Blow Out

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Wind is messy!

While strong Santa Anna Winds were blowing through Los Angeles four hundred miles to the south, and Storm Ciara was arriving in Scotland and Norway, we were getting some remarkably strong winds of our own. They were not nearly as strong as winds that were causing so much damage in Europe, and involved no flooding rain, but they were dangerously messy nonetheless.

We live and work among dense forests of coastal redwood, the tallest tree species in the World. Beyond the upper edge of the redwood forests are more forests of huge Ponderosa pine. Huge Douglas fir are mixed throughout. Their understory includes trees that would be considered to be massive anywhere else, such as coast live oak, tanoak, Shreve oak, bay laurel and madrone.

Such big trees drop big limb, and in abundance. Furthermore, limbs that fall from such great heights are significantly more dangerous than those that fall from smaller trees that are closer to the ground. They gather major inertia on the way down. They do not necessarily fall straight down either, but can get blown significant distances to where falling limbs may not be expected.

While the winds were blowing through, I could hear crashing of falling limbs and entire trees from the mostly deciduous riparian forest outside. I know that many of the big cottonwoods, box elders, willows, alders and sycamores are deteriorating, but did not expect so many to be blown down while bare. I suspected damage would be worse among the bigger and evergreen trees.

The pile to the left in the picture above is just the debris that was collected last Monday (while I was conveniently not here to help). It is more spread out but at least twice as voluminous as the pile on the right, which is pruning debris that took me several days prior to the wind to collect. The green cargo containers in the background demonstrate how big the piles of debris are.

More debris was collected on Tuesday (while I was still doing other work). The mess was not the worst of it. The roofs of a few buildings were impaled by falling limbs. Some of the damage is significant. Fortunately, the only big trees that fell did so into forested areas where there are no buildings, and electrical service was disrupted for less than a day. No injuries were reported.

Daphne

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Bloom worthy of a Scooby Snack

Jeepers!! As Daphne Blake’s colleague, Fred Jones, might say, “Looks like we’ve got another mystery on our hands.” What got into this Daphne odora ‘Aureomarginata’?! It rarely performs so well here, particularly so soon after being planted into a new landscape. This particular specimen, and about three others nearby, were planted as they finished bloom less than a year ago.

Since their season began, I have been commenting to those who share pictures of theirs, that such healthy and prolifically blooming daphne is enviable to those of us who do not live within a climate that is favorable to such performance. I know that this diminutive floral truss is not exactly exemplary compared to those of other regions, but for this region, it is almost spectacular.

The aroma is exquisite! It is everything that the rest of us grow daphne for, and is enhanced by the delightful but unseasonably clear and warm weather. Surroundings forests dampened by rain almost a month ago maintain just enough humidity for the fragrance to disperse. If it were not such a distinct fragrance, I would be wondering where it is originating. It is so unexpected.

Those in other regions believe that we can grow a more extensive variety of species here where winters are relatively mild. For some, that might be true. However, there are many climactic factors that limit what can be grown in every region. Species that require sustained chill in winter are not very happy here. For daphne, minimal humidity might be what they dislike locally.

Perhaps daphne happens to be happy in the particular location, next to a stream that enhances humidity much of the time when there is not much breeze. Perhaps the weather happened to be be conducive to such a performance. Perhaps it will remain a mystery.

Six on Saturday: Pretty In (Mostly) Pink

 

There was no theme for these six. I just took a few pictures of what happens to be blooming presently, and most just happened to be pink, or at least some variation of pink. The first picture of the bloom of the understock of flowering plum is my favorite this week, because it looks something like apricot bloom . . . in pink.

