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

Poison Oak Tree

P91229From below, this looks like a shrubby deciduous tree. It is really just a Douglas fir, like those around it. All the defoliated thicket growth is overgrown poison oak. It has likely been climbing the fir tree since it was quite young. Poison oak is not very proficient at climbing bare trunks. It typically climbs into lower limbs, and then into higher limbs before the lower limbs are shed.

No one has bothered to cut this poison oak out of the fir tree because it is not within a landscapes area. That dark margin at the top of the picture is the underside of a bridge, from which, not much of the thicket growth below is visible. The area from which this picture was taken is used for piling greenwaste and parking, where no one is concerned about wild vegetation beyond.

However, now that I sometimes park in that particular parking area, I am finding this mess of poison oak difficult to ignore. There was a similar but even bigger thicket of poison oak up in a redwood tree at the farm, from where it tossed seed into horticultural commodities below. The resulting seedlings added a whole new dimension to weeding the stock. The thicket had to go.

The problem with the thicket in the picture above, although not as serious, is that it too tosses seed into area where people work. Seedlings are likely to grow where greenwaste is processed, and where I sometimes park. Poison oak that grows on the far side of this fir grove will be uncomfortably close to the right field foul line of a ball field that will eventually be restored there.

I have no intention of cutting the poison out of the fir tree. I will merely sever the main trunk at the base, as seen in the picture below. As it deteriorates over several years, no one will mind if it is somewhat unsightly on the industrial yard side. The adjacent fir trees sufficiently obscure it from view from the ball field side. The priority will be preventing seed from proliferating.P91229+

Field Of . . . ?

P91228KThis . . . was a ball field. It might eventually be one again. The old backstop at the upper left corner of the picture is almost completely obscured under a thicket of blackberry brambles and a fallen boxelder. It would need to be replaced. So would the decommissioned irrigation system, all the bases, the basepath, the turf . . . and everything else that goes into a functional ball field.

The turf had naturalized and overwhelmed the basepath long before last year. I collected wild mustard, radish and turnip greens from around the perimeter last spring and summer. By the time they were finishing, the blackberries were ready. I got stinging nettle from the bank of Zayante Creek in the background of this picture. Dock is already regenerating off to the far right.

There are naturalized wildflowers here too. I got pictures of perennial pea, purpletop vervain, Saint John’s wort, four o’clock, calla, narcissus, teasel, common thistle and California poppy, all within the perimeter of this ball field. Native trees include Douglas fir, California bay, California buckeye, bigleaf maple, white alder, cottonwood, coast live oak, canyon live oak and redwood.

The ball field looks like the moon now only because a construction company used it as a parking lot for trucks and machinery. We dumped excess soil removed from landscapes on the infield, where it was evenly dispersed by the machinery before it left. A low mound of road debris remains just past the foul line in the background. Firewood gets stocked out of view to the far left.

Restoring this meadow to a ball field would be like starting from scratch. The only salvageable asset is the flat space. Even though turf would be the most substantial feature of a finished ball field, a restoration project will involve more engineering and construction than horticulture.

Six on Saturday: Tracks


Tracking is not done for hunting here. Anyone who can hunt here would merely wait for deer or turkey to arrive as they so frequently do through the day. I only notice the tracks while they are so visible in the mud and damp soil. Most are from harmless animals. Some are from animals who control unwelcome rodents. Even notoriously destructive deer are not a problem here.

No one knows why deer avoid the landscapes here. There are no fences, so deer can come and go as they please. They are a serious problem for some of the home gardens nearby, but avoid others like they avoid our landscapes. I got these pictures outside of landscaped areas. Bobcats have never bothered anyone except the rodents who are not wanted in the landscape anyway.

I saw no tracks left by raccoons, skunks, turkeys or mountain lions, which is just fine. Mountain lions are rare, so their tracks are rarely seen around areas of human activity. The others are too lightweight to leave well defined tracks that I could get pictures of anyway. Skunks are actually beneficial to the landscapes, by eating grubs and slugs. They refrain from digging in lawns.

Turkeys are only becoming a concern because of their proliferation. The minor damage that they cause while scratching for grubs and pecking at anything colorful is likely to become a major concern when there are more of them shredding flowers, fruit and vegetation. Raccoons are more obnoxious for the messes they make with garbage than for their damage in the landscapes.

