted to show off some of what is blooming now.

I would say that most are unseasonable, but our mild seasons can be rather vague.

1. Pelargonium hortorum – Two florets managed to bloom on a stunted truss that should have been plucked from rooting cuttings in the nursery. Full trusses are blooming in the landscape.P00111-1

2. Primula vulgaris – Heavy rain overnight splattered a bit of the mulch onto the these and other nearby flowers that are low to the ground. A bit more drizzly rain should rinse them all off.P00111-2

3. Helleborus X hybridus – Of these six subjects, only this and #2 above are actually in season. Their pale bloom is mediocre and faces the ground. This one is turned upward for this picture.P00111-3

4. Solanum jasminoides – Foliage is pekid through cool winter weather. Vines will get pruned back before growth resumes in spring. Regardless, flowers bloom whenever they get a chance.P00111-4

5. Rhododendron (Azalea) – As delightful as this unseasonable bloom is now, it would have been much better if it had waited until spring as expected. It will not last long in this weather.P00111-5

6. Hydrangea macrophylla – Bloom continues even as the yellowed deciduous foliage is falling to the ground. Other juvenile blooms are still developing. I will elaborate on this topic at noon.P00111-6

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

Horridculture – Tree Preservation Ordinances

Padding should protect these London plane street trees from minor altercations with machinery that will be used to demolish the associated buildings and construct new buildings.

Much of my work involves inspection of trees to assess health, stability and structural integrity, and subsequent composition of associated arborist’s reports to document such assessments. These reports are necessary for the issuance of permits to remove mature trees within many municipalities. They are only effective for that purpose if they recommend and justify removal.

If there is nothing wrong with the health, stability or structural integrity of subject trees, removal might be justified for other reasons. For example, the removal of superfluous trees might be justified if it would promote healthier development of remaining trees. Trees that disperse roots that are beginning to damage adjacent infrastructure might likewise need to be removed.

It seems like it is too much to be concerned with for something that property owners should not need permission to remove from their own property. For what people pay for property here, they should be able to do whatever they want to with it. However, mature trees are considered to be assets to their respective Communities, and components of the collective urban forests.

These majorly and justifiably controversial concerns are actually not the the only difficulties associated with municipal tree preservation ordinances.

While a young coast live oak in the extreme corner of my garden was not quite big enough to require a permit for removal, I asked the next door neighbor if he would like it to be removed before the roots damaged his driveway. I explained that if we waited any longer, the tree would be protected, and that a permit to remove such an exemplary tree would not likely be issued.

Tree preservation ordinances are often the motivating factor for the removal of trees before they get big enough to be protected! I was fortunate that my neighbor wanted my oak to stay.

Deodar Cedar Migration – Update

Reassigned deodar cedars have adapted to their new landscape.

Reassignment is in season right now. The brief article about it that posted yesterday links to three other related articles. We have done quite a bit of it here, and intend to do a bit more for useful plants that happen to be in the wrong situations. It should be done before winter ends, to take advantage of both natural dormancy and cool winter rain that settles transplanted roots.

Most plants that get reassigned get dug from situations where they can not stay, and transplanted directly to where they will likely become assets to their respective landscapes. Those that do not get transplanted directly into other landscapes get canned and housed temporarily in the nursery. Some need to recover. Some must wait for landscapes that can accommodate them.

Some reassigned plants are feral descendants of exotic (non-native) species, that grew from self sown seed. Others were originally planted intentionally, but for one reason or a few, are no longer appropriate for their particular situations. Some are overgrown perennials that needed to be divided. On rare occasion, we encounter specimens of native species that get reassigned.

Deodar cedar that were reassigned slightly more than a year ago recovered from the process last spring and summer, so should grow this year as if nothing ever happened. Unfortunately, several were inadvertently killed when the roadside weeds and grasses that they grow amongst were cut down. In other areas, too many superfluous specimens survived, so must be culled.

Those that will be culled out need not go far. They can be plugged back to replace those that were mown down. The second process will be easier than the first. Superfluous specimens were reassigned because we expected nearly half to not survive the process. Except for those that were mown down, almost all survived. If not culled, they will get too crowded in just a few years.

There are plenty more where they came from. The four parent trees are prolific with their seedlings. We can not reassign all of them to other landscapes, and should not waste resources on canning specimens that will not likely be accommodated within any of our landscapes. I will likely can many of them, but not for here. They may become GREEN street trees in Los Angeles.

The four reassigned deodar cedars in this small space are not easy to see in this picture.