1. Flowering Plum – The flowering plum that was here first got cut down years ago. This tree grew from its understock. It is too pretty to cut down. The fruit is like apricots that never ripen.P00215-1

2. Rhododendron – Not many are blooming yet. This one is typically one of the earliest, but typically does not look so good. It tends to get battered by rain. There has been no rain in weeks.P00215-2

3. Camellia – Most that are blooming now happen to be simple pink like this one. None of the white ones are blooming. The few red ones that are blooming seem to be of just a single cultivar.P00215-3

4. Primrose – This one seemed to be more rosy magenta pink when I took this picture. (I don’t even know if that is a real color.) It certainly looks red here. All of their colors are pretty now.P00215-4

5. Corsican Hellebore – There is nothing pink about this one. It is just as sickly greenish white as it looks. I can not understand the allure. This is the only hellebore that does well for us here.P00215-5

6. Hellebore – Common hellebore is not at all happy here. Many were planted years ago. Many ferals grew from self sown seed. Only this grungy pink one inexplicably blooms so abundantly.P00215-6

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/

Ornamental Pepper

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Colorful but not flavorful ornamental pepper.

The red, orange, yellow, purple, white or almost black fruit of ornamental pepper that naturally develops in summer can be seen at any time of year because the plants are grown in artificial greenhouse environments. The peppers are usually small and narrow, and stand upright above their glossy rich green foliage. Some are narrower. Others are a plumper. Technically, the fruit is edible, but it is not as flavorful as peppers grown for culinary purposes.

Because the plants are sensitive to frost, they are more often grown as houseplants than out in the garden. In the garden, they need shelter to survive as perennials. As houseplants, they need warm and sunny exposure in order to bloom and develop fruit. They should be watered regularly, but only as their potting soil is starting to get dry.

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Look but do not bother tasting.

Overworked Plants May Recover Slowly

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Some potted plants are real overachievers.

Landscaping and growing houseplants really is no way to bring nature closer to home. If it were up to nature, most of our gardens would be relatively bare. Most of the few native trees are less than ideal for home gardens. The few native annuals and perennials with colorful flowers bloom only briefly. Almost all native shrubbery is scrubby and not conducive to pruning. After all, most of us live in what would naturally be coastal chaparral.

This is why home gardens contain so many exotic plants from so many different climates and regions all over the world. These plants get pruned, shorn and mown in all sorts of unnatural ways. Most do better if watered unnaturally through naturally dry summer weather. Many crave unnatural fertilizer. Houseplants and a few others are confined to pots so that roots can not disperse like they want to.

Potted plants that are forced into bloom to decorate home interiors are the most unnatural of all. They are among the most extensively bred of plants. They are grown in contrived environments that coerce them to bloom whenever their blooms are needed. Poinsettias, lilies, azaleas, hydrangeas, kalanchoes, callas, miniature roses, chrysanthemums and some orchids are the more familiar of these sorts of plants.

They are certainly colorful by the time they leave the greenhouses they were grown in. By the time they come home, they are in the middle of full bloom. There is no work to get them to bloom. The work is in keeping blooms as healthy and as colorful as possible, for as long as possible. Most of these plants only want to be watered regularly, and are happy to keep their color for quite a while.

By the time they want fertilizer, blooming potted plants will have finished blooming. Sadly, at that time, most get discarded instead. Realistically though, such systematically abused plants can be rather ugly as they replace their greenhouse foliage with foliage that is better adapted to the garden. The process of forcing them into bloom is just too unnatural and difficult to recover from easily.

Yet, with enough patience and pampering, most blooming potted plants should eventually recover and adapt to a garden lifestyle. Lilies, callas and other bulb-like plants should be put aside in the garden while their foliage fades and eventually separates from the bulbs. The dormant bulbs can then be planted and allowed to grow into their new environments.

Horridculture – Artificial Turf

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Artificial seems to be no worse than the real deal.

There is no right answer. For lawns that is. Horticulturists who actually enjoy horticulture . . . and are not specialists of turf . . . loath them. (Yes, there are horticulturists who are specialists of turf.) We merely tolerate them because they are so useful for so many applications, and they do happen to be very visually appealing within or in the foreground of interesting landscapes.

