Sweet Box

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Foliage of sweet box outdoes flowers.

While bloom cycles of most plants are accelerated by the unusually warm winter, sweet box, Sarcococca ruscifolia, seems to be blooming a bit late. It should have bloomed sometime in winter, and finished a month ago. The tiny pale greenish white flowers are certainly nothing to look at, but they produce a remarkably rich fragrance that seems like it would be delicious with coffee.

The foliage is very glossy and dark green, like that of English holly, but the leaves are small and lack spines. Red berries sometimes develop, but are only abundant enough to be notably colorful on plants that are distressed. Sweet box may take a few years to get established and grow to only about three feet high and wide, although it can slowly get a bit larger.

Since it is naturally an understory plant, sweet box prefers at least a bit of shade. Harsh exposure fades foliage. Because of its tolerance of partial shade, as well as its low and dense growth, sweet box is ideal for obscuring foundations. After the first few years, it does not need too much water. It gets established more efficiently in rich soil.

Feral Plum

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Feral plum naturalized from understock cultivars.

Springtime in the Santa Clara Valley was famously spectacular decades ago, when vast orchards occupied what is now only urban sprawl. Tourists came to see it like some still go to see foliar color of autumn in New England. Most of the orchards were for stone fruits. Only a few in cooler spots were for apples and pears. Only orchards of English walnuts did not bloom colorfully.

Cherry and almond trees typically bloomed first. Prune trees bloomed immediately afterward. Apricot trees were only a few days later. Of course, the schedule of bloom was variable. Prune trees often bloomed just after apricot trees. Various cultivars of cherry started to bloom at slightly different times, even though those that needed to pollinate each other managed to do so.

After the main bloom of all the stone fruits, and after the tourists were gone, the few apple and pear orchards in cooler spots and surrounding hillsides continued the process. Mulberry trees that grew sporadically on roadsides around the orchards bloomed no more colorfully than English walnuts, but somehow produced enough fruit to distract birds from developing stone fruits.

Feral plum trees are a group that was not easy to categorize even before the demise of the orchards. They were not intentionally grown in orchards, or even in home gardens. They just sort of grew wild along creeks or from the roots of grafted stone fruit trees that had been cut down. They were originally grown as understock cultivars, but had naturalized to become truly feral.

Because their fruit was not used for much, they did not get much consideration. We tend to forget that some types bloomed before any of the other stone fruits. To those who do not expect fruit, feral plum trees are as spectacular as productive stone fruit trees.

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Feral plum bloom is now finishing. Foliage will replace blossoms.

Six on Saturday: Pretty In (Mostly) Pink

 

There was no theme for these six. I just took a few pictures of what happens to be blooming presently, and most just happened to be pink, or at least some variation of pink. The first picture of the bloom of the understock of flowering plum is my favorite this week, because it looks something like apricot bloom . . . in pink.

1. Flowering Plum – The flowering plum that was here first got cut down years ago. This tree grew from its understock. It is too pretty to cut down. The fruit is like apricots that never ripen.P00215-1

2. Rhododendron – Not many are blooming yet. This one is typically one of the earliest, but typically does not look so good. It tends to get battered by rain. There has been no rain in weeks.P00215-2

3. Camellia – Most that are blooming now happen to be simple pink like this one. None of the white ones are blooming. The few red ones that are blooming seem to be of just a single cultivar.P00215-3

4. Primrose – This one seemed to be more rosy magenta pink when I took this picture. (I don’t even know if that is a real color.) It certainly looks red here. All of their colors are pretty now.P00215-4

5. Corsican Hellebore – There is nothing pink about this one. It is just as sickly greenish white as it looks. I can not understand the allure. This is the only hellebore that does well for us here.P00215-5

6. Hellebore – Common hellebore is not at all happy here. Many were planted years ago. Many ferals grew from self sown seed. Only this grungy pink one inexplicably blooms so abundantly.P00215-6

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/

Six on Saturday: Calm Before The Storm

 

Six on Saturday‘ is a meme that I participate in on Saturday morning. The link below explains that participants post pictures from our gardens, landscapes, greenhouses, or wherever we find subjects of horticultural interest. You might post six of your own.

