Good Looks Are Not Everything

00311
Less color can mean more fragrance.

More flowers bloom as winter becomes early spring than at any other time of year. For many flowers, bloom is significantly accelerated this year because winter was so very warm. Flowering cherry, purple leaf plum and most of the stone fruit trees (such as almond, cherry, apricot, nectarine, peach, plum, prune and all their various hybrids) have already bloomed.

Color is what gets noticed first. After all, that is what all the flashy colors are intended for, to get the attention of pollinators. Yet, there is more to the indirect mating strategies of flowers than color. Because flowers lack the mobility to pollinate each other, they do what they must to attract others to disperse their pollen for them. Some use fragrance.

Generally, flowers prefer one tactic or the other. This is why the most colorful flowers lack fragrance, and the most fragrant lack color. Gardenia (which is not easy to grow locally), star jasmine, honeysuckle, Pittosporum tobira, Pittosporum undulatum and night blooming jasmine are not exactly colorful while blooming. The powerfully fragrant flowers of sweet osmanthus and sweet box barely get noticed.

Pink jasmine and mock orange (Philadelphus spp.) are flashier, only because their blooms are so profuse. Southern magnolia has spectacularly big flowers, but they are mostly obscured by dense foliage high above view. Cereus cactus and moon flower are likewise spectacular, but bloom at night to attract nocturnal moths for pollination.

Only a few flowers are both colorful and fragrant. Lilac and wisteria are among the more familiar. Both bloom early in spring, with a similar color range of lavender, blue, pink and white. Lilac is shrubby. Wisteria is an aggressive vine. ‘Charles Grimaldi’ angel’s trumpet is a big shrubby perennial that blooms rich yellow, but may only be fragrant at sundown.

Freesia, hyacinth, lily and bearded iris are flashy and fragrant flowers grown from bulbs, although hyacinth and most lilies rarely bloom a second year, and many lilies and bearded iris lack fragrance. Sweet alyssum is a mildly fragrant annual that blooms white, pink or lavender.

Unused Pictures

P00325K-1
I believe that this azalea is ‘Phoenicia’.

Okay, so I felt slightly guilty about not posting anything of any horticultural interest today. Okay, perhaps a bit more than slightly. Okay, perhaps guilty enough to post a few pretty flowery pictures . . . and the last one, which some might find objectionable.

P00325K-2
‘Coral Bells’ is not one of my favorite azaleas, but is reliable and profuse.

I will not put much effort into this. I did not even take these pictures for any particular article.  I am only sharing them here and now because I have no use for them, but did not want to just file them away unseen forever. Hey, these flowers work hard to bloom!

P00325K-3
I have no idea what this azalea is, but I am impressed.

Actually though, except for the last picture, all are about a month old. The last picture is half as old, and the bloom that is shows continues. Otherwise, the other blooms are already finished. Although colorful, none are particularly remarkable or interesting.

This odd camellia seemed to grow from the base of a bigger and older specimen, as if it is a sucker from understock. However, there is no indication that the original specimen is grafted. Nor is there any reason why a Camellia japonica should be grafted. The odd camellia could have grown from seed. It is rare but not impossible for Camellia japonica to produce seed here. It is not crowding anything, so remains.

P00325K-4
This odd camellia looks like it could be an extra on the Muppet Show.

I really should eradicate this pampas grass. However, it has been here for many years without becoming aggressively invasive. We have observed no seedlings nearby. Besides, even if we did eradicate it, there are herds of more just over the ridge. I can not explain why it is not migrating inward, but I am not complaining. I happen to like the bloom.

P00325K-5
This is not just any pampas grass. It is the dreaded Cortaderia jubata.

These pictures are, of course, not nearly as awesome as the pictures of Rhody that posted earlier. They just happen to be more relevant to what should be a horticultural blog.

Six on Saturday: Unidentified Colors

Girls can see more colors. Furthermore, they know all their fancy names. Sometimes, I suspect that they just make up names as necessary. There are four African daisies at work that are odd colors that I can not identify, and another flower that I know is not lavender.

1. Blue is the easiest of these colors. Others might say it is pale, soft or sky blue. Even I can see that it is most definitely not lavender, as some might insist. Is this species so easy to identify?P00314-1

2. Blue is the only color for rosemary. It is more obvious up close in the previous picture. It is easier to mistake it for lavender if that is the color that is expected from the particular species.P00314-2

3. Lavender is how I would describe this color. Perhaps it is pale lavender. I have been told that this is lilac or pale lilac. That makes sense, since common lilac blooms with lavender flowers.P00314-3

4. Purple or light purple works for this one. Heck, if the previous is pale lavender, this could be lavender . . . that is not pale. Alternatively, it could be lilac, . . . but probably not the pale sort.P00314-4

5. Yellow or pale yellow should be good enough. I do not know what buff is, but I do not believe that this is it. Nor does it strike me as lemon or butter yellow. I know what colors lemons are.P00314-5

6. Red should be good enough, although I would believe if this is rust or rusty red. I am open to suggestion on this one. It is quite a distinctive color. I like it, even though I can not identify it.P00314-6

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: Housebound

 

It is a long story. I did not get out to get any pictures until Friday. By that time, I was none too selective. I just got pictures of what happened to be convenient. It really is coincidence that all happen to be white. The first three are from work. The other three are on roadsides in town. 1, 3 and 6 have potential to be colors besides white. However, 1 and 6 are typically white in their feral state as shown here; and only one cultivar of 3 is only slightly blushed.

