Looks Like Rain

P90202KSupposedly, all this rain has not been too terribly excessive. It seems to have been raining more frequently than it normally does, with only a few days without rain in between, and more often, many consecutive days of rain. The rain also seems to be heavier than it normally is. Yet, the total rainfall is not too much more than what is average for this time of year, and well within a normal range.
The volleyball court at Felton Covered Bridge Park looks more like a water polo court at the moment. The pair of ducks out of focus on the far side seem to dig it. The water is not as turbulent at it is the San Lorenzo River where they live.
Speaking of the San Lorenzo River, it has been flowing very well and at a relatively continuous rate. It came up high only for a short while. None of the heaviest downpours lasted long enough to keep it very high for very long. The ivied log laying in the river in the middle of the picture below was an upright cottonwood tree only recently, but fell into the river as many riverbank cottonwoods do when the ground is softened by rain and higher water.P90202K+
When things get as soggy as they are now, this great blue heron strolls the lawn at Felton Covered Bridge Park, probably because the San Lorenzo River is too turbulent, and also because the worms that live in the lawn come to the surface as the lawn gets saturated. He or she is never in a hurry, but just strolls about slowly, occasionally prodding the muddy soil. However, when it wants to move fast, it is quick enough to catch small frogs. Supposedly, this great blue heron caught and ATE a small gopher!P90202K++

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Six on Saturday: Another Day At The Office

 

There is no rush to leave the office and shop when the weather is cold and rainy. We have been getting quite a few of the inside chores done. When we do go out in the rain, I do not like to take the camera out from under my rain gear; so I do not take many pictures. Besides, since most of my work involves pruning right now, I have not been working much around what is blooming or other interesting subjects.

1. Sitka spruce brought back from near Smith River within their native range are now happily canned in the recovery nursery at our shop. They look as if they were grown here, or are on a bench in a production nursery. They will eventually go out into the landscapes.P90302

2. Staghorn fern that the same colleague with the Sitka spruce brought back from his grandparents’ home in Orange County are not so happy. They were desiccated on arrival. Now that they are getting much more rain then then need, they are just rotting. The specimen that is still attached to the plywood on the left is probably beyond salvage. The specimen that broke its wire and fell onto the deck to the right is only partially viable. The viable portion will probably be separated from most of the rotting necrotic portion when it is attached to a new slab.P90302+

3. Colorado blue spruce and a young coast live oak are adjacent to the deck where the Sitka spruce and staghorn fern reside. This is not a good picture, but shows how the young oak to the left is crowding the older spruce to the right. Their main trunks are only about two feet apart at grade. The spruce was planted back in the middle of the 1980s, and would be a more desirable tree, but is very distressed, and is not likely worthy of salvage. The native oak grew from seed within only the past several years, and is not particularly remarkable, but happens to be quite healthy and well structured. It is not easy to decide which tree to cut down. I sort of suspect that the oak will win, and the spruce will need to go. Those are cruddy box elders in the background.P90302++

4. Bucket of rain water is impressively full next to the spruce and oak . . . and other spruces and staghorn ferns. There is an open recycle bin nearby that is also full. It must have been somewhat dark rather early in the morning for the flash to operate when I took this picture. I do not know if it ruined my selfie or just made it more artistic.P90302+++

5. Wild plum is still blooming in some spots. These survived all the rain rather well by delaying their bloom somehow. It will be raining again by the time you see this after midnight on Saturday morning, so this bloom will not last long. There may be others that bloom even later though, and with one exception, the flowering cherries have not started their bloom yet. That darkness in the background is the trunk of a big redwood tree.P90302++++

6. Wild plum close up shows the detail of the blossoms, and the unfocused silhouette of the redwood trunk in the background.P90302+++++

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

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

Horridculture – Good Design / Bad ‘Maintenance’

P90227From a distance, this landscape does not look so bad. It seems to have been only recently installed, and features the sort of material that was likely intended to not necessarily obscure the sleek architecture of the building behind it, but to eventually soften the starkness of it.

