Peony

Peonies are unusually happy this year.

The fact that peonies do not perform well in such mild climates does not dissuade some of us from growing them. After all, they can sometimes be found in local nurseries and even farmers’ markets as if they belong here. Tubers of more of the countless varieties can be purchased online or from mail order catalogs while dormant in autumn. Unfortunately, without much winter chill, few peonies perform as they should.

Peonies can be white or various shades of pink or red, with considerable variation of flower structure. Tree peonies that bloom yellow are the most likely to be wimpy without winter chill. All peonies are good cut flowers. After spring bloom, the distinctively coarse and rich green foliage stays until autumn dormancy. The more popular herbaceous peonies should not get more than three feet tall and broad. Tree peonies do not actually grow into trees, but develop woody stems that can hold flowers nearly six feet high. Larger flowers may need support.

Because plants get established so slowly, they should not be moved or disturbed. Small new plants can be divided from larger plants while dormant, but take a few years to actually bloom. Peonies like rich soil and regular watering, where they do not get crowded or shaded by other plants.

Six on Saturday: What Is This?!

As I mentioned last week, these pictures were obtained a week and a day ago. The flowers were fresher then. I suspect that they are all finished or nearly so by now, although money plant is still colorful in some sheltered situations. The flower that might be California bluebell did not last long at all. I should have looked for seed, but could not find it again. This is an odd batch. I know more about what I work with here than almost anyone else, but some unfamiliar items are baffling.

1. Is this Dutch iris? It was planted years or perhaps decades ago, but only started blooming, along with freesia and ixia, after overgrowth above it was cleared. I have never grown Dutch iris.

2. Is this money plant or honesty? I honestly believe that it is money plant. Others might bet money that it is honesty. I know they are the same. I would nonetheless prefer the proper name.

3. This one I can identify as wild cucumber. It is also known as manroot. The annoyingly weedy vines are surprisingly easy to pull out. However, the massive and resilient tubers make more.

4. This is supposed to be false Solomon’s seal, but is real enough for us, since it is the only one we know. It is native, so lives in the surrounding forest and sometimes moves into landscapes.

5. What is this?! Seriously, I have no idea! It appeared on a dry roadside after the taller grassy vegetation got cut down. The foliage seems to be that of California bluebells. It is likely related.

6. I know what this is, but doubt that you do. It is from one of only two species of its genus that is native regionally. The other species is endemic to every state except for Alaska and Hawaii.

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: Rhody Walks Away

The first four of my Six on Saturday are somewhat dated since they are not really from last week. It did not seem right to simply waste them. Actually, my pictures for the next two Saturdays were taken yesterday, so will also be more than a week old when they post. Perhaps I should not mention such violations. What is more important is the sixth picture here and now. It is not of particularly good quality, but it is what everyone really wants to see.

1. Laurustinus never got my attention before I noticed others sharing pictures of it. Still, I do not quite understand the allure. It is somewhat naturalized here. This one is whiter than others.

2. Fake lilac fails to impress those of us who know what real common lilac is. This runty little scrub is a trip hazard that happens to smell pretty. Its fragrance makes me crave common lilac.

3. This is the first bald cypress that I ever got to work with, after meeting the species for the first time in Oklahoma in the autumn of 2012. Sadly, this is its last picture before it got cut down.

4. ‘In A Vase On Monday’ (IAVOM) is a meme that I almost participated in for the first time three weeks ago or so. I just could not get a good picture. There is quite a bit to write about here.

5. What must I say about this one? I encounter all sorts of weird situations at work. Part of this black cherry tree is getting milled. Part of it is firewood. The process was rather ‘complicated’.

6. Rhody says the first three pictures are mundane, the fourth is too dark, and the fifth is just VERY weird. The sixth picture could have been the best, if only Rhody would have cooperated.

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: More Late Bloomers

Redundancy was not apparent to me as I collected these pictures of flowers that are blooming somewhat later than typical. Not only is the topic the same as last week, but daffodil is featured again, and comprises half of these six! A major (but not redundant) difference this week, which will most certainly compromise the popularity of my blog, is the absence of a picture of Rhody.

Incidentally, my Six on Saturday for next week will be redundant to #1 below, and will again lack a picture of Rhody, but it is a popular topic that I never discuss.

1. Hellebore is something that I am none too keen on. Bloom just happens to be remarkable this year. This one blooms most profusely. There will be more redundancy with these next week.

2. Sweetbox is also blooming unusually well this year, even if they are still not much to look at. Fragrance is their priority. Their sneaky bloom is usually more obscured by the glossy foliage.

3. Camellia bloom is not as late as it seems to be. Others bloom sporadically even a bit later. I think that this one would be prettier if it were lower than the roof, and visible from the carport.

4. Daffodil is technically very different from those of last week. This and the two others are all feral in unlandscaped areas near our industrial shop buildings. This one looks like ‘King Alfred’.

5. Daffodil, whether truly feral or not, can be quite variable. I suspect that they came into the site with soil or debris that was removed from landscapes, and dumped here through the years.

