Horridculture – Stumpy

P90814Among pines, firs, redwoods and most excurrent trees (with central leader trunks), stubs or stumps of limbs that were shed are common and more apparent than they are among decurrent trees (which branch into many main limbs). The older lower stubs slowly but eventually decay and fall away as the trunks compartmentalize (heal over) where they were formerly attached.

However, wild trees are rarely completely without such stubs. As the older lower stubs are shed, newer stubs develop higher up. The worst of their stubs get pruned away only when more refined landscapes are developed around such trees, and they get pruned accordingly. If the trees get groomed regularly every few years or so, not many new stubs get a chance to develop.

When pruning out viable limbs, they must be cut cleanly from the trunk or supporting limb, without stubs. Since they do not deteriorate slowly before falling away, the trunk or supporting limb has no time to start the process of compartmentalizing (healing) over where such limbs were attached. Cutting away cleanly eliminates as much obstruction to that process as possible.

Pruning necrotic stubs from trunks of excurrent trees is not quite so important because the trunks have a tendency to start the process of compartmentalization as such stubs are decaying, and can actually constrict and crush stubs if they do not fall away efficiently enough. Nonetheless, necrotic stubs get pruned out when trees are groomed, just because they are unappealing.

So, no matter what, stubs should not be left when pruning. It is not complicated. It is actually easier to control a saw when it is up against a tree trunk or main limb. Yet, many who do not know better, and many who really should, more often than not, leave trees looking like this fir tree.

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Naked Lady Amaryllis

90821From formerly dormant bulbs just below where their foliage shriveled in the warmth of last spring, the naked brown floral stalks of naked lady, Amaryllis belladonna, grow fast to about two feet tall. They bloom suddenly with a few or several garish pink lily flowers about three inches long. They are sneaky about it too. Without foliage, and prior to flashy bloom, the bare stalks are easy to miss.

Even though individual flowers do not last long, the collective bloom lingers a bit longer as newer flowers bloom to replace those that bloomed slightly earlier on the same stalks. They are nice as cut flowers. The minimal floral fragrance is usually unnoticed, so can be a surprise if the weather happens to be conducive to the dispersion of the light fragrance of exceptionally abundant bloom.

Foliage does not regenerate until after bloom, and should wait until after the first rain of autumn. Where winters are colder, it waits until early spring, only to die back before summer. The long strap shaped leaves resemble those of lily-of-the-Nile, but are a bit softer. If ruined by frost, they try again. The tops of the two or three inch wide bulbs are visible at the surface of the soil while dormant.

Summer Dormancy Is No Mystery

90821thumbCalifornia buckeye, Aesculus californica, is an enigma. How does it survive while defoliated for so much of the year? Not all are so mysterious. Those that live in sheltered or forested situations behave like normal deciduous trees, by defoliating in autumn, and refoliating in spring, after a brief winter dormancy. Those that are more exposed in warm and windy situations make us wonder.

After their brief winter dormancy, exposed California buckeye trees refoliate early in spring, as they should. Then, only a few month later, they defoliate through the warmest and most arid part of summer, which might be a few months long! As the weather cools and the rain starts, they refoliate briefly for autumn, only to defoliate in time for their winter dormancy. They are ‘twice deciduous’.

How do they photosynthesize enough to survive? It seems like they would consume more resources in this process that they could generate. They obviously know what they are doing, since they survive quite nicely in the wild. Furthermore, they are not the only species that can do this. Sycamores sometimes do it if the weather is just so, or if they get infested with anthracnose too severely.

Most deciduous plants defoliate only in winter because that is the worst time to try to photosynthesize. There is less sunlight available while the days are shorter, and the weather is cloudier. Frost, wind and snow would cause much more damage if deciduous plants retained their foliage. Defoliation is how they accommodate the weather. It is no different for plants that defoliate in summer.

Much of California is within chaparral or even desert climates. Native plants, as well as plants that are from similar climates, know how to live here. If they happen to be in a hot and dry situation, some may go dormant until the weather improves, even if they do not go dormant through the mild winters. This is why wild arums and some unwatered acanthus have died back to the ground, and why naked lady amaryllis will remain naked until the first rains in autumn.

