Premature Color

P80819Halloween is my all time least favorite of the fake holidays. I will not elaborate on this now, but will say that the appearance of Halloween decorations as soon as the Fourth of July decorations were outdated on the fifth makes me dislike Halloween even more. Halloween is an autumn pseudoholiday. It is not meant for summer!
Autumn foliar color, or fall color, is known as such because it happens in ‘fall’ . . . or autumn. It is not meant for summer any more than Halloween is.
This little Japanese maple did not get the memo. Perhaps it thought that no one would notice if it got an early start. It was a nice bronze in spring and the early part of summer, and somehow managed to maintain good color without roasting when the mild weather so suddenly became more seasonably warm a while back, but is now turning this nice pinkish red as if it is done for the year. This picture is slightly more than week old, so this little tree has been slowing down for a while already.
I can not complain. I am actually impressed that this tree did not get roasted when the weather changed earlier. Japanese maples are susceptible to scorch in our arid climate, and the ‘lace leaf’ cultivars are the most sensitive. More resilient foliage, including English laurel cherry, got roasted.
What will this Japanese maple look like in autumn? I can not predict. It would be nice if it held the premature color through autumn and defoliated on schedule in winter. It might defoliate as prematurely as it colored, leaving it bare part way through autumn. The bark could scald if too exposed while the sun is still high and warm. The weather will determine what happens next.


The Bad Seed

P80818KThis salvia would probably look badder without it. Yes, that’s badder and not better. I mean, if all these slightly unsightly seeded stems were cut back, then the even more unsightly deteriorating foliage below would be more prominent. When one looks at it that way, the bad seed suspended above does not seem all that bad.

It is doubtful that the ‘gardeners’ who ‘maintain’ this site put that much thought into it. They are, after all, the same who ‘maintain’ the firethorn that is pictured in this article from June 27 (The Wrong Plant In The Wrong Place ). There were probably too busy botching something else to notice that this salvia is in need of botching as well.

There is some unpruned black sage nearby that displays similar but smaller seeded structures on more irregular and arching stems, rather than vertical stems that stand upright. They too are somewhat appealing in a weirdly sculptural sort of way. They might stay like that until winter, when they will likely get pruned back as they deteriorate in the weather.

Sunflowers are commonly left after bloom just because finches and other seed eating birds like them so much. They do not get cut down until the birds are finished with them. To many, this is the main reason for growing sunflowers.

Another excuse to be lazy about deadheading spent blooms is that many will provide seed that can be collected for the next season, or merely allowed to self sow and naturalize. Leaving open pollinated vegetables out to go to seed is a common practice. For example, the last few radishes to be pulled might just be left to bolt, bloom and go to seed. Cosmos tends to throw its seed whether we want it to or not.

Six on Saturday: Out With The Old


The planter box downtown has been neglected for too long. ( ) I really must make some time to clean out the debris and a little bit of trash. There is nothing as interesting as when the concrete slurry was dumped into it by whomever was installing the tile in the bathroom of the adjacent building, but there are some odds and ends. One of the six trailing rosemary plants that was trailing so nicely over the southern edge is missing . . . as in someone cut it back to a stump. Someone dumped out an old dead houseplant right into the middle of the planter box, leaving an upside down pot shaped wad of potting soil, as if no one would mind. Right next to that, someone left a potted kangaroo paw, as if I might want to plant it into the planter box. It is all dried up and mostly dead . . . and I really do not like kangaroo paw enough to want to grow it there. Well, perhaps it is better to show you the drama than to write too much about it.