After all, lawns are the vegetative green carpeting that covers otherwise bare ground without interfering with the flow of pedestrian traffic. For parks and other public paces, it is better than other types of ground cover, mulch, pavement or lowly mown naturalized weeds that would grow if nothing else were there to occupy the space. For athletic fields, there are no alternatives.

They are just so unnatural. Most plants in our garden are selected for their natural attributes, and because they appreciate our respective climates and soils. Lawns must be mown regularly because they would otherwise get too deep and sloppy. They must be irrigated very regularly and generously because they can not survive on seasonal rainfall or even moderate irrigation.

In fact, lawns are so unnatural that, to many horticulturists, they are no worse than artificial turf. All the plasticky infrastructure of elaborate irrigation systems, all the chemical pesticides and fertilizers, all the fuel consumed by mowers, all the water, and all the labor that goes into the maintenance of lawns is no closer to nature than artificial turf is. Strange but strangely true.

Artificial turf is no fun either. The plasticky texture is so blatant and unavoidable. Although it needs only minimal maintenance and last for many years, it does not last forever, and slowly deteriorates like carpet. Once replaced with more of the same sort of plasticky artificial turf, it must be disposed of like so much other used up plastic that the World should be using less of.

Redtwig Dogwood

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Colorful bark for the wintry landscape.

Most dogwoods are popular for spectacular white or pink spring bloom prior to foliation. Redtwig dogwood, Cornus sericea, is an odd one though. It is a ‘dog’wood that is appropriately grown for colorful twig ‘bark’. It blooms later than other dogwoods, and after foliation. The one to two inch wide trusses of tiny pale white flowers lack the flashy bracts that make other dogwoods so colorful.

Another difference is that, unlike more familiar dogwoods, redtwig dogwood naturally grows as a shrubby riparian thicket rather than as a small tree. Long limber branches can grow to more than fifteen feet high only by leaning into other trees or shrubbery. In home gardens, they typically get coppiced or pollarded just before foliating in spring, to develop twiggy growth for color next winter.

After a bit of autumn chill and defoliation, young stems of well exposed wild redtwig dogwood are a delightful glossy ruddy brown. Twigs of garden varieties are richer cinnamon red, rusty orange, soft yellow, orange blushed pale yellow, or yellowish green. Color is subdued by shade. Some cultivars have variegated foliage. Autumnal foliar color is more impressive in more severe climates.

Seasonal Pruning Is Precisely That

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Some trees get pruned after bloom.

Seasonal pruning is just as the terminology implies, seasonal. It might seem as if it all happens in winter. Most of it begins after cooling autumn weather initiates dormancy. Most of it is completed before warming spring weather stimulates vascular activity and resumption of growth. That is why most seasonal pruning is referred to simply as winter pruning. Winter really is best for most of it.

However, most is not all. Plants that are damaged by frost should not be pruned immediately. Because pruning removes insulating vegetation, and stimulates new growth that is more sensitive to frost, such pruning is delayed until after the threat of subsequent frost. Birches and perhaps maples are popularly pruned in late summer or autumn because they bleed so much if pruned in winter.

Flowering cherry, plum, peach, crabapple and quince do not need the same sort of pruning that their fruiting counterparts rely on. Their exquisite bloom is the priority, rather than fruit. Pruning prior to bloom could diminish their potential. They can instead be pruned immediately after bloom, as new growth is emerging, or later in summer after soft new growth has become a bit more resilient.

Lilac and forsythia should likewise be pruned after spring bloom, but more aggressively than the flowering fruitless ‘fruit’ trees. If not pruned enough, they will produce fewer canes through summer to bloom the following spring. Older and gnarlier canes should be cut to the ground to favor younger and less branched canes. Old Oregon grape and Heavenly bamboo canes can be culled too.