No Cherry On Top

P90811Weeping flowering cherry is another type of tree that almost never gets appreciated like it should. Like so many Japanese maples, they get planted into situation where so-called ‘gardeners’ shear them into nondescript globs of worthless foliage that only get in the way. Some get shorn so regularly that they are deprived of bloom. Their form and bloom are their two main assets.

The climate here is not easy on them either. Although comfortably mild, the climate is also arid. This aridity enhances the potential for sun scald of exposed bark. Because upper limbs bend over to hang back downward, their bark is more exposed than that of upright flowering cherries. Consequently, upper limbs are often scalded and ruined, disfiguring the remaining canopy.

Pruning can be complicated. Removal of scalded upper growth exposes inner growth that is more sensitive to scald. It is sometimes necessary to leave damaged upper growth until it gets replaced from below by newer growth. Regular pruning to remove as much of the superfluous lower growth as possible should stimulate more vigorous growth among the stems that remain.

This is really the best technique for preventing scald among upper growth. It may sound silly, but pruning from below to concentrate growth into fewer stems that extend from or through the top of the canopy keeps the top of the canopy healthy and resilient to scald. It also elevates the pendulous canopy that needs to be pruned very regularly for vertical clearance anyway.

It is not easy to see in this picture, but this small weeping cherry tree is developing two distinct canopies. The original upper canopy was damaged by scald and is now disfigured. It is mostly to the upper left of center of the picture. A more symmetrical inner canopy that is developing where superfluous inner growth was pruned out last winter is evident below and to the right.

If there were not a walkway so close to the tree, and I were not concerned with maintaining vertical clearance, I could prune the upper canopy back over a few years, and subordinate it to the healthier lower canopy as it grows through it. Instead, I will prune out most of the inner canopy, leaving only a few vigorous stems that can replace what is missing in the upper canopy.

There is no need to be concerned with it now. The lower stems are not too obtrusive yet. They can bloom next spring, and get pruned out next summer before they really do get obtrusive.

Memorial Tree Update

This is reblogged from ‘Felton League’, so some bits will be out of context. It is shared here because this is where all other updates about the Memorial Tree got posted.

Felton League

This is the best season so far! Because this is the first update on this blog, there is nothing here to compare the progress of this small Memorial Tree to; but links to older updates on another blog can be found at the older (reblogged) article, ‘May 2‘. Some of those updates link to even more updates. This little Memorial Tree has had quite a history in Felton Covered Bridge Park.

It is actually the fourth tree in this
particular spot. The original black oak was run over by a car many
years ago, leaving the site vacant for a long time. An Eastern red
cedar was planted on New Year’s Day in 2013, but later the following
summer, succumbed to what dogs do to small trees. A bigleaf maple was
planted the following winter, but also succumbed in its second year.

In the last few years since…

View original post 330 more words

The Grass Is Not Always Greener

P90810KThe lawn around the three small but gnarly oaks that were featured this morning in ‘Six on Saturday: Do Not Sit On Tree‘ was not always so perfectly green and uniform. Only a few months ago, it was real grass. Well, it was ‘sort of’ real grass. It was mostly dusty sand with some grass growing it in. There were weeds too, but even they were not very happy to be there.

Maintenance was ridiculous. Because some of the grass was actually alive, it needed to be mown regularly, which sometimes rutted damp soil, but more often blew dust from dry soil into the surrounding buildings. Because the soil retained such minimal moisture, the lawn needed to be irrigated regularly; but because of the old oaks trees, it could not be irrigated too generously.

The only reason that the lawn was there at all was because it got so much use. No one seemed to mind that it was such a dusty mess. The lawn dutifully served its purpose for half a century. Nonetheless, a better lawn was needed.

