Bad Picture Of Good Berries

B90803KHimalayan blackberry is to cane berries what blue gum is to eucalypti. It is what gives all cane berries a bad reputation, and is why so few of us want to grow them. Himalayan blackberry grows as an extremely vigorous weeds, extending sharply thorny canes over anything within reach. When the canes are removed, the tough roots are extremely difficult to remove and kill.

If ignored, the canes ‘leap’, which means that they develop roots where they arch back downward to touch the ground. From there, they grow into new plants that extend new canes in all directions, to start the process all over again. (‘Leaping’ is like ‘layering’, which involves the development of roots where stems ‘lay’ on the ground.) Their seed gets where their canes do not.

The thorns are ‘prickles’, which really is a technical term for sharply pointed distensions of bark or epidermis. They are more like stout prickles of rose canes than the more finely textured prickles of garden varieties of cane berries. They are rigid, extremely sharp, and curved inward to snag victims on their way out; so are seriously wicked and potentially dangerous to handle.

Harvesting berries from second year canes is not easy. Most are out of reach within bramble thickets. Because they ripen through a long season, they must be harvested repeatedly, as those that were unripe during a previous harvest finish. This is why there are black, red and green berries in the same picture. The berries are small and variable, with good years and bad years.

This happens to be a good year. The thorny truss of a few small berries in the picture may not look like much; but there are plenty of them. The berries are quite richly flavored too. Those who have the patience to collect them will get some good jam or jelly out of the deal.


Six on Saturday: Cannas – Mostly


There are only four pictures of cannas here. I could have gotten two more for an even six, but would have needed to get them elsewhere. These six pictures were obtained within one of the landscapes at work. Except for pruning a grapevine and flowering cherry trees, I do not work in this garden, so can not take credit for these cannas. I will take credit for the pictures though.

However, I probably should have taken pictures that show the foliage in conjunction with the bloom. Without the foliage there is not much to distinguish the big orange flowers of the last two pictures from each other.

1. Kangaroo paw, Anigozanthus, is one of my lesser favorite perennials, but happens to be one of the more practical for the chaparral climate. Besides, this one happens to be rather pretty. I do not know what cultivar, or even what species this one is. The Eucalyptus cinerea to the upper left is the same that was featured in ‘Silver‘ and ‘Exfoliating Bark‘.P90803

2. Honeysuckle, which I believe might be Lonicera periclymenum ‘Peaches & Cream’ was featured as the second picture of ‘Six on Saturday – Not My Garden‘, and was likely also featured in other posts that I do not want to go looking for right now. When I first met this honeysuckle, it was rather grungy and mostly defoliated. I thought that it was Lonicera sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’, which looks nothing like this.P90803+

3. Canna with wispy orange flowers and big green leaves is probably my favorite of the four. The big leaves, which are not shown here, are quite lush. I believe that this one can get quite tall.P90803++

4. Canna with bigger red flowers and simple green leaves is more what we expect a canna to look like. The bronze foliage to the right and in the background actually belongs to #6 below.P90803+++

5. Canna with big orange flowers and yellowish variegated leaves was the fourth picture of ‘Six on Saturday – No Silver‘. That picture shows only a close up of the foliage, without bloom.P90803++++

6. Canna with big orange flowers and bronze leaves was the third picture of ‘Six on Saturday – No Silver‘. That picture also shows only a close up of the foliage without bloom. I believe this to be the cultivar ‘Wyoming’.P90803+++++

