Mediterranean fan palm

The strikingly silver Atlas Mountain palm.

Not all palms are trees. Some lack trunks, so develop more as shrubbery. Some develop many slender stems, like bamboo. The thin canes of most rattan palms sprawl onto other vegetation for support, as vines. Mediterranean fan palm, Chamaerops humilis, develops multiple stout trunks, but grows so slowly that it can function as big sculptural shrubbery.

Old trunks can eventually get as high as twenty feet, and generally lean randomly. If they get too tall, smaller and more vigorous trunks can replace them. (An arborist can remove the bulky and thorny old trunks.) New trunks develop from basal pups, which can can get too densely foliated without occasional thinning. Removal of such pups might be difficult.

Mature trunks might be as wide as ten inches, with dense coats of basal petiole fiber and thorny petiole stubs. Thorough grooming can eliminate the stubs. However, petioles that suspend the evergreen palmate leaves are outfitted with the same wickedly sharp teeth. Leaves are about two feet wide. Atlas Mountain palm, Chamaerops humilis var.(iety) argentea has strikingly silvery foliage, and grows even slower.

Chimney Clearance Must Be Maintained

Modern homes lack old fashioned fireplaces.

Even as autumn weather cools, smoke rising from a simple old fashioned brick chimney is a rare sight nowadays. A smoking stovepipe is rarer. Modern building codes forbid the installation of new fireplaces or wood stoves within most municipalities here. Modern air quality ordinances severely limit the use of existing fireplaces and wood burning stoves.

Furthermore, existing fireplaces and wood stoves are neither as popular nor as common as they had been. After an earthquake, a faulty chimney is likely to justify removal rather than repair. An unused wood stove wastes too much space. Old orchards that generated inexpensive firewood as they relinquished their space to urban development are extinct.

There are a few advantages to these modern trends though. Modern homes consume so much less energy for heating than older homes because of efficient insulation. Insulation of older homes retains heat that fireplaces generate, so that less wood is needed. Almost every surviving chimney has a spark arrestor. Modern roof materials are noncombustible.

Nonetheless, vegetation that gets too near to a chimney that is in use can be hazardous. Even if clearance was adequate last winter, trees, vines and large shrubbery grew since then. It does not take long for such vegetation to overwhelm a chimney, or encroach a bit more than it should. It does not take too much vegetation to be hazardously combustible.

Clinging vines like English ivy and Boston ivy sometimes climb up and then over the top of a chimney. Although not especially combustible, they will burn directly over a fireplace or wood stove. Just like gutters do, vines can accumulate leaves that fall from deciduous trees to become more combustible. Birds or rodents can build combustible nests in them.

Evergreen trees and big shrubbery are similarly combustible over a chimney. Deciduous trees are generally not as hazardous. Conversely, cypress, pine, cedar, eucalyptus, large junipers, and ungroomed palms are very combustible. Eucalyptus foliage will burn while fresh, if it gets hot enough. The other trees tend to accumulate very combustible detritus.

FINALLY! We have RAIN!

The weather is on a different schedule annually. Although the seasons remain stable, the rainy season does not begin promptly on the same date this year as it did three years ago when this article posted. Regardless of when the rainy season begins, it is a major event after the long dry season.

Tony Tomeo

P80103+For those who do not remember what ‘rain’ is, it is, it is those odd drops of water that fall so mysteriously from the sky in other regions. We get it here too, just very rarely, and almost exclusively within a limited season centered around winter. Rain tends to be affiliated with storms. The last storm moved through here last spring.
Rain may not be much to look at, and is nearly impossible to get a picture of, but it adds up to become a very important commodity known as ‘water’. Some believe that California does not have enough water. We natives know that there is actually plenty of water, but merely too many people in need of it, and a few of those many who capitalize on that need. Anyway, I did not even try to get a picture of the rain that is falling so nicely now, but…

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Time Travel

DEVONACRES explained what really happened here in the comments below; which sort of blows the silliness of it all. Hey, no one is obligated to read the comments.

