Horridculture – Stinky Flowers

This recycled article seems to be less objectionable than most other Horridculture rants. This ugly . . . whatever it is, actually grew and bloomed for the season after this article posted, and continues to do so.

Tony Tomeo

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…

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Sweet Flag

Sweet flag might enjoy wasteful watering.

If unpaved drainage ditches and collection ponds were more common locally, sweet flag, Acorus gramineus, might be also. It can provide a nicely neat border for such waterways, where the ground is too steep and damp for mowing. It can migrate into muddy situations and even into shallow water. Its dense network of fibrosus rhizomes helps to retain mud.

‘Variegatus’, with elegantly elongated and variegated leaves, is the most popular cultivar locally. It is rare in nurseries, but occasionally shared by friends and neighbors who grow it. Propagation by division is very easy. Single shoots or clumps of shoots grow if merely plugged into damp soil or mud. ‘Pusillus’ lacks variegation, and develops stouter leaves.

Sweet flag aggressively excludes other herbaceous vegetation, but does not migrate too rapidly. Plucking shoots and plugging them elsewhere accelerates migration. The dense foliage might get a foot deep. Individual leaves are very narrow, like grass. The mundane bloom is easy to ignore and is uncommon where the soil is not often saturated or muddy.

Saturation Of Soil Distresses Roots

Some riparian plants tolerate soil saturation.

Saturation of the soil should be a rare problem within the local chaparral climates. Water is a limited resource. That is why plants that are not native or endemic to other chaparral or desert climates rely on supplemental irrigation. Many exotic species would not survive through the locally long and dry summers without it. Water is only sufficient during winter.

The unfortunate reality is that soil saturation is among the more common problems within landscapes that rely on gardeners. Although most gardeners are proficient with irrigation, some are not. They would prefer to irrigate too generously than risk desiccation. They do not assume the expense of the water, or of the plant material that succumbs to saturation.

Although significantly less common within home gardens that do not rely on professional gardeners, soil saturation is possible. It occasionally happens within pots or planters that lack adequate drainage, or if the drainage becomes clogged. Saucers that contain water that would otherwise damage decking or flooring might inhibit drainage if constantly full.

Besides within pots and planters, saturation is more likely within dense garden soil than within coarser soil. Downspouts could saturate surrounding soil through the rainy winter season. Leaky plumbing might do the same at any time, even if it is merely irrigation pipe that leaks only while operating. Of course, excessive irrigation produces most saturation.

Saturaturation deprives soil or medium of aeration. Roots avoid soil or medium that lacks adequate aeration. Trees and large shrubbery therefore disperse most of their roots near the surface of saturated soil. Such shallow root dispersion limits stability. The expansion of such shallow roots displaces and fractures pavement and curbs, and heaves lawn turf.

Excessive irrigation causes soil saturation during summer. Excessive frequency is more likely to cause saturation than excessive volumes of water. Unfortunately, it is impossible to prescribe appropriate irrigation schedules and application rates. Climate, soil type and plant material are all relevant considerations. Moisture requirements change seasonally, and from year to year, as plants mature.

Suckers For Street Trees

Propagation can become a bad habit.

Tony Tomeo

P90804This grand sycamore has likely been here since the third day of Genesis. A few of the top branches got broken off when Noah’s Ark floated over. When I was a little kid, it was on the edge of a vacant field where road debris was dumped, and older kids rode their dirt bikes. Now it is on the western edge of the parking lot of Felton Covered Bridge Park. I write about it sometimes.

California Sycamore‘, ‘Hanging Gardens Of Babylon‘, ‘Nature Is Messy‘ and ‘Tufts‘ are some of the articles that feature this exquisite specimen. The last three of these examples describe some of the difficulties of old age for sycamores. Something that I may not have mentioned in these article though, is that such mature sycamores eventually develop root suckers.

I use the term ‘suckers’ loosely. For those of us…

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Six on Saturday: Cannas – Mostly

This is the first ‘Six on Saturday’ post that I ever reblogged. I only do so because the post that I should reblog was somehow already reblogged. I do not know how, why or when. Anyway, this ‘Six on Saturday’ post is timely because the cannas are blooming now. Since posting these pictures three years ago, I identified #3 as Canna musifolia, and #5 as ‘Pretoria’. #6 is still ‘Wyoming’. I have no idea what #4 is.

Tony Tomeo

There are only four pictures of cannas here. I could have gotten two more for an even six, but would have needed to get them elsewhere. These six pictures were obtained within one of the landscapes at work. Except for pruning a grapevine and flowering cherry trees, I do not work in this garden, so can not take credit for these cannas. I will take credit for the pictures though.

However, I probably should have taken pictures that show the foliage in conjunction with the bloom. Without the foliage there is not much to distinguish the big orange flowers of the last two pictures from each other.

1. Kangaroo paw, Anigozanthus, is one of my lesser favorite perennials, but happens to be one of the more practical for the chaparral climate. Besides, this one happens to be rather pretty. I do not know what cultivar, or even what species…

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Six on Saturday: Agave Surprise

Several species of Agave inhabit the landscapes here. Only a few are identified. Some of those that are unidentified could likely be identified if their identities were important to us. For some, identification would be as simple as researching our records. I know what Agave attenuata is only because there is nothing else like it. #3 is likely a variegated and dwarf cultivar of Agave americana. #6 is the surprise of these Six. It is a familiar species that was formerly identified as another genus. Although its relation to the Family should be obvious in regard to physiology, it is not visually similar to others of the Agave genus. I still know it by its older and perhaps less accurate designation. It works for me.