1. Deer often leave double prints, with the second set slightly back from the first. This pair seems to be single prints from different hooves that just happened to land right next to each other.00128-1

2. Bobcat prints must have appeared while the weather was still drizzly enough to mute the detail. Bobcats are common enough here for (La Rinconada de) Los Gatos to be named for them.00128-2

3. Coyote prints are fresher. They seem to be too small to be left by a coyote; but fox tracks are even smaller, and rare. Foxes are so lightweight that they leave tracks only in very soft mud.00128-3

4. Human prints are very fresh. I did not notice them on my way out, but found them on my way back. Whoever or whatever left these prints could have been dangerously close at the time!00128-4

5. Chevrolet prints over John Deere prints are also rather fresh. There are prints of Ford, Dodge and even a rare Buick in the area. It must have been quite a herd! I should track that Buick!00128-5

6. Rhody the terrier leaves no more prints than a fox, since he too is so lightweight. I tried to press his paw into the mud for this one, but he did not cooperate. This was the best we could do.00128-6

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

Rain Shadow

P91222Hollywood is famous as the Cinema Capital of the World. Niles was its predecessor. Both are within regions of remarkably diverse scenery that is so important to cinema. Mountains, deserts, chaparrals, forests, lakes and big cities are conveniently nearby. There are not many places in the World with such a thorough mix of geography and climate. California really does have it all.

It is a challenge for gardening though. The stone fruits that grow so naturally in the Santa Clara Valley are not quite as productive just a few miles to the South in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The pears and apples that do so well in the Santa Cruz Mountains are not quite as happy in the Santa Clara Valley. Species that want a good chill in winter do not want to be in Los Angeles.

On the coastal side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, just outside of Felton, a few days of rain filled the bin in the picture above. The rain continued just as long throughout the area, including the inland side of the Santa Cruz Mountains and the adjacent Santa Clara Valley. Although the duration of the rain was approximately the same, the volume of precipitation was very different.

The water in the bin is more than a foot deep. That is about the average annual rainfall for my former neighborhood at about this same elevation, but on the opposite and inland side of the Santa Cruz Mountains. Storms must drop much of their moisture to get up and over, but are then able to retain much of the remaining moisture as they drop in elevation on the other side.

The drier inland side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, and adjacent portion of the Santa Clara Valley are in what is known as a ‘rain shadow’.

Growing Problem

P91221KRecycling plant material is practical and gratifying. We do quite a bit of it here. Back in September, I briefly wrote about recycling laurustinus that was removed from an area that was about to be landscaped, and relocated to other sites where it can grow into functional informal hedges. We were able to use something that was a problem in one location as an asset somewhere else.

We will be doing more of this sort of recycling now that the rainy season has started. Right now, the plants that need to be removed are as dormant as they get, so do not mind getting dug as much as they would have while they were still active. Rain helps settle them in at their new locations. A few get canned and stocked into the nursery, to be planted into new landscapes later.

Some of what gets recycled was intentionally installed in the past, but for one reason or another, became inappropriate for a particular site. For example, I will soon be relocating agapanthus that performed well for many years, but eventually became too shaded by growing trees nearby. Forsythia that has already been relocated was too big and awkward for its confined space.

Many plants that get recycled were not intentionally planted, but happened to grow wild in situations where they can not stay. Some are native. Some are descendents of desirable exotics. The laurustinus that I mentioned above are such an example. Just yesterday, I relocated a few naturalized but superfluous birches from an established landscape to an unlandscaped area.

We certainly do not recycle everything that can be recycled. Many plants, both native and naturalized exotic, are just too problematic. Fleabane that I wrote about yesterday is marginal.

Sweetgum happens to be one of those trees that we probably should not recycle. They are splendidly colorful in autumn, and particularly spectacular amongst the deep green redwoods. The problems are that the now overgrown trees here are developing serious structural deficiency, and producing an overwhelming abundance of messy and potentially hazardous maces (fruits).

Nonetheless, I found and canned these four rooted sweetgum watersprouts. They were growing from roots of one of several big and very problematic sweetgums that got removed last year. If they get planted here, they and their associated problems will be located outside of refined landscapes. In the future, thy can drop maces and limbs in the forest without bothering anyone.

Horridculture – That Blows!

P91218-1Blowers put the ‘blow’ in ‘mow, blow and go’. They really blow! The only power tool used by so-called ‘gardeners’ that is more detestable to the rest of us is the power hedge shears, and that claim is contestable. Some consider blowers to be worse because they are so obnoxiously noisy, and generate so much dust. Some municipalities have outlawed the use of the noisiest sorts.

