White Hydrangea

P90907KWhat ever happened to the formerly common white hydrangea? It used to one of the three standard types of hydrangea; and the other two were really variants of the same sorts of ‘pink or blue’ hydrangea that I wrote about in ‘Horridculture – True Colors‘. The few hydrangeas that are white nowadays are lacy, flat-topped, blushed . . . or anything but simple classic white.

This old fashioned simple white hydrangea is just as elegant now as it has always been. It is always white, without pretense of blue or pink. There is no point of giving it something it does not really need just to change its natural color (like those of us in the Santa Clara Valley do to make pink hydrangeas blue; or those of us in the Tualatin Valley do to make blue hydrangeas pink).

The bulky and almost spherically rounded form of this floral truss distinguishes this old fashioned type as a ‘mophead’ hydrangea. Nowadays, ‘lacecap’, ‘mountain’, ‘smooth’, ‘panicle’, ‘oakleaf’ and ‘climbing’ hydrangeas are the more popular types. There is certainly nothing wrong with contemporary types, but there is nothing wrong with the old fashioned ‘mophead’ types either.

When it is time to prune the hydrangeas this winter, we might take cuttings from this particular specimen, in order to grow a few copies of it. Pink and blue hydrangeas, which get fertilized accordingly (to maintain their desired colors), happen to suit the landscapes very nicely here, but a few more white hydrangeas would brighten the rich dark green of the forest splendidly.

Besides, the old fashioned simplicity and elegance of this old fashioned white mophead hydrangea seem to be more compatible with the old redwoods and other mature forest trees than the relative flashiness of modern cultivars that were popularized only in the past few decades.

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Paris Daisy

P90608KNo, this is not a Paris daisy. It is a common euryops daisy, Euryops pectinatus. It is obviously related, but the flowers are bright yellow rather than clear white with yellow centers, and the foliage is darker green. It is more resilient, so became more common in landscapes as quickly as mow, blow and go ‘gardeners’ replaced real gardeners who actually know something of horticulture. There is certainly nothing wrong with it. It is just cliché.

The few remaining Paris daisies are fancier cultivars of the old fashioned traditional sort anyway. Some bloom pale pink. Some bloom pale yellow. Flowers might have fluffy centers of the same color. Foliage might be pale grayish green. Plants are more compact. The cultivar that most closely resembles the old Paris daisy has more profuse, but smaller flowers. The cultivars are all quite nice, but are not quite the same as what we remember.

The original Paris daisy, Chrysanthemum frutescens, which is now known as Argyranthemum frutescens, was the sort of flower you wore in your hair if you were going to San Francisco in the late 1960s, or according to my memory, in the very early 1970s. It looked just like the three plastic daisies in the upper right (or lower left) corner of those cool AstroTurf door mats that were so popular. Perhaps they were cliché for their time too.

Cuttings rooted in half pint mason jars on kitchen windowsills to replace older plants. Our mothers grew them in the garden, supposedly to repel the bad insects, and attract the good insects to eat the bad ones who did not take the hint. In that regard, Paris daisies were how young horticulturists learned about vegetative propagation and ‘integrated pest management’ (IPM). They were so familiar back then; but then disappeared by the 1990s.

Only recently, Brent, my colleague in the Los Angeles region who I so frequently mention (typically in a disparaging manner) found just two specimens at a nursery in Southern California, and promptly procured both. One if for his garden, and one is for mine!

Zonal Geranium

60525New and improved is not always better. Modern garden varieties of zonal geranium, Pelargonium X hortorum, with bigger, fuller and more profuse blooms, are more colorful than the relatively weedy classic varieties, but they are considerably more demanding. In fact, because they are so unhappy through winter, they are often grown as warm season annuals instead of as perennials.

They are certainly worth growing though, and are reasonably easy to propagate from cuttings. Flowers can be red, pink, white, peachy orange or almost purple. Bloom is almost continuous. Each rounded dark green leaf might be adorned with a darker halo about halfway between the center and the outer margin. Mature plants do not get much more than three feet tall, and not much wider.

