Fire!

This incident is very old news now, but fire season is annual.

via Fire!

Quince

Quince fresh from coastal Santa Cruz!

The function of this formerly popular fruit tree has changed significantly to adapt to modern horticulture. The big but hard fruit of quince, Cydonia oblonga, is less perishable than the firmest pears or apples. Without canning or freezing, it lasts through winter in cool cellars. It also provides pectin for jellies of fruits that lack it. However, quince fruit is too hard to eat fresh, so should be cooked.

As food storage became less important, quince became less popular than more flavorful apples and pears, which are edible while fresh. Pectin is obtainable from apple cores and skins, or from supermarkets. However, quince are not completely absent from home gardens. They are now the unseen but common dwarfing understocks that limit the size of pear trees for suburban gardens.

The big lemony yellow fruits that are ripening now may look like very lumpy pears or apples. The largest sorts get as big as small cantaloupes. Developing fruit and new foliage are distinctly fuzzy. Fuzz can be polished off of alluringly aromatic mature fruit. Delightfully pale pink flowers are mostly obscured by new foliage in spring. The deciduous rounded leaves are two or three inches long.

The biggest of quince trees, which are very different from ornamental flowering quince, might get as high and wide as twenty feet.

Pomes Produce Better Than Palms

Pear season continues late into October.

Dates, coconuts, acai berries and palm oil grow on palm trees. All are rare in local home gardens. The palms that are popular in much of California are almost exclusively ornamental. Very few of them produce useful fruits. Despite the similar pronunciation, such palms are not at all related to pomes. Some of the more familiar fruits happen to be pomes, which are also known as pommes.

Apples and pears are the most popular examples of pomes. Quinces, which were very popular decades ago, are now rare. Quinces are so closely related to pears that they work well as dwarfing understock for home garden pear trees. (Orchard pear trees use other understocks that are not dwarfing.) Actually, most quince trees grew secondarily from roots of dead or removed pear trees.

Saskatoons (serviceberries), chokeberries (aronias) and medlars are locally rare pome fruits that are slowly gaining popularity. Productively fruiting cultivars of loquat are now more available than those that were primarily ornamental. Some flowering quinces may produce a few small fruits. Mayhaws and mountain ashes (rowans) are berry-like pomes that are more familiar in other regions.

The earliest cultivars of apple might be in season by late July, before stone fruit season finishes. (Some peaches, the largest of the stone fruits, ripen in September!) The latest will be ready in late November, at least a month into citrus season. Pear season extends from August into October. So, this is the middle of apple and pear season. Most but not all other pomes are already finished.

Like stone fruit trees, the trees and shrubs that produce pomes need very specialized pruning while dormant through winter. Without annual pruning to enhance structural integrity and concentrate resources, apple and pear trees are unable to support all of their fruit. Shrubby quince trees become thickets without pruning for grooming and confinement, although they may not need it annually.

Six on Saturday: Revelation

Genesis 1: 11-12 describes the creation of all vegetation and the beginning of horticulture on the Third Day of Creation. Those must have been such happy times. Nowadays, it is getting to be more like the Book of Revelation! During this time of pestilence, while smoke obscures the sun, moon and stars, I have been contending with locusts. The premature defoliation of box elders that I mentioned last week (supposedly) might be associated with diminishment of sunlight by so much smoke.

1. Gloves which seem to have been worn for the Battle of Armageddon were my primary defense against the hellacious swarms of locusts that have been tormenting us for more than a year.

2. Thorns of black locust, Robinia pseudoacacia, are nasty! They are paired like the horns of Satan! The thorns are modified stipules, so are actually neither thorns nor spines, but ‘prickles’.

3. Swarms of locusts are more numerous this year because more mature locust trees were cut down last November, leaving more stumps and many more roots of the not quite so deceased.

4. Smoke and fog filled the sky with old fashioned smog before the sun rose on Wednesday. (‘Smog’ is an abbreviation of ‘smoke’ and ‘fog’.) Not much is from the CZU Lightning Complex Fire.

5. Smoke was so dark at noon that street lamps and this porch light came on. That is a big coast live oak in the middle, with a California buckeye to the left and a coastal redwood to the right.