Redtwig dogwood and cultivars of willow that are pollarded or coppiced for their colorful twigs can be pruned later too. There is no need to deprive them of their primary assets prematurely. They should be pruned as winter ends though, before their buds start to pop. Pussy willow is an exception that gets harvested after buds have fuzzily popped, but before new growth begins to develop.

Evergreen plants can be pruned late in winter, just before new growth develops to replace what gets pruned away.

Scrub Palm

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104 seeds for the price of 10!

Of all the strange seed I brought back from Oklahoma, none were from the scrub palm, Sabal minor, that is endemic to McCurtain County in the very southeaster corner of Oklahoma. I did not get to that region.

Sabal minor is nothing special to those who are acquainted with it. However, a variety that was selected from those in McCurtain County, which is known simply as Sabal minor ‘McCurtain’, is becoming increasingly popular in climates where winter weather is too cold for other palms. It is sufficiently resilient to frost to survive in New England and Canada.

I just wanted it because it is from Oklahoma.

Since I did not collect any wild seed, I had considered purchasing a seedling of the ‘McCurtain’ variety online. It would have been rather expensive for a single seedling. I was pleased to find seed of the same variety that were significantly less expensive for several seed. I know they grow slowly, but I am in no hurry. I gain bragging rights as soon as the seed germinate.

Unexpectedly, I was even more pleased to find seed on eBay that were collected from trees that were collected from the wild in McCurtain County, but were not of the ‘McCurtain’ variety! I know that seems trivial, and maybe even less desirable to those who want a garden variety, but for me, such seed are more closely related to those I would have collected if I had been there.

For $6.00, I expected delivery of a packet of ten seed of Sabal minor from McCurtain County. I could not pass on a deal like that. Instead, I got the 104 seed in the picture above! That is ten times what I was expecting. They will grow into more scrub palms than my garden can accommodate. RAD!

Water Feature

 

Brent Green, my colleague down south, is a renowned landscape designer of the Los Angeles region. His landscapes are spectacular. You might not know it by all the mean things I say about Brent and his work, but his clients know otherwise. He makes the outdoor spaces around their urban homes seem like they are in serene and thickly forested jungles hundreds of miles away.

Well, . . . generally. That is what the landscapes look like to me. Some clients prefer simpler or sunnier gardens. What I often perceive as superfluous vegetation is there to obscure adjacent residences or other undesirable scenery. It is not as if neighboring residences are unsightly. They are obscured merely to provide privacy and a sense of solitude in a very crowded region.

While designing a landscape that is appealing to the senses, it is helpful to eliminate or at least obscure some of what is unappealing. This applies to more than visual aspects. In some urban areas, ambient noise is a constant reminder of all the hectic chaos just outside of a landscape. Dense vegetation that obscures undesirable scenery muffles some or even most, but not all of it.

That is why Brent incorporates what he refers to as ‘water features’ into many of his landscapes. The noise of the splashing water partly obscures ambient noise. Because Brent’s home is just a block from the Santa Monica Freeway, there are four small ‘water features’ in the gardens! That is excessive of course, and more than what larger landscapes in quieter neighborhoods get.

These water features seem silly to me. I find the mostly monotonous noise of the Santa Monica Freeway to be no more annoying than the sound of the splashing water. I might appreciate water features more if they did my laundry. However, there are a few water features where I work, even though ambient noise from the outside is rather minimal. There are no freeways.

Fern Dell Creek in the video above flows into the confluence where Bean Creek flows into Zayante Creek. Zayante Creek Flows into the San Lorenzo River just a short distance away. Two Redwood Springs Creeks, which are comparable to Fern Dell Creek, flow into Bean Creek just a short distance upstream from the confluence with Zayante Creek. All this water can get noisy.

Fern Dell Creek and the two Redwood Springs Creeks are short streams that flow from springs, so their minimal flow does not fluctuate much at all, even after heavy rain. Bean Creek and Zayante Creek have more substantial watersheds and carry significantly more water, especially after heavy or prolonged rain. Unlike Brent’s water features, we can not turn any of them off.