Six on Saturday: Camellia japonica

All but the first of these six are Camellia japonica. They bloomed late this year, likely as a result of the exceptionally wintry winter. Also, these pictures are more than two weeks old. They likely finished blooming by now. I do not know because I am not there. Rhody, Carson and I are still on vacation in the Pacific Northwest. As these Six on Saturday post at midnight, we will begin our trip home. Pictures of our vacation would be appropriate, but are not processed yet. Besides, I do not take many pictures. Also, although these few pictures are now outdated, I did not want to waste them. These five camellias and single flowering cherry demonstrated commendable diligence by blooming after such a wintry winter.

1. Double white flowering cherry is obviously not a Camellia japonica, but happens to be my favorite of our several flowering cherries here. The tree is in rough condition though.

2. Frilly white camellia with a relatively modest staminate center may be the prettiest of the white camellias here, but does not look so pretty in this shaded picture after the rain.

3. Pinkish watermelon red camellia blooms with variable floral form. Some flowers seem to be of peony form. Some seem to be of anemone form. I have no idea what form this is.

4. Very pallid pink camellia seems to be almost white. Whiter white or pinker pink could be prettier, but its pastel color seems to be very appropriate to its distinctive floral form.

5. Pinkish watermelon red camellia resembles the color of #3 now, but normally blooms deeper red. Perhaps the unusually harsh weather last winter somehow altered the color.

6. Single white camellia with a prominently staminate center looks like a sunny-side-up egg. Camellia blight around the edges proliferated during the exceptionally rainy winter.

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Six on Saturday: Festival des Fleurs de Cerise

Beau prefers French. I do not know why. He was born in Missouri. His name is derived from ‘Hobo’ (‘HoBeau’). Since vehicles here are traditionally named after places, he may believe that his name was derived from ‘Boulder Creek’ (‘Beaulder Creek’) or Bonny Doon (‘Beaunny Doon’). Nonetheless, there is nothing French about Beau. I do not argue. Nor do I argue with Rhody if he insists that Beau is a Pontiac rather than a Chevrolet. If he believes that we ride in that kind of style, it is just fine with me. Anyway, after last Saturday, some wanted to see Beau.

1. Two years after we intended to remove this pair of historic flowering cherry tree, they get to bloom one last time. Sadly, their demise can be delayed no longer. Their trunks are too rotten.

2. Three similar flowering cherry trees down the road have been recovering from foliar disease during the same two years. They are neither as pretty nor as distinguished, but have potential.

3. Adjacent to #2, this most garish flowering cherry tree is the most prominent. Unfortunately, like #1, it is deteriorating, so will also be removed after bloom. Half of the canopy is necrotic.

4. This one should succumb instead. To me, weeping flowering cherries look weird. This one was in bad condition when I met it. Unfortunately, my efforts to renovate it have been effective.

5. Oh, my favorite. The flowers are double, but not as fluffy as those of #3. It really is as white as it looks, without any blush. The tree is disfigured and shaded by redwoods, but blooms well.

6. Beau was the unseen star of my previous Six on Saturday. He is neither French nor related to ‘the’ Beau of the Frustrated Gardener, but is pretty cool anyway, and drives on the right side.

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Six on Saturday: (Two is Enough)

Six on Saturday is about gardening. It should therefore feature flowery pictures. I do sometimes try to comply, but often neglect to include flowery pictures. I included one for this week, and two more horticulturally oriented pictures. Of course, the most important picture is of Rhody; because everyone loves Rhody. The other two pictures are neither horticulturally oriented, nor relevant to Rhody. I just found them appealing.

1. Rhody is who you came here for. I did not even bother saving the best for last this time. Do you really need to see the other five? I am sorry that he does not cooperate for better pictures.

2. Prunus bloom provides a flowery picture. This and the picture of Rhody are all my Six on Saturday needs. I do not know what species this is. It was understock of a tree that got cut down.

3. Daffodil bloom after other narcissus, so typically get thrashed less by wintry weather. Each year is unique though. Paperwhite narcissus bloomed before stormy weather started this year.

4. Palms do not dominate all of the landscapes of California. Although they are common near the Coast of Southern California, they are uncommon, and look weird, here among the redwoods.

5. Lichens are not exactly relevant to horticulture. I just happened to notice how uniformly these lichens cover this fence. If they were greener, they might resemble a squarely shorn hedge.