Let’s analyze the landscape. A glossy privet hedge in back should grow up into an informal screen to provide some substantial green against the wall, but with a bit of proper pruning, should not become too obtrusive. A lower hedge of variegated tobira (Pittosporum tobira ‘Variegata’) in front can be pruned into a semi-formal hedge to obscure the bases of the trunks of the glossy privets, which will undoubtedly shed lower growth as they mature. The lightly colored variegated foliage of the tobira contrasts nicely against that of the dark green privets. The blue festuca in front of the variegated tobira hedge provides even more contrast of color, as well as contrast of form, and also ties in with the same blue festuca elsewhere in the landscape. The only two ‘intentional’ interruptions of the simple sleekness of this landscape is where a pair of grapevines flanking a doorway await the installation of an arbor, and a single ‘Icee Blue’ yellowwood is expected to provide additional contrast of form and color in front of the glossy privets. Both features are well situated, and balanced within the symmetry of the landscape. Yes, it is all quite well designed.

And yes, this is Wednesday; the day for my ‘Horridculture’ rant. So, let’s look closer.

Firstly, this is not a new landscape. It has been here long enough to mature better than it has so far. The so-called ‘gardeners’ know that allowing the material to grow means that they will need to put more effort into maintaining it. They would prefer to just keep the glossy privet hedge down low where it does not produce much debris, rather than allow it to grow most of the way up the wall, where it should be by now. A row of cinder block painted green would work just as well, and not need to be shorn at all. The ‘Icee Blue’ yellowwood should likewise be larger than it is now, and looking like a small and neat but informal tree. It actually seems to be growing slowly, which is no fault of the so-called ‘gardeners’.

The pair of grapevines have the opposite problem of the privet hedge. They are not being contained enough. Without the arbor that has yet to be built, they have no place to go, so are just being pruned as rampant and fat shrubs that will fall over as soon as their old stakes rot at the ground. If an arbor is ever built, all that congested and disfigured growth should be cut to the ground in winter, and started over from the ground up. However, it is unlikely that the so-called ‘gardeners’ would maintain them any better on an arbor than they do with them within reach; so it is probably just as well that they are in the ridiculous situation they are in.

That low spherical shrub in the front and center of the landscape, which is just to the left of the lower center of the picture, and is the unintentional interruption to the simplicity of the otherwise well designed variegated tobira hedge that I alluded to earlier, is a variegated Pittosporum tenuifolium. It is so ridiculously shorn and abused that I can not identify the cultivar. I can only guess that it is the common and overly popular ‘Marjorie Channon’. Apparently, one of the variegated tobiras died and needed to be replaced. Hey, it happens. A so-called ‘gardener’ knew that the necessary replacement plant needed to be variegated. He also knew that it needed to be a pittosporum, which is probably more than most so-called ‘gardeners’ could ascertain. The problem was that he went to a nursery and grabbed the first variegated pittosporum that he found, which, as you can plainly see, does not match the tobiras. It assumed a different form, flopped forward as they often do when shorn in such an inappropriate manner, and continues to be shorn into the ‘shape’ seen here now . . . as if it is somehow an asset to this otherwise well designed landscape. The blue festuca that it landed on gets shorn right along with it.

The only feature in this well designed landscape that does not have a serious problem, except for its one member that was clobbered by the single disfigured pittosporum, is the blue festuca, and that is only because the so-called ‘gardeners’ do nothing to it.P90227+

Wild Turkey

P90224This is a relatively new development. The first few arrived here only two years ago. By last year, a few more arrived to make a significant herd that split into two smaller herds. Now these two smaller herds are quite significant. If they continue to proliferate as they have been, they will become more of a problem. They are already shredding flowers and colorful berries that are within their reach, and digging up flexible irrigation hoses.
They are not really wild turkeys, since they are not native here. They are actually feral turkeys that escaped into the wild and naturalized. They may have moved in from surrounding areas, or they may have escaped locally. Turkeys have been roaming parts of Scott’s Valley and my neighborhood in the Los Gatos Hills for a few years. Much larger herds roam other regions, particularly the Diablo Ranges east of the San Francisco Bay Area.
My former neighbor knew how to select the good ones. They all look the same to me. When they showed up on the road at my home, I could just chase them to the neighbor’s home, where he would take what we wanted. They were so stupid that he probably could have grabbed the good ones rather than shoot them. It is amazing that they could survive in the wild so stupidly.
I suppose that it was good that they survived to keep the meat fresh. However, I am now concerned about how these exotic and prolific birds might affect the ecosystem. Are they taking food from other wildlife? Are they dispersing seeds of the fruits they eat differently from other birds who eat them and fly away to other areas? Are they providing too much food for predators, and allowing them to proliferate more than they should naturally?P90224+

Redwoods Are Family Oriented

P90223KCoastal redwood, Sequoia sempervirens, are remarkable stable trees. They rarely fall, which is how they get to be thousands of years old. They prefer to live in groups, where they mesh their roots together, and shelter each other from wind. Those that live outside of a group stay shorter than forest trees, and typically develop multiple trunks that function as a group.

