Spring Pruning Breaks The Rules

Spring pruning allows bloom to finish.

Dormant pruning is the best pruning. It happens while the subject plants that benefit from it are dormant and unaware of such procedures. Such procedures would be significantly more distressing to plants while they are vascularly active. In comparison, spring pruning may seem to be cruel and tortuous. Nonetheless, it is justified for particular applications.

For most plants that benefit from dormant pruning, the worst time to prune is immediately after the best time. Such plants are most vascularly active while blooming and refoliating during early spring. They become more resilient to pruning as they finish bloom and their foliage matures. This generally applies to plants that benefit from spring pruning as well.

The primary difference between plants that prefer dormant pruning and plants that prefer spring pruning is their primary purpose. Several plants that benefit from dormant pruning produce fruit. Plants that benefit from spring pruning merely produce profusion of bloom. Dormant pruning concentrates resources. Spring pruning allows maximum spring bloom.

For example, flowering plum is like a sterile but prettier version of fruiting plum. It merely blooms impressively without subsequently fruiting. There is no need for dormant pruning to concentrate resources into fruit, or to compensate for fruit weight. When and if pruning becomes necessary, it can happen after any unwanted growth has contributed to bloom.

Flowering cherry, flowering crabapple and flowering quince may actually prefer dormant pruning like their fruitful relatives do. However, like flowering plum, they also bloom more abundantly prior to spring pruning. Unrelated dogwood, redbud, forsythia and even New Zealand tea tree likewise benefit from spring pruning, which is the same as late pruning.

In moderation, blooming stems of plants that get either dormant or spring pruning can be delightful as cut flowers. A few unpruned stems can remain after dormant pruning for that purpose. They only need proper pruning when harvested or after bloom. Likewise, plants that get later spring pruning after bloom can likely spare a few stems while still blooming. Alternatively, such stems should be conducive to forcing.

Winter Bloom Might Be Scarce

Some camellia bloom sporadically for winter.

Oregon gardens get to display superior peony bloom for spring and summer. That is one of several advantages of winter chill. Some plant species appreciate a bit more chill than they can get here. It enhances their performance. However, chill also limits winter bloom. Not many plants want to bloom while the weather is cool, and pollinators are less active.

That is one of several advantages of mild winter weather. It allows flowers that bloom for autumn to bloom a bit later. It allows a few of the flowers that bloom for spring to bloom a bit earlier. There is not much time between the last flowers of autumn and the first flowers of spring. Winter bloom is not as important here as where winters are longer and chillier.

Even if less important here, reliable winter bloom might be a bit more challenging. Some plants that bloom for winter in other climates might be hesitant to bloom for winter locally. After all, they prefer to bloom while the weather is cool. Mild chill might be unsatisfactory. Cool season annuals are unpredictable, but are likely the most reliable for winter bloom.

Of the popular cool season annuals, cyclamen is actually perennial. If not removed at the end of its season, it goes dormant for summer, and regenerates for subsequent winters. It does not bloom as profusely as it originally did, but adds color to mixed small perennials or ground covers that do not bloom for winter. Some types of primrose are also perennial.

A few perennials bloom sporadically and randomly throughout the year, including winter. African daisy and euryops daisy typically do not bloom as much as they do during warm weather, but can. Euryops daisy may actually bloom best during winter. Bird of Paradise flowers mature so slowly that those that begin during autumn might finish through winter.

Witch hazel, daphne, heather, mahonia and winter jasmine bloom for winter, but perhaps not as impressively as for other climates. Some camellia bloom abundantly while others bloom sporadically. Bergenia may bloom later here than for other climates. Forsythia and some spring bulbs, especially daffodil, bloom so early that they seem to bloom for winter.

Six on Saturday: Bloom!

Bloom has been conspicuously absent from my Six on Saturday posts for the past several weeks. Severe weather had prevented me from performing my horticultural obligations, and then prevented me from processing pictures after resuming my obligations. As I was able to post last week, I merely posted six pictures of why I neglected to share pictures of horticultural relevance for previous weeks. Finally, I can share a few pictures of some of the bloom that I have neglected. I am impressed that some of it survived so much severe weather. Incidentally, the weather has been totally awesome since the storms stopped as suddenly as they started. Zayante Creek flows as it typically does for this time of year, as if nothing happened. The water seems to be unusually clear.