6. Bean Creek flowing from the top of the picture into Zayante Creek is irrelevant to horticulture as well. I just happened to like this picture of this bit of the forest. Bean Creek flows through the Farm just a few miles away. Ferndell Creek is barely visible where it flows into the middle of this picture from an unseen waterfall to the right. Miley Cyrus was filmed there for ‘Malibu’.

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Grande Finale

They still bloom spectacularly.

This is the third spring that I got picture of this pair of flowering cherry trees in bloom. I took several pictures last year, ranging from closeup pictures of the flowers, to pictures taken from a distance like the picture above. Fewer pictures were taken during the previous spring of 2018, before these trees were groomed of copious necrosis. Sadly, this picture will be one of the last.

The trees will be cut down this year. They stayed just long enough to bloom this one last season, but will not likely be here much longer. They are deteriorating at such a rate that if I were to prune the necrosis away after bloom, there would not be much remaining. The tree to the right in this picture would be only a rotten stump with a few limber twigs protruding from the top.

Structural integrity has been so compromised by decay that, even without the weight of all the limbs that have been pruned back during the past many years, the trunks could easily break off at the ground. When I remove them, I will likely just push the tree to the right over without cutting it first. If there were any branches left, a kid could knock it over by trying to climb it.

As much as I would prefer for these trees to last much longer, I want to install their replacements as soon as possible. Planting them this spring would give them all summer to disperse roots and grow a little bit before blooming next spring. I know they will not be much to look at for a few years, but many years from now, they might be as spectacular as these two originals were.

Regardless, it will be a saddening task to cut down these distinguished trees.


It really looks like something erupted from within!

That was a scary movie back when horror movies really were scary! The first appearance of the baby alien was the creepiest part and one of the scariest scenes! It is too disturbing and gory to describe here. Those who have seen it may have noticed how it might seem to be weirdly relevant to the cavity that opened in the rotting trunk of this deteriorating flowering cherry tree.

With a bit more distance, the rotting trunk looks sort of like an associate of ‘H. R. Pufnstuf’ after an interaction with a baby alien. If you can remember who H. R. Pufnstuf was, you probably shouldn’t. He starred in his own television show for children on Saturday morning in the 1970s. It was disturbingly weird and perhaps even inappropriate for the children it was intended for.

So, it is both rotten and unsightly.

With even more distance, it is obvious that this is nothing to joke about. This is one of two flowering cherry trees that I have been so protective of, and put so much work into temporarily salvaging. Both should have been removed and replaced years ago. This project was scheduled for after bloom in 2018, postponed until after bloom in 2019, and has yet to be done even now.

The problem is that these trees are so popular and so appreciated by the Community. They have been here in the most prominent spot in the neighborhood for several decades. There are not many who remember when the trees were young. No one seems to remember before the trees were here. They are as historical as the older buildings. I can not bear to cut them down.

As you can see, there is no choice now, at least for this particular tree. It is already so decayed that it can barely support its own weight.

As pretty as the bloom is, the disfigured branch structure and trunk are no longer appealing.

No Cherry On Top

P90811Weeping flowering cherry is another type of tree that almost never gets appreciated like it should. Like so many Japanese maples, they get planted into situation where so-called ‘gardeners’ shear them into nondescript globs of worthless foliage that only get in the way. Some get shorn so regularly that they are deprived of bloom. Their form and bloom are their two main assets.

The climate here is not easy on them either. Although comfortably mild, the climate is also arid. This aridity enhances the potential for sun scald of exposed bark. Because upper limbs bend over to hang back downward, their bark is more exposed than that of upright flowering cherries. Consequently, upper limbs are often scalded and ruined, disfiguring the remaining canopy.

Pruning can be complicated. Removal of scalded upper growth exposes inner growth that is more sensitive to scald. It is sometimes necessary to leave damaged upper growth until it gets replaced from below by newer growth. Regular pruning to remove as much of the superfluous lower growth as possible should stimulate more vigorous growth among the stems that remain.

This is really the best technique for preventing scald among upper growth. It may sound silly, but pruning from below to concentrate growth into fewer stems that extend from or through the top of the canopy keeps the top of the canopy healthy and resilient to scald. It also elevates the pendulous canopy that needs to be pruned very regularly for vertical clearance anyway.

It is not easy to see in this picture, but this small weeping cherry tree is developing two distinct canopies. The original upper canopy was damaged by scald and is now disfigured. It is mostly to the upper left of center of the picture. A more symmetrical inner canopy that is developing where superfluous inner growth was pruned out last winter is evident below and to the right.