However, they are also remarkably weak in regard to their structural integrity. Limbs are easily broken away from their vertical trunks by wind. Snow, which is rare within their natural range, causes significantly more damage than wind, which is probably why their natural range does not extend into snowy climates. Trees with co-dominant leaders (double trunks that divide from single trunks above grade) have potential to split at the union of the double trunks. Such unions are typically at such acute angles, that the trunks press against each other rather than fuse together through impenetrable compressed bark.

Leaning redwoods such as these that were shown earlier this morning, are potentially hazardous, not because they are likely to fall over, but because they might be likely to break. The trunks are designed to support weight vertically. The asymmetrical distribution of weight supported by these two trunks exerts inordinate lateral tension on the trunks. To make matters worse, the trunk to the left is divided into two co-dominant leaders, although the union does not appear to be at a typically acute angle. (The lower trunk is now behaving more as a big limb than as a secondary trunk.)

I would guess that these two trees are genetically identical trunks from the same root system. Such seemingly pliable trunk structure is uncommon, and it is very unlikely that two such similar trees would just coincidentally appear within such minimal proximity to each other. Redwoods often develop multiple trunks from the same root system, particularly as they regenerate after harvest.

The good news is that these two trunks have survived like this long enough to develop ‘reaction’ wood, which is just like it sounds; a bit of extra wood to compensate for compression on the inside of the bend. Also, they are sheltered from wind by the other redwood in the forest around them.

Six on Saturday: Above and Below

 

All that rain was excellent! Now it is cold. There was snow in Malibu in Southern California. It has not been this cold in quite a while. Nonetheless, the weather is grand, and not so cold in the middle of the day. The first three of these six pictures prove it.

1. This was just about sunrise on the first day in a while that did not start with rain. It was cold, and the sky was clear. The trees to the left are Douglas fir. The tree just to the right of center is a ponderosa pine. The tree in the right corner is a coast live oak. This is in one of those spots where different ecosystems collide. The firs merge into redwoods to the left. Ponderosa pines mixed with a few coast live oaks continue to the right, with more pines farther back. All are native.P90223

2. Now it is raining again. I would not say it was real rain, but merely a brief rain shower, with really big and soggy raindrops. Since it lasted only a few minutes, I would still classify this as a sunny day. Unfortunately, the raindrops are not visible in the picture; but the light duty clouds in an otherwise clear sky are. It was sunny when this picture was taken, which means that from some other vantage, this spot was at the end of a rainbow. Those trees are native (coastal) redwoods.P90223+

3. While looking up, I noticed that the exotic (nonnative) sweetgum is mostly defoliated. Rain tends to dislodge the colorful foliage in winter. The two leaning redwood trunks in the middle of the picture are a concern because, although they (and palms) are the most stable trees that I work with, redwoods do not accommodate structural deficiency very well. The asymmetrical distribution of the weight of the trunks above the curves exerts lateral tension on the trunk.P90223++

4. Below all these tall trees, we have a pile of nice madrone firewood that is ready to be split for next year. The native madrone is notorious for instability. Big trees often blow over, or just fall over because they are really bored. The tree that produced all this firewood was cut down because the lower trunk was so very rotten. Yet, as you can see, the firewood from upper limbs is in good condition. Madrone firewood is quite desirable, so this wood is expected to be gone soon.P90223+++

5. The shade under redwood forests is so dark that even these shade tolerant (exotic) gold dust plant want more sunlight. I should have just cut these down, but instead tried to give them a second chance. I pruned out all the dead material, and then pruned out some of the deteriorating stems, hoping that the process would stimulate new grown. That was almost a year ago. Not only has there been no growth or improvement, but the foliage looks even more distressed than it did before!P90223++++

6. Out in a sunnier spot, and after most others have finished, these (exotic) daffodils are still blooming. Actually, they have been blooming for a while. Since there are two different varieties blooming now, I suspect that those that bloomed here earlier were a different variety, or varieties. There is a bit of (exotic) tulip foliage mixed in with them. No bulbs were intentionally planted here on the riverbank, so were likely dumped here in soil that came from a planter or a landscape somewhere.P90223+++++