1. Camellia japonica cultivars are sufficiently numerous here for a month or so of Six on Saturday. Some bloom profusely but briefly. Some bloom sporadically for a long season.

2. Camellia sasanqua cultivars are less numerous, but might be sufficient for two weeks of exclusive Six on Saturday presence. This one is ‘Christmas Cheer’ blooming a bit late.

3. Narcissus is too botanically complicated for species designation. This is possibly ‘King Alfred’. Experts might be able to identify its species or hybrid. I know it only as daffodil.

4. Iris X germanica is also botanically complicated. This unidentified cultivar wastes no time recovering from seemingly early division last September. I am very pleased with it!

5. Scilla peruviana, squill was still canned when we noticed it blooming! We neglected it while busy with the weather. The best is now planted. The rest awaits gopher mitigation.

6. Rhody is very pleased that his crew has been able to resume their normal duties, such as providing treats and petting, without all the stress associated with the severe weather.

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/

Forced Bloom Is Not Sustainable

Moth orchids are grown for bloom.

Poinsettias are very popular blooming potted plants for about a month prior to Christmas. Then, most quietly disappear prior to spring. A few become foliar houseplants. Fewer go into home gardens to likely succumb to frost or neglect. Very few survive for more than a few years. It is not easy to recover from the procedures that forced them to bloom so well.

Forcing bloom is stressful. It provides unnaturally indulgent doses of stimuli that optimize floral performance. It involves any combination of deceptive environmental and chemical manipulation. Optimal bloom is the primary objective. Sustainability or even survivability after bloom is irrelevant. Forced plants are barely more than cut flowers with potted roots.

For example, poinsettias receive much more than the nutrition they require for exemplary growth and bloom. The greenhouses that they grow in maintain optimal temperature and humidity for them. Shading shortens their daylength to deceive them into believing that it is the season for bloom. Transition from such decadence to natural conditions is difficult.

Almost all fancy blooming potted plants that are available from supermarkets and florists, and several from nurseries, are forced to some degree. These include poinsettia, orchid, chrysanthemum, hydrangea, azalea, a few types of roses and various bulbs. Such bulbs include lily, narcissi, crocus, hyacinth and tulip. Some exhaust their resources by bloom.

Many forced plants are cultivars that are distinct from more common landscape cultivars. For example, many florist hydrangeas bloom with huge and very abundant floral trusses on short stems. They are spectacular in pots, but might not be so practical for landscape situations. Landscape hydrangeas support bloom higher over the ground on taller stems.

Their potential for inferior performance after their potentially difficult recovery from forcing should not necessarily disqualify forced plants from salvage. Short florist hydrangea can be delightful accessories to bigger landscape hydrangea. Moth orchids are impressively adaptable. Premature doubting of possible ultimate results can be more effort than trying.

Six on Saturday: Bad Timing

The preponderance of white amongst these ‘Six on Saturday’ is merely coincidental, and might not be obvious anyway. Only #2 and #4 are actually white. Contrary to its cultivar name, #3 is really very pale yellow. As stylish as he might be, #6 is quite obviously gray. #1 bloomed with tiny white flowers earlier, but its berries are now as red as #5. Anyway, with the exception of #1, their timing is less than ideal. #2 and #3 are performing better than they have all year, but will not last for long now that the weather is cooling. #4 and #5, although slightly confused, should still bloom splendidly in season. #6 was not there in the morning.

1. Ilex aquifolium, English holly is doing nothing that it should not be doing at this time of year, but is rarely so prolific with its berries here. It might be more invasive if it were.

2. Brugmansia X candida ‘Double White’, double white Angel’s trumpet is likewise a bit more enthusiastic than it typically is, but at the wrong time, as autumn becomes winter.

3. Helianthus debilis ‘Italian White’, Italian white sunflower is blooming like the angel’s trumpet, at the wrong time. It grew slowly through summer to begin blooming this late.

4. Rhododendron, azalea of an unidentified cultivar is either very late or very early. This unseasonal bloom deducts from the bloom for the following season, but is rather minor.

