Leaves Are Starting To Fall

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Falling leaves are messy before colorful.

Autumn color is different every year. Sometimes, early and sudden cool weather after a mild summer promotes good foliar color that lingers longer while relaxed trees slowly realize that they should probably start to defoliate. Sometimes, early wind and rain accelerate defoliation of otherwise good color. There are a few variables that trees must adapt their performance to.

Warm and arid weather two weeks ago started the process of defoliation suddenly and a maybe slightly early this year. Even before the weather gets cool, deciduous trees are already starting to shed the oldest of their foliage that they do not need in order to hold their youngest foliage a bit later into autumn. Evergreen trees do the same to limit desiccation.

Slightly breezy weather that was so pleasant after such heat was just enough to start dislodging deteriorating foliage. Now, leaves are already starting to fall before they develop much color. Redwoods and pines are likewise dropping browned needles. Fortunately, trees that are the most colorful in autumn tend to hold their foliage better until the weather gets cooler.

It is impossible to predict how colorful trees will be this autumn; although if storms are as healthy as predicted, the mild temperatures may inhibit color, while wind and rain dislodge colorful foliage. Regardless, it is already time to start raking falling leaves and needles. They can get messy, and when the rain starts, they can stain pavement and clog gutters.

When more foliage falls later in autumn, it will need to be raked from ground cover, surviving portions of lawn, and any other plants that collect it, so that it does not shade out the sunlight.

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.

Schedule Bloom For Every Season

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There is bloom for every season.

Early spring bloom is best. That is simply how the schedule of the majority of flowers works. The priority of flowers is pollination. Pollination is necessary for the production of seed. The production of seed and any associated fruit takes time. Seed, whether contained within fruit or not, then disperses before winter. After soaking and chilling through winter, seed germinates for the next spring.

For a variety of reasons, some flowers prefer to bloom earlier, later, or randomly through the year. Some are from climates in which they want to avoid harsh weather of a particular season. Some rely on pollinators who are active for a limited time. Regardless of the reasons for their bloom schedule, early, late and randomly blooming flowers add color to the garden before and after spring.

Many flowers that bloom randomly through the year tend to bloom better and later with a bit of persuasion. Cutting roses regularly seems innocent enough, but actually deprives rose plants of their efforts to produce seed. So does deadheading to remove their developing fruit structures that contain seed. Plants respond by trying to bloom again or more prolifically than they would otherwise.

Lily of the Nile reliably provided much of the color through the middle of summer. Many gardens have some. Some gardens have many. Their color range is limited, but effective. Now that they are done, canna, dahlia and delphinium should continue to bloom until frost. Mexican blue sage that took a break after spring bloom should bloom even better as summer ends, and into early autumn.

The bloom schedule of many flowers of the Compositae (or Asteraceae) family also coincide with late summer. Some have been blooming since spring. Some just started recently. These include but are not limited to cone flower, blanket flower, zinnia, cosmos, coreopsis, sunflower and Japanese anemone. African daisy and euryops daisy often bloom well after the earliest rains of autumn.

Eucalypti that bloom colorfully, such as red flowering gum, Eucalyptus ficifolia, bloom after the warmth of summer, but before cooling autumn weather.

Division Renovates Tired Old Perennials

91204thumbAutumn is a time for planting partly because it is when many plants are beginning their winter dormancy. They are, or will soon be, less active than they would be at any other time of year. Some may not start to grow again until after winter ends. Others will want to secretly disperse their roots through the rainy winter weather, while merely appearing to be dormant from above the soil level.

That is why autumn is also the best time for division of many types of perennials. Such perennials should be adequately dormant to not be bothered by the process of getting dug and divided into smaller parts, then replanted. They actually prefer to get it done sooner than later, so that they can slowly disperse their roots through cool and rainy winter weather, and be ready to grow in spring.

Divisions is often done to renovate bulky perennials that have become overgrown, shabby, or too crowded with their own growth to bloom well. Some of the more vigorous perennials may benefit from division for renovation every several years or so. Many complaisant perennials may never benefit from division. Of these, some might be divided merely for propagation of more of the same.

Japanese anemone, bergenia and other perennials that bloom in autumn and winter should get divided later, after bloom. Like perennials that get divided now, they tend to recover and efficiently disperse roots before spring. However, they may need to be watered a bit more than typical if the weather gets warm and dry early next year. Their schedules do not coincide with local climates.