If there were not a walkway so close to the tree, and I were not concerned with maintaining vertical clearance, I could prune the upper canopy back over a few years, and subordinate it to the healthier lower canopy as it grows through it. Instead, I will prune out most of the inner canopy, leaving only a few vigorous stems that can replace what is missing in the upper canopy.

There is no need to be concerned with it now. The lower stems are not too obtrusive yet. They can bloom next spring, and get pruned out next summer before they really do get obtrusive.

Six on Saturday: Spring Flowering Trees – With Problems


You probably do not notice the problems while distracted by the profuse bloom. That is just swell. It is gratifying that the trees that I work with are appealing to those who see them. Since I work with them, I notice their problems. I would have posted just close up pictures of the flowering cherries and flowering crabapples, but because they are blooming at different times this year, I got only these three.

1. The shade of the big redwood trees is a bit too dark for this flowering cherry tree. It is always this sparse. What is worse is that the upper layer of bloom is suspended on a single horizontal limb that extends from the right, out the backside, back in toward the center and off to the left as it is seen here in the picture. What looks like supporting limbs is actually trunks of birch trees in the background. I would prefer to cut the awkward limb off, but you can see how flat topped the remaining portion of the tree would be without it.P90413

2. This is the main reason the tree remains. These double white flowers are the whitest of the trees here.P90413+

3. My absence at a previous work day at the Presbyterian Church was the problem with this ‘Prairie Fire’ flowering crabapple. I had worked with this tree for a few years to thin out the thicket growth, and repair structural damage. Then, because I was not there, someone else pruned it indiscriminately with hedge shears and loppers! What a mess! It is best that you can not see the damage within the canopy. I don’t know why this was done. The tree only needed minor trimming for clearance above parked cars. After bloom, I will start the process of structural repair all over again.P90413++

4. These rosy pink flowers make it all worth it though.P90413+++

5. This flowering cherry actually looks better than I expected it to this year. I pruned out so much necrosis last years that I figured that the tree was deteriorating. I expected a bit more new necrosis to develop this years. As you can see, that did not happen so much. I am not disappointed. Actually, I am impressed that there is no necrosis worth noticing. The worst problem with the tree right now is that it is disfigured by the unexplained necrosis. Well, that will not prevent us from appreciating the bloom.P90413++++

6. This is the bloom close up. It is very similar to the other two old cherry trees that I will be cutting down this year. I wrote an article, and perhaps others, about them earlier.

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The End Of The Cherry Blossom Festival

P90331After decades of spectacular spring bloom, this pair of flowering cherry trees in the picture above must be removed. They have been deteriorating for a very long time. Below the limber blooming branches of the tree on the right, there is not much more than a bulky rotten trunk, one rotting limb, and a short stub of a limb that was cut back to a bit of viable twiggy growth last year. The tree to the left has only a few more viable but rotten limbs.
Through this last winter, it was finally decided that we would allow them to bloom one last time, and then replace them with a new pair of trees of the same cultivar. I will cut them down myself. I do not want anyone else to perform this unpleasant task. Nor do I want such dignified and admired trees to be cut down by anyone else. Like I do for other prominent trees, I will write the obituary; a joint obituary for two who were always together.
Since the new trees will be of the same cultivar, they will bloom with the same profuse pale pink spring bloom, and will hopefully last for more than half a century like the originals did. Because the originals had been pruned back so severely as they deteriorated over the past many years, the new trees should grow to be as large within only a few years. They will not be the same though. There will be no adequate replacement for the originals.
The cherry blossoms below are of another pair of trees a bit farther up the road. They are not nearly as old, so could be there for a few more decades. There are a few others, of various ages and different cultivars, scattered about the neighborhood.P90331+P90331++

Not So Fruitless Cherry Trees

P80520The ‘politically correct’ designation for them now is ‘flowering cherry’. We all know what it means, but it is not quite as accurate. After all, they all flower. Fruiting cherries can not make fruit without flowering first. The old fashioned designation as ‘fruitless cherry’ is more accurate, but not so appealing. Besides, after half a century, the work of these two deteriorating old fruitless cherry trees has not been in vain.