New sod would have been excellent, but would eventually succumb to the same wear and tear that was so brutal for the original lawn. There was also concern that the irrigation needed to sustain a turf lawn, particularly a new turf lawn, would eventually distress the aging oaks within. Ultimately, artificial turf was selected as an alternative to the real turf of the original lawn.

Rather than sow artificial seed for the artificial turf, artificial sod was installed, just like carpeting. It was remarkably quick and easy, and no one seems to mind that it is . . . well, artificial.

Because the old oaks are accustomed to the regularly scheduled irrigation of the original lawn, they will get watered by hose for the next few years, until they adapt to the lack of irrigation. (Of course, they will not get irrigated nearly as regularly as the original lawn was, but might get occasional deep irrigation just a few times through summer for only the next few summers.)

As resilient and undemanding as artificial turf is, it is not perfect. Almost immediately after installation, two melted spots appeared where guest had barbecued in portable grill. We do not know what happened to cause the damage, but we do know that the lawn will not repair itself.

Six on Saturday: Do Not Sit On Tree

 

1. Seriously!P90810

2. Allow me to explain. This is one of three small but very gnarly coast live oaks that grew from the roots of a single tree that was cut down or fell several decades ago. Because the trunks of the three trees are so horizontal and sculptural, children climb on them. Sometimes many children sit on the trunk of this particular tree to get their group picture taken. We had been concerned about how this might compromise the stability of the tree for quite a while. Before we constructed suspension devices to prop it and one of the other two trees with, it destabilized and sagged! We pruned much of the canopy away to eliminate some of the weight that exerts so much leverage against the root system, and propped the trunk with a saw horse. We hope that the tree survives the loss of roots that likely broke away in the process, but would not be surprised if it does not. We are not ready to cut it down. It and the two other trees are so well known and popular among guests. The sign is visible to the right. I will explain the colored yarn on the trunk in a moment.P90810+

3. The subject tree is to the lower right in this picture. The two other trees are sprawled to the upper left. The tree that extends farthest to the left will get propped as well. All three have been pruned more aggressively than they should have been to eliminate much of the weight.P90810++

4. The yarn on the trunks is decoration that the camp counselors installed prior to the arrival of the guests. It must have taken a long time to wrap this much yarn around the trunks, and there is a whole lot more in many other trees. I wrote about it earlier in ‘Boom! Zap! Wow! Bam! Zing!‘.P90810+++

5. This is a completely different coast live oak, with a completely different problem. It needed to be pruned for clearance from an adjacent roadway and walkway. The major limb that was here supported less than one tenth of the total canopy, but because it had been cut back repeatedly, it was unusually bulky. Consequently, the shiner that remains is about as wide ad the remaining trunk! That is VERY arboriculturally incorrect. To make matters worse, the cut was not at the correct angle, so eliminated the lower half of the ‘collar’ that is supposed to expand to compartmentalize (heal) the shiner. The problem now is that by the time the shiner heals, the interior of the trunk may be so rotten that the tree may need to be removed anyway. The limb needed to be removed. The only other option was to remove the entire tree.P90810++++

6. Nothing was done to this coast live oak. It grew like this naturally. Although not an exemplary specimen, it certainly is impressive.P90810+++++

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/

Rhubarb

60810+It is not easy to get a pretty picture of rhubarb, Rheum rhabarbarum. The big and sometimes flabby leaves are only impressive to those who know about the succulent petioles (leaf stalks) below. The petioles do not look like much either, until they are cooked into pies or garnet colored preserves. Shabby stalks of tiny flowers rarely bloom, and should get cut out to favor more foliar growth.

Traditional rhubarb stalks are mostly green with a red blush, and a distinctively tart flavor. Some modern varieties with richer red color are not quite as vigorous, and have milder flavor. Varieties with light green petioles are probably the most productive, but are not so richly colored when cooked. Tender young stalks are preferred to firmer mature stalks. Leaves are toxic, so they are not eaten.

Petioles can be harvested as soon as they are big enough in late spring, and as late as autumn. The outer leaves get plucked first, which leaves smaller inner leaves to continue growing. Plucking most of the leaves gets more of the tender inner stalks, but also slows growth so that new stalks may not be ready for a few months. Rhubarb likes rich soil, sunny exposure, and plenty of water.

