Oldies but not likely goodies.

31,800 years or so ago, busy arctic squirrels of northeastern Siberia stored more campion seed than they could consume. Of a store of more than 600,000 such seed, which were found deep below permafrost, three immature seed contained viable embryos. These three embryos were extracted and grown into plants that bloomed and produced new seed as they would have 31,800 years ago.

A 2,000 year old date palm seed, which was found in the palace of Herod the Great on Masada in Israel, is the oldest known intact and mature seed to germinate. It was approximately 29,800 years younger than the miraculously viable embryos of the Siberian squirrel stashed campion seed, but is ridiculously older than the oldest of the old seed in my partly neglected collection. There is hope.

Some of the seed that I saved is not dated because, at the time, I figured that they would be sown during the following season. A few of those that are dated are embarrassingly from five years ago. I know that canna seed lasts much longer than that. So do seed of some of the most aggressively invasive exotic species, such as broom and Acacia dealbata. Vegetable seed are not so fortunate.

However, I cannot discard them without giving them a chance. If they do not germinate on schedule, replacements will be sown immediately.

The two cans of seed to the left in the picture above are for two unknown varieties of pumpkin, and might have been three years old last autumn. Butternut squash seed to the upper middle is about the same age. Hyacinth bean seed to the lower middle is perhaps a year older. Blue dawn flower seed to the upper right is at least five year old. Parsley seed to the lower right was packed for 2015.

Out Of Step

Watch your step . . . while there is one to watch!

This is . . . odd. It is like something of the Winchester House. It seems that these steps in the picture above should go down to a lower deck, but there is no indication that there had ever been such a deck down there. The steps are well maintained and swept mostly clean of forest debris, so whatever happened to whatever should be down there must have happened recently.

Actually, these steps are for what is above rather than what is not below. The picture below shows that there is a deck associated with these steps, but that it is a considerable distance away, and that the only way to get there is by the cable that extends to it from the upper right corner of the picture, over Zayante Creek. The deck is rather sloped to facilitate arrival.

The cable that extends in the same direction from the middle of the top of the picture is somehow associated with the collective infrastructure, but I do not know how or why. Heck, I do not know how or why anyone would put such a deck so far away while there is plenty of space right here for a luxuriously spacious deck! Apparently, this whole setup is part of a short ‘zip line’ tour.

I don’t get it. It must be fun. It looks terrifying to me. I think that if I were to try something like this, I would rather be terrified someplace with more appropriate scenery, like between the skyscrapers of downtown San Jose! Now that would be RAD . . . and terrifying! In this particular location, I would not want to speed past all this interesting flora without slowing down or stopping to appreciate it.

The lower right quadrant of the lower picture shows young alders. Above and beyond, to the upper right, there are young redwoods with some Douglas firs mixed in. Just to the left of them, at the upper center, is an exemplary bigleaf maple. Most of the vegetation to the left is bay laurels, with some tanoaks, and perhaps madrones mixed in. The undergrowth the lower left is filberts.

I am certainly in no hurry to try this ‘zip line’ tour, and if I do, I seriously doubt that I will be noticing the surrounding flora; not just because of the speed, but because of the terror!

Oh, . . . so that is where these steps lead to!

Six on Saturday: Greens


There are no vegetables in the garden yet. It is so shameful. Work had been so overwhelming that I am only now renovating a small vacant space into a new vegetable garden, and only because I am unable to go to work at my most time consuming job. I needed to remove our berry canes to do it!

Until the garden becomes productive, and perhaps to avoid the supermarket, I have been getting much of my produce from the surrounding forest and landscapes.