6. Daffodil, in my opinion (which, in my opinion, is the most important opinion), should look like ‘King Alfred’! The next best option is like ‘King Alfred’, but white! Could this be ‘Mount Hood’?

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: Late Bloomers

Winter is brief here. There is no snow, and only occasional mild frost. Chill is insufficient for many plants that need it. Rain can be copious during storms; but storms are not as frequent as in other climates. Many flowers typically bloom slightly earlier than they do in other regions. Of course, every season is unique.

1. English holly may have bloomed on time last year, but the berries are lingering late this year. The birds who eat them must have found something else to be more appealing. This is an odd cultivar that is neither as prickly nor as dense as common English holly elsewhere in its garden. Incidentally, it resides in the Santa Clara Valley, not here. I have no idea who the pollinator is.

2. Winter daphne should bloom in . . . well, winter. What I mean is that is should have bloomed a bit earlier in winter. Surprisingly, the foliage lacks variegation. All daphne here is variegated!

3. Calla should bloom in summer. This one is so late that that it is early. I mean that it is closer to next summer than it is to last summer. Really though, it blooms whenever it wants to here.

4. Daffodil continues to bloom in some locations. There are actually a few varieties blooming in this same area, with at least one colony that is only beginning to bloom. This late bloom is nice.

5. Narcissus continue to bloom late also! I believe that this is the only colony of paperwhite narcissus here. It is my favorite though, both because it is white, and also because it is so fragrant.

6. Rhody is always the most popular topic of my Six on Saturday. I do not know why he took a momentary interest in the camera. I just quickly exploited the opportunity to take his picture.

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/

Blossoms Bloom Sooner If Forced

Stems of tiny blossoms really impress.

Pussywillow is an odd cut flower. It is neither fragrant nor very colorful. It just gets cut and brought into the home because the distinctively fuzzy catkins are so interesting. They are appealing alone or mixed with other late winter flowers. The otherwise bares stems can get cut just as soon as the fuzz is beginning to become visible within the swelling buds. Bloom accelerates once the cut stems are brought into a warm home.

There are actually several other plants that can provide bare twigs that can be ‘forced’ into bloom in the home. ‘Forcing’ is simply the acceleration of bloom of such twigs by cutting them and bringing them from cool winter weather into warm interior ‘weather’. Flowering quince, flowering cherry and flowering (purple leaf) plum have likely finished bloom; but forsythia, hawthorn, flowering crabapple and many of the various fruit trees that have colorful bloom will be ready to be forced any time. Some daring people even force redbud, dogwood, witch hazel, lilac and star and saucer magnolias.

When the deciduous fruit trees that bloom well need to be pruned in winter, some people intentionally leave a few spare branches to be cut and forced later, just before bloom. These include almond, cherry, apricot, plum, prune, nectarine, peach, pear, apple and a few others. When stems get cut for forcing, they should be pruned out from the trees according to proper dormant pruning techniques, and can be trimmed up accordingly when brought into the home. Flowering (non-fruiting) trees should likewise be treated with respect when stems for forcing get pruned out.

Twigs to be forced should be cut just as the flowers are about to bloom, and preferably, as a few flowers are already blooming. They should be put in water immediately, and if possible, cut again with the cut ends submerged. Buds that will be submerged when the stems are fitted into a vase should be removed.

Once in a warm home, the rate of bloom will be accelerated, although everything blooms at a particular rate. Apple and pear bloom later than most, and can bloom slow enough to justify cutting stems while already blooming. As forced stems bloom, they can be quite messy, but the mess is probably worth it.

Six on Saturday: Flowery Bits III

Merry Christmas! Okay, perhaps not. This posted at midnight, precisely as Christmas Day ended. These are not exactly Christmas flowers anyway. They are not even Christmas colors. The pictures are actually from the previous week. I knew then that I would not likely want to go out to get pictures last week. Until now, Christmas was the priority. There was no work to go to.

My six are very limited this week. There are only two genera and three species. There could be more if the Osteospermum have species designations. I know them only as ‘hybrids’. If there are any cultivar names, I do not know what any of them are.

1. Lantana montevidensis – grows as a ground cover. The color range of the bloom is limited. This color is common, but I thought that individual flowers more commonly have white centers.

2. Lantana camara – is the ‘other’ lantana. It is shrubbier and better foliated. Floral color is more variable and generally more brightly colored. Bloom is not as extensive, but is more prolific.

3. Lantana camara – likes this particular landscape where I got these pictures. Another solitary specimen down the road and at a lower elevation already looks shabby from cooling weather.

4. Osteospermum – within this landscape are all modern hybrids. If anyone knows who their parents are, they do not share such information anymore. I think this color might be ‘lavender’.

5. Osteospermum – looks more purplish than the previous picture. I am no good with colors. Despite the attributes of modern hybrids, I still prefer old fashioned Osteospermum fruticosum.

6. Osteospermum – colors are not easy to describe. Is this one light burgundy red or ruddy pink? There might be six or so cultivars here. This unidentifiable color happens to be my favorite.