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

Horridculture – Microtrees

P90731We arborists happen to like trees. That is why we are arborists. Most of us also understand that trees are not appropriate for every situation, or where they are not appreciated. There is no point in planting a tree where it will just get cut down by someone else who does not like it. We want trees to be happy. We also want those who live with them to be happy with their trees.
Trees are ‘generally’ desirable over parking lots and roadways. They provide shade that cools the pavement during hot summer weather. Arborists naturally prefer trees that get big enough to make substantial shadows. It is also important for such trees to get high enough to be pruned for minimal clearance above the biggest vehicles to use the roadways or paring lots. They should also be pruned above streetlamps and signs.
Clearance of signs is a serious problem in strip malls and commercial districts, where trees are regularly disfigured by those wanting to keep them below their signs rather than above. It takes a few years to prune trees upward, and many merchants do not want to wait that long. There is also a concern that substantial trees will make substantial messes, and damage concrete curbs, gutters and sidewalks.
Microtrees are not always the answer! They are a cop out! For many situations, it is better to contend with the problems of larger trees than to pretend that microtrees are somehow better.
These dinky crape myrtles will never be proportionate to the roadway to the left or the parking lot to the right. They will not get high enough to be pruned for adequate clearance, so will instead be mutilated for confinement. They will likely get shorn into nondescript globs that rarely get a chance to bloom, and that pedestrians will need to duck under.
Crape myrtle is the most common of the microtrees that so commonly end up where other trees would be better. That is why so many arborists sometimes misspell ‘crape myrtle’ without the first ‘e’.


P90728Without prior notice, I was informed on Friday morning of a workday on Saturday morning at Felton Presbyterian Church. That was yesterday. Since there was no time to get other chores done in advance, I was an hour late. Considering that we only work for four hours between eight and noon, one hour is rather significant. I felt compelled to attend regardless. A few friends who are parishioners of Felton Presbyterian Church appreciate it.
The difficulty of not attending is that there are several other volunteers who do attend, and they all have very different ideas, or no idea at all, about how to accomplish what needs to be done in the landscape. It is amazing how much damage can be done with a few light duty power tools and too much undirected ambition. Even when I am there, it is difficult to convince the others that I know more about horticulture than all of them combined.
For the past several years, I had been pruning a flowering crabapple tree to renovate the branch structure that was mutilated by someone with loppers and power hedge shears. Yes, hedge shears. I had pruned the tree for clearance above a parking lot on one side, and a patio on the other, but with low branches in between to partly obscure the view of parked cars from the patio. Bloom was spectacular, and not compromised by the pruning.
Then I missed a workday. Even though the flowering crabapple tree did not need to be pruned at that time, someone lopped away the lower limbs indiscriminately, and then sheared the top! There were mutilated stubs all over the new exterior of the canopy. Much of the blooming stems for the following season were removed. It was very disappointing to see all of my effort wasted so pointlessly. Now, I need to start the whole process over.
However, when I got there today, a planter box below the crabapple tree was being dismantled and removed. I could not work in the area, so must return to start the process of renovating the crabapple tree. Realistically, it should be done while the tree is dormant in winter, even if it compromises bloom for the following spring somewhat. The tree is so gnarly and congested now that it is unlikely that anyone would notice a few less blossoms.
As frustrating as it can be, we actually get quite a bit done. These lily-of-the-Nile in the picture above were one of our projects many years ago. They were recycled from a garden in Aptos from which they needed to be removed. We split, groomed and plugged them. Most were promptly removed and discarded by someone else who did not realize that we had just installed them. But hey, at least these few survived and continue to bloom.

Pasadena Windstorm


The weather in the parts of California that most of us are familiar with is generally rather mild. Some of the hottest temperatures every recorded were in the Mojave Desert, but not many of us even know how to get there. Some of the heaviest snowfall ever recorded was near Tahoe, but many of us think of that as almost Nevada. San Jose, Los Angeles and the most populous regions enjoy mostly comfortable weather throughout they year.
‘Drought’ is often an inaccurate description of the naturally prolonged dry chaparral and desert weather, as if it is abnormal. There would be no chaparral or desert if it rained here as much as it does in other climates. What is considered to be normal rainfall in some regions would be disastrous to regions that do not normally get so much precipitation. Drought does happen here sometimes, but it is not as common as outsiders believe it to be.
Once in a while, we get something that really is strange. The floods and mudslides of the Winter of 1982 were disastrous. The wicked frosts of late 1990 were the worst in recorded history, even though they would not have been much of a problem in most other climates farther inland. On the morning of December 1 in 2011, Pasadena and the surrounding regions of the San Gabriel Valley experienced historically strong and destructive winds.
When I went to Los Angeles shortly afterward, I was amazed to see that pieces of the glass facades of some of the skyscrapers had been stripped away. Thrashed fronds of queen palms hung limply as if a hurricane had gone through. My colleague got these startling pictures of destroyed Canary Island date palms, which are famously resilient to wind, in Leimert Park, about fifteen miles southwest of Pasadena.


