Six on Saturday: A Bit More Color

Since the Fire, my Six on Saturday posts have been rather gloomy. Titles such as ‘Pompeii‘, ‘Revelation‘ and ‘Revelation II‘ are appropriately descriptive. More color is in order.

1. Silvery bark of a silver maple is sort of colorful. Hey, the next five really are more colorful. I planted this tree as a young twigling in the Santa Clara Valley when I was in high school. It had a second trunk, which I layered as another tree for the front garden. This tree is in back. I would like to get a copy for my own garden. This is now an old picture that I got during evacuation.

2. Orangish red bloom is that of ‘Pollack’ zonal geranium, which is grown more for its very variegated foliage. However, this bonus bloom is on a specimen that reverted to be less variegated.

3. Peachy Peruvian lily looks pink to me, but is not quite as pink as the pink sort. There is a yellow sort here too. They certainly are prolific. In 1986, I worked with these as a cut flower crop.

4. White phlox self sowed here last year or earlier, and have performed splendidly. There are more this year than there were last year. It would be excellent to get a few more for next year.

5. Blue annual morning glory grew up with my tomatoes. Oddly, they did not do so well where their seed were actually sown intentionally, in pots on the deck up above the vegetable garden.

6. This is my favorite picture this week. I can not read what, if anything, is written in paint on this rock. It looks like someone enjoyed painting it, and placing it to be found out in the garden.

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/

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.

Summer Flowers Make The Cut

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Try something new for cut flowers.

It would seem obvious that there would be more flowers to cut to bring into the home during summer than there would be in winter. A quick tour through the garden might prove otherwise. Much of the color in the garden this late in summer is provided by flowers that fade quickly, or small flowers of shrubby plants that lack good stems for cutting.

Lilies, gladiolus and most of the lily of the Nile that bloomed earlier in summer are finished. Bearded iris (reblooming types) that will soon be blooming again, as well as cannas, wilt too much to last long as cut flowers. Dahlias happen to be at their prime, and are excellent cut flowers if their water gets changed regularly. Otherwise, they rot and smell badly.

Realistically, anything that blooms is fair game. Of course, this does not mean that everything tried will work. It does means that some flowers that are not often thought of as good cut flowers might be worth considering as such. Not all of us are equipped with roses, zinnias, dahlias, sunflowers, delphiniums, blanket flowers or the many other favorite summer bloomers.

All sorts of sages, which are also known by their Latin name of ‘salvia’, are delightful cut flowers. However, some types are not very showy. Others wilt right after getting cut. Mexican blue sage may or may not wilt, but is colorful enough to be appealing even if it can not stand up like it should. Sometimes it is best to try something new to see if it works.

Sea foam statice and annual statice are nice cut flowers both fresh and dried. Fresh flowers are probably more colorful, but of course, do not last as long as dried flowers. Annual statice is lightweight enough to stand upright as it dries in a vase. Sea foam statice has bulkier flowers that should probably be hung up-side-down to dry straight.

Oleander certainly is reliably colorful, but is not worth cutting. It wilts almost immediately, and drips toxic sap. However, the stigmatized and common lemon bottlebrush is a surprisingly tasteful cut flower with rustically aromatic foliage. Speaking of foliage, some types of eucalyptus, particularly the red flowering gum (Eucalyptus ficifolia), have handsome flowers as well.

Fragrant Flowers Have Ulterior Motives

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Demure daphne bloom is richly fragrant.

Many who enjoy gardening appreciate fragrant flowers. Many grow particular flowers specifically for their fragrance. Yet, not many consider why so many flowers are fragrant. Plants can not enjoy their own alluring floral fragrances any more than they can enjoy their own delightful floral colors and forms. They do not expect people to enjoy their bloom either. Human appreciation is incidental.

Floral fragrance is merely intended to attract pollinators. Flowers are inanimate, so rely on either wind or animate pollinators to exchange their pollen among other flowers. Animate pollinators are mostly insects, but may be birds, bats or other animals. Flowers do what they must to attract their preferred pollinators. Many use color and floral form. Many use fragrance. Some use both tactics.

Flowers that use both color and fragrance to attract pollinators are mostly endemic to densely forested ecosystems. There is more competition for pollinators within such ecosystems than there is within ecosystems of sparser vegetation. Otherwise, fragrant flowers are generally not as colorful as those that are not as fragrant. Likewise, the most colorful flowers are generally not so fragrant.