Tony Tomeo

P81124KOne never knows what strange artifacts might be found out in public landscapes. It is amusing enough to find items discarded or simply misplaced long ago by former occupants of a home out in a private home garden. Public landscapes are even more interesting, since they collect debris and artifacts from many more people. Some landscapes have been doing so for a long time.
Besides litter, the most commonly found artifacts are sporting equipment. Frisbees, baseballs, tennis balls, soccer balls, volleyballs and such are commonly lost in dense vegetation. Golf clubs, baseball bats and tennis rackets sort of make one wonder. Chew toys are sometimes left by dogs who go after them, but then return with something they perceive to be more interesting.
Landscapes that are near roadways often feature car parts that might have fallen out of cars as they drove by, as well as a few that cars…

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Six on Saturday: WHITE

White is my favorite color! It always has been, long before it became a fad and a trendy coffee table book in the early 1990s. I do not care that it has become politically incorrect since then. Nor am I concerned with what Brent has to say about it. (He has not valued my opinion since 1986 anyway.) I realize that he is the famous landscape designer, and I am not, but I also know what I like in my own garden. I am quite pleased that there are so many white flowers at work, and even an exclusively white garden, at el Catedral de Santa Clara de Los Gatos!

1. Pelargonium X hortorum, the white zonal geranium at el Catedral de Santa Clara de Los Gatos, is blooming with smaller floral trusses because the weather is getting cooer through autumn.

2. Dianthus deltoides has the unappealing common name of ‘pink’, likely because most varieties bloom pink. Some bloom red. This is one of the best because it blooms so perfectly clear white.

3. Hydrangea macrophylla should be at el Catedral de Santa Clara de Los Gatos instead of the other ‘white’ hydrangeas that were relocated there last winter before deciding to bloom lavender.

4. Camellia sasanqua is blooming impressively well for the shade that it lives in. I do not remember the name of this cultivar. It might be a hybrid of Camellia sasanqua and Camellia japonica.

5. Rhododendron such as this are known as ‘azalea’. (There is no picture of Rhody.) This and ‘Coral Bells’ bloom about now, but not while the others bloom so abundantly at the end of winter.

6. Betula pendula is an old fashioned tree that still works well here. White trunks are striking among the dark green redwoods. We dig and can their seedlings to eventually replace aging trees.

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

Angel Wing Begonia

Begonia involucrata at Monte Verde

The simple pink or sometimes red or white flowers of angel wing begonia are not as flashy as those of other begonias, and are not abundant enough to provide much color. During warm weather, they are merely a minor bonus to the striking foliage. As the name implies, the big and angularly lobed leaves are shaped like wings of angels. Upper surfaces are glossy and dark green with irregular silvery spots. Undersides are even glossier and reddish bronze. With support, the lanky cane stems can get more than twelve feet tall. However, because older tall canes produce runty foliage, they are often pruned out to promote more vigorous and lushly foliated young canes.

Because they are sensitive to frost, and also because they are ideal houseplants, angel wing begonias are typically grown in containers. They like rather regular but not excessive watering, and rich potting soil. Abundant sunlight enhances foliar color; but harsh exposure roasts foliage. Partial shade is not a problem.

Dormancy And Defoliation Are Advantageous

Hostas go dormant and defoliate for winter, and regenerate for spring.

Many plants are deciduous in autumn and winter, which means that they defoliate or die back, and then refoliate or regenerate in spring. Many others are evergreen, which simply means that they are always foliated through all seasons. What many people do not realize is that evergreen plants replace their foliage just like deciduous plants do. They just do not do it in such distinct phases of defoliation, dormancy and refoliation.

Tropical plants like cannas and some of the various begonias really have no need for formal defoliation, since they are from climates that lack winter. In the wild, they continually and systematically shed old stems as they produce new stems. Locally, they tend to shed more than they grow during late autumn and winter. The large types of begonias tend to keep their canes for so many years that it is not so obvious. Where winters are colder, cannas freeze to the ground, only to regenerate from their thick rhizomes as winter ends.

Zonal geraniums may seem rather tired this time of year for the opposite reason. They expect late autumn weather to include frost that would kill them back to the ground where they would stay relatively dormant until warmer weather after winter. Just because their foliage is instead evergreen through winter does not mean that it should be. It lingers and often becomes infested with mildew and rust (fungal diseases) that proliferate in humid autumn weather.

However, zonal geraniums need not be pruned back just yet. Even if they eventually get damaged by frost, pruning should be delayed so that the already damaged older foliage and stems can shelter the even more sensitive new growth as it emerges below. They can get cut back after frost would be likely.