Six on Saturday: Bad Neighborhood


My six pictures for today are not from any of the landscapes. Nor are they from my garden. They are not from the forests or parks or other people’s gardens either. That is nothing new. I sometimes get my pictures from some rather randoms situations. These six are a bit more random than just average random though. They happen to be from around the big compost piles, where we dump some of our green waste and horse ‘fertilizer’.

This is the same compost pile where where the ‘Good Weeds‘ grow. Yup, good weeds from the bad neighborhood.

The first #1 is exotic. The second #2 and the third #3 are assumed to be native, but might possibly be exotic. The others are quite native.

1. Mullein – is a naturalized exotic species. It does not seem like the sort that would naturalize. To the contrary, is seems to be quite docile here. It is sometimes left in gardens where it self sows, just because it is appealing.P90727

2. Unidentified – but believed to be native, these tiny silvery white flowers are not as pretty as they are up close in this picture. I just happen to like them. I think I studied it in school, but just I can not remember what it is.P90727+

3. Bull Thistle – is not so easy to distinguish from other similar species. I do not even know if this is the native bull thistle. The prickly scales are not as straight as they should be. It is the only one that we now as such here.P90727++

4. Yerba Santa – seemed to be more purplish when I took this picture. The foliage looks grungy to me, as if sticky with honeydew and a bit of sooty mold. That is natural for it, and may explain why it is an unpopular native.P90727+++

5. Sticky Monkey Flower – has a funny name. It is native, but the sticky monkey that it is named after is not. It gets a bit shabby if allowed to grow wild in home gardens, but can be improved by aggressive winter pruning.P90727++++

6. Evening primrose – is not the same as the common yellow evening primrose that is familiar elsewhere in America, although I really do not know what makes it so special. Another species has smaller pastel pink flowers.P90727+++++

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

Horridculture – Fruit Theft

70726thumbGrowing fruit trees is quite a bit of work. While producing, some of the fruit trees need nearly as much attention as annual vegetable plants in the vegetable garden. Then, while dormant, they need meticulous and specialized pruning. Some fruit trees get damaged by insect or disease infestation, or severe weather. Some fruit can get taken by wildlife. Yet, for most of us, the reward of fresh fruit is worth all the hard work that goes into growing it.
Unfortunately, most types of fruit, especially the stone fruits, ripen simultaneously within their respective seasons, and are suddenly and briefly too abundant to be consumed while still fresh. Unless shared very efficiently with plenty of friends and neighbors, some of the fruit must be canned, frozen or dried for later consumption. Then, as suddenly as it started, the season for the particular type of fruit is done. There will be no more until next year.
That had never been a problem us, even though some of the fruit trees produce quite a bit. There was one particular summer, about 2004, when we were expecting an unusually abundant crop of unusually big peaches. We got all the jars out and cleaned on Friday afternoon. All the big pots and utensils that we would need for canning were out on the counters. We must have purchased ten pounds of sugar, and even got some pectin for jam.
Early on Saturday morning, we went out to collect the peaches while it was still cool, and found them GONE! It was as if they had never been there. All the work of pruning and pampering the tree was for NOTHING!
Now, I know that when I was a kid, we shared abundance with neighbors. We children were expected to take brown paper grocery bags of produce to neighbors who lacked the trees for particular fruit. For example, I delivered cherries to those who lacked cherry trees. I delivered apricots to the few who lacked apricot trees. Neighbors sometimes stopped me on the road to give bags of fresh produce for my parents or other neighbors.
Also, I know that there was nothing wrong with taking a few fruits from a neighbor’s tree. We often went behind the Charles Residence to get a few oranges when we got out of school. We sometimes got apples from the back yard of the Richmond Residence. Of course, we first asked if we wanted more than a few for a recipe or something. No one really minded because the system was respected, and none of the trees were exploited.
That was a long time ago. By the time I was in high school, we started hearing about fruit trees getting stripped of every last bit of fruit while no one was around. Over the years, it became progressively common. Some neighbors had me cut down fruit trees from their front yards because there was no point in all the maintenance if they could not get fruit from them. It was saddening, wasteful, and so contrary to our formerly idyllic lifestyle.
When it happened to the peach tree that I had taken such good care of in the garden next door, I was furious! What made it even worse is that we knew who did it! The so-called ‘gardener’, who was supposed to ‘maintain’ ONLY the front lawn stopped by the prior evening, just after I checked on the fruit. I sort of wondered why he was there so late, and why he was in back, but gave it no more thought than that.
He later told me that no one wanted the fruit, and that it was just going to fall on the ground and go to waste. Really, I would not have minded if he had taken a few peaches. I would not have minded if he had taken several or even most if he had asked before we got ready to can them. It would have been better for someone or several someones to enjoy them fresh than to can them as surplus.
About a year and a few months or so later, the fig tree in my back yard was stripped by the so-called ‘gardener’ who supposedly ‘maintained’ the landscape next door on the opposite side of where the peach tree lived. There had been no preparation to dry the figs yet, since I had planned to leave them on the tree a bit longer. Also, there was not as much fruit as there was on the peach tree.
The theft of the fruit was not the worst of the problems in this situation. The main problem was that the tree was so severely damaged in the process. I had pruned the tree so meticulously for several years, both for good (late crop) production, and also for clearance above a parking space. I did not mind the slightly elevated canopy; but the guy who stole the fruit without a ladder broke the limbs so that he could get the higher fruit!