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

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

Horridculture – Instant Hedge

P90220Back when horticulture was still respected, a very long time ago, dense shrubbery with finely textured foliage, such as Japanese boxwood, could be purchased already shorn into cubes that only needed to be installed in a closely set row to become an ‘instant hedge’. For some small hedges composed of small plants that recovered efficiently from transplant, it actually worked reasonably well, even if they did not look so great at first. It also worked for a few larger shrubs that happened to transplant very easily, such as glossy privet. Tall arborvitaes happen to work exceptionally well as instant hedges, although the best spacing for them leaves temporary gaps in between.
However, most of the best of the bigger shrubbery should not be planted as instant hedges. The taller specie of Pittosporum get too distressed from transplants when mature, so should instead be planted while small, and allowed to grow into a hedge. Larger and much more expensive shrubs, take a few years to recover from transplant, and some recover much slower than others, compromising the conformity of the hedge as it develops.
That being said, I am not certain what to say about this instant hedge. The individual plants are much too close to each other, probably because someone wanted instant coverage, but perhaps because the so-called ‘gardener’ could charge more for installing more plants. I seriously doubt that the so-called ‘gardener’ will be able to contain these junipers, which will want to get much taller and wider than their confined space will allow. Even if the hedge bulks out just a slight bit beyond the curb, it will shade out the lower foliage more than it already is. I actually expect the junipers to grow well out into the driveway within only a few years, as they compete for space. If they get big enough, they can break the curb and asphalt pavement. It annoys me mostly because I like Skyrocket juniper so much, that I hate to see it abused like this.
Yet, It could work. As unlikely as it seems, there is a very slight possibility that the so-called ‘gardeners’ may be more qualified than I give them credit for. (Or they might be replaces with such. This is after all, the backside of the same landscape that is inhabited by the crepe myrtle featured last Wednesday.) After all, someone seemed to have enough sense to select #5 (5 gallon) plants instead of #15 (15 gallon) plants that would not be doing so well now. If the top of the hedge is kept down to prevent the junipers from growing as trees, and the facade of the hedge is kept contained to within about a foot and half of the wall behind it, lower growth will regenerate and get enough sunlight to not get shaded out. It will take serious commitment, and a specialized combination of regular shearing and selective pruning to limit congestion, but this hedge just might work.

Carpentry

P90217Saint Joseph did not have it so good. He is still the most famous carpenter, and somehow got the most excellent city in the World named after him, but he did not work in a shop like this one. The most well outfitted carpentry shops back then lacked modern power tools, and the selection of woods that are now so easily imported from all over the World now.

The best lumber in this shop at the Conference Center (where I work in the landscapes part time) is actually not the exotic sort. Three very important timber crops, (coastal) redwood, Douglas fir and ponderosa pine, happen to be native. A few of the larger of these trees that need to be removed get milled into lumber that gets used here.

Much of the lumber shown in this illustration is recycled from old buildings that were built from local lumber at a time when it was not so practical to import lumber to such a remote location. The rack on the back wall, at the center of the picture, contains old doors that are ready to be recycled. Flooring and moulding were made from native oaks, which are not the easiest to mill, but happened to be the most available. Nowadays, most of the lumber used here is procured from the lumber yard across the road, but it is neither of comparable quality, nor very interesting.

What is most interesting about the carpentry shop is not seen in the illustration above. There are a few on the Maintenance Crew who are proficient with structural carpentry, and one who is a finish carpenter. The finish carpenter is as proficient with carpentry as arborists are with trees that produce lumber. He is very familiar with all the various woods, and what they are useful for. It is his expertise that will ensure that the old recycled wood, as well as newly milled wood, will be utilized accordingly.

More of my bragging about the Maintenance Crew can be found at: https://tonytomeo.com/2018/10/10/horridculture-lessons-from-motivational-posters/ .