Old varieties might get twice as tall, with smaller blooms, and lighter foliage.

Mellow Yellow

P90427KThis picture of a yellow Pacific Coast iris probably should have been incorporated into the Six on Saturday post earlier today. I omitted it because I was not so impressed with how the color showed up. It is really more yellow than it looks. In this picture, it looks more like a discolored version of the white Pacific Coast iris. This sort of variation, that might have been normal for old fashioned photography, is not expected of digital imagery.
It sort of reminds me of how some insects and other pollinators see flowers so differently with infrared or ultraviolet. Are infrared or ultraviolet faded in digital imagery as well? It would make sense, since there is no need for normal cameras to record colors that we can not see. Nor is there need for computer monitors to display such invisible colors. Ironically, modern technology can modify color to make that which in invisible to us visible.
Modern technology is always improving the quality of stored data, and the presentation of such stored data. Perhaps there really are ways to take pictures that record infrared and ultraviolet, although I can not imagine why there would be a use for such technology. Video is good about recording and presenting motion. Audio records and presents sound. Regardless, none of it is good enough to keep us from actually enjoying our real gardens.
Pacific Coast iris blooms in all sorts of weirdly bright colors now. Modern technology has certainly had its way with them as well. The flowers are bigger and bolder than they naturally were. The foliage is greener and fluffier. Yet, to me, the best are still those that grow wild and bloom on the coast of San Mateo County, with unassuming flowers in subdued shades of greyish blue, like faded denim.

Horridculture – Pale Clivia Syndrome

P90417Back in the good old days, Kaffir lily, Clivia miniata, which is probably most popularly known simply as ‘clivia’, bloomed with big round trusses of exclusively bright reddish orange flowers. It was such an excellent color that no one thought to change it. Flowers of feral plants that sometimes grew from seed were potentially more orange and less red, but were flashy nonetheless. There was no need, and minimal potential, for ‘improvement’.

Then the allure of the ‘rare’ happened. Yellow Kaffir lilies had previously been so rare that very few had seen them. Once the rest of us became aware of their existence, many of us wanted them, only because they were so rare. However, after seeing them, some of us came to the conclusion that they were rare because no one wanted them when the species was first introduced, and cultivars with the best color were selected and perpetuated.

Regardless, yellow Kaffir lily suddenly became a fad. Traditional bright reddish orange Kaffir lilies became passe. All the while, those subscribing to the fad seriously believed that yellow was better and more desirable than reddish orange simply because it was so very rare. All the while, yellow became increasingly popular, increasingly available . . . and no longer rare. All the while, reddish orange became unpopular, uncommon . . . and rare.

So now what? Why is yellow more popular than reddish orange now? Yellow is insipid and pale. Reddish orange is vibrant and bright. Furthermore, yellow is so dreadfully common. Reddish orange is quite rare. According to the previous justification for the popularity of insipid pale yellow Kaffir lily, bright reddish orange Kaffir lily should be popular now, not because they are so much more colorful and appealing, but because they are RARE!P90406++++

These are in Brent’s garden.

Horridculture – Promiscuity

 

71206Nomenclature of the botanical sort was so much simpler back when we studied it back in the 1980s. It was intended to be like that. It was how the various specie of plants were identified and classified. There were certain rules that simply made sense. After ‘family’, plants were classified into general ‘genera’, and then further classified into specific ‘specie’. Some specie were further classified into ‘varieties’ and ‘cultivars’. (Cultivars are simply ‘cultivated varieties’ that need to be perpetuated by cloning because they are too genetically unstable to be true-to-type from seed.)

The genus name is always first. The species name is always second. Because they are Latin, they should be italicized. Any variety or cultivar names are last, not italicized, and in semi-quotations.