5. Rhododendron, azalea of another unidentified cultivar bloomed even earlier, or not so late, as this is an older picture. The minor consequences are the same. This white is rad!

6. Kenny II waddled out to meet me as I went out to close the gates for the night, but did not seem to do so intentionally. He stopped waddling when he encountered me, so I left.

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/

African Daisy

African daisy hybrids are generally sterile.

Old fashioned trailing African daisy was becoming too common by the time it succumbed to the Big Freeze just prior to Christmas of 1990. Shrubbier and more colorful cultivars of hybrids with similar species, particularly Osteospermum ecklonis, are now more popular. Such hybrids mostly lack species designation because their lineage is very complicated.

Mature specimens do not grow much wider than two feet, so do not migrate as efficiently as old fashioned trailing African daisy. Since they are hybrids, they do not produce viable seed either. However, if pressed into damp soil, peripheral stems generate roots to grow as new plants that extend the collective width. They also replace deteriorating old plants.

Sporadic bloom may be almost continuous between a few profuse phases, with the most profuse phase between winter and spring. Only the coolest and warmest weather inhibit bloom. It can be difficult to shear overgrown plants between phases without ruining a few flowers. Floral color is pastel hues of purple, lavender, red, pink, orange, yellow or white.

White Bloom Brightens Cool Shade

White might be an acquired taste.

White and black are supposedly opposites. White is a combination of all wavelengths of visible light. Black is a complete absence of such light. In other words, white is a mixture of all colors, while black is the absence of any color. This seems contrary to the common perception of white as a complete lack of color, and black as a complete mix of all colors.

It actually makes sense. The two really are opposites of both each other and themselves. This is about horticulture though, rather than physics. Black is quite rare as a floral color. White is not. The vast majority of flowers do not rely on color to attract pollinators, so are green or brown. Otherwise, most other prominent flowers in many ecosystems are white.

Like inconspicuous green and brown flowers, many white flowers exploit wind more than pollinators. Such flowers are generally profuse, but mostly diminutive and unimpressive. Other flowers that appear to be white utilize infrared or ultraviolet colors that are invisible to people, but colorful to nocturnal pollinators. Some of them are pale during the daytime.

Otherwise, the majority of white flowers that are popular within home gardens are just as flashy as their nonwhite associates. For many types of flowers, such as roses, camellias, azaleas and the countless types of annuals, floral color is more variable than floral form. White is simply another option for color. It serves various specific and practical purposes.

While brightly colorful annuals are appealing within sunny and exposed situations, white flowers brighten darker situations. They contrast nicely with dark green foliage and richly colorful flowers. Petunias that might be a bit too deep purple for a particular situation can mix with similar but white petunias to be more harmonious. White can be a buffering tint.

Colors should preferably be appropriate to their particular applications. Such selection is more aesthetic than horticultural. Some plants, such as gladiola, petunia, calla, oleander and some lily, excel at white bloom. Bougainvillea and crape myrtle excel at richer color.

Deadheading Conserves Resources

If not deadheaded, roses can put a lot of resources into production of seed and hips.

It takes quite a bit of effort for flowers to bloom. It takes even more effort and resources for pollinated flowers to produce seed and the fruiting structures that contain the seed. If the seed of certain aggressive plants get dispersed, we need to put even more effort into pulling up the seedlings. It just never seems to end!

Removal of deteriorating flowers, commonly known (even by those of us who missed that generation) as ‘deadheading’, can eliminate so much of this extra work. Not many plants benefit from deadheading; but most that do are really grateful for it. Others that do not care one way or the other simply look better without their deteriorating flowers.

It is of course impossible to deadhead large flowering trees or vast areas of ground cover. Regularly shorn hedges should never need deadheading because they never get the opportunity to bloom or develop fruit. Plants that are appreciated for the ornamental quality of their fruit should of course not be deadheaded.

Most roses get deadheaded as they bloom because the development of their fruiting structures, known as ‘hips’, takes enough resources to compromise subsequent bloom. Removal of these hips therefore promotes bloom. Only the few types of roses that are grown for their showy hips should not get deadheaded. Phlox, daisies, zinias, dianthus and all sorts of plants with long continual bloom seasons likewise benefit from deadheading.