Lily-of-the-Nile, African iris and New Zealand flax can be divided into individual shoots, even if a few shoots get planted together in clumps. Entire plants do not need to be dug if it would be easier to merely pluck a few outer shoots from the perimeters of congested parent plants. Black-eyed Susan and Shasta daisy can be divided into clumps of several dormant basal rhizomes and roots.

‘Pups’, or sideshoots, of agaves and some types of yuccas can be carefully pried from their parent plants without disturbing them.

Almost RAIN!

P91123KThere have been only three hints at precipitation since last spring.

The (sideways) picture above shows the same dampened hood of a Chevrolet that provided the illustration for a post on another blog on September 30.

The picture below shows a similarly dampened but different windshield from that which provided the illustration for a post on November 16, regarding a bit of precipitation two days prior, on November 14.P91123K+

All four pictures here were actually taken just after a very brief rain shower that happened just after midnight on November 19. I tried to be artistic with them, but I am not a photographer.

The picture below demonstrates how difficult it is to hold the camera steady while getting a close up picture of rain dripping from a lumber rack at night. Do digital cameras automatically extend exposure to accommodate for the darkness? Is it blurred or merely ‘abstract’?P91123K++

The rain shower was very brief, lasting only a few minutes, but dropped dozens of individual raindrops, maybe more than a hundred! In fact, there were enough of them to collectively flow from one of the roofs, accumulate in a gutter, and flow down this downspout and onto the pavement below! (I really do not know why a diverter is needed on pavement, but there it is.)P91123K+++

I bet that if all the precipitation than fell from the sky during these last three incidents could have been collected, there would have been more than a pint! As excellent as it was, it was not even the best of it. For the first time since last spring, a storm is predicted to move in and start RAINING about noon on Tuesday, November 26! Showers should continue afterward.

The rainy season will likely begin with this first storm. That is how the weather typically operates here.

Autumn Weather Prompts Foliar Color

91127thumb(alternate)Mild climates allow more flowers to bloom through autumn and winter here than in most other parts of America. That is why cool season annuals like pansies and violas are so popular. Cyclamen can be planted now too. None will be obscured by snow. By the time cool season annuals start to fade, warm season annuals will be replacing them. There is something to bloom in every season.

There are a few disadvantages to mild climates, though. Many plants rely on significant winter chill to stay on schedule. Inadequate chill limits the cultivars of apples and pears that are productive here. Not many spring bulbs will naturalize. Prior to winter, some deciduous plants are hesitant to resign to dormancy until they experience a chill that is cool enough to convince them it is autumn.

Some deciduous plants recognize a specific temperature as credible evidence of a change of seasons. Others want a specific temperature to be sustained for a specific duration or repeated for a few nights. Shorter days and longer nights are taken into consideration by species who want to confirm what they deduce from the weather. Different plants use different methods of observation.

That is why deciduous plants who develop foliar color before defoliating in autumn do so on their own terms. Weather conditions that promote excellent color among birches may not be the same that cause flowering cherries to color well. Warmth and minimal humidity that sometimes prompt premature and blandly colored defoliation of sycamores might enhance later color of sweetgums.

Sweetgum, Chinese pistache, flowering pear and ginkgo are the most reliable trees for foliar color in autumn. Ginkgo turns only brilliant yellow. The others exhibit an excellent mix of yellow, orange and red. Crape myrtle can be about as colorful, but is not always as reliable.

Of course, there is more to these and other deciduous trees than their colorful foliage in autumn. After all, they are trees. Their particular characteristics and appropriateness must be considered before adding any of them to a landscape.91127thumb

Six on Saturday: The Endless Summer

 

Summer really did end here. There was a minimal frostless frost to prove it more than two weeks ago. This climate just happens to lack the more apparent seasonal changes that others get to show off. Except for a bit of drizzle last Thursday, and a bit at the end of September, there has been no rain since last spring. It may seem to be boring, but such weather is normal here.