Monogram

P90216KToday’s episode is brought to you by the letter ‘T’.
This is not Sesame Street.
Nor is this freshly painted concrete ‘T’ a monogram that designates the garden as mine. Even I am not ‘that’ vain.
It is part of a sign at the train depot. There happen to be enough of the right letters for my last name. I suppose that with a pry bar and a shovel, I could be ‘that’ vain.
There is no ‘Y’, so my first name would not work, particularly in conjunction with my last name, which would take the only ‘T’ and ‘O’ available. Am I really vain enough to be putting this much thought into this? Oh my!
For right now, I should only be concerned with keeping the vegetation clear of the sign. The amaryllis foliage above barely flops into it. The overgrown photinia hedge behind the amaryllis was just removed. The arborvitaes that will be installed to replace the photinia hedge will not likely get wide enough to ever reach the sign. They will be set several feet back. We are still trying to decide what to install between the arborvitaes, which will be far enough from each other so that they will not become a continuous hedge like the photinia were.
You would not believe how many bay trees and valley oak trees were trying to grow amongst the photinia! They ranged in size from fresh seedlings all the way up to a nearly six inch wide coppiced stump of a valley tree that was cut down a few years ago. There are still a few small oaks that must be removed nearby. We want to remove them while we are working on the site, and before they get big enough to displace the concrete letters with their roots.

Six on Saturday: After The Storm

 

Contrary to popular belief, we do get a bit of wintry weather here. It is neither as cold nor as snowy as weather is in most other regions, but it gets sufficiently cool and rainy to let us know it is winter. In fact, here on the western slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains, we get the little bit of extra weather that does not quite get over the Summit into the Santa Clara Valley. Clouds must unload slightly in order to gain sufficient altitude.

There have been more storms so far this winter than there normally are, and this last week was particularly stormy. It is both a lot of fun, and a lot of work. Storms are innately wet, as well as messy. By the time we catch up from one storm, another arrives. The first few storms are something to be celebrated. The last few start to be rather bothersome.

1. Do you see the well kept shop buildings on the left and right? Neither do I. This is what I found when I got to work on Thursday morning after the electricity was put out by a wicked storm. The lights in the middle are those of a car out on the road. I managed to set up the coffee ‘machine’ to make coffee for the crew when the electricity came back on. I also put the leftover coffee that someone made late the previous night into a pitcher, so that if the electricity did not come back on in time for the crew to make fresh coffee, the first few to arrive could warm up the leftover coffee in the . . . . . . microwave. Okay, perhaps that was not such a good idea. The coffee was just swell cold.P90216

2. Many trees fell during the last few storms. Many more trees lost significant limbs. This unfortunate coast live oak is not as bad as it looks. Once the stub of the fractured limb is removed, it should be just fine. We try to identify potentially hazardous trees, and either work with them to make them less hazardous, or remove them completely. It is nonetheless impossible to predict all hazards. I would have not considered this particular subject to be hazardous prior to the damage seen here.P90216+

3. Artificial poinsettias were removed about a month after Christmas. https://tonytomeo.com/2019/01/26/pseudodendron-falsifolia/ They are no longer seasonal. Besides, this is the stormy season here, when these artificial poinsettias would be likely to get blown about the neighborhood if left out. If they were to survive the storms, they would fade in sunnier weather of spring. But hey; why must I justify their removal? They are tacky! They will stay hanging in the barn until after next Thanksgiving.P90216++

4. Pruning scraps from zonal geraniums that needed to be pruned back earlier in winter were just too tempting. Rather than discard them, I processed them into cuttings. I tried to give most of them away, but ultimately needed to plug some back into the landscape. They get plugged this time of year so that they get soaked by the rain as they disperse roots. Many went into situations where they will be without automated irrigation. If planted too late, they would just desiccate when the rain stops. These are in a neat row along the base of a stone wall separating a few roses from the roadway, so they will get a bit of water from the roses. So far, they ALL are doing well. Propagation can be such a bad habit.P90216+++

5. This was NOT my idea. I am none too keen on Japanese maples. Yet, this one works very nicely for the particular landscape it is in. I am impressed by the vibrant red color because this particular tree is somewhat sheltered and partly shaded. (Exposure to sunlight and cool wintry weather enhances color.) It looks great among the redwoods.P90216++++

6. No, I do NOT grow ANY of the snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, or any of the hybrids. ‘Snowflakes’, Leucojum vernum, are only here because they naturalized on the riverbank, likely from seed or bulbs that washed in from a garden upriver. They are spreading quite nicely, and are pleased to bloom in this unirrigated spot after soaked by a few storms. I could have gotten a picture with more flowers in it, but most are already deteriorating. I got these as a closeup instead. I know they are not really snowdrops, but I can brag about them anyway.P90216+++++

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

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/