1. mustard greens – are the most abundant of the greens growing wild around the perimeter of the abandoned baseball field. Similar wild radish and turnip greens are even better, but not abundant.P00328-1

2. dandelion – grows in the outfield of the same abandoned baseball field, mostly past third base. They are not my favorite, but are an alternative to the other greens. These are dirty from heavy rain.P00328-2

3. dock – is more randomly sporadic. It grows amongst the other greens and elsewhere, although not in significant colonies. The tough midribs are supposed to be removed. I just chop them up fine.P00328-3

4. miners’ lettuce – is the only native of these greens. Most leaves are circular with tiny white flowers in the center. These vegetative leaves are supposedly better. Like lettuce, they do not get cooked.P00328-4

5. stinging nettle – must be cooked to stop stinging. This is my favorite of the greens. It is like spinach that I do not need to tend to. I get it from along the trails where it should be eradicated anyway.P00328-5

6. Rhody – is not even remotely relevant to greens; but everyone wants to see him. Someone suggested that I write exclusively about Rhody, as if my horticultural topics are insufficiently interesting.P00328-6

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

Unused Pictures

I believe that this azalea is ‘Phoenicia’.

Okay, so I felt slightly guilty about not posting anything of any horticultural interest today. Okay, perhaps a bit more than slightly. Okay, perhaps guilty enough to post a few pretty flowery pictures . . . and the last one, which some might find objectionable.

‘Coral Bells’ is not one of my favorite azaleas, but is reliable and profuse.

I will not put much effort into this. I did not even take these pictures for any particular article.  I am only sharing them here and now because I have no use for them, but did not want to just file them away unseen forever. Hey, these flowers work hard to bloom!

I have no idea what this azalea is, but I am impressed.

Actually though, except for the last picture, all are about a month old. The last picture is half as old, and the bloom that is shows continues. Otherwise, the other blooms are already finished. Although colorful, none are particularly remarkable or interesting.

This odd camellia seemed to grow from the base of a bigger and older specimen, as if it is a sucker from understock. However, there is no indication that the original specimen is grafted. Nor is there any reason why a Camellia japonica should be grafted. The odd camellia could have grown from seed. It is rare but not impossible for Camellia japonica to produce seed here. It is not crowding anything, so remains.

This odd camellia looks like it could be an extra on the Muppet Show.

I really should eradicate this pampas grass. However, it has been here for many years without becoming aggressively invasive. We have observed no seedlings nearby. Besides, even if we did eradicate it, there are herds of more just over the ridge. I can not explain why it is not migrating inward, but I am not complaining. I happen to like the bloom.

This is not just any pampas grass. It is the dreaded Cortaderia jubata.

These pictures are, of course, not nearly as awesome as the pictures of Rhody that posted earlier. They just happen to be more relevant to what should be a horticultural blog.

Memorial Tree Update – March 22, 2020

Memorial Tree – Before

Updates get complicated as they link back to previous updates to previous updates to previous updates and so on. Linking and reblogging from another blog adds more complication. The last update for the Memorial Tree was reblogged from Felton League on August 10. It and previous updates should link back to preceding updates chronologically. At least it sounds simple.

Another brief update that will reblog here from Felton League at noon will describe more of the social significance of the Memorial Tree rather than horticultural concerns. It really is special.

This little Memorial Tree has certainly been through some difficult times. Despite reassurances that it would not happen again, and that the tree would be outfitted with an ‘approved’ trunk guard, the trunk base has been gouged by weed whackers on more occasions than I can remember. That is an unfortunate consequence of efficient but unaware community service workers.

Such major damage severely inhibited growth. As it begins its fifth year, the Memorial Tree is barely six feet tall. By now, it should be developing branch structure above minimal clearance. Fortunately, it was quite healthy last year. If it continues to grow similarly this year, it will grow above six feet, where it can later develop scaffold limbs. I intend to apply fertilizer regularly.

Stubble had been left on the trunk to enhance caliper growth. That which was developing into significant branches was removed to concentrate resources into vertical trunk growth. Stubble that remains is minimal, but should be substantial enough by winter to get mostly pruned away again. It will more likely be unnecessary, and pruned away completely from the main trunk.

Binding is unfortunately still necessary. The species innately develops irregular form. Binding straightens the otherwise curved trunk. Once the trunk lignifies in the desired position, binding and the associated stake will not be necessary. The larger lodgepole stake holds the binding stake vertical, but is more important for protection from those who bump into the still small tree.