I posted this second set of six this afternoon both because these six pictures will be outdated by next Saturday, and because they are more relevant to horticulture than the six that I posted this morning.

1. Rose – Unless there is a rose out there somewhere that I neglected to prune, this is the last rose bloom of last year. It got pruned after I got this picture. Even here, roses get to hibernate.P00118K-1

2. Wallflower – Does it look like it cares that it is the middle of winter? Actually, from a distance, it is more obvious that sporadic bloom is somewhat subdued. It just never stops completely.P00118K-2

3. Sasanqua Camellia – This was one of the few last flowers, and likely disintegrated shortly after the picture was taken and the weather warmed up. That was actually before last Saturday.P00118K-3

4. Narcissus – Since I so regularly express a preference for white flowers, I tried to find yellow daffodils. They were only beginning to bloom though. These paperwhite narcissus are prettier.P00118K-4

5. Pigsqueak – The name is rad. I intend to grow more in my own garden. It is such a classic winter blooming perennial. More importantly, I want to brag to my friends about my pigsqueak.P00118K-5

6. Cyclamen – I intentionally got a picture of the red instead of the white. I would prefer them to be more than just common winter annuals. Nevermind the irrigation line in the background.P00118K-6

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/

Every Dogwood Has His Day

P90928KDog days of summer are no time for a dogwood to bloom. It should be slowing down and getting ready for autumn. Plump floral buds start to develop, but then wait dormant as foliage turns color and falls away. Only after winter dormancy, just prior to the emergence of new foliage, floral buds bloom spectacularly. September is either half a year too early or half a year too late.

So, what is this dog and pony show?! ‘Eddie’s White Wonder’ dogwood is blooming not only in our landscape, but in other regions too. It is not just because our six new trees were distressed from installation earlier this year. That process would not have affected other trees. It was not because of our locally variable weather. It affected too many trees in too many other regions.

I certainly do not mean to dog our trees for their eagerness to bloom; but it is best to let sleeping dogs lie. They need their rest. Floral buds that bloom or try to bloom now will not be there to bloom when they should next spring. Only a few floppy blooms are seen on our trees, but closer inspection reveals that every bud is open, exposing the tiny individual flower buds within.

It does not need to rain cats and dogs for the floral buds to be ruined. Now that weather is cooling instead of warming as it would in spring, the floral buds that are now opening will not waste resources to finish blooming. The priority is slowing down for winter dormancy. Whether finished with bloom or not, opened floral buds will be shed along with foliage as autumn progresses.

Rhody might seem like he should obviously be an expert in regard to dogwoods, but he merely commented that “Bark is ruff!”P90928K+

Color Wanes As Summer Ends

40903thumbBlack-eyed Susan, sunflowers and a few of the late warm season annuals and perennials are still blooming, and a few will continue into autumn. By that time, cool season annuals can move in; and some of the deciduous trees, shrubs and vines that turn color for autumn will be doing so. Realistically though, this can be the leanest time of year for color in the garden. Even some of the foliage that is colorful through spring and summer has faded.

There are certainly plenty of flowers in season now. However, not many are colorful. Honeysuckle vine is pleasantly fragrant as it bloom in random phases until the weather gets cooler, but the flowers are only pale yellowish white. Some melaleuca trees bloom profusely enough to make a mess, but are just as pale, and do not even provide fragrance; although some have pretty light pink flowers. Abelia flowers are pink and abundant, but are really not all that flashy against their bronzy foliage.

Some of the more colorful flowers are not quite as reliable. Princess flower, hibiscus, blue hibiscus and mandevilla certainly can bloom in late summer or autumn, but sometimes bloom earlier than expected, so have nothing left for later. The bright red flowers of blood red trumpet vine are quite impressive, but only if they are not obscured by the accompanying foliage. Some roses bloom in phases as late as the weather will allow, but actually, most are done by now.

