The Right Bulbs Save Energy

51014thumbAfter working so hard to bloom so impressively in spring or summer, bulbs redirect their efforts into saving up their energy for winter dormancy. That is why their fading foliage lingers after faded flowers get pruned away. The foliage eventually dries and deteriorates, leaving plumped dormant bulbs to overwinter underground. It is all their natural life cycle.

However, to bloom well the following spring, many bulbs need to be chilled while dormant. Such bulbs are from cooler climates. The chill convinces them that it really is winter, and that it will be safe to bloom when weather gets warmer in spring. They can get rather confused without adequate chill. Some may never bloom as well as they did their first spring.

Tulip, hyacinth, lily, anemone and ranunculus are probably the best examples of the worst perennial bulbs. Technically, they are perennials. Where winters are cooler, they may naturalize and bloom every spring. Here, winters are just too mild. They bloom very impressively in their first spring, but rarely bloom as well the second spring, and only if pampered.

Narcissus, daffodil, grape hyacinth and bearded iris are much more reliable. Crocus and freesia are a bit more demanding, but can be reliable if they get what they want. Montbretia and crocosmia are reliable enough to become invasive. Gladiola and dahlia, which are not quite as reliable as crocus, are summer bulbs, so get planted a bit later.

Of course not all bulbs are true bulbs. Some are corms, rhizomes, tubers or tuberous roots. Some get planted deeply. Bearded iris and a few others get planted shallowly. A few others do best in pots. In their first year, some bulbs can be planted in phases so that they bloom in phases the following spring. However, all bulbs of each type will synchronize by their second year.

Anemone, ranunculus and bearded iris bloom too synchronously to be phased. No matter when they get planted, each type blooms at the same time. However, some bearded iris bloom as early as the earliest of daffodil, and others bloom late. Some even bloom twice!

Advertisements

Horridculture – Lessons From Motivational Posters

P81010I work for the best. I do not intend to be too terribly pompous about it. I am just being honest.
This is not first time I have worked for the best. I have worked for at least three of the best arborists in the Santa Clara Valley, and two legendary horticulturists. I intend to eventually return to work for one of those legendary horticulturists back on the farm.
The main work I do now is part time and temporary. That means that I work less than four days each week, and will not be working there forever. I try to not think about leaving because it is saddening. I enjoy those whom I work for so much.
I work for only one other horticulturist, and one who is studying to be an arborist. Neither of them grow any significant quantity of nursery stock like I intend to spend the rest of my career doing. They maintain landscapes and facilities. The others of our elite group are very specialized professionals who work with everything else that is not relevant to horticulture. One is a carpenter. One is an electrician. One is a plumber; and so on. Although impeccably specialized, any one of us would do what he must to accomplish whatever needs to be done, even if it is beyond his respective specialty. Collectively, we are the ‘maintenance staff’.
How is this relevant to horticulture? I suppose it is not very relevant. However, everyone else on the maintenance staff respects what the other horticulturist, the other arborist, and I do. Anyone who needs vegetation pruned for clearance from a project contacts us to get it done properly. Anyone who sees obvious problems in the landscape informs us about them. Everyone on the maintenance staff respects everyone else and their respective professions.
To describe what makes the maintenance staff the best, I could use any combination of those inspirational words that are so ungraciously followed by an overly simplified dictionary definition on those insultingly inane motivational posters that so many other employers display prominently in the workplace. They are all relevant. However, we have nothing to prove.
Besides, this is not about the best. It is Wednesday, when I write within the context of my ‘Horridculture’ theme.
I have also worked for the worst. One of these worst was portrayed to be a very professional landscape maintenance company. We had a much larger staff, spread out over nine counties. We had a good variety of those motivational posters in our main office. Unfortunately, I did not realize when I went to work there, that those posters merely defined what we lacked.
Integrity – Dedication – Perseverance – Discipline – Teamwork – Excellence – Strength – Endurance – Accountability – We had none of that. I was the only horticulturist in the big staff of a big landscape maintenance company that simply did not care. I do not know how to describe it more accurately. We simply did not care. We were there to make a buck any way we could. We swindled, cheated and lied. I was only there as their token horticulturist and arborist, to help them get away with more of their illicit activity, and to make a good impression for their victims.
It is so backward. The big and seemingly reputable landscape maintenance company has less regard for horticulture than a maintenance staff who has other completely different priorities.