6. That was not the worst of it. It was so dark by 4:00 that I needed headlights to drive back. Those are deodar cedar to the right, a cottonwood to the left, and a coastal redwood in between.

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/

Autumn Sage

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Salvia greggii is a modest sage.

Perhaps in the wild, it blooms in autumn. Where it gets watered in home gardens, even if watered only occasionally, autumn sage, Salvia greggii, blooms all through summer as well. If pruned back severely over winter, it starts to bloom even sooner in spring. The tiny flowers are red, rose, pink, peach, very pale yellow, lavender or white. Some poplar cultivars have bi-colored flowers.

Compact autumn sage that does not get much more than a foot tall is uncommon. Larger cultivars get four feet tall and broad, with more open growth. Most get about three feet high and a bit wider. Without severe winter pruning, stems can eventually get twiggy, with sparse foliage on the exterior. The tiny aromatic leaves are less than an inch long, and visually resemble oregano.

Even though it is not native to California, autumn sage is popular for native landscaping because it does not need much water. Just like native sages, it attracts butterflies and hummingbirds.

It Will Soon Be Autumn

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Cool season vegetables replace summer vegetables.

From the time they get planted in early spring, tomato plants are expected to perform a bit better than they did earlier in the season. They start out with only a few early tomatoes, but quickly become prolific. Production continues to increase as the plants grow all through summer . . . until now. Newer leaves on top are not staying so far ahead of fading leaves below.

While the weather is still warm, it is difficult to say how tomato plants know that autumn will soon replace summer. They do not seem to be intelligent enough to realize that every day is imperceptibly shorter than the one before. Nor do they seem to be sensitive enough to notice if the nights get slightly cooler. They just know, and they tell all their friends.

If zucchini plants have not started to fade and sag, they will soon. As weather cools, they no longer grow faster than the mildew that they tolerated all summer. Any fruits that are present now should have time to finish developing, but there probably will not be many more after that. (Zucchini fruits are eaten before mature anyway.) Other warm season vegetables are in a similar state.

Acorn, Hubbard, butternut and other winter squash grow through summer just like summer squash do, but are not harvested until the vines wither in autumn and winter. Unlike summer squash that continue to produce many tender juvenile fruit to replace what gets harvested through summer, winter squash plants put all their effort into one or two large ripe fruit.

Warm season vegetable plants still need to be watered as the foliage slowly deteriorates. They only begin to need less water as they lose foliage and the weather gets cooler. They may like to be fertilized one last time, but will not not need it again. Any last phases of corn will stay thirsty later than other vegetable plants because they deteriorate slower, and are rather thirsty anyway.

Seed for broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, kale and certain other cool season vegetables can be sown in flats or cell packs now so that their seedlings are ready to go when the warm season vegetables relinquish their space in the garden. If space allows, seed for beet, turnip and turnip greens can be sown directly into the garden. Carrot seed should still wait for cooler weather.

Lemon Bottlebrush

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Hummingbirds enjoy red lemon bottlebrush bloom.

As its compact cultivars gained popularity over the years, the formerly common lemon bottlebrush, Callistemon citrinus, became passe. Most are mature specimens in old fashioned landscapes. It is unfortunate. Only lemon bottlebrush and weeping bottlebrush can grow as small trees. (However, lemon bottlebrush is now classified as Melaleuca citrina. Most Melaleuca get notably larger.)

If competing for sunlight, mature specimens of lemon bottlebrush can almost reach upstairs eaves. Well exposed specimens may not get much more than half as tall, with mounding form of about equal width. Removal of low growth to expose sculptural trunks and handsomely shaggy bark promotes higher growth above. Shearing of hedges should not be too frequent to allow some bloom.

Bright red bloom is sporadic through the year, and gets more abundant as summer becomes autumn. The small and staminate flowers are densely set in cylindrical ‘bottlebrush’ formation. These blooms are about two or three inches long, almost as wide, and popular with hummingbirds. Dense evergreen foliage is aromatic. Individual leaves are narrow and about two or three inches long.