We are not certain what cultivar they are. I think of them as ‘Akebono’ because that is what I am familiar with. However, those who have been acquainted with them longer know them as ‘Yoshino’. The tree structure seems to be more similar to that of ‘Akebono’. The bloom seems to be more similar to that of ‘Yoshino’. My Mother happens to like ‘Akebono’, so if she ever asks, I know what to say. However, I would tell my Pa that they are ‘Yoshino’ because that happens to be the middle name of his newest son in law, who he gave my baby sister #5 away to. It does not really matter what their name is. They are some of the most important trees in the neighborhood.

You would think that with all the very old and very big redwoods here, that these puny and decrepit flowering cherry trees would not be all that important. Some of the redwoods are hundreds of feet tall and hundreds of years old. They will still be here for a very long time after the flowering cherries are gone. Flowering cherries can last for centuries where they are happiest and pampered in old gardens in Japan, but rarely last half a century here, even in the best of conditions.

However, everyone in the neighborhood knows these cherry trees. There are only a few people who can remember before the trees were planted in the late 1960s. They are spectacular in bloom, particularly with the dark green backdrop of the rest of the landscape and redwoods. The picture below shows a close up of the bloom about a month and a half ago. One can imagine the entire canopy of the trees covered with this bloom before new foliage appears. It was even more spectacular years ago, before the canopies started to deteriorate and die back. There is not much left of them now.

They really are as bad as they look in the picture above. The closer of the two trees is just a stump with that silly little stub on top to make it look even more disfigured. I could not cut off the stump because some of the minimal remaining viable stems originate there. It does not matter much. There is no way to repair these trees, or make them any prettier. Either of the trees could die at any moment. We are ready to plant at least one replacement, although we will likely only plant one. The objective is to restore the bloom that was there before, but we know that there is no replacement for the trees that those who are familiar with are so fond of.

I have worked with MANY trees through my career, including a few that are (or were) very cultural significant. I was very disgusted by the lack of respect for a group of historic redwoods that used to be outside the old City Hall in Sunnyvale before the mall was build around them, over the area that used to be downtown. I inspected the big old coast live oak at the Scott Residence in Scott’s Valley, where the founder of the town resided. Again, I was saddened by the lack of concern from people who live there now but know nothing of local history, and care even less. At the Winchester House, I witnessed idiotic mislabeling of the historic California fan palms flanking the driveway, as well as blatant lies about their history. Well, I could write another article about this rant. These not so fruitless flowering cherries do not fit into this category anyway.

It seems that everyone is aware that the flowering cherries will be gone soon, and they understand why. No one questions the need for removal. It is saddening anyway. Yet, it is also gratifying to know that these trees are appreciated and respected as much as they are. Those who know them appreciate all the work they put into making their lives a bit more colorful and happier. For half a century, these flowering cherries have been doing what they were planted to do. They had a very good and fruitful career.P80414

Six on Saturday: Cherry on Top


The flowering cherry trees are like something from Washington D C. They are remarkably happy in our particular location. The air is a bit cooler and a bit more humid than in the Santa Clara Valley. The redwood forest protects them from wind. These pictures were taken last Monday. Bloom is finishing now. The trees in the first picture are already mostly green with new foliage. Bloom was excellent while it lasted.

Azaleas are still in full bloom in the same area. Some are farther along. Others still have buds opening. They seem to be a bit late this year.

The Dutch iris is interesting because it is so uncommon here. In other locations, it blooms well only once, and then does not get adequate chill to bloom the following year. These Dutch iris are doing quite well near the ‘Kwanzan’ flowering cherry in the third picture, and have been blooming reliable for several years.

The pansies, which are actually easy to grow here, did not do as well as other plants that should not have done as well as they did. A few bare spots are evident. However, because they are partly shaded and cooled by the redwoods, pansies can stay in this spot near the flowering cherries in the first and second pictures until the weather gets too warm for them in summer. In other places not so far away, they would have been replaced by warm season annuals already.

1. flowering cherry – Some know them as ‘Yoshino’. Others think they are ‘Akebono’. I really need to find out what they are so that we can add more before these deteriorating old trees get removed.P80414
2. flowering cherry – Double flowers are not my favorite, but the clear bright white is. Again, we do not know what cultivar this is.P80414+
3. flowering cherry – This one is obviously ‘Kwanzan’.P80414++
4. azalea – This red azalea should be easy to identify, but no one really cares what cultivar it is.P80414+++
5. Dutch iris – In our climate, this is impressively reliable bloom.P80414++++
6. pansies – Yes, I know they are cliché; but they happened to be blooming near the flowering cherries, so I could not just ignore them.P80414+++++
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