1. This is the potted kangaroo paw that someone left in the planter box. Anyone who does not notice how sloppy all the dried foliar debris on the ground around it is will be sure to notice how unsightly this dried kangaroo paw is. The pile of discarded potting soil was already bashed up and spread out before this picture was taken. I will probably plant the kangaroo paw somewhere else, just in case it survives. I do not want it here. The pot is nice.P80818

2. It has a name; Anigozanthos ‘Kanga Yellow’. Doesn’t anyone use species names anymore?P80818+

3. Right next to my planter box is a tree well with a London plane that has not grown more than a few inches in the past few years. When my nasturtiums really get to blooming and seeding, I sweep some of the seed into the tree well, where they bloom just as prolifically as they do in the planter box, but a bit later. I make it look like an accident. There is also a busted up houseleek in there. It grew from a piece of mine, and will regenerate when the rain resumes in autumn. It sort of looks like an accident too.P80818++

4. Just to the west of the slow London plane is one of a few old Southern magnolias that will be removed. They are disfigured and somewhat unhealthy, so are not worth salvaging as the pavement of the surrounding roadway, sidewalk and curb get replaced. Even if we wanted to salvage them, they would not likely survive the process. It is sad to see them go, but they were good street trees for a very long time, and certainly lasted longer than they should have been expected to. Southern magnolias commonly displace pavement. I really would not mind if the ailing London plane were to be removed as well, just because it it too pathetic to work around, but the tree huggers are intent on preserving it. When the magnolias get replaced with new redbuds or tupelos, the London plane will look odd, and will eventually get too big and break the new pavement. Oh well. My planter box and this tree are actually on Nicholson Avenue, not on Tait Avenue or Bayview Avenue.P80818+++

5. ‘X’ marks the magnolias who are condemned to death. I know they need to go, but it is saddening anyway. They were fun neighbors.P80818++++

6. Since there were no colorful flowers within my planter box, it was necessary to get this picture elsewhere. Brent might say this looks like the Academy Awards, with a bee on the red carpet rose. Well, I can not expect you to know how Brent thinks. You can omit ‘rose’, and think of ‘bee’ as ‘B’, and think of ‘B’ as a euphemism.P80818+++++

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

Horridculture – DEATH

P80815KIt is quite natural. Death, I mean. Every living thing does it at one time or another. Even the oldest bristlecone pines that live for thousands of years eventually do it. The Monterey pine in this picture did it quite efficiently. The three crows perched on top make it look extra dead. You know, not merely dead, but very dead. If this tree were in my own garden, I would be totally saddened by its death, but there is nothing that I could do about it.
The smaller dark objects suspended in the now dead limbs are pine cones. Monterey pine starts to produce pine cones at a young age, and of course, produces more with age and increasing size. As mature trees begin to deteriorate, they produce even more cones as they concentrate their resources into seed production for the next generation. This elderly tree knew that death was imminent. After all, death is natural.
Compared to other trees that are native to the neighborhood, such as valley oaks that live for centuries, and coastal redwoods that live for thousands of years, Monterey pines are ‘short-lived’. They live only a century or so, and may not live half that long in urban situations, particularly in more arid climates. They are endemic to the Monterey Peninsula, where they live within an ecosystem that, prior to urban development, naturally burned at least every century or so, before they got to be too old. In fact, their natural life cycle was directly relevant to how combustible the forests were, and how efficiently fires spread through them; but that is another topic.
The main concern here is that death is natural. The tree in this picture died a natural death. It can not be blamed on global warming, climate change, big industry, the President that we all seem to hate even though enough of us voted for him to become president, or my old car that, after almost half a century, is still not a hybrid. We can complain about death all we want, but we can never stop it.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day August 15 – Summer Weather Continues . . . Mostly


We were fortunate to have missed out on the unpleasant warmth that most everyone in the Northern Hemisphere experienced. It was warm here, but no warmer than is normal for summer. The only difficulty is that it got so warm so suddenly after such mild weather early in summer. Some of the flowers that were blooming at that time finished a bit earlier as a result of the weather.

Flowers that are blooming now are somewhat on schedule. Chrysanthemum does not see to have much of schedule, but that should be expected. Although I would guess that they are early, those who know better tell me that naked lady is right on time.

Those in other climates have no problem talking about the end of summer or even the incoming autumn already. I am not ready to give up on summer. I will likely be talking about it still in September. I can talk about autumn in October.

