Its plump and inch-long acorns are misleading. Tanoak, Notholithocarpus densiflorus, is not actually an oak. Otherwise, it would be a species of Quercus. Regardless, its wood is potentially as practical for furniture and flooring as wood of other oaks. It also works very well as firewood. Historically, tanoak bark was useful for tanning leather, hence its name.
Although native and somewhat common in some coastal forests, tanoak is almost never a choice for intentional planting. Those that inhabit home gardens likely either grew from acorns, or were there prior to development of the landscapes. Young trees can grow fast to more than forty feet tall, typically with conical form. Mature trees might get twice as tall.
Tall trunks of tanoak are elegantly upright, and eventually develop lofty branch structure. Their gray or brownish bark is handsomely furrowed. The somewhat leathery evergreen foliage produces potentially objectionable tomentum. The dentate leaves are two to four inches long. Sadly, tanoak is very susceptible to Sudden Oak Death Syndrome (SODS).
Gardening was easier before suburban lifestyles became so passe. Now, larger modern urban homes occupy smaller urban parcels. Modern fences are taller to enhance privacy for such densely situated homes. Garden space is both minimal and shaded by so much infrastructure. Ironically, shady evergreen foliage is now more practical for such gardens.
Deciduous trees are still practical for single story suburban homes on suburban parcels. They provide cooling shade for summer, and allow warming sunshine through for winter. Smaller evergreen trees and shrubs closer to fences obscure unwanted scenery beyond, without shading homes during winter. Such strategy is facilitated by sufficiency of space.
It is not so practical for confined and modern urban gardens though. Space is insufficient for big deciduous shade trees. Smaller trees can not get tall enough to shade roofs of tall modern homes. Insulation of modern homes is fortunately so efficient that summer shade and winter sunshine are not as advantageous as they still are for older suburban homes.
Therefore, most trees in modern home gardens primarily obscure unwanted scenery and provide privacy, rather than merely provide shade. Not only should they be proportionate to their gardens, but such trees should also retain evergreen foliage as low as the tops of associated fences. Some of the more practical options are actually evergreen shrubbery.
Large evergreen trees, such as Southern magnolia, California pepper, camphor, various palms and some eucalypti, are too big for some confined modern home gardens. English laurel, New Zealand tea tree, hopseed bush, various arborvitae, and particularly various pittosporum function as small evergreen trees that are proportionate to confined gardens.
As practical as evergreen foliage is for modern urban home gardens, it requires as much maintenance as other forms of vegetation. Contrary to common belief, evergreen foliage sheds. It is just sneaky about doing so slowly throughout the year. Additional foliage also innately adds shade to already shady situations, which can complicate other gardening. To become compact evergreen trees, shrubbery requires directional pruning.
After this article posted in 2019, the new fake lawn was installed, but with a very minor glitch. The quantity of material was very slightly insufficient to finish the lawn. A small bare patch was to remain until a small piece of material arrived to patch it. Instead, someone remembered the sample at the yard, which Rhody had already claimed. A piece of the sample patched the bare spot, and the lawn was complete. Rhody, however, was temporarily annoyed by the deprivation of his new lawn. Later, we went to where the new lawn had been installed, and Rhody somehow located his patch of lawn. He was pleased to flip around and sprawl and do what little dogs do on their lawns, and finally claimed it before we left, just so that everyone knows that he owns it.
A new lawn is getting installed at work. Yes, installed. It will not be grown like lawns were decades ago. It will be unrolled and fastened into place, not like sod, but more like carpet. It will be synthetic artificial turf. After considerable deliberation, it was determined to be the most practical option for the particular application. The real turf that was there before succumbed to excessive traffic above and very sandy soil below. The contractor who will be installing this lawn sent a sample piece of it prior to the final installation. We actually do not know why we got a sample, since we already know what the particular artificial turf is like. There was some concern that it would get too warm in sunlight, but it arrived with no explanation. It was unrolled onto the asphalt driveway at our maintenance shops, and surrounded with cones to protect it…
This is the one that got away; or actually, the one that was never caught. It bloomed after I got the pictures for the ‘Six on Saturday’ post for this morning. It could be the same unopened bud in picture #3 of the Six on Saturday post, as it is now blooming. If not the same bud, it is on the same plant, and now looks even more like the common ‘Simplicity’ rose. It is not my favorite, but I did not select it.