Candy Corn Dog

P90721Just a short distance from the corn dog orchard, I found this candy corn dog growing wild. I really had no idea that candy corn grew in a corn dog form like this. These particular candy corn seem to have turned from green to yellow to orange as they ripened. It will be interesting to see if the outer ends eventually ripen to yellow like conventional candy corn, or if they are a fancier cultivar. They sort of look like tiny persimmons.

Perhaps it is ‘Cupid Corn’, which is red at the outer end and pink in the middle, for Saint Valentine’s Day. If so, it will be quite stale long before next February.

Even if it is ‘Reindeer Corn’, which is red at the outer end and green in the middle, for Christmas, it will not likely be fresh by late December.

Heck, just expecting it to last until Halloween is a stretch. There are actually a few different cultivars for a variety of holidays, so this one could be for any of the obscure holidays before Halloween that few know about; or it could be very out of season.

I do not know how this candy corn dog got here. I did not plant it. I am pleased that snails, slugs, squirrels or insects have not eaten it so far.

Something came into this part of the landscape earlier, and ate all the foliage off of the Arum italicum. Even though it is a naturalized exotic weed, the Arum italicum was rather appealing, with its intricately lacy foliar variegation. It is completely gone now, but should regenerate once rain resumes in autumn or winter.

For now, the candy corn dog is more colorful than the Arum italicum was. How odd that it has no foliage. hmmmm . . .

Exfoliating Bark

P90720KBecause redwoods live for centuries, their bark gets very thick. They do not shed their bark as they grow. Old giant redwoods in the Sierra Nevada have bark that is a few feet thick and thousands of years old. Their bark is thicker than the trunks of what most of us consider to be large trees! Even much younger coastal redwoods that have regenerated here since clear cut harvesting about a century ago have bark that is a few inches thick.
They like their bark thick. It is the insulation that protects them from forest fires that incinerate other vegetation. Unlike most species here that are designed to burn and then regenerate more vigorously after fire, redwoods prefer to survive fire by being less combustible. As they mature, and their bark gets thicker, they become more resilient to fire. There are only a few species here that survive fire mostly intact, rather than regenerate after it.
Of course, survival is more complicated than mere thick bark. Redwoods, particularly coastal redwoods, also try to exclude other more combustible species from their forests. Also, they tend to shed lower limbs that would be more combustible during a fire, and prioritize higher and therefore less combustible canopies. Redwoods have developed a rather ingenious (but unfortunately ecologically delicate) systems of survival techniques.
Other trees are not so easy to figure out. Many species of Eucalyptus shed lower growth as if they want to be less combustible. They shed copious amounts of foliage and bark to inhibit undergrowth and other combustible vegetation. However, not only are they innately very combustible, but because they shed so much of their bark, they lack insulation from fire. It is as if they expect to burn back to the ground, and then regenerate after a fire.
Regardless of their logic, exfoliating bark of the larger eucalypti can be annoyingly messy. Exfoliating bark of some of the smaller eucalypti can be rather appealing in home gardens. This tree happens to be the same featured last week in ‘Silver‘.P90720K+