Angel’s trumpet is striking in bloom because the flowers are so large. Wisteria and lilac that bloomed last spring were spectacular because they were so profuse. The pastel hues of their blooms are no problem that their fragrance does not compensate for. Pink jasmine and mock orange are about as fragrant, even if their color range is more limited. Star jasmine is not always so profuse.

Pittosporum tobira and Pittosporum undulatum are even less visually impressive in bloom, but can be surprisingly fragrant. The tiny but richly fragrant flowers of sweet osmanthus, sweet box and night blooming jasmine are so obscure that other bloom is often credited with their fragrance. As the name implies, night blooming jasmine is powerfully fragrant after sunset during warm weather.

Freesia, hyacinth, narcissus, lily and some bearded iris are both colorful and very fragrant.

Fourth of July

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Lily of the Nile are floral Fourth of July fireworks.

Fireworks, Fourth of July parades, and the associated crowds are of course canceled for this year.

Lily of the Nile does not mind. It blooms in time for the Fourth of July regardless of what the rest of us are doing, or not doing. That is one of the two reasons why some of us know it as the ‘Fourth of July flower’. The other reason is that the nearly spherical floral trusses resemble exploding skyrocket fireworks. They are mostly blue, with some white. All that is missing is red.

The bloom in this picture is not exactly exemplary. It would have been larger, rounder, and likely more advanced in bloom if it had developed in a sunnier location. There are enough of them that we do not notice that most are somewhat diminutive. In autumn, many of the overgrown plants will be relocated to a sunnier situation where they can bloom as they would prefer too.

Lily of the Nile was the first perennial that I grew a significant quantity of. While in junior high school, a neighbor instructed me to remove a healthy colony of lily of the Nile that had grown obtrusively large in only twenty years. I could not just discard it, so chopped it into more than sixty pups, and planted it all over the neighborhood. Much of it is still there. A bit of it is here.

Back then, it was known as Agapanthus orientalis. In school, I learned it as Agapanthus africanus. I still do not know if they are two different species, or if one is just a variety of the other. I do know that mine are distinctly different from common sorts, with bigger and rounder floral trusses. The others have straighter stems that support their blooms batter, and finer foliage.

Six on Saturday: Housebound

 

This is not a good week for my Six on Saturday. The first three are of pansies; and the last two are of gladiolus. That is not much variety. Posting six pictures of different cultivars of roses or rhododendrons is somehow different and more interesting.

I did not get out enough to get many good pictures this week. I work inside for part of the week, and needed to stay in for Thursday as well. I got outside only on Wednesday and Friday.

1. Pansies are slowly succumbing to the warmth of spring and early summer. They can continue to perform as long as they like, we will not be replacing them with any warm season annuals.00627-1

2. Pansies are even prettier up close. Foliage was unusually sparse among this group, even prior to spring. Pansies had never stayed so late before. I would not have guessed that they could.00627-2

3. Pansy is one of the favorite flowers of my colleague down south. Although he does not use many at work, or even in his home garden, he always grows one pot full of them through winter.00627-3

4. Alstroemeria, which are also known as Peruvian lilies, do very well here. I do not remember if this is pink or ‘peachy’. I believe it is ‘peachy’. There are also yellow alstroemeria here.00627-4

5. Gladiola is one of my favorite summer bulbs, but I have not planted any in many years. They are not reliably perennial here. However, this orange gladiola has bloomed for several years.00627-5

6. Gladiola, now that I think about it, is actually my favorite summer bulb, rather than just one of my favorites. This purple gladiola has bloomed as long as the other, only in a different area.00627-6

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/

Mild Weather Is Still Problematic

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Minimal frost delayed certain spring blooms.

It is amazing that so many orchards are so productive in California, and that so many similar orchards had formerly been productive in the urban areas in which so many of us now live. Nowadays, it takes so much work to care for just a few fruit trees in home gardens. Horticulture is not what it used to be.

Diseases and pests get transmitted all over the world at a rate unlike at any other time in history. It is just too easy to buy and sell infected plants online, and get them delivered without adequate inspection. Many varieties of plants that are so easily imported may not perform as reliably as the more traditional varieties.

Modern landscaping does not make fruit production any easier. Most deciduous fruit trees do not get pruned adequately or properly. Many get too much water. Almost all must live in crowded landscape conditions where diseases and pest proliferate. Sanitation (removal of infected plant parts) is rarely as efficient as it should be.