1. Pups of an unidentified agave that was removed last year are a concern because others just like this continue to develop where the agave was relocated from a few years earlier!

2. The parent agave got removed and dumped next to a greenwaste pile after gophers ate its base, but somehow survived. It fell over only recently. Maybe other gophers found it.

3. Gophers also ate the base of this other unidentified agave, which, like the other agave, seems to have survived somehow. Fortunately, it did not leave undesirable pups behind.

4. Agave attenuata arrived as a big cutting with a long stem, and by odd circumstances. The severed stem generated a big secondary rosette, which is now generating four pups.

5. The pup to the lower right of this unidentified agave indicates that its primary rosette may be about bolt and bloom. Although most agaves are monocarpic, their pups survive.

6. Surprise! Fresh from 1985, tuberose, which was formerly Polianthes tuberosa, is now Agave amica. We just installed three, with two more still canned. I hope for many pups.

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/

Tipu Tree

Sidewalks and curbs prefer tipu trees.

It may not get too tall, but with appropriate pruning, the tipu tree, Tipuana tipu, spreads a broad canopy high enough to be a good street tree. A mature tree is not much more than thirty feet tall and at least as broad. Roots are not too aggressive. A slight bit of mess is rarely but actually more likely to be a problem. The pale yellowish flowers that fall early in summer are followed by a few seeds. Not too long after the seeds stop falling, the deciduous foliage starts to fall. The soft green leaves are pinnately compound, with eleven to seventeen leaflets that are about an inch and a half long. Tipu tree is still uncommon, but really should be more popular than it is.

Taking It To The Streets

Tipu tree is the topic for tomorrow.

No matter how unique the individual gardens are, conforming street trees really unify a neighborhood. Streets of tract homes are typically planted with a common street tree that is complimentary to the architectural styles of the homes, and is complaisant to the difficulties of life at the curb. Neighborhoods of mixed architectural styles sometimes have difficulty finding a tree that suits every home, so often select two or more options. Older neighborhoods are not quite as selective about conforming street trees because so many various trees get mixed in over the years.

Before selecting a street tree, it is best to inquire with the particular municipality about designated street trees. Home owners associations generally install their own trees where needed, with little or no regard for the preferences of individual residents. Some urban neighborhoods (that are not home owner associations) are nearly as selective, requiring individual home owners to maintain a specific street tree or trees. Others do not require street trees, but limit selection for those who desire them. Selection is very often limited to only a single species.

There are of course many rural and unincorporated neighborhoods without limitations for street trees, and neighborhoods where limitations simply are not enforced. However, selection should still be limited to trees that are appropriate for curbside planting. Such trees should have high branch structure so that they can be pruned for clearance above the largest of trucks that can use the roadway. They should be reasonably clean, and not produce anything that could be messy on cars parked below. Roots should be complaisant with concrete curbs and sidewalks, particularly where space is limited. Foliage and bark must be resilient to harsh exposure and enhanced glare (from surrounding pavement).

London plane (sycamore) and crape myrtle trees are the two most common street trees planted by landscapers, and are the most commonly pre-designated street trees, but are actually not the best of choices. London plane is popular among landscapers because it can survive the neglect that landscapers are notorious for, but has aggressive roots that eventually damage concrete, especially since landscapers waste so much water and keep the soil saturated. Crape myrtle is remarkably colorful both in bloom and with fall color, and has remarkably complaisant roots, but does not get tall enough for adequate clearance, and often gets infested with insects that drop sticky honeydew on parked cars.

This was the topic for yesterday.

Horridculture – Microtrees

THIS is why I am none too keen on crape myrtle.

Tony Tomeo

P90731We arborists happen to like trees. That is why we are arborists. Most of us also understand that trees are not appropriate for every situation, or where they are not appreciated. There is no point in planting a tree where it will just get cut down by someone else who does not like it. We want trees to be happy. We also want those who live with them to be happy with their trees.
Trees are ‘generally’ desirable over parking lots and roadways. They provide shade that cools the pavement during hot summer weather. Arborists naturally prefer trees that get big enough to make substantial shadows. It is also important for such trees to get high enough to be pruned for minimal clearance above the biggest vehicles to use the roadways or paring lots. They should also be pruned above streetlamps and signs.
Clearance of signs is a serious problem…

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Duckweed

Duckweed can thoroughly obscure a pond.

Ducks somehow find water. They eventually visit most home garden ponds that they can fit into. Duckweed, Lemna minor, is likely to come with them. It adheres to waterfowl and other wildlife for that purpose. It proliferates very efficiently, and almost typically becomes a nuisance. Eventually, proliferation in a healthy pond should stabilize to a tolerable rate.

Individual duckweed plants are tiny. Their oval leaves are typically less than a quarter of an inch long. Each floating leaf extends its single root less than three quarters of an inch into the water below. Plants produce no more than four rooted leaves before dividing into a few smaller plants to repeat the process. Bloom and subsequent seed are uncommon.

As a floating aquatic plant, prolific duckweed might obscure koi and submergent aquatic plants within garden ponds. However, it also helps stabilize healthy aquatic ecosystems. In fact, it is useful for bioremediation of agricultural and industrial applications. It absorbs detrimental substances from water, while producing fodder and biomass for composting.