1. There is typically more foliar color by now. Sweetgums are only beginning to yellow. However, these dogwoods started to defoliate early without much color. This is about as good as it got.P91116

2. Not all of the warm season annuals have been replaced with cool season annuals. These petunias are blooming too happily to be replaced with pansies or violas like we installed elsewhere.P91116+

3. Roses continue to bloom. This one looks like ‘Double Delight’ to me. I really do not know what it is. The flowers are rather small, so it must have noticed that nights are longer and cooler.P91116++

4. These two look silly to me because both are grafted together onto the same standard (tree rose). I believe they are ‘Iceberg’ and ‘Burgundy Iceberg’. I would not mind them individually.P91116+++

5. Even by our local standards, roses should be finishing by now, with only a few that are still blooming when they get pruned in winter. I do not know what this one is, but it still looks great.P91116++++

6. This is my favorite of these six pictures. I do not know what this rose is either. It is in a neighbor’s garden. It did not start to bloom until part was through summer, and is now at its best.P91116+++++

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/

Mulch Is Imitation Of Nature

91113thumbEvery living thing in our gardens came from the wild somewhere. A few plants might be natives trying to adapt to synthetic landscapes. Some might be from similar climates. Some are likely from very different climates. Even houseplants came from the wild somewhere in the World. Regardless of their respective origins, in home gardens, all plants want to behave as they would in the wild.

Many plants want to defoliate at this time of year. Even some evergreens want to shed some of their old foliage before winter. Some perennials die back to the ground. Most summer annuals are already dead. There is an abundance of deteriorating organic material getting discarded by the plants that produce it. In the wild, all this detritus would naturally fall to the ground and decompose.

That might be a problem in parts of our refined landscapes. Fallen leaves must be raked from lawns, decks, pavement and various other flat spaces outside. If left too long, they shade out lawns, ground cover and bedding plans. Fallen leaves can stain decking and pavement too. The worst diseases of roses and fruit trees overwinter in fallen infected debris that does not get raked away.

Unfortunately, raking the mess of autumn away deprives the plants that live in the garden of the abundant decomposing organic matter that they expect to be delivered this time of year. The soil is left exposed and uninsulated, allowing temperature and moisture content to fluctuate more than they would naturally. Nutrients are not replenished as readily as they would be from decomposition.

Mulch, which can be applied at any time of the year, is quite seasonably appropriate in autumn. This is when plants expect decomposing organic matter to arrive from above. Mulch compensates for the loss of what we consider to be a mess, but what plants consider to be an important component to their natural ecology. It gives them what they want, but is neat enough for refined gardens.

The best mulch for the job just might be fallen leaves that were raked last year and composted, perhaps with other debris from the kitchen and garden.

Six on Saturday: Light Duty Autumn

 

Autumn is mild here. There has been no rain yet. None is in the forecast. Nights are only beginning to get cool. A thermometer outside claims that it has been cool enough for frost, although none has yet been observed. As pleasant as such mild weather is, it can be boring in the garden. The few deciduous trees that develop good color are only beginning to do so, and in no rush. Some chores that rely on chill or rain get delayed.

1. 32 degrees! Does this qualify as frost? This is the same thermometer that said it was 96 degrees last week. I do not believe everything it says, although cold is not as easy to fake as heat.P92202

2. Krispy Kritter had a bad day. It is not from frost though. This formerly exemplary Heavenly bamboo succumbed to warmth and aridity, . . . . and unintended disconnection of irrigation.P92202+

3. California buckeye defoliated through the warmth of summer, and should foliate for early winter, only to defoliate as winter gets cooler. I knock these big seeds out because they look silly.P92202++

4. African iris, Morea bicolor, got split early where it crowded a walkway. We did not want to plug it until the rain starts, so soaked it in a bucket of water, where the roots started growing!P92202+++

5. Mrs. Pollock zonal geranium, Pelargonium hortorum ‘Mrs. Pollock’, likewise needed to be pruned back prematurely. I was able to process cuttings from the scraps, and plug them directly.P92202++++

6. Such intricate variegation is genetically unstable. Mrs. Pollock zonal geranium often gets less variegated mutant growth that must be plucked. Well, . . . . I sort of plugged some as cuttings.P92202+++++

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/

Chrysanthemum

41022Mild autumns and arid summers keep chrysanthemums on a different schedule here than in most other regions. They can get planted in spring to grow through summer and bloom through autumn; but because they can take a bit of work, they are more often planted while blooming in autumn. Although commonly grown as autumn annuals, they are perennials that can regenerate next spring, grow through summer, and bloom even better the following autumn.

Centuries of development in Japan have produced more varieties of chrysanthemums than can be documented. There are really some weird types grown for cut flowers or by hobbyists. Garden varieties are mostly limited to simpler flowers that do not need much thinning or staking. Color ranges through all sorts of hues and shades of yellow, orange, red, pink and bronze, as well as a few purplish colors, cream and white. Many have yellow centers. The aromatic foliage is alluring to some, but objectionable to others.41022thumb