Fuchsia and angel’s trumpet likewise bloom in a few phases once they get started, but unlike the many cultivars of roses, they are much more reliable for a late bloom phase. Escallonia blooms late with small but colorful flowers, but only if they have not been shorn in the past few months. Shearing deprives them of the blooming stem tips that they had worked most of the year for.

Butterfly bush, tree mallow, cape plumbago, bee balm and several varieties of sage and salvia are among the most reliable plants for late summer or autumn bloom. Even without multiple bloom phases, they just naturally bloom at the end of their growing season, before winter dormancy.

Fasciated Lily-of-the-Nile

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Floral fasciation is a rare developmental disfigurement of a bloom, supposedly caused by the fusion of two or more blooms. Many fasciated blooms really do look like two blooms stuck together, like double daisies. Alternatively, fasciation can cause distention of a single flower of many on a foral spike of foxglove.

Fasciation of lily-of-the-Nile bloom is typically expressed merely as a few stray florets on the otherwise bare stalk below the main floral truss. A smaller subordinate stalk may seem to be fused to the main stalk below the stray florets.

The specimen in the picture above is exceptional. It really does look like a double bloom, with one stacked on top of the other. The atypically short and stout stem looks like a tightly fused bundle of several smaller stems. Those who do not know better might find the more billowy and more colorful fasciated bloom to be more appealing than the normal bloom pictured below.

The first picture of my ‘Six on Saturday‘ post this morning shows that this is not the only fasciated bloom here. There is another similar fasciated bloom right next to it. This suggests that the fasciation is likely caused by a genetic mutation that was shared with each of two rhizomes that split from the original.

If the mutation is sufficiently stable, and not likely to soon revert, more copies could be propagated later by division. The rhizomes split after bloom; so if one split into two last year, the two that are here now could split into four next year. If genetically stable, all four should bloom with the same fasciation next year.

To monitor their genetic stability, I should probably relocate these two odd rhizomes, to separate them from the others for observation. I suspect that they will eventually revert anyway.

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Summer Perennials Are Now Blooming

90731thumbAre warm season annuals really the most colorful flowers for summer? Perhaps. They have their limits though. They are also very demanding. They need to be watered very regularly, and should probably be fertilized too. Many need to be deadheaded frequently. After all that, they are only temporary, and will get replaced with cool season annuals in autumn. Perennials are more practical.

Lily-of-the-Nile is likely the most common and most familiar of blooming summer perennials. It is a shame that it blooms only once. Bloom is usually in time for the Fourth of July, and lasts a good long time, but is already fading. Deadheading as the blue or white color is eventually exhausted will not promote subsequent bloom, but will keep the evergreen foliage looking tidy until next year.

Daylily might be the second most popular of summer perennials. Some of the older types bloom only once like lily-of-the-Nile, but various cultivars bloom at various times to prolong the season if a few are grown together in the same garden. The most popular modern cultivars probably bloomed earlier, and will bloom again, perhaps with little time in between. The color range is extensive.

Penstemon are not committed to their natural schedule of blooming in late spring and again in autumn. A good pruning at the end of winter eliminates tired old foliage, and enhances and delays bloom until summer, without compromising the later autumn bloom. Like daylily, a few different varieties of penstemon in the same garden prolong bloom, which can be white, pink, red or purple.

Salvias are a big group of summer perennials that really should be more popular than they are. Some are native. Others are from other chaparral climates. Naturally, they are right at home here. Many bloom about now, and some will bloom again in autumn if deadheaded or pruned back. What they lack in flashy color, they compensate for in resiliency and reliability. They really are tough.

This is by no means a complete list of summer perennials. It does not even include the perennial daisies such as coneflower, black-eyed Susan and gaillardia.

Six on Saturday: Off Schedule

 

Every year is different. The weather is different. Bloom times are different. Growth rates are different.