That is how the recovery nursery works. It is where we bring salvageable plants that need to be removed from their landscapes. Some were in the way of other projects. Some were not the right plants for their particular situations. Some were even donated by neighbors who thought we might be able to utilize them somewhere in the landscapes. Some of plants brought in are not…
Exotic plant species that appreciate endemic climates and soils seem like they should be the next best options to native plant species. A few unfortunately naturalize aggressively enough to displace native plants species, and interfere with the natural ecosystem. A few can not naturalize without their preferred pollinators that did not come with them from their origin. Some have potential to naturalize, but either refrain, or are civil about doing so. Some that are invasive within landscapes are not as invasive in the wild, particularly if they need more water than they get from local weather. I occasionally find exotic plant species, including a few that I am surprised to find.
1. Sticky monkey flower is the ‘+1’. It is the only one of these six that is native rather than exotic. Its odd name leaves one pondering how a monkey is involved and why it is sticky.
2. Mock orange seems to be naturalized, but contrary to common belief, may actually be native. A single flowered variety and a double flowered variety may be different species.
3. Jupiter’s beard is most certainly exotic and naturalized, but does not seem to be polite about it. It can get quite invasive. However, it does not get far from irrigated landscapes.
4. Iris remains a mystery to me. I grew this same seemingly simple species while in high school, but have never identified it. It naturalizes, but only where it gets sufficient water.
5. Spanish lavender is obviously not native since it is from, well, Spain. It can naturalize, but is not aggressive about it. The honeybee is much more aggressively naturalized here.
6. Crinum, like the Iris, is unidentified. I am not even sure if it is a Crinum. It grows wild with sticky monkey flower, in sandy soil that gets dusty, dry and warm through summer.
If only it did not like such regular watering, the common white calla, Zantedeschia aethiopica, would be quite a sustainable perennial. Once established, it can be difficult to get rid of, particularly in well watered gardens. Even unwatered plants that die to the ground through dry summer weather are merely dormant and waiting for rain to regenerate and bloom.
The remarkably elegant blooms stand about two or three feet tall, each with a single spathe loosely wrapped as a flaring cone around a spadix that supports the indistinguishable diminutive flowers. The bright white spathe is often more than four inches wide, and can be twice as wide in shade. The spadix is only about three or four inches long, and as yellow as Big Bird. The spongy dark green leaves are about a foot or two tall.
‘Green Goddess’ blooms with a longer and recurved spathe with a green tip and margins. Colorful callas are actually different specie. All parts of all types of callas are incidentally toxic.
Flowers add such variety of color and fragrance to the garden that it is no wonder that they are so popularly cut and brought from the garden into the home. Even though larger quantities of flowers can be purchased from markets or florists without depleting those blooming in the garden, growing our own can be so much more rewarding. We may not be able to grow all the varieties of flowers that commercial growers can grow in greenhouses or other climates, but we can grow many other varieties of flowers that commercial flower growers do not provide.
Many flowers can be grown specifically for cutting, like vegetables are grown to be harvested. Some, like cosmos and daisies, can be grown in such abundance in mass plantings that it is easy to cut a few without anyone missing them. Other flowers, like roses and New Zealand tea tree, are merely by-products of plants that also function as shrubs, vines, trees and even ground covers.
Peruvian lilies are some of the best cut flowers, not only because they last so long after getting cut, but also because they bloom so much through such a long season that there are usually enough flowers for the garden as well as the home. The taller and unfortunately rare types grown by commercial flower growers are better for cutting than the more common ‘garden varieties’ are.
Callas are likewise among the better prolific cut flowers, but only bloom white. The colored types are neither as prolific nor as reliable. Believe it or not, lily-of-the-Nile makes good cut flowers when they bloom white or blue in the middle of summer. They are just awkward because their blooms are so round.