Weeds were removed from around the base of the Memorial Tree, so that there would be no need for a dreaded weed whacker to get close to it. Former damage is compartmentalizing well.

Memorial Tree – After

Poppy And Periwinkle

Even though I know they are slightly purplish, periwinkle look blue to me.

Clearing space for a new small vegetable garden is more work than it will be worth. It took more than a day to remove the thicket of bramble from a triangular area that is only about forty feet from front to back, and not much more than twenty feet wide. After so many years of getting trash dumped on top of them, the brambles were unusually prolific with gnarly root burls.

There is still significant work to do. I still need to condition the soil and groom the adjacent junipers before sowing seed for the warm season vegetables for this summer. Now that I can see that the junipers that were formerly concealed by brambles are worthy of salvage and grooming, I will need to clear a bit more garden space across the road, and cut back a few trees above.

When finished and producing, the garden will not produce enough. The four hundred or so square feet in the main part of the garden should supply enough for two people; but realistically, it would more likely produce enough for me alone, with a bit extra to can for when it is not producing much. There are about a dozen on our crew. They all have families. I need a quarter acre!

The math of it all is frustrating. So is all the work to get it started. It all seems so futile. I know we will appreciate the little bit that we get. I will still get plenty from the weeds that grow wild around the baseball field, so will not take much from the garden.

As simple as they are, poppies are still my favorite native wildflower.

For now, I try to visualize what the small vegetable garden will look like in production this summer, even if all that I see blooming are the poppies and periwinkle on the outskirts.

My illustrations are more technical than artistic. It looks like someone else took this one. Ignore the pickup in the background.

Six on Saturday: New Vegetable Garden


There is more time for a late start on a new vegetable garden now. I had planed to take this and next week off from most of my work, to tend to other neglected obligations. However, under the circumstances, I am still unable to tend to many of those obligations! Well, the crew wants a new vegetable garden.

1. Before, the area was overwhelmed with a dense thicket of Himalayan blackberry brambles, that had grown up into the joists of the deck above, and over the adjacent junipers to the right.P00321-1

2. After, it is not much better. This initial phase took me half a day!! I intended to remove most or all of the junipers, but as they become exposed, it is evident that they are worth salvaging.P00321-2

3. I already know I will be sowing seed for the warm season vegetables a bit late; but this wild cucumber feels compelled to remind me. It is already past the top of this seven foot high fence.P00321-3

4. This is just some of the debris that I removed. For comparison, the animal to the lower left is a buffalo. Okay, it is really just Rhody. The dumpster is as high as the cargo container though.P00321-4

5. Okay, so that was a bit of an exaggeration. The pile really is this big, but only the small portion outlined in yellow to the upper right is from the new garden, and is only about two feet high.P00321-5

6. While up on the bridge over the debris pile, I got this picture of most of the work trucks that are not at work where they belong. Everyone else writes about it; but I have not mentioned it.P00321-6

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

Horridculture – Red Hot Chili Peppers

Sweet bell peppers are actually more of a challenge to grow.

This illustration is relevant neither to the topic, nor to that really creepy rock band of the same name. Even though the band has been popular since I was in high school, all that I know about them is that I am none too keen on their music. Embarrassingly, I do not know much more about the topic, and it has been a hot topic much longer than I have been growing my vegetables.

Vegetables make no music of course. I just mean that I am no more familiar with contemporary cultivars of hot pepper than I am with music that I do not appreciate. I happen to appreciate some types of peppers, and some of them happen to be hot peppers. However, I have not bothered to get acquainted with those that are so ridiculously hot that I do not want to grow them.

Why should I? What are they good for? Why waste my time, limited garden space and other resources on something that no one wants to eat or add to any recipe? They are not particularly productive. If they were, they would only make more of something that is just as useless as the few that each plant produces. I can not even justify putting effort into finding a picture of one.

Those who indulge in this fad brag about it profusely. They post pictures of their few tiny hot peppers online, with sensational claims that there is nothing hotter. Some post selfies with their free hand dangling one of their weird peppers over their extended Gene Simmons tongue. Some even post videos of their drunken friends tasting their peppers, as if it can not be done sober.

