Argyle Apple

51104What an odd name. It sure sounds interesting, like some sort of exotic fruit tree. Alas; argyle apple is a eucalyptus; to be specific, Eucalyptus cinerea. Compared to most other eucalypti, it stays rather low. It barely gets as tall as a two story house, even if it gets broad enough to shade most of the backyard. The rusty brown bark becomes roughly furrowed. The irregular branch structure can be quite sculptural.

The main attraction of argyle apple is the aromatic silvery foliage. Young trees are outfitted with circular juvenile leaves that are attached directly to the stems without petioles (leaf stalks). Lanceolate adult leaves are as silvery as juvenile foliage is. (Juvenile foliage of most other eucalypti is more colorful than adult foliage is.) Aggressive pruning of small trees keeps foliage juvenile for a long time.

Actually, those who know how to work with it might pollard or coppice argyle apple. Pollarding eliminates all foliated stems at the end of winter, but for the rest of the year, allows vigorous arching canes of very silvery juvenile foliage to spread outward from a few stout limbs on top of a trunk. Coppicing allows the same sort of growth from stumps just above grade.

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Pinnate Leaves

P80428K.JPGThat refers to the pattern of the veins in the leaves. Long before studying horticulture and botany at Cal Poly, my classmates and I learned a bit about horticulture within the contexts of studying ‘nature’. While in the sixth grade, we all went to camp for a week. One of the many projects we did during that time was collecting a few leaves to represent three different vein patterns, and mounting them under clear plastic on a cardboard plaque. The three different patters were, ‘pinnate’, ‘palmate’, and ‘parallel’. I do not remember if we all used the same leaves, but for my plaque, I got a blue gum eucalyptus leaf to represent pinnate veins. Palmate veins were represented by English ivy. Parallel veins were represented by English plantain.

These two blue gum trees are the same trees that provided the leaf with pinnate veins for my plaque. This is not a good picture. There really are two trees here. The picture below is even worse, but shows that there really are two separate trees. They probably flanked a driveway to the old house outside of the picture to the right. They are not very healthy right now, and do not seem to be much bigger than they were back in November of 1978, when my sixth grade class was here at camp with them.

This camp happens to be right down the road from the farm. We are neighbors. It is gratifying to see that so much of the camp is just as it was four decades ago. The English ivy that was so common back than is completely gone now, probably because it is so invasive. The lawn around the blue gum eucalyptus used to be much weedier, and provided the English plantain leaves for my plaque.P80428K+

My Internship Was NOT In Australia

P80106Australia, New Zealand and South Africa were the hip and trendy places to do internships in horticulture back in the late 1980s. Everyone who was anyone was doing it; which is sort of why I was not that interested in doing what everyone else was doing already, even if I could have afforded to go to any of those exotic places. I did my internship in Saratoga.

All I knew about Australia was Olivia Newton John, Helen Reddy, eucalyptus trees, and that it is the place where summer goes when it leaves here.

Since writing online and learning a bit more about horticulture in Australia, I incidentally found that Australia is stranger than I would have imagined.

There are no Pontiacs in Australia! Seriously! When someone asked about what to do with a surplus of peaches that were too overripe and squishy to can, I suggested that they get thrown at the neighbor’s Pontiac. It was such a fun tradition among kids in the Santa Clara Valley back in the 1970s. I did not expect to be taken seriously; but I did not expect to be informed that there are no Pontiacs there! How totally primitive! I did not even ask about Buicks. If they lack Buicks, I REALLY do not want to know about it. I did happen to ask if cars were driven on the left side of the road, which they are; not that it matters. Without Pontiacs, who cares?P80106+

Then there are these terrifying animals known as wallabies! They look like humongous rats! They come out early in the morning and again in the evening, when their victims are most vulnerable. They always stare at whomever is taking their picture, as if plotting revenge. They aim their ears too, in order to hear everything that is being said. They are watching and listening right now!P80106++