These pictures were taken on the Santa Cruz County side of the Santa Cruz Mountains above Los Gatos, closer to Felton. The climate is more coastal than the chaparral climate of the Santa Clara Valley, although both are within USDA Zone 9.

Naked lady started blooming about a week ago, just long enough for the first of the bloomed flowers to start deteriorating in the background. I thought this was somewhat early, but a colleague, who is incidentally not at all horticulturally oriented, informed me that this is exactly the right time for them. When I was a kid getting ready to go back to school, I remember them blooming in September in Montara, but that was many miles away, and in a somewhat different and more coastal climate.8bd1

Chrysanthemum is another flower that I think of as blooming later, and even into autumn. Yet, these have been blooming since late spring. There are different cultivars that bloomed at different times. These are the latest, but are already starting to deteriorate. Perhaps those that already finished will bloom for another phase in autumn. It is difficult to say. I think that they bloom whenever they want to here.8bd2

Peruvian lily is blooming for a second phase, which really is right on schedule. The main and most prolific bloom phase was in late spring. After those flowers finished and deteriorated, the finished stalks got plucked, leaving only a bit of vegetative stems sprawling on the ground, and a few unbloomed stalks that are blooming now. After bloom, the finished stalks will probably get cut in half, but not plucked. That technique removes the seed capsules and keeps the tall and lanky stalks from falling over, but also leaves a bit of foliage to help the lower vegetative growth recharge the system for bloom next year.8bd3

Rose blooms all summer. Some of the hybrid tea roses bloom in more obvious phases after their most prolific first phase. Floribunda roses like this one bloom so steadily that there is not much separation between phases. This particular rose is in a pot that was not likely watered enough through the earlier warm weather, so subsequent bloom was not expected. Some of the petals are a bit roasted around the edges.8bd4

Zonal geranium blooms about as steadily as floribunda roses do. They would bloom right through winter if there did not need to be cut back before spring. Some zonal geraniums put out quite a bit of new growth recently. It will be awkward to cut them back at the end of next winter. The stems that are fresh and new now will still be in good condition right through winter, so I will not want to cut them back like I should. The flower of this zonal geranium is the same color as the rose above.8bd5

San Marzano tomato is NOT what this tomato is. It was labeled as such, but looks more like common ‘Roma’. No one is complaining. There is certainly nothing wrong with it, except that it is not what was expected. Hey, this unknown tomato is the same color as the zonal geranium above, which is the same color as the rose above. All the other flowers above are from plants that are in the storage nursery at work. These tomatoes are in a colleague’s garden adjacent to the nursery.8bd6

Garden Bloggers all over America and in other countries can share what is blooming in their gardens on the fifteenth of each month on “Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day”, hosted by Carol Micheal’s May Dreams Garden at

General Sherman Tree


The biggest, tallest and oldest trees in the World are all native to California. The biggest trees are the giant redwood, Sequoiadendron giganteum. The tallest trees are the coastal redwood, Sequoia sempervirens. The oldest trees are the bristlecone pines, Pinus longaeva. The biggest and the tallest are two of only three specie of redwood in the World, and except for a few coastal redwood that live barely north of the Oregon border, both are endemic only to California. Most of us know that the coastal redwood is the state tree of California. However, some believe that California is the only state with two state trees, which are the two native specie of redwood.

This gives arborists from California serious bragging rights.

Most of the arborists whom I work with are very familiar with the coastal redwood. Not only is it the most prominent tree in the Santa Cruz Mountains, but it is also a common tree in landscapes of the Santa Clara Valley.

The other two specie are not nearly so common. Neither perform well in landscape situations, and certainly not locally. Even if they did, the giant redwood gets much too bulky to fit into urban landscapes, and the bristlecone pine is a bit too irregular for refined landscapes. Because they both live in somewhat remote regions within California, some very experienced arborists have never seen either of them in the wild. Of course, it is not something we talk about much.