Six on Saturday: No Category


I do try. I prefer to submit pictures that conform at least somewhat to a particular theme. It just did not work out that way for this week. The only thing in common with these pictures is that they are from the same garden. It is garden at work, but one that I do not do much in.

1. Grape, which I still think of as dago wisteria, was planted here years ago, by someone who is no longer here to take care of it. The established vine grows like big voracious weed. I pruned it back last winter, and pulled up several stems that rooted where they flopped onto the ground. There are still six copies left at the storage nursery. I would like to plant some of them this winter, but the one original is already too much work. The grapes are somewhat tart when ripe, which makes me suspect that it is not quite warm enough here for them. It gets warm during the day, but cools off at night.P90720

2. Succulent of an unknown species grows so close to the grapevine that it was overwhelmed before I pruned the vine back. This is a common exotic succulent that has been around in the region for a long time. I remember that it grew on the sides of some of the roads in Montara, along with other vegetation that naturalized from the gardens of homes that had been there during the Victorian period. I suppose that it is naturalized also in some spots, but does not seem to be aggressive or invasive about it. This particular specimen was likely put here intentionally. The foliage is always yellowish.P90720+

3. Tillandsia, along with a few other epiphytic bromeliads, were added to this garden just this year. They are wired onto this branch from the Eucalyptus cinerea that I mentioned in ‘Silver‘ last week. The branch is a scrap from pruning that was just propped up in the landscape for the ephiphytes. The big gray limbs in the background are of an old ‘Kwanzan’ flowering cherry tree. The epiphyllums that I mentioned two weeks ago on Sunday in ‘Epiphyllum Surprise‘ get hung from the cherry tree while they are in bloom, and then sent back to the storage nursery for recovery when they finish.P90720++

4. Spanish moss hangs with the tillandsias on the same branch of the Eucalyptus cinerea. It does not grow here naturally of course. It would probably prefer a significantly more humid situation. It gets watered and misted automatically from above. So far all the epiphytes seem to be happy here, and do not see to mind that the stem that they are clinging to is from a eucalyptus. Mosses that cling to native oaks do not cling to eucalyptus trees until the trees are old. While viable, young eucalyptus bark is toxic to mosses and other epiphytes, and exfoliates too regularly for much to cling to it anyway.P90720+++

5. Alyssum happens to be one of my favorite wildflowers in this garden. When I was little kid, I found a small envelope of mixed wildflowers seed in a Sunset Magazine in a waiting room in a hospital. It is a long story, but to be brief, I ‘borrowed’ the seed, and put it out in my mother’s garden. The alyssum from that mix naturalized and self sowed quite nicely for decades. The original plants might have bloomed more colorfully, but eventually reverted to basic white, just like these that grow wild here. I still believe that white is the best, but would not mind other colors if I ever grew it intentionally.P90720++++

6. Morning Glory is another favorite, but for a different reason. I like it here because it is so much prettier than it ever was in any of my gardens. I sowed the seed, and cared for it, but morning glory was never very happy for me. In this garden, it sows its own seed, and does reasonably well. The vines are not as voracious as they are supposed to be, but the flowers are pretty. That is probably a good thing. These vines happen to be next to the grapevine, so could make quite a mess on top of the mess of the grapevine if they grew as well as they are supposed to. This is a good compromise.P90720+++++

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