Back in the 1980s, there were a few specie that did not quite fit into such neat classification. Intergeneric hybrids (between two parents of different genera) were designated by an ‘X’ before the genus name, such as X Fatshedera lizei, which is a hybrid between Fatsia japonica and Hedera helix. Interspecific hybrids (between twp parents of different specie) were designated by an ‘X’ before the species name, such as Platanus X acerifolia, which is a hybrid between two different specie of the same genus of Platanus. Then there are different species that hybridize freely, but are still designated as separate specie, such as Washingtonia robusta and Washingtonia filifera, but that is another story.

Nowadays, with so much weirdly promiscuous breeding, it is difficult to know what specie or even genera some of the modern varieties and cultivars fit into. Consequently, species names are often omitted, and genus names are sometimes changed. It is getting difficult to know the differences between the two formerly distinct genera of Gaillardia and Rudbekia.

What is even sillier is that all this is happening while ‘sustainability’ and gardening for ‘bees’ are such fads. Weirdly bred specie . . . or whatever they are, are likely unable produce viable seed, so are just the opposite of sustainable. They only sustain their own marketability by ensuring the need for replacement. Some make no pollen for the bees that visit the flowers expecting to find some. Some make pollen of questionable nutritional value, or serve it in complicated flowers that might be difficult for bees to navigate.

There certainly are advantages to simplicity.71129

Apologies for the delay of posting ‘Horridculture’, which is normally posted on Wednesday. I was unable to write, so advanced the article that was intended for today to Wednesday, and finished writing this rant for today.

Horridculture – Mutants


P80704Mutants are the source of many of our favorite cultivars of otherwise simpler specie. Many cultivars of plants with compact, pendulous or fastigiate (strictly vertical) growth, or variegated, bronzed, golden or otherwise abnormally colored foliage, were derived from ‘sports’, which are mutant stems that appear on otherwise normal plants. Thornless blackberries were sports of thorny cultivars. Fruitless mulberry is a sport of white mulberry. There is no shortage of mutants.

https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2018/05/07/cultivars-are-the-real-cloned-mutants/

https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2018/05/06/sport/

By nature, mutants are genetically unstable. A few can easily mutate back to their original and more genetically stable characteristics. Variegated plants are notorious for developing simple green unvariegated foliage. Because it has more chlorophyll, the unvariegated foliage grows faster, and has the potential to eventually overwhelm and replace the variegated foliage. That is why green sports should get pruned out of variegated plants.

‘President Roosevelt’ is the most popular of the few variegated rhododendrons. In nursery production, it gets pruned somewhat regularly to remove green sports. Variegated specimens are rare in landscapes because almost all revert to unvariegated foliage within only a few years.

‘Yellow Wave’ is a cultivar of New Zealand flax with pendulous yellow striped foliage. It can be seen in front of the upright greener foliage in the background. These are not two separate plants stuck together. The more vigorous green foliage is a reverting sport that should have been removed by the ‘gardener’ who is supposed to be ‘maintaining’ this landscape. The green sport is now so developed that it can not be removed without damaging the rest of the ‘Yellow Wave’ growth. It will undoubtedly be left to overwhelm and replace it. Fortunately, the upright green foliage is about as appealing as the ‘Yellow Wave’, so no one will notice the inadequacy of the maintenance. No one ever does.

Hydrangea

80711There are so many more of the fancier cultivars of hydrangea, Hydrangea macrophylla, than there were as recently as the 1990s. Many of the pink and blue hydrangeas were interchangeable years ago. They would bloom blue if the soil was acidic. They would bloom pink if the soil was alkaline. Their color changed accordingly when planted from potting media into soil of another pH.

Most of the modern cultivars nowadays are better at one color or the other. Those that want to be rich pink or almost red might turn lavender or purple in acidic soil. Those that want to be rich blue might do the same in alkaline soil. That makes for many hues of pink, blue, lavender and purple. Most of those that bloom white always bloom white, and their foliage might be a little lighter green.