The middle of Australia is known as the Red Center, which sounds rather like Oklahoma. Uluru is a huge red rock at the center of the Red Center. It really is the color of Oklahoma, and sort of shaped like the 1979 Pontiac Bonneville in the other picture above. You should have seen the pictures that another blogger posted of this fascinating place, and nearby places! The geology alone is fascinating, and mixed with it are all sorts of eucalyptus trees just growing wild. I mean wild, as in they are native there; not exotic like they are here. It is weird to see them out in their natural environments, like valley oaks and coast live oaks here. Wallabies do not seem to bother them much. Most of Australia seems rather flat. There are not many high mountains, and they are not really all that high.P80106+++

Queenslander is an architectural style developed for the climate of Australia. It is named for the northeastern state of Queensland; so has nothing to do with slandering an unpopular queen. I did not know that it was all that different from the Ranch architecture that is common here until someone explained that the homes are up off the ground to allow for air circulation underneath. Some are up high enough for another story to fit below. I suppose that the lower floor could either be at ground level, or elevated as well. Unlike Ranch architecture, Queenslander can be either one or two stories. Also, they tend to be somewhat bisymmetrical, with the front door and steps in the middle, and the left side matching the right side. Some have extra rooms, such as a solarium, on one side. Porches extend at least across the fronts of the homes. Many extend around the sides as well. Simple Queenslander homes tend to be rather square, with only four sides. Their roofs are also rather square, sloping toward all four sides, instead of just sloping to the front and back like roofs of common Ranch architecture often do. One advantage over Ranch architecture is the hood over the steps to the porch. It diverts rain to the sides if there are no gutters. Queenslander homes do not seem to have prominent garages visible from the front, perhaps because Australians lack Pontiacs of other cars that are worth showing off.P80106++++

Australia is less populous than California is, and almost everyone lives near the coast. That is something that I was sort of aware of. What I did not know is that there are FIVE cities that are more populous than San Jose! BOTH Melbourne AND Sydney are more populous than Los Angeles! How are there enough people left over to live anywhere else? Adelaide is one of the five major cities, and also has a climate remarkably similar to that of San Jose. It even sort of looks like San Jose, with the East Hills in the background. It does not look as big as San Jose though. Adelaide seems to be a bit more centralized, with more high density development, and less urban sprawl. This might be a result of a lack of Pontiacs or other nice cars to drive to suburban areas. Perhaps people just prefer to live closer to town because wallabies live on the outskirts. Queenslander homes seem to be on suburban parcels that are probably on the outskirts, but they are also outfitted with those distinctive fences.

Red Flowering Gum

61123We all know about the bad reputation of eucalypti, especially the notorious blue gum. They are too big, too aggressive, too messy, too structurally deficient, and in groups, they are too combustible. However, there are several eucalypti that are not only appropriate for local home gardens, but because of their resiliency, drought tolerance and adaptability to the local environment, should be more popular than they are.

Red flowering gum, Eucalyptus ficifolia (which is now known as Corymbia ficifolia), rarely gets more than thirty feet tall and broad, with a stout branch structure. It is a good street tree because the roots are usually deep and complaisant. Constantly falling leaves and seed capsules are somewhat messy, but the mess is proportionate to the compact canopy, and is probably worth the spectacular summer and autumn bloom.

Fuzzy trusses of staminate flowers are usually some shade of red, but might be pink, salmon, reddish orange or pale white. Trees must be a few years old to bloom, so color might be a surprise when young trees bloom for the first time. Profusion of bloom can be variable from year to year, or from one portion of the canopy to another. Tree size and form are also variable. Some are vigorous while others are more compact.

Dwarf Bluegum

P71103Bluegum is famously problematic. It is too big, too invasive, too messy, too structurally deficient, and as demonstrated in the Oakland fire, too combustible. Dwarf bluegum, Eucalyptus globulus ‘Compacta’, is a completely different animal that does not even look related. It gets only about fifty feet tall, with a dense and somewhat symmetrically rounded canopy. The mess and falling limbs do not affect such a large area.

Dwarf bluegum is not a particularly appealing tree for home gardens, but happens to be practical on freeways or for quick shade in areas that are not landscaped. Once it gets going, it needs no irrigation. Too much water compromises stability. The distinctively curved lanceolate leaves resemble those of common bluegum, but are more densely arranged on shorter stems. Self sown seedlings grow as normal bluegums.