I suppose that, regardless of how pointless it seems to me, it is one way to enjoy gardening.

Grande Finale

They still bloom spectacularly.

This is the third spring that I got picture of this pair of flowering cherry trees in bloom. I took several pictures last year, ranging from closeup pictures of the flowers, to pictures taken from a distance like the picture above. Fewer pictures were taken during the previous spring of 2018, before these trees were groomed of copious necrosis. Sadly, this picture will be one of the last.

The trees will be cut down this year. They stayed just long enough to bloom this one last season, but will not likely be here much longer. They are deteriorating at such a rate that if I were to prune the necrosis away after bloom, there would not be much remaining. The tree to the right in this picture would be only a rotten stump with a few limber twigs protruding from the top.

Structural integrity has been so compromised by decay that, even without the weight of all the limbs that have been pruned back during the past many years, the trunks could easily break off at the ground. When I remove them, I will likely just push the tree to the right over without cutting it first. If there were any branches left, a kid could knock it over by trying to climb it.

As much as I would prefer for these trees to last much longer, I want to install their replacements as soon as possible. Planting them this spring would give them all summer to disperse roots and grow a little bit before blooming next spring. I know they will not be much to look at for a few years, but many years from now, they might be as spectacular as these two originals were.

Regardless, it will be a saddening task to cut down these distinguished trees.

Blank Slate

This tank could use some greenery . . . or maybe not.

The scrub palm incident should have reminded me that there is such a thing as too much of good thing. By the way, I do intend to grow every single seedling that germinates and somehow find homes for them all. I suspect that almost all will live in my own garden, but at least I know they will live in a good home. I have grown surpluses before, and I actually plan to do it again.

For examples, that big herd of cedar seedlings that was partly reassigned into landscapes is just too numerous for all seedlings to be accommodated. Most of what remains will get canned to be installed into landscapes later. Since we planted about as many as we possibly can here, most will likely go to Los Angeles, and installed onto embankments of the Santa Monica Freeway.

That is too many cedars; but I just can not bear to discard them as I should. Nor can I leave them to grow into a crowded and likely rat infested grove. They should be happy in Los Angeles.

Anyway, I was asked to grow a few copies of Boston ivy for a pair of concrete columns that support a pedestrian bridge. Two specimens were already planted on two other concrete columns of the same pedestrian bridge, from which English ivy had been removed. Two other specimens grow on a concrete retaining wall from which Algerian ivy gets removed ahead of its advance.

I should have just plugged a few cuttings into a can, and then separated them and plugged them directly into the landscape as they rooted. Instead, I plugged cuttings into a flat. Well, I could not just plug a few, and leave the rest of the flat empty. I filled an entire flat with a hundred cuttings. I expected a high mortality rate, but alas, almost all of the cuttings are doing quite well.

Now we are finding all sorts of concrete retaining walls and other infrastructure where we can plant Boston ivy. We are also realizing that there is a difference between ‘can’ and ‘should’. As I was dumping greenwaste, I noticed how austere this big water tank looks. Boston ivy would really appreciate all that surface area! There is enough to plant all the way around the perimeter!

Then, I thought of all the reasons why clinging vines are not allowed onto water tanks. They deteriorate the paint, which allows the tanks to rust. They allow rodents to climb up to the top of the tank, which is really not a good place for rodents. They need maintenance, which is not justifiable for landscape features that serve no practical purpose. They need (ironically) watering.

If the tank were in a more prominent location where it should be obscured, it would be best to plant dense evergreen trees, such as cypress trees, around it. Such trees would be planted at a distance, to maintain reasonable clearance. Really though, the tank is in a secluded place, where not many of us see it. It needs no landscaping, so will remain as austere as it has always been.

But, what about the cyclone fence around the water tank? All those surplus grape vines could most certainly make good use of it as a trellis! Okay, I get it. It would take too much work, and there is too much potential from problems . . . rodents, maintenance, watering, damage to the fence, and half of all the grapes would be locked inside where only a few of us could get to them.

Fence or trellis?