Evergreen pear can get very spotty once the warm weather runs out because the same damp and cool weather that inhibits its growth also promotes proliferation of the blight that damages and discolors the foliage. The damaged foliage eventually gets replaced as new foliage emerges in spring, but will remain spotty and discolored until then. Photinia does not get as spotty, but holds blighted foliage longer into the following summer. Ivy can be temporarily damaged by a visually similar blight.

Horridculture – Just When You Thought It Couldn’t Get Any Sillier . . .

This is just too weird for me to comment on again.

Tony Tomeo

P81121Two others have already written about this far more proficiently than I would have:
https://sweetgumandpines.wordpress.com/2018/11/18/abomination/
https://gardendaze.blog/2018/11/19/amaryllis-queen-of-the-forced-bulbs/
These two articles say it all. I would not have bothered to write about it too if I had not already taken the picture above. I did not read the label to learn what one of these articles said about why these bulbs were waxed. It seals in moisture, so that the bulbs do not desiccate while they bloom without water or moist media. They at least get water when forced by the conventional manner.
I suppose to many who force amaryllis bulbs, there is no problem with waxing them like this, since they are typically discarded as their forced bloom deteriorates. There is no expectation for the bulbs to survive the process to regenerate and bloom the following year.
We can at least pretend that we intend to nurture amaryllis bulbs that bloom…

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Mound Lily

Mound lily cultivars are generally variegated.

A few of the fifty or so species of Yucca go by the names of Spanish bayonet or Spanish dagger. Both common names apply to Yucca gloriosa. However, only this single species is also the mound lily. Most other Spanish bayonet and Spanish dagger are from deserts or chaparrals. Mound lily is from southeastern North America, so likes periodic watering.

If that is not confusing enough, the curved leaf yucca, which had been Yucca recurvifolia, is now Yucca gloriosa var.(iety) tristis. It has distinctly pliable leaves with a matte surface texture, and is rarely variegated. Mound lily has stiffer and smoother leaves that are more likely to be variegated. It had been rare, but is becoming one of the more popular yuccas. 

Although it does not grow fast, and takes many years to form stout trunks, mound lily can eventually get taller than six feet. Taller floral panicles rise above the densely evergreen foliage. The small and pendulous flowers are pale white, perhaps blushed with brownish purple and pink. The leaves are about a foot or two long and maybe three inches wide, with very sharp terminal spines.

Dried Floral Material Worth Recycling

Yucca bloom produces interesting floral stalks.

Gardens might be colorful throughout the year here. There is not much time between the latest of the autumn flowers and the earliest of the spring flowers. Winter flowers are glad to compensate for the lapse. Of course, there are plenty of flowers in spring and summer. Nonetheless, dried flowers are more popular now that there are fewer flowers for cutting.

The quantity of flowers blooming within a particular season might not be proportionate to the quantity of flowers available for cutting. Flowers that bloom through winter, even if as abundant as spring or summer flowers, do not develop as fast. Harvesting too many bird of Paradise flowers depletes the limited supply before something else can replace them.

Deciduous foliage that provides spectacular color through autumn is no substitute for cut flowers. Nor is the majority of colorful bark that becomes more prominent through winter. Some colorful berries can function like cut flowers, but only if there are plenty to spare in the garden. Conventional dried flowers that grew last summer may be useful about now.

For the venturesome and resourceful, unconventional dried flowers and other dried plant parts can also be fun. Such items, unlike statice, straw flower, lavender and other familiar dried flowers, might be byproducts of gardening. They might be derived from detritus that should otherwise go to compost or greenwaste. Some might even be products of weeds!

Pampas grass, both garden varieties and the invasively naturalized type, produces bold blooms that dry quite well. Because the leaves can cause such nasty paper cuts, flowers might be easier to harvest from a distance, with a pole pruner. Hair spray can contain the fuzz, so that it does not disperse indoors. Cat tails, if still intact, are compatible with them. 

Floral stems of lily of the Nile, New Zealand flax, and some species of Yucca are striking even after bloom. After deadheading, they can become flowerless dried flowers. Fruiting structures are no problem to remove. If within reach, some palms may provide distinctive bloom trusses. Floral design can be as imaginative as gardening and landscape design.