Gladioli are good either as cut flowers or for color in the garden, but unless they are planted in large quantities, they are not prolific enough for both. Like vegetables, they can be planted in phases (in season) to prolong the bloom season. Unfortunately, they need to be planted annually because they do not often naturalize. Those that do naturalize will synchronize their bloom season after the first season.
Several types of iris bloom more generously, and some are happy to naturalize, but only a few types are good cut flowers like Dutch iris are. Some bearded iris wilt within hours of getting cut.
Goodness! Perhaps I should avoid reading my more infuriating articles. The good news is that the mock orange are now gone, and the elderberry, although still mutilated, are at least lower and less obtrusive.
Pollarding and coppicing are proper pruning techniques. If you think you are an arborist who believes otherwise, do not waste my time arguing about it. More than likely, you are neither as educated nor as experienced as I am with such matters, or you work exclusively with trees for which such procedures would be very inappropriate.
Well, yes, pollarding and coppicing are very inappropriate for the vast majority of trees and shrubs out there. Furthermore, even for those trees and shrubs that they are appropriate for, such procedures are very rarely done properly here in California. Most attempts at pollarding and coppicing are really horrid! Take these blue elderberries and mock oranges for examples. They were mutilated last summer to improve the view of the historic Felton Covered Bridge. It sort of accomplished that objective, although the improved view of the Bridge was then cluttered with the disfigured and mostly…
The mostly white and blue common passion flower likely remains the most popular. After all, it is the weirdest. Elaborate and disproportionate floral parts imply that it is of another planet. Red passion flower, Passiflora racemosa, although less peculiar, is perhaps a bit more colorful. Its brick red flowers bloom randomly for as long as weather remains warm.
Flowers are about three or four inches wide. They develop in open racemes that seem to spread out somewhat evenly over the exterior of their foliage. Bloom is not profuse, but is somewhat continuous until autumn. Newer flowers replace older flowers within the same racemes. Leaves are as wide as their flowers, with three blunt lobes and axillary tendrils.
The lushly evergreen foliage can get shabby through winter, or completely ruined by just mild frost. It regenerates vigorously though. Aggressive pruning as winter finishes delays bloom, but promotes vigorous growth. Vines can potentially reach more than twenty feet. Fruit is rare without manual pollination. Fruit flavor can be bland without tropical warmth.
Regardless of how appealing many of them are in home gardens and landscapes, vines are flagrantly exploitative. They rely on shrubbery, trees or anything they can climb on for support. As they reach the tops of their supports, they extend their foliar canopies above. Vines have no reservations about overwhelming and maybe killing their own supporters.
Vines climb with clinging roots, twining stems, tendrils, twining leaves, or even thorns or spines. Some vines are annuals or perennials. The most aggressive or destructive sorts are woody plants. Some creep along the ground while young, and then climb when they find support. Some mature to support their own weight as they lose their original support.
English ivy and Algerian ivy, in their juvenile forms, can be practical ground cover plants. However, when they encounter shrubbery, trees or buildings, they become clinging vines that can overwhelm their supports, and ruin infrastructure. As they mature, clinging vines evolve into shrubbier and obtrusively bulky adult growth that blooms and produces seed.
Boston ivy, which incidentally is not actually ivy, is more practical as a clinging vine than the other ivies. It does not grow as ground cover anyway. Nor does it develop bulky adult growth. However, it also has limitations. Because it attaches to its supports with clinging tendrils, it is only practical for surfaces that it can not wreck, such as reinforced concrete.
Bougainvillea is a delightful and shrubby vine. It neither clings to surfaces nor grips onto support by twining. It simply generates long and vigorous canes that eventually lie down onto its surroundings. Long thorns help to anchor these canes in place. Canes should be satisfied with trellises, but sometimes mingle with shrubbery or trees, or spill over fences.
Carolina jessamine, lilac vine and mandevilla climb with twining stems, but are relatively docile. Star jasmine, which performs well both as a ground cover plant and as a climbing vine, can crush flimsy lattice with its twining vines. Wisteria might crush substantial trellis beams. Passion flower climbs with wiry tendrils, but can be overwhelmingly voluminous.