Forage To Find Unexpected Fruit

Felton League, the Facebook group of the homeless and their friends in Felton, California, briefly mentions the source of some interesting, but typically overlooked fruits that can be found in the wild or unrefined landscapes. Blackberries, American plums and elderberries collected from rural roadsides have produced award winning jellies for the Santa Cruz Mountains Harvest Festival.
Unlike the fruit that so many of us put so much effort into growing in our home gardens, these fruits and others are productive without any help. They are commonly overlooked only because they are so easy to ignore. In some ways, they are inferior to ‘garden variety’ fruit; but they also have certain advantages. Free fruit that takes no more effort than harvesting is obviously a good thing.
The most common wild blackberries are actually Himalayan blackberries that have naturalized. Unfortunately, they do not compare well to garden variety blackberries. They are not as abundant, and are difficult to pick from the wickedly thorny and rampant canes. Blue elderberries really are native, and are just as good or maybe better than black elderberries from eastern North America.
Figs, olives, grapes, rhubarb, prickly pears, apples and various citrus can sometimes be found in abandoned or neglected landscapes. Walnut, almond and wild plum trees sometimes grow from self-sown seed. Purple leaf plum is not always as fruitless as it is purported to be. Then there are all the other ornamental plants that happen to produce fruit that is useful to those willing to try it.
For example, Australian brush cherry, English hawthorn, Indian hawthorn (‘Majestic Beauty’), strawberry tree and even common freeway iceplant all produce fruit that can be cooked into luscious jelly. Of course, no fruit, particularly unfamiliar fruit, should be eaten or experimented with until it is confirmed to be safe for consumption. Many fruits really are toxic! Also, fruit should not be harvested from where it might be illegal to do so, such as private property or parks.

NOTE: This is an old article. Felton League is no longer a group on Facebook, but is now a blog here on WordPress.B90803K

Horridculture – Stinky Flowers

P90807Wednesday is my day to rant. However, I neglected to get out to find a picture or even a topic to rant about. Instead, I found this ugly little . . . what I believe to be a dormant rhizome. It looks more like a tuber or a tuberous root, and very well could be. Someone at work brought it from his home garden, where countless more naturalized and became aggressively invasive.

I do not know for certain what it is. I only know that it is some species of Arum. We refer to it as the ‘death arum’ because, while in bloom, it smells like death. Yet, it seems to be immune to death. It is extremely resilient. All attempts to eradicate any of it have only angered it, and accelerated its migration into other formerly uninfested parts of the garden. Now we have it here.

I am told that the deciduous rhizomes . . . or whatever they are, remain dormant through summer, and then regenerate foliage once the rain starts in autumn. Their visually unimpressive but olfactorily objectionable flowers bloom by late spring or early summer. Foliage and bloom shrivel in warm summer weather, and the remaining seeded stalks collapse shortly afterward.

The thin rubbery leaves are intricately lobed and spotted, which is very distinct from foliage of other arums. Each thin bloom is comprised of a sickly greenish white spathe and a comparably sickly pale tan or yellowish spadix. Seeds are contained in tiny round fruits that resemble capers, that linger briefly on top of the spotted stalks of faded blooms. It all is as weird as it sounds.

I will can (pot) the rhizome . . . (let’s just leave it at that) before autumn, and see what it does. I certainly do not want to plant it into the ground where it can get established and proliferate. Perhaps I will just grow it as a potted foliar oddity, and snip off floral stalks before they bloom. Perhaps I should send it to my colleague in Los Angeles, three hundred and sixty miles away!

Like many of the genera in the family Araceae, what we know as the death arum exhibits an objectionable floral fragrance because it is pollinated by flies. It does what it must to attract the pollinators whom it relies on. The technique is obviously effective, because seeded fruit develops, and the seed within gets dispersed farther and faster than the rhizomes ( . . . ) can migrate.