There is also much more variety in floral form than ever before, although all bloom in summer or autumn with big rounded or nearly spherical trusses of many small flowers. The deciduous leaves are about six inches long, and pleasantly lush and glossy. Modern compact cultivars stay low and dense. Larger cultivars get about six feet high and wide, with somewhat open branch structure.

Cultivars Are The Real Cloned Mutants

80516thumbIt is not science fiction. It involves neither ninjas nor turtles. Cultivars really are mutant plants that can only be propagated by cloning. The word ‘cultivar’ is a portmanteau (two words combined into a single word) of ‘cultivated’ and ‘variety’. Unlike other varieties of plants that can be perpetuated by seed, cultivars must be cultivated by unnatural techniques to maintain their genetic distinction.

For example, ‘Alamo Fire’ is a variety of Texas bluebonnets with maroon flowers. The original seed were collected from a few naturally occurring variants with maroon flowers, and grown into more plants with maroon flowers, which provided more seed. No seed was collected from those that bloomed blue. By repeating this process of selection a few times, the variety was developed.

The variety ‘Alamo Fire’ is now sufficiently genetically stable to perpetuate itself, which means that subsequent generations will also bloom with maroon flowers. However, a few blue flowers might bloom in any generation; and unless they are weeded out before producing seed, they will eventually dominate until the entire colony reverts from maroon back to the more genetically stable blue.

‘Meyer’ lemon is an example of a cultivar. It must be propagated vegetatively by cuttings, or perhaps grafted onto understock. In other words, it must be cloned. It is a genetically unstable hybrid of a lemon and an orange, so plants grown from their seed would be very different from the parent. Many hybrids are so genetically unstable that they are sterile, and unable to produce viable seed.

Many variegated or dwarf cultivars of all sorts of plants are not hybrids, but are mutants. It is common for some arborvitaes to produce ‘sports’, which are simply mutant growth that is somehow different from the original growth. If a sport has a desirable characteristic, such as densely compact growth, variegation, or golden foliage, it can be cloned as a cultivar. Just like ‘Meyer’ lemon, a dwarf golden arborvitae is very unlikely to produce genetically similar seedlings.

Sport

P80506Not just any sport; a witch’s broom sport! Remember the quidditch tournament of the first Harry Potter Movie? Well, it has nothing to do with that. You should not be watching such movies anyway.

This sort of ‘sport’ is merely a genetic variant growth. This particular sport happens to be known as a ‘witch’s broom’.

There is quite a variety of other sports.

Sometimes, a plant is going along minding its own business, when all of a sudden, it produces a stem with variegated leaves. Unlike the plain green leaves on the rest of the plant, the leaves on the sport are outfitted with white margins. In the wild, such a sport would probably not last long. Since it has less chlorophyll than the unvariegated foliage, it would grow slower, so would eventually be overwhelmed and shaded out by the more vigorous greener foliage. However, if someone happens to find this variegated sport, and determines that the variegation might be an attribute, it can be propagated as a new variegated cultivar of the species.

Sometimes, a plant is going along minding its own business, when all of a sudden, it produces a stem with bronzed foliage, or gold foliage, or leaves that are shaped differently from those on the rest of the plant. Perhaps new stems are more pendulous than they normally are. Sometimes, growth is more compact. It might even be rather stunted and disfigured, branching into a tuft of densely arranged twiggy stems known as a ‘witch’s broom’.

Such growth does not look like a witch’s broom for very long. As it grows, it develops into a densely shrubby mass that eventually gets too heavy to be supported. If the dense growth is appealing, it can be propagated as a new cultivar, like the dwarf Alberta spruce was reproduced from a witch’s broom sport of the common white spruce, or the pencil point juniper was reproduced from a witch’s broom sport of the common juniper (Juniperus communis ‘Compressa’).

This massive witch’s broom happens to be on a Douglas fir. It has been here for decades. It sure is ugly, but also interesting. It could be interesting enough to be reproduced.