The mess on the hood and windshield in the picture above was not actually caused by blowers. The picture below shows the bridge that was power washed above. Oops. I should have been suspicious that no one wanted that parking space. Anyway, this picture was just too funny to not share; . . . and I happen to lack pictures of the sorts of dusty messes that blowers can stir up.

Where I lived in town, the so-called ‘gardeners’ who ‘maintained’ the apartment buildings on either side used blowers. There is a noise ordinance there, but we never bothered to enforce it. We did not want to interfere with what needed to be done. There was a lot of pavement, and we wanted it to be kept clean. We could not expect it all to be quietly swept like I swept mine.

To the north, the blowers were either off or on full-throttle. There was nothing in between. The cars in the carport collected all the dust that was stirred up. If the door to the washroom was left open, debris got blown in, and the pilot light for the only water heater in the building got blown out. Most of the debris got blown to the southeast corner, and under a fence into my yard.

The same happened to the south, but the water heater was less exposed, and there was much more debris. The largest valley oak around lived there, and dropped leaves for several months. I replaced the kickboard at the base of the fence in their northeast corner a few times, but it was just as regularly kicked out and removed so that debris could continue to be blown under!

In other neighborhoods, so-called ‘gardeners’ are notorious for blowing debris out into roads, where it gets dispersed by traffic. Even if they do not blow it away just to become a problem somewhere else, they are likely to blow too much of it into shrubbery, along with any mixed litter. It accumulates faster than it decomposes to benefit the soil and roots below. What a mess!P91218-2

Deck the Halls

P91215-1English holly is politely naturalized here. This means that, although naturalized, it is not aggressively invasive, and does not seem to be too detrimental to the ecosystem. It is only annoying to see out in forests, far from the landscapes that the seed escaped from, and wonder if it has potential to significantly compete with native vegetation. It would be better if it were not there.

At least it is pretty. In refined landscapes, it happens to be one of my favorites for distinctively glossy and prickly foliage. There is nothing else like it. Variegated cultivars are just as striking, with a bit of color for situations where there is already plenty of rich dark green. Female plants produce a few bright red berries. Older or distressed plants might produce more than others.

So, I have mixed feelings about this overgrown English holly tree that I must eventually cut down. In the picture above, it is evident that it is not the prettiest. It is a sparsely foliated thicket of tangled inner stems on an uninterestingly straight and bare trunk. It occupies a prominent position where there should be something of a friendlier disposition. It doesn’t contribute much.

However, it does produce an abundance of delightfully bright red berries. I got these pictures while collecting berries to decorate the buffets and tables of the big dining room across the road.

If it were in my garden, I would probably pollard it back to the bare trunk or perhaps just a short stump, and allow it to regenerate with fresh new foliage. Such a procedure would eliminate the tangled thicket of bare interior stems, but would unfortunately inhibit berry production for at least a few years while new growth matures. I just do not want to give up on it completely.P91215-2P91215-3

Spruced Up

P91214KSpruce happen to very compatible with the landscape style here. They fit in nicely with surrounding redwoods, but are more proportionate to sunny spots of some of the refined landscapes. We intend to add a few into some of the landscapes as they get renovated. They will stay branched to the ground, like big dense shrubbery, with the personality of distinguished forest trees.

Several dwarf Alberta spruce, which is a very compact cultivar of white spruce, have been incorporated into landscapes that were renovated during the past few years. They really are dinky though, and stay smaller than most shrubbery. Some of the very compact cultivars of blue spruce that we would like to add next will eventually get significantly bigger, but do not grow fast.

A few spruce that grow more like tree rather than shrubbery would be really excellent. The taller blue spruce with more open branch structure are no longer available from local nurseries, but could be ordered. I particularly want to try any of the white, black, red, Engelmann or Sitka spruce that are endemic to North America, although I know some might not be happy here.

Sitka spruce just happened to become available. A colleague brought these eight seedlings back from the coast up near the Oregon border, and will probably get a few more. They are prolific there, and get pulled like many other weeds. At the rate they are growing, they could get planted into a landscape even before we get any blue spruce! I am already very pleased with them.

For a while, I grew each of the six North American spruce, but only in cans. Since these Sitka spruce arrived, I have been wanting to get the other five. White spruce is ‘sort of’ here. Blue spruce will arrive soon enough.