1. Asiatic lily. This is one of five that were planted late enough last winter to be blooming right now, after others have finished. I would not have planted them so late, but that was when one of the neighbors shared them. They are a different color of the same sort of lily as the rose lily that was also blooming late last week.P90608

2. Peruvian lily. It seems to me that they were only beginning to bloom by this time last year. This year, they started blooming sparsely more than a month ago, and were blooming as profusely as they are now more than two weeks ago. There are pink and peach Peruvian lilies here too. I showed them off last years. (A peach flower can be seen out of focus at the bottom of the picture. A pink flower can be seen out of focus at the lower left corner of the previous picture #1 of Asiatic lily.P90608+

3. Rhododendron. Some bloom early and get battered by winter weather. Some bloom late and might get slightly roasted in the arid air of late spring. This one always bloom late like this, and has no problem with the weather. I do not know what cultivar it is. It certainly seems happy.P90608++

4. Dahlia. #1 Asiatic lily bloomed late. #2 Peruvian lily bloomed early. #3 rhododendron bloomed late. This dahlia did both. Dahlias typically only begin to bloom late in June. As you can see, this one already bloomed. I would not have shared this bad picture of a deteriorating early bloom, but was impressed that it bloomed at all. You see, it was dug and stored TWO winters ago, and then forgotten about. It somehow survived in storage through last year. I found it late last winter, and after determining that part of it was actually still viable, buried it right behind the lilies #1. It grew as if nothing had ever happened, and bloomed a year late and a month early. It has nice buds on in, so should resume bloom right on schedule, and continue to frost.P90608+++

5. Boston ivy. Four were planted over winter to climb a concrete retaining wall and a pair of concrete pillars supporting a bridge. The plan is to remove the Algerian ivy that hangs down over the retaining wall as it is replaced by the Boston ivy climbing up from below. I do not want to remove the Algerian ivy until necessary. I just want to keep it out of the way. I did not expect the Boston ivy to start growing like a weed so early. I cut the Algerian ivy farther to the left after getting this picture.P90608++++

6. Flowering cherry. Two plants; above were early. Two were late. One was both early and late. Well, this one won’t break the tie. These flowering cherries bloomed on time and are well foliated as they should be. In fact, they are better foliated and healthier than they have been in several years. They were so unhealthy last year that we had planned to cut them down and replace them by now. We just have not done so because we have not found replacements for them yet. Therefore, we are late; but it is not their fault. If it were at all possible, I would not remove them.P90608+++++

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/

Deadheading Promotes And Prolongs Bloom

90612thumbApril showers bring May flowers. May flowers make a mess. Well, some of them do. Most simply disintegrate and fall from the trees, shrubs and vines that produced them, and decompose into the soil below. Some might have needed to be swept off of pavement and decks. Regardless, most of us do not notice the very minor consequences for the majority of spectacular spring bloom.

However, there are some flowers that demand a bit more attention after they finish blooming. They linger after the show is over, and can look shabby as they deteriorate. Small ones can simply be plucked. Larger blooms might need to be pruned out. The process of removing deteriorating blooms is known as ‘deadheading’, and it is done for more reasons than just to keep plants groomed.

Plants bloom to produce seed, and the production of seed takes resources. Removal of seed structures not only diverts resources to more useful functions, but for many plants, it also stimulates subsequent bloom in response to interrupted seed production. They literally keep trying until they are able to produce viable seed, even if they must continue all season until late autumn dormancy.

Most plants that benefit from deadheading are perennials. Shasta daisy, black-eyed Susan, blanket flower, cone flower, yarrow, lavender and beard tongue (penstemon) bloom more abundantly and for a longer time with regular deadheading. The various lavenders, as well as other perennials that are comparably shrubby, are easily deadheaded by shearing after profuse bloom phases.

For bulbs and bulb like perennials that bloom only once annually, deadheading will not promote subsequent bloom during the same year, but conserves resources for the following year. Daffodil, lily, clivia, various iris and, during summer, gladiolus and dahlia, all appreciate diligent deadheading.

Petunia and marigold are two annuals that happen to bloom better with regularly deadheading. They bloom so profusely that deadheading can be quite a chore. Plants that can be invasive, such as salsify, should be deadheaded before dispersing seed.