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: Flowery Bits II

Rhody did not make the cut this week. There are too many minor flowers blooming. Only six can be shared here. Besides, flowers are more cooperative with getting their pictures taken than Rhody is. I should get six more flower pictures for next week as well, since I am trying to avoid the sort of dreary pictures I had been sharing, and the weather has not yet gotten interesting.

The botanical names of some of these flowers have changed over the years. The names I use may be outdated or updated. I can not be sure anymore. I am not certain about the identity of the hebe.

1. Hebe buxifolia, perhaps ‘Patty’s Purple’ hebe, is now beginning to succumb to cool winter weather. I am not certain if it has a definite bloom season. It seems to bloom randomly until frost.

2. Lobularia maritima, alyssum, is a warm season annual that finishes in winter, but replaces itself with seedlings that perform as cool season annuals for winter until warmer spring weather.

3. Diosma pulchrum, pink breath of Heaven, also seems to bloom whenever it wants to, although not quite as colorfully as hebe. This cultivar has lime green foliage instead of yellowish green.

4. Morea bicolor, butterfly iris, could be dug, divided, and shared with other landscapes. However, we can not adequately maintain the mature colonies that are already out in the landscapes.

5. Salvia greggii, autumn sage, is not just for autumn. Like the others, it blooms whenever it wants to. I like this one because it is only red. The flowers are too small to be both red and white.

6. Senecio X hybrida, cineraria, is leftover from when a few bedding plants were still added seasonally to a few prominent parts of the landscape. This one happens to be potted on a pedestal.

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: Flowery Bits

After so many pictures of fallen leaves, firewood and frost, I should probably share a few floral pictures like everyone else does. All those pictures of ash from the fire did not help much. I can expound a bit excessively on autumn and winter topics because they are not as mundane as they are in other climates. For example, I would not notice frost so much if it were common here.

Some flowers continue to bloom later than they would in other climates. Some bloom too early here. Some can not decide when they should bloom. The fifth picture is not even a bloom at all.

1. Callistemon viminalis ‘Little John’ is a bottlebrush for those who dislike bottlebrush . . . or just lack the space. I hate to say it, but I sort of prefer the formerly common Callistemon citrinus.

2. Eucalyptus pulverulenta foliage is prettier without bloom. Nonetheless, for those who get close enough to see them, these small white flowers are pretty too. Bees appreciate them as well.

3. Lonicera periclymenum ‘Peaches and Cream’ has yet to bloom profusely here. Summer bloom is adequate at best. Bigger trusses of buds develop too late into autumn to bloom completely.

4. Narcissus does not wait for spring to bloom. I do not know what cultivar it is, or if it is a cultivar. Some might know it simply as ‘paperwhite’. Daffodils will bloom later, but are not fragrant.

5. Pseudoflora seem to bloom annually here prior to Christmas. Afterward, they will return to the barn for storage for almost another year. Some people believe that they are real poinsettia.

6. Rhody simply will not cooperate for a picture if he knows I am taking one. I included this picture anyway because, no matter what, or how bad his picture is, everyone always loves Rhody.

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/

Dried Flowers Last All Year

These flowers were cut weeks ago, and will look just as fresh months later.

Statice, strawflower and globe thistle continue to bloom later than most other summer annuals, and hold their flowers longer. Even after bloom, the flowers are so stiff and ‘crispy’ that they remain intact and colorful until they succumb to exposure to weather. If cut and brought in from the weather soon enough, they will last as dried flowers at least until fresh flowers start to bloom in the garden next spring.

Strawflower and larger globe thistle tend to wilt and droop from the weight of the bulky flowers, so should be tied in small bunches and hung upside down to dry. Perennial statice (which has larger blooms than annual statice) tends to flop to the ground, but the stems often bend only at the base so that the rest of the stem length stays somewhat straight. Smaller globe thistle and annual statice often dry standing up while still out in the garden.

Yarrow and English lavender can be dried as well, but lose most of their color. Lavender dries naturally in the garden. Yarrow can likewise be allowed to dry in the garden, but probably keeps a bit more color if cut while still fresh and hung upside down. Because yarrow blooms are so wide, they should be hung individually or in small bundles. Queen Anne’s lace has even wider blooms that curl inward as they dry, so they really should be hung individually.

Old hydrangea flowers that are only beginning to fade can dry surprisingly well if cut and hung individually before they deteriorate too much or start to rot. Some varieties retain color better than others. Some fade almost completely to an appealing brown paper bag.

There are not many roses this time of year, but when they do bloom, even they can be cut and dried while beginning to unfurl. Only a few small and tightly budded roses can be dried when completely open. Because they droop right below the blooms, roses should be hung upside down to dry. Dark colored roses get very dark as they dry. White roses turn tan. Pink and yellow are probably the better colors.

Cat-tails and pampas grass flowers are big, bold and dated cut flowers. Yet, for situations where big flowers fit, they are just as practical now as they were in the 1970s. Because pampas grass flowers shed, and cat-tails can explode (to disperse their seed), they should be sprayed with hair spray or another fixative to keep them contained. Pampas grass foliage has dangerously serrate edges that can give nasty paper cuts, so should be handled carefully, and displayed out of the way.