Dwarf Carnation

81017The three most popular specie of Dianthus are sweet William, garden pink and carnation. Sweet William and garden pink are light duty perennial bedding plants that are often grown as annuals. Carnation blooms are more familiar as fragrant cut flowers than as home garden flowers. Then there is dwarf carnation, Dianthus caryophyllus, that combines the best characteristics of all three.

Unlike the varieties of carnation that are grown for cut flowers on long stems, dwarf carnations do not need to be staked. Their compact growth gets only about five or six inches tall, and not much wider; so they are delightful summer and autumn annuals, or short term perennials like sweet William and pink. Yet, the two inch wide flowers are fragrant and as colorful as cut flower carnations.

The double or semi-double flowers can be white, pale yellow, pale orange, maroon, scarlet, red, peach, rose, or most popularly, various hues of pink. Bloom begins late in spring and continues through autumn and almost until winter. Stray flowers can bloom anytime. The narrow leaves are slightly bluish green, with an almost rubbery texture. Deadheading keeps well blooming plants tidy.

Cool Season Annuals Are Next

81017thumbGardening is not always fun. After diligently tending to warm season vegetables through spring and summer, it eventually becomes necessary to pull them up to relinquish space for cool season vegetables that grow through autumn and winter. It likely would be less unpleasant to wait for them to succumb to frost, but by that time, it would be getting late for the incoming vegetable plants.

Removing warm season annuals and bedding plants is just as necessary, and might be just as unpleasant. The only consolation is that the incoming cool season annuals and bedding plants are likely to be blooming well as they get installed. Even though they take a while to mature, there is no time without at least some degree of color. Warm season annuals may be tired by now anyway.

Just like cool season vegetable plants, the various cool season annuals and bedding plants appreciate an early start so that they can begin to disperse roots while the soil is still somewhat warm. Only those that dislike warmth should wait. Cyclamen and flowering cabbage and kale can be planted as late as winter. Flowering cabbage and kale might even bolt if they get too warm too soon.

Pansy, viola, sweet William, stock, Iceland poppy, calendula and various primroses are all seasonable now. They should be happy to bloom until they too need to be replaced by annuals for the following season, several months later. Chrysanthemum, marigold and a few other autumn annuals are short term annuals that bloom excellently through autumn, but are not likely to bloom later.

Just like most of the cool season vegetables, most of the cool season annuals should be planted as small seedlings in cell pack. Chrysanthemum and many of the primroses, as well as cyclamen and flowering cabbage and kale that come later, should actually be planted as four inch potted plants. Needless to say, some of these are expensive relative to their respectively limited bloom seasons. Seed for nasturtium and alyssum can be sown directly into the garden. Nasturtiums seedlings in cell packs are expensive and do not transplant well.

Cabbage

61012There are those of us who can grow cabbage well, and there are the majority of us who wish we could. Mild winters allow cabbage to be grown in autumn as well as in spring; but warm weather can also compromise flavor and promote premature bolting (blooming), which ruins the heads. Cabbage demands rich soil and regular watering. If the weather is evenly mild, they dig that too.

Spring grown cabbage was planted last winter, about a month prior to the last frost. Now it is time for autumn cabbage, about a month or two before frost. New plants can be planted a bit deeper than they were originally grown, so that the wiry and fragile sections of stem below the lowest leaves can be buried. Plants should be at least a foot apart and might get larger with more space. It takes at least two months for dense round heads of common green or red cabbage to mature. Slower varieties are worth growing for their unique flavors.

