Horridculture – Needle Mania!

Although a concern for those of us who work in public landscapes, it is unlikely to be a problem in a home garden.

Tony Tomeo

P80919Throughout my career as a horticulturist, I have worked in more public landscapes than most. Some of these landscapes were in some of the most notorious neighborhoods of the San Francisco Bay Area and the Monterey Bay Area. Yes, I have found some rather strange items strewn about, including a few that necessitated telephone calls to local law enforcement. Yet, I have never once found a single used syringe.

Syringes are more commonly known as ‘needles’ by those who fear them. We are sometimes warned about them, particularly in areas where the sorts of people whom we are supposed to fear might have left them strewn about, whether or not these fearsome people actually use syringes. If found, such syringes are dangerous because they are used to inject illicit narcotics, and are consequently contaminated with the blood of those who use them. Such blood is always assumed to be infected…

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Ah, (dysfunctional) wildlife in the garden.

Tony Tomeo

If you watch Southpark, you shouldn’t.
If you do anyway, you shouldn’t admit to it.
If you happen to know someone who watches Southpark, you might have heard indirectly about Kenny. He dies in every episode. Actually, he typically dies a few times in each episode, and typically does so violently. Experts claim that there are two episodes of Southpark in which Kenny does not die, but proof is all too conveniently scarce.
There is also an opossum named Kenny. Like Kenny of Southpark, Kenny the opossum dies in every episode.
Apparently, Kenny startled someone who was working too intently in the garden to notice his approach on top of a fence directly behind where this unnamed someone was working. This unnamed someone grabbed a stick and clobbered Kenny right across the backside. Although the blow was not terribly aggressive, and not intended to be harmful, Kenny surprisingly died violently…

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Since this recycled article posted three years ago, the aggressively invasive pampas grass actually has not gotten noticeably worse.

Tony Tomeo

P80915K.JPGJust about everything in this picture is icky! This species of pampas grass, Cortaderia jubata, is one of the most aggressive and noxious of the invasive exotic specie that have naturalized here. It seems to be incarcerated behind the weathered cyclone fence with barbed wire on top. The big water tank is is a harshly stark background. The tired old Douglas firs and ponderosa pines to the left and right seem to be unhappy here. The small coast live oak that is at least trying to make a more cheerful appearance is only oppressed by the surroundings. Only the clear blue sky above lacks the ick factor.

What is not visible in the picture is that there is no other flora in the area. Most of the area is covered with a thick layer of gravel to prevent vegetation from getting established close to the water tank. Weeds that…

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Horridculture – Think Outside The Box

Goodness! This is one of the worse of the ‘Horridculture’ meme.

Tony Tomeo

P80912Straight out of college, I worked briefly for a wholesale nursery that grew landscape stock, which included boxed trees. We also recycled a few trees, particularly from the abandoned homes in the neighborhood around the nursery. (The neighborhood, including the nursery, were in the easement of the Norman Mineta Freeway, which in the process of being constructed at the time.) I had believed that the boxed and recycled trees were for ‘instant’ landscapes, the sort that were for clients who did not want to wait for things to grow. It made sense, particularly in our region where so few stay in the same home long enough for trees to mature.

Many trees were good candidates for growing in boxes. Some were naturally small trees. Others had fibrous root systems that did not mind the confinement. Japanese maple, crape myrtle, purple leaf plum, flowering cherry, flowering crabapple, magnolia and various specie…

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Trout and Cabbage

No, this is not an English Pub

Tony Tomeo

61012No; this is not a recipe. It is two brief stories about my first fishing trip and the first vegetables I ever grew.
My first fishing trip was at Silver Lake, past my grandparents summer house in Pioneer. I was just a little tyke. I think I had just a small cane with a hook on a string tied to it. I doubt that I was expected to catch anything with it. I sat on a bare granite shore with my Uncle Bill behind me to keep me from falling in, and my hook on a string in the water.
‘Fishy’ took the hook almost immediately. He was a slippery and shiny trout who startled everyone around with his eagerness to grab onto the hook in order to come home with us. I pulled him up so that my Uncle Bill could take him off of the hook. However, to…

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Ah, a diversion from horticulture that is worth the bother. (Never mind the date. It did originally post on September 2, just three years ago.

Tony Tomeo

It is now September 2, the day after both the feastday of Saint Fiacre, patron saint of gardeners, and the first anniversary of this blog. It is also the anniversary of the only day in the last year that I did not post anything. Yes, the second day of the blog was the only day without a post. Early in those first few days, I posted the only article that was irrelevant to horticulture, and an explanation that I would not make a habit of doing so. I wanted to try it just once to see if I could do it like so many others do. It was overrated. Nonetheless, after almost a year since that naughty diversion from my self imposed discriminating standards, I want to try it again. After all, I have not yet posted a horticulturally oriented article on September 2 within the context of this blog…

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Horridculture – Drought

Although this is an excellent climate, it is not perfect, and this is not the worst of it.