If it seems as if the reassigned deodar cedars are too close to surrounding trees, it is only because the surrounding trees will be subordinated and eventually removed as the deodar cedars grow big enough to replace them. One is a dangerously disfigured sweetgum with roots that are displacing pavement above. Two others are disfigured and deteriorating California bay trees.


African iris are happily rehomed.

African iris, Dietes bicolor, that I mentioned three weeks ago were finally installed into a new landscape. It may not be permanent. They may need to be relocated again if they happened to land where two of four birch will be installed as the landscape is slowly assembled before winter ends. The installation was done hastily before the last storm delivered a good dose of rain.

It could not be delayed any longer. These African iris had been divided and groomed so long before they were featured on the fourteenth of December that they were likely to succumb to rot or desiccation if installation was delayed any longer. They soaked in buckets of water for days at a time, and were then left to drain for days at a time so that they would not soak for too long.

I do not remember how many times I repeated the process. I knew it was getting risky. Surprisingly, by the time they were installed, only a few of the worst of the rhizomes were beginning to exhibit negligible indications of rot. Now that they are in moist but fluffy and well aerated soil, they can recover and begin to disperse new roots, even if they must be relocated again later.

If relocated again later, the process will be fast and direct. They will get dug and plugged within minutes. Compared to alternated soaking and draining for more than a month, it will be easy.

The formerly feral birch that will eventually be added to this landscape are also being reassigned. Of nine that were removed from another landscape in the neighborhood, five were already plugged directly into a landscape across the road. The other four were canned temporarily until we determine where they will fit into this new landscape. They will arrive before winter ends.

Lauristinus that formerly inhabited this area were already being reassigned as hedges in other landscapes before we planned to reassign extra African iris and feral birch to this landscape. A few got canned to replace any that do not survive the process. So far though, all have not only survived where they were reassigned, but were growing happily before the weather got cool.

Six on Saturday: Two Too Many Redwoods


Redwoods are such admirable trees that no one wants to cut any of them down. On rare occasion, it becomes necessary to do so. Seedlings sometimes grow in situations where they can not stay. They might be too close to buildings or other infrastructure. Sometimes, they are merely in the process of crowding other important plants in the landscape. That was the problem with the young redwood pictured here, and another just like it.

1. There it is, an exemplary specimen barely left of center. The problem was that it would have crowded other trees if left to grow. The dogwood to the left is feral too, but will not get too big.P00104-1

2. This juvenile tree had been cut off at the ground, and regenerated. This meant that I expected it to be more firmly rooted than it would have been if it had not experienced such trauma.P00104-2

3. What a surprise! Roots on one side had already been severed by earlier excavation for a drainage pipe. As I cut a few more roots on other sides, this unfortunate young tree just fell over.P00104-3

4. There were enough roots remaining for this tree to survive if there had been someplace to put it where it could have been irrigated and guyed until it recovered and dispersed new roots.P00104-4

5. Guying would have been difficult though. The young and slender tree was just too tall and flimsy for any downward tension applied by guys. Sadly, this young redwood was not salvaged.P00104-5

6. This is really why I was here. Besides removing two feral redwoods, I dug two Japanese maples that had been stagnating in the landscape for years, and canned them to hopefully recover.P00104-6

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:


P00101-1January 1, 2020! The first day of the Twenties!

The flora in our gardens north of the Tropics must think we are crazy for making such a fuss about it while they are trying to sleep. Even flora south of the tropics does not understand. All flora everywhere is more concerned with how the seasons change according to the position of the Earth around the Sun. Precise dates, times and numbers are meaningless.

It sort of seems odd to me that within each time zone, it is the same time and date both north and south of the Equator, but the seasons of each side are opposite. Today started in sparsely populated regions of the Pacific Ocean, worked its way through Australia earlier, and is somehow still the same ‘today’ that is here now. Yet it is winter here, and summer to the south.

Now, if January can be in the cool time of year here, and the warm time of year in Australia, it seems to me that winter could be both the cool season here, and the warm season in Australia. If the dates are the same, it seems like the seasons should be too. Alternatively, if the seasons are half a year early or late in opposite Hemispheres, it seems like dates should be too.

According to such logic, it could be either winter or July 1 in Australia and elsewhere south of the Equator right now! . . . But would that be July 1 of 2019 or 2021? Too many technicalities!

Well, it is more than the flora in the garden is concerned about anyway. It is winter here now, and summer south of the Equator. It is the beginning of January everywhere that the Gregorian calendar is used, north and south.


Note: ‘Horridculture’ will resume next Wednesday. It did not seem appropriate for the first day of 2020.P00101-2