The Great Pumpkin

P81007The Third Day of Creation was when it all started. Plant life was created just two days after Heaven and Earth, and Night and Day. It must have been a pretty big deal. Humans were not created until three whole days later!
After all this time since Creation, the flora of the World is still just as important as it has always been. Vegans can survive without the consumption of animal products, but no one can survive without the consumption of plants, or the consumption of animals who were sustained by plants. We breath oxygen generated by plants. We live in homes made of wood. We wear clothes made of cotton. Until relatively recent history, wood was the primary fuel for cooking and warmth through winter. Even modern fossil fuels that have replaced wood are derived partly from fossilized plants. There seems to be no end to the long list of what plants do for us.
As if all that were not enough, plants provide pleasure. Some are dazzling desert wildflowers. Some are majestic forest trees. Most are something in between. Many are invited to inhabit our gardens, landscapes and even our homes and offices. Some are bred to do what they do even better than they did originally.
David Paul, in the picture above, made a career of cabinetry, which involved all sorts of fancy and exotic woods. Most of these woods were derived from genetically unimproved trees that would have been found growing in the wild. Most were from eastern North America. Some were from other continents. Some of the favorite maple burls were specifically from New England and the Pacific Northwest. David Paul was no horticulturist, but he knew quite a bit about the flora that produced the fancy woods that he worked with.
The pumpkin is another story. David Paul grew giant pumpkins for several years in Colorado Springs merely because he enjoyed doing so. It required serious dedication throughout the entire long growing season. Yet, the pumpkins were grown only for the fun of competition. As huge as they were, they were not to be eaten. That is the epitome of growing something merely for the fun of it. This is such an excellent picture of that epic pumpkin that it was the illustration for the obituary of David Paul.

Vegetables Come And Vegetables Go

61012thumbVegetables are annuals too, just like the flowering bedding plants that get replaced seasonally. Some are technically biennials, and a few might even have the potential to be short term perennials if they ever got the chance. Yet, for the purposes of home vegetable gardens, the warm season vegetables that produced through summer should now get replaced with cool season vegetables.

Yes, pulling up tomato plants to make room for cabbage is the same dilemma as pulling up petunias to make room for pansies. No one wants to do it while the plants are still productive. Tomato plants might continue to make a few more tomatoes until frost. Yet, planting cool season vegetables should not be delayed for too long. They want to disperse their roots while the soil is still warm.

Just like warm season vegetables, many of the cool season vegetables are more efficiently grown from seed sown directly into the garden. Root vegetables like beet, carrot, radish and turnip do not recover well from transplanting. Besides, cell packs do not contain many seedlings, even if multiple seedlings within individual cells are divided. It is more practical to sow seed evenly in rows.

Baby greens can also be grown from seed because so many small plants are wanted. Unlike heading lettuce that get harvested as individual mature plants, baby greens get plucked as they develop, from plants that may never reach maturity. Chard, kale and collard greens grow well from seed, or can optionally be grown from cell pack seedlings if fewer larger leaves are preferred.

Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprout are more typically grown from cell pack seedlings because only a few individual plants are desired. One or two six packs of cabbage might be more than one garden needs, and do not cost much more than a packet of seed. They mature at different rates, so larger ones can be harvested first, while smaller ones get more time to mature.

The root vegetables work the same way, maturing somewhat variably through a few weeks. However, secondary phases planted a few weeks after primary phases can start to mature as the primary phases get depleted. ‘Cole’ crops such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage and Brussels sprouts, consume the same resources, so perform best in small groups with a bit of separation.

No Rain

P81006KFor the first time since last winter, a few raindrops were heard on the roof early last Monday morning. It was over by the time I realized that the odd and unfamiliar noise really was that of raindrops. By the time the sun came up, everything was dry. I do not even know if these few raindrops could be considered to be the first rain of the season. There were a few similar raindrops on my windshield a while back, but they were dismissed as such; merely a few random raindrops rather than a confirmed rain shower.
That is how our climate works here. The Santa Clara Valley is in a chaparral climate. Much of Southern California is in a desert climate. We do not get much rain, and it is almost exclusive to a limited rainy season that is centered around winter.
Dust and crud that accumulates on foliage through the long dry season tends to stay there until the rain rinses it away. Oddly, many native plants do not mind, and a few seem to appreciate it. Some have tomentum (fuzz) on their leaves that collects dust, particularly during the warmest and driest summer weather when foliage is most sensitive to desiccation and scorch. Others have sticky foliage that does the same. However, such foliage is remarkably efficient at allowing such crud to rinse away in the first rain. Both deciduous foliage that will be shed shortly after the rainy season starts, and evergreen foliage that will be replaced through winter, seem to prefer to start the rainy season clean. Is this just coincidental, or do the plants intentionally collect dust and crud to shade and insulate their foliage through the harshest summer weather, and then wash up for a good sunning at the last minute?

