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.

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+