Tony Tomeo

P80905It is a way of life in much of California. Many of us grew up with it, or at least believing in it. Many of us never heard the end of it. That is how it lost its meaning.
Drought is a weather condition. It might last one year or a few. Drought can even continue for several years. For us, it entails less than normal rainfall through winter, only because winter is when rain is supposed to fall here.
As a weather condition, drought is not permanent. There have been a many during the past few centuries of recorded history here, and a few of those have been in just the last half century that I can remember. They happen frequently enough that I can not remember the exact years that were drought years, although I can remember a significant drought in the middle of the 1970s. No drought…

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Different Time Zones

Yes, they are weedy and mundane, but some of us like four o’clock nonetheless.

Tony Tomeo

P80901KIf the flower on the left is a four o’clock, is the flower on the right a five o’clock, or perhaps a three o’clock? Is one a.m. and the other p.m.? What about the flower of the same species that I featured twelve hours ago? What about those in another picture that I will share next Saturday?
Of course, only the colors are different; not the name . . . or the time.
What is odd about these two seemingly different flowers is that they are on the same plant. In fact, they are on the same stem, separated only by a few inches.
Four o’clocks can be odd that way. Individual plants typically bloom with exclusively pink, red, white, yellow or orange flowers. The shades and hues of these colors are variable, but are typically homogeneous throughout each entire plant.
Some plants bloom with flowers of one color that…

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Saint Fiacre Day

Wow, I really missed this one. If I am to recycle old articles, I should at least do so on the correct day.

Tony Tomeo


Today, September 1, was the Feastday of Saint Fiacre, the Patron Saint of gardeners. I would not have known if I had not earlier seen this very thorough and informative article written by Doctor David Marsh of the Gardens Trust;


In all my writing, I had mentioned Saint Fiacre only once, and only in regard to garden statuary. I described how Saint Francis, who happens to be the patron saint of animals, is popularly believed to be the patron saint of gardeners because his statue is so popular in gardens, often in conjunction with statues of frolicking animals, but that statues of Saint Fiacre are very rare.

Besides the Feastday of Saint Fiacre, this September 1 also happens to be the first year anniversary of my blog. I have now been posting articles from my weekly gardening column, as well as other elaborations, for an entire year. With the…

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Delay Some Gardening Between Seasons

Pruning should not leave bark of inner stems exposed during such warm weather.

For gardening, this is one of those in between times of year, when summer chores are under control, but it is a bit too early for much of the work that will need to be done in autumn. Automated watering systems have already been adjusted for the longest and warmest days of summer, so will only need to be adjusted the other way as days eventually get cooler and shorter. Growth of most plants slows; and some of the plants that will later be the earliest to show fall color begin to fade from bright green to paler green.

The last of the summer fruits should be gone, leaving the trees that produced them looking somewhat tired. The weight of large fruit, particularly peaches, might have pulled stems downward where they may now be obtrusive. Pruning a few minor stems should not be a problem. However, trees are still too vascularly active for major pruning. That needs to wait for dormant pruning while trees are bare in winter.

A few plants with sensitive bark are susceptible to sun scald if pruned to expose too much bark on interior stems while the sun is still high and warm. This is not so likely to be a problem if pruned during winter because the sun is lower and cooler, and foliage grows back before the following summer. Actually, that is why English walnut and various maples are able to defoliate during winter, even though their smooth bark needs to be shaded.

Pruning of plants that are potentially sensitive to frost should likewise be delayed. Otherwise, pruning is likely to stimulate development of tender new growth that will be even more sensitive to frost during winter. Besides, new growth develops slower this time of year, so plants look freshly pruned for a longer time than if pruned late in winter, just prior to spring.

Some types of pittosporum are more susceptible to disease if pruned in late summer or autumn because their open pruning wounds heal slowly and stay open to infection during rainy winter weather. However, slow recovery from pruning can be an advantage to formally shorn hedges that are not so sensitive to frost or disease, such as the various boxwoods, or glossy or wax privets. If shorn now, they might stay trim until spring.

The dried foliar remains of any summer bulbs that are finished blooming can now be plucked and disposed of. Gladiolus and montbretias that are still green can be deadheaded (pruned to remove deteriorated flower stalks), but should be allowed to turn completely brown before getting plucked. Watsonias are not so easy to pluck without also pulling up the bulbs, so should instead get their dried foliage pruned off.

Weeds outside of landscaped areas may not seem to be a problem, but many are now producing seed that gets blown into the garden. Even if such weeds do not need to be pulled, their flowers and seeding stalks should still be cut off and removed if possible.