Six on Saturday: Zoning Out

 

Zonal geraniums, Pelargonium hortorum, can bloom anytime it wants to here, but really does tend to slow down somewhat through autumn and winter. As growth slows, older foliage will deteriorate and become more susceptible to rust and decay. Where exposed, older grown might succumb to frost over winter. Zonal geraniums will soon be zoning out.

Such deterioration and winter frost damage is not as bad as it looks, unless of course, frost is severe enough to kill the entire affected plants. By the time old growth looks shabby enough to be removed, new growth is probably already starting to develop down near the roots. After the last frost date (when no more frost is likely), old growth can be cut back to expose new growth that will soon replace it. Even if new growth is very minimal, growth will accelerate once exposed by the removal of old foliage, and as weather warms into spring.

That is still a few months away. For now, zonal geraniums are just beginning the process of zoning out, which is why their floral trusses are neither as big nor as abundant as they had been through summer. While they are busy with that, autumn flowers are beginning to bloom, and some of the winter flowers are getting ready for their season. Winter flowers get started in autumn because growth is slower in cooler weather, even for plants that prefer cool weather.

1. Chrysanthemum is ‘the’ classic autumn flower. These are blooming well enough in the infirmary that they will soon be relocated out into prominent spots or pots out in landscaped areas.P81006

2. Cyclamen is a winter flower that is just now starting to grow after its long summer dormancy. These rudimentary first blooms are not much to brag about, but will likely be followed by enough for these plants to also be recycled back into the landscape from which they came last spring. These white flowers really are the best of the cyclamen for now. (I did not take this picture just because white is my favorite color.)P81006+

3. Reddish orange zonal geranium, and the magenta zonal geranium below, exhibit two more of those colors that I can not identify. I will just say that it is reddish orange. I happen to like it because the color resembles that of one of my two first zonal geraniums. Mine is not so well bred, so exhibits weedier growth and less prominent bloom. Nonetheless, I like mine because it is so resilient and predictable. I cut it to the ground at the end of winter, before new growth develops, and it grows right back. This prettier garden variety would probably prefer a gentler process.P81006++

4. Red zonal geranium seems to me to be the most elegant of those blooming here presently. Of course, I do not know for certain if it is. I do not know much about color. It just seems to me that this color is not as garish as the magenta sort of color below, or as unrefined as the common reddish orange above.P81006+++

5. Magenta zonal geranium, like the reddish orange zonal geranium above, is another color that I can not identify. It is a bit too flashy for my taste. However, the other one of my two first zonal geraniums blooms with a softer hue of a similar color. As much as I prefer to not admit it, my two first zonal geraniums are still my favorites, even though they bloom in colors that I am none too keen on.P81006++++

6. White zonal geranium happens to contrast well with the dark greens of landscapes in the redwood forests. Although it is my favorite of the four zonal geraniums that are blooming here now, my first two weedy zonal geraniums that bloom with unrefined reddish orange and garish magenta are still my two favorites.P81006+++++

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/

Fringe Flower

51007Since modern cultivars became trendy several years ago, the old fashioned ‘common’ fringe flower, Loropetalum chinense, has become even more uncommon than it already was. It does not grow fast enough to function as large scale shrubbery, but slowly gets too big to work as small shrubbery. Without pruning, old plants take many years to get to fifteen feet tall.

The gracefully arching stems are outfitted with light green evergreen foliage. The simple leaves are about an inch or two long. The small white blooms have very narrow petals that hang downward like limp bits of ramen. Each bloom is actually a tuft of a few individual flowers. Bloom is most abundant in spring, and then continues sporadically through most of the year.

Modern cultivars of fringe flower are more compact, so rarely get more than five feet tall. Flowers can be white, pink, red or rosy pink. The most popular cultivars have purplish bronze foliage. Fringe flower does well as an understory plant, in the partial shade of trees. It should not be shorn, so should instead be pruned selectively to maintain its natural form.