I still have not seen bristlecone pine in the wild. The only specimens I have ever seen were bonsai stock that had not yet been cultivated as bonsai specimens.

In the late 1990s, I had not seen giant redwood in the wild either. I had only seen the unhappy specimens that were planted on the sides of roads between San Jose and nearby towns during the Victorian Period before the urban landscape had become so inhospitable to them. One of my respected colleagues who had seen many of the more interesting trees of California in his travels had not seen them either.

Fortunately, it was nothing that a good old fashioned road trip could not fix. Without much planning at all, we drove out to Sequoia National Park and met with the General Sherman Tree. There was too much snow to get very far, so we did not get similarly acquainted with the General Grant Tree farther up the road. It was one of the most compelling horticultural trips of my lifetime, right up there with going to see the native California fan palm, Washingtonia filifera, outside of Palm Springs, or the Joshua tree, Yucca brevifolia, outside of Palmdale. I know that the picture above is not a good picture of my colleague with the General Sherman Tree. It is from a time when cameras still used film. Getting pictures transferred to a compact disc was merely an option back then. The sepia toned picture below is even older, but it is not mine.00

Carrots Are EVIL!

P80811KHow can anyone eat them? No only do people eat them, but many people enjoy them, and some even consider them to be their favorite vegetable!
Carrots are ridiculously bright orange. They try to make themselves appealingly colorful like summery flowers or oranges. Something that grows underground has no business being that bright orange! About the time that typically bright orange California poppies became available in sickly purple, pale white, orangish red and a few other colors, carrots with the same colors also became available! Coincidence? I think not.
Carrots have that distinctively weird texture. Radishes have that perfect crunch. Beets are firm but cook up so nicely. All of the various root vegetables have the perfect texture that works for them; except for carrots. They try to mimic radishes, but are not as succulent and crisp. They are a bit more firm like turnips, but they can not get that technique down either. They are just nasty!
Carrots have that distinctive flavor . . . or unflavor. What does it taste like? No one can give a straight answer. Carrots can seem to taste mildly sweet, but it is all deception! People just say that about carrots because they do not taste like anything else!
Carrots have that distinctive evil shape. They are long drawn out roots that reach straight for Hell, from whence they came! If it were such a great shape other root vegetables would use it.
Carrots grow underground where we can not see what they are up to. What are they doing down there? That region of the garden below the surface of the soil should be reserved exclusively for turnips, beets, potatoes, onions, yams and any other subterranean vegetables that are actually good for something. Why waste space on evil carrots?

Six on Saturday: Cacti

Cacti was the topic for my gardening column less than two weeks ago. ( ) Both space and illustrations are limited in the column though. Only a picture of a prickly pear was posted with that main article. The other part of that article, which is a brief description and a picture of white epiphyllum, was posted the next day. ( ) Since then, I have been wanting to get a picture of one of the small but delightful orange flowers of a prickly pear in the private collection of one of my colleagues. Now that I got that picture, I really did not know what to do with it. I got two other pictures of the fruit and stems of the same prickly pear, and three more pictures of other cacti in the same collection so that I could post them here. Instead of saving the best picture for last, the prickly pear flower is posted first just because it is that cool.

1. Prickly pear flower should bloom during the day. They should not be nocturnal. I can not be certain because I am not familiar with this particular species. What I do know is that the flowers have been open early in the morning, and then closed shortly after exposed to sunlight, almost like those of a nocturnal epiphyllum. It took me a while to get this picture of this single peachy orange flower.P80811

2. Prickly pear fruit should ripen right after bloom, but most fall off of this plant while still green. It might be because the plant is potted and watered regularly. Those that ripen are only about two inches long, and quite pithy without much flavor. They would probably be bigger, more abundant and better flavored if the plant could grow in the ground.P80811+

3. Prickly pear pad is not as prickly as those that I got a picture of for the previous article about cacti. I do not know how their flavor is because I have not tried them. This is a small plant that can not spare many pads. Even if there were a few to spare, they are not very big, even when mature. The probably would not taste very goo either, since they take so long to mature in the pot.P80811++