Then there is all this crazy weather! First, the winter does not get as cool as it should. Then, it does not get warm enough in spring. It is all so difficult to keep track of. Many plants do not know how to respond. Those that stay dormant through cool weather got an early start. Those that like warmth in spring started late.

The unfortunate deciduous fruit trees that need both a good chill through winter and nice warm spring weather are really confused. Early blooms were ruined by brief late frosts or brief rain showers. Some delayed blooms were not synchronized with pollinators. Some of the minimal fruit is developing slowly.

Even the fruitless or ‘flowering’ relatives of the deciduous fruit trees are annoyed by the weather. Many flowering cherry trees that should have bloomed profusely prior to foliation delayed bloom until lower foliage started to appear. However, both bloom and foliation are so slow and sporadic that upper stems stayed bare quite late.

Flowering crabapple trees, which generally bloom after flowering cherries, actually bloomed more reliably, and were not delayed as much. Hopefully, fruiting apple and pear trees, although late, will be more productive than so many of the cherry, apricot, plum, peach and nectarine trees will be this year.

Horridculture – Stinky Flowers

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Rhody was not impressed, and he is an expert on fragrance.

Dracunculus vulgaris – dragon lily. It was featured in the gardening column for next week, both as an illustration for the main topic, and as the ‘highlight’ species. It is as unappealing as the name and the pictures suggest, but it sure is interesting. It has several more equally unappealing common names. We know it as ‘death arum’ because that is the first name we came up with.

Besides, it smells like death. Yes, it stinks. It does so to attract flies for pollination. Actually, it attracts quite a few annoying insects. I can not explain why, but insects who congregate around stinky flowers are as unappealing as the fragrance that draws them. They are certainly very different from the appealing bees and butterflies who pollinate flowers with appealing fragrance.

The first of these death arums mysteriously appeared in the garden of a colleague several years ago, and promptly multiplied by both seed and disbursement of tubers. There are now a few expansive colonies that continue to expand. Cutting down the foliage does not slow them down much. The fragrance, which is not too bad individually, is getting to be bothersome collectively.

My colleague brought me one of the tubers to confirm the identity. I got a picture of it since it was here, but then did not know what to do with it. I did not want to toss it aside into the forest like I do with so much other greenwaste. It could have grown into a problem. I did not want to discard it either, since it was viable and healthy. So, I canned it and put it aside in the nursery.

This is the result. It is not as stinky as I expected it to be. I still do not know what to do with it.

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These unidentified beetles that I had never noticed here before arrived promptly for the stinky bloom.

 

 

 

Blue Is The Loneliest Color

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Colorado has a blue State Flower.

The majority of common pollinators are not impressed with blue. Otherwise, more flowers would be blue. After all, floral color appeals to pollinators. Each type of pollinator prefers specific colors. Plants customize their floral color to their preferred pollinators. If more flowers could attract more pollinators with blue, they would do so. Instead, they rely on colors that have worked well for them.

Green is actually the most common floral color. It is not obviously common because green flowers are generally ignored. They are the sort that rely on wind for pollination, so make little or no effort to draw attention. They are also the sort that produce the most and worst pollen, which gets carried farthest by the wind. Flowers that rely on pollinators produce coarser pollen that clings to things.

Of the many other colors that appeal to pollinators, most are significantly more complex than they appear. For example, what appears to be simple orange may appeal to pollinators that perceive it to be yellow, as well as those that are drawn to red, even if none are interested in orange. Different pollinators perceive different color ranges. Insects do not perceive red; but hummingbirds do.

That certainly could not explain why blue is such an uncommon color for flowers. It surely has more of a following than red, which is more common among flowers. Since most pollinators perceive blue, more flowers should utilize it. They could even add some ultraviolet or infrared to it, if that would make it more appealing. Nonetheless, true blue, without the influence of purple, is quite rare.

Lily-of-the-Nile and blue dawn flower are some of the more substantial species that provide exquisitely blue bloom. A few cultivars of butterfly bush bloom true blue too, but the color is not so clear and bright. Delphinium, bellflower, squill and grape hyacinth are smaller, but worthy perennials for the richest blues. Petunias, lobelia, nigella, cornflower and columbine are blue blooming annuals.

Many iris, sage and lupine provide exquisitely true blue bloom as well.