Some types of iris that produce seed perform better with deadheading, not because they will bloom again during the same season, but because they can divert resources to vegetative growth (like rhizomes and foliage) that will sustain bloom during the following year. Most bearded iris (that do not produce seed) and lily-of-the-Nile do not seem to care if they get deadheaded, but are generally more appealing without their finished flower trusses.

Four o’ clocks can not be deadheaded without also removing developing flowers, so can only be allowed to bloom and throw their invasive seed all over the garden. It is easier to pull their seedlings later. We have a bit more control over crocosmia. Even though they do not need to be deadheaded, they are less invasive and more appealing without their scraggly brown stalks and seed capsules.

Color Outside The Spectral Lines

Infrared and ultraviolet are humanly invisible.

Green is the most common floral color. It only seems to be rare amongst flowers because almost all green bloom relies on wind for pollination. Thus, neither color nor fragrance is useful to get the attention of pollinators. Actually, green flowers do not get much attention at all. They are easy to ignore in the wild, and generally unpopular within home gardens.

Most showy green flowers such as zinnia, chrysanthemum, hydrangea and gladiolus are progeny of unnatural breeding. Showy but naturally green flowers such as hellebore and orchid are merely incidentally green, as they employ infrared or ultraviolet color to attract pollinators. Although people can not see infrared or ultraviolet color, many pollinators do.

After all, flowers bloom only for pollination. Many customize color as well as fragrance to appeal to preferred pollinators. They are merely incidentally appealing to people as well. People breed flowers to be more appealing to people, even if unappealing to pollinators. Nonetheless, even breeding is limited to characteristics that initially attracted pollinators.

It is impossible to identify the most common color among flowers that rely on pollinators. Pollinators are regional. Therefore, red and orange flowers may be more common where hummingbirds who prefer red or orange are more common. Purple flowers may be more common where bees or certain butterflies who prefer purple are the dominant pollinators.

Yellow seems to be the most common natural color of flowers of North America. Red and orange are very common as well. Although common, pink is merely a tint of red, so is not a real color. Neither is brown, which is a shade of orange. Although very common among flowers that rely on wind pollination, it is quite rare among flowers that rely on pollinators.

Blue is the rarest natural floral color. Many flowers that seem to be quite blue are actually purplish. Purple is uncommon, but not as rare as blue. Ultraviolet and infrared get almost no consideration since they are invisible to people. However, both are common amongst most showy flowers, particularly white and maybe red flowers. Red is invisible to insects, though infrared is not.

A Few Favorite Cut Flowers

Try unconventional cut flowers if you can.

Flowers add such variety of color and fragrance to the garden that it is no wonder that they are so popularly cut and brought from the garden into the home. Even though larger quantities of flowers can be purchased from markets or florists without depleting those blooming in the garden, growing our own can be so much more rewarding. We may not be able to grow all the varieties of flowers that commercial growers can grow in greenhouses or other climates, but we can grow many other varieties of flowers that commercial flower growers do not provide.

Many flowers can be grown specifically for cutting, like vegetables are grown to be harvested. Some, like cosmos and daisies, can be grown in such abundance in mass plantings that it is easy to cut a few without anyone missing them. Other flowers, like roses and New Zealand tea tree, are merely by-products of plants that also function as shrubs, vines, trees and even ground covers.

Peruvian lilies are some of the best cut flowers, not only because they last so long after getting cut, but also because they bloom so much through such a long season that there are usually enough flowers for the garden as well as the home. The taller and unfortunately rare types grown by commercial flower growers are better for cutting than the more common ‘garden varieties’ are.

Callas are likewise among the better prolific cut flowers, but only bloom white. The colored types are neither as prolific nor as reliable. Believe it or not, lily-of-the-Nile makes good cut flowers when they bloom white or blue in the middle of summer. They are just awkward because their blooms are so round.

Gladioli are good either as cut flowers or for color in the garden, but unless they are planted in large quantities, they are not prolific enough for both. Like vegetables, they can be planted in phases (in season) to prolong the bloom season. Unfortunately, they need to be planted annually because they do not often naturalize. Those that do naturalize will synchronize their bloom season after the first season.

Several types of iris bloom more generously, and some are happy to naturalize, but only a few types are good cut flowers like Dutch iris are. Some bearded iris wilt within hours of getting cut.