4. Cereus cactus really is nocturnal; cereusly! It produces huge white flowers that are about as big as those of the white epiphyllum that was featured earlier. The flowers do not open until after sundown, and may wait until late at night. While open, they are powerfully fragrant. The fragrance seems to ‘turn on’ immediately when the flower open, and ‘turn off’ as soon as the flowers close before dawn.P80811+++

5. Rat tail cactus, like epiphyllum, is epiphytic, which means that it grows where debris collects in crotches of limbs in big trees. If they grown on the ground, they just sprawl about and maybe form low mounds. This is not an exemplary specimen, although it bloomed well earlier, with reddish orange flowers that are significantly smaller than those of the epiphyllum, and also a bit smaller than those of the prickly pear.P80811++++

6. Epiphyllum is a weird epiphytic cactus. This particular cultivar is even weirder than most. Cacti photosynthesize with their green stems, while using what should be leaves as spines. This cultivar does not seem to be satisfied with that technique, so is outfitted with these weird leafy appendages on its flat green stems, as if it really wants leaves like other plant have.P80811+++++

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

Horridculture – Bullwinkle

P80808This rant may not go in the direction you expect it to. The pictures suggest that this would be about the bad vegetation management crews who severely disfigure trees that get too close to utility cables. It is not.
This is about horticultural ‘professionals’ who plant trees where they will encroach into utility cables, with no regard to what might eventually be done to them in order to keep electrical service reliable and safe. The native oak in these pictures likely grew from seed, so unless someone knows the squirrel who buried the acorn, there is no one to blame. Many of us who enjoy home gardening are sometimes not aware of how tall and wide particular trees can get when we plant them. Horticultural ‘professionals’ should know better! That is what they charge so much money for when they design a landscape.
Palm trees are the worst! They grow only upward, with only a single terminal bud. Once that terminal bud encroaches into a utility easement, there is no option to prune back to another branch that might direct growth around the easement. ‘Pruning’ the only terminal bud back kills the entire tree. Yet, some landscape ‘designers’ continue to prescribe the all too trendy queen palm for the backsides of urban landscapes, even if utility cables are back there like they so typically are.
The oak in these pictures got a Bullwinkle cut, with big ‘antlers’ reaching upward and to the left and right of cables that are directly above. The lower picture sort of shows a ‘step back’ cut into the top for clearance from other perpendicular cables that pass over that edge rather than directly above. The tree is in surprisingly good condition, and gets pruned as properly as possible for the difficult circumstances.P80808+This brief article from a few days ago discusses a few more details about easements.


P80805When a plant that should be compact or shrubby gets too lanky with exposed lower stems, it is described as ‘leggy’. We do not hear much about plants that develop ‘knees’. Perhaps that is because there is only one species that does so. That one species happens to be very rare here. If there are other specie that develop knees, I do not know what they are.

‘Knees’ are weird appendages that grow upward like stalagmites from the roots of bald cypress Taxodium distichum, particularly where the trees grow wild in swampy conditions. Knees can get quite tall. One of our professors used to tell us that they could do some serious damage to a canoe. Perhaps knees are why bald cypress is locally unpopular in landscapes.

However, I happened to notice that bald cypress is a common street tree in downtown Oklahoma City. Just like most other street trees, they are installed into small tree wells, but otherwise surrounded by pavement. They were remarkably healthy and well structured specimens that were too young to have damaged the pavement. Yet, I could not help but wonder what they will do as they mature. Even before the trunks grow as big around as the small tree wells that they are in, what would happen if knees develop?

There happens to be not one, but two bald cypress at work. The smaller is alongside a small stream. The larger is adjacent to a lawn where the soil is seemingly dry on the surface, but quite soggy just below the surface. This larger specimen is already developing distended burls that seem to be rudimentary knees. Although there is no pavement to break, the tree happens to be shading a picnic area where knees, if they develop, would be quite an obtrusive problem.P80805+