1. Alyssum – can not decide if it is a warm or cool season annual. A new generation starts to bloom before predecessors finish, regardless of season. All are feral, so none are pink or lavender.P00307-1

2. Candytuft – is mistaken, by some, for alyssum. It blooms almost as continuously. It really should get cut back about now. Although, no one wants to cut it back while it continues to bloom.P00307-2

3. Clematis – is evergreen, but was defoliated by harsh winter pruning. It lacks sufficient space to grow wild. Earlier bloom is fading already. The ‘Apple Blossom’ cultivar has blushed bloom.P00307-3

4. Plum – of unknown origin blooms spectacularly at a gas station in town. Bloom is not quite as delicate as that of other feral American plum that naturalized from old stone fruit understock.P00307-4

5. Snowflake – grows wild along roadside drainage ditches, but does not seem to be aggressively invasive. Mine bloomed earlier just like this. This is what I grow instead of trendy snowdrop.P00307-5

6. Calla – is in the same ditch with the snowflake. It is even less aggressive. Weird colorful hybrids do not naturalize at all, probably because they are weaker, and do not produce viable seed.P00307-6

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/

Orchids Have History In California

50218thumb
Breeding has done wonders with orchids.

It is funny how so many different plants get here from all over the world, and then become so popular so far from their natural homes that they seem to have always been here. It is now hard to imagine that some of the more popular cymbidium orchids actually came from tropical and subtropical Asia and northern Australia. Other orchids are from tropical Africa or South America.

As the Nineteenth Century turned to the Twentieth, orchids were popularized by those who profited from industry in the east, and then moved west to escape harsh winters. They arrived in the Mediterranean climate of the Santa Barbara region with resources to spend on outfitting luxury homes with comparably luxurious gardens and exotic plants. Orchids were a natural choice.

At homes in Montecito and Hope Ranch, cymbidium orchids were grown is mass plantings, and maintained by professional horticulturists. The popularity of orchids continued for decades. As the extensive orchid collections of England were threatened by the bombing and fuel shortages of World War II, collectors and horticulturists in California brought them here to be safe and warm.

Many of these refugee orchids were bred extensively by Californian horticulturists to produce many of the countless varieties that are now available. Production of blooming potted orchid plants and cut orchid flowers have become major horticultural industries in California. To this day, the Santa Barbara region produces more orchids than any other region in America. Modern tissue culture cloning technology has made it possible to propagate and grow more orchid plants at a faster rate than ever before. This makes them more affordable.

Even though mass plantings of cymbidium orchids are now rare, orchids are probably as popular as they ever have been, simply because they are so available to more people who can enjoy them. They are not limited to fancy gardens of luxury homes. Cymbidiums are still popular potted plants for sheltered porches. Small but flashy moth orchids are among the most popular of blooming potted plants for homes and offices.

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/

Overworked Plants May Recover Slowly

91218thumb
Some potted plants are real overachievers.

Landscaping and growing houseplants really is no way to bring nature closer to home. If it were up to nature, most of our gardens would be relatively bare. Most of the few native trees are less than ideal for home gardens. The few native annuals and perennials with colorful flowers bloom only briefly. Almost all native shrubbery is scrubby and not conducive to pruning. After all, most of us live in what would naturally be coastal chaparral.

This is why home gardens contain so many exotic plants from so many different climates and regions all over the world. These plants get pruned, shorn and mown in all sorts of unnatural ways. Most do better if watered unnaturally through naturally dry summer weather. Many crave unnatural fertilizer. Houseplants and a few others are confined to pots so that roots can not disperse like they want to.

Potted plants that are forced into bloom to decorate home interiors are the most unnatural of all. They are among the most extensively bred of plants. They are grown in contrived environments that coerce them to bloom whenever their blooms are needed. Poinsettias, lilies, azaleas, hydrangeas, kalanchoes, callas, miniature roses, chrysanthemums and some orchids are the more familiar of these sorts of plants.

They are certainly colorful by the time they leave the greenhouses they were grown in. By the time they come home, they are in the middle of full bloom. There is no work to get them to bloom. The work is in keeping blooms as healthy and as colorful as possible, for as long as possible. Most of these plants only want to be watered regularly, and are happy to keep their color for quite a while.

By the time they want fertilizer, blooming potted plants will have finished blooming. Sadly, at that time, most get discarded instead. Realistically though, such systematically abused plants can be rather ugly as they replace their greenhouse foliage with foliage that is better adapted to the garden. The process of forcing them into bloom is just too unnatural and difficult to recover from easily.

Yet, with enough patience and pampering, most blooming potted plants should eventually recover and adapt to a garden lifestyle. Lilies, callas and other bulb-like plants should be put aside in the garden while their foliage fades and eventually separates from the bulbs. The dormant bulbs can then be planted and allowed to grow into their new environments.

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/

Six on Saturday: White Album

 

‘Album’ is Latin for ‘white’. That is why ‘album’ or a derivation of it is the species or varietal name for several plants. That does not apply to any of these six though. They are just incidentally . . . and coincidentally white. Even though white is my favorite color, I really did not intentionally select these because they are white. I just wanted to show off some of what is blooming now.

I would say that most are unseasonable, but our mild seasons can be rather vague.

1. Pelargonium hortorum – Two florets managed to bloom on a stunted truss that should have been plucked from rooting cuttings in the nursery. Full trusses are blooming in the landscape.P00111-1

2. Primula vulgaris – Heavy rain overnight splattered a bit of the mulch onto the these and other nearby flowers that are low to the ground. A bit more drizzly rain should rinse them all off.P00111-2

3. Helleborus X hybridus – Of these six subjects, only this and #2 above are actually in season. Their pale bloom is mediocre and faces the ground. This one is turned upward for this picture.P00111-3

4. Solanum jasminoides – Foliage is pekid through cool winter weather. Vines will get pruned back before growth resumes in spring. Regardless, flowers bloom whenever they get a chance.P00111-4

5. Rhododendron (Azalea) – As delightful as this unseasonable bloom is now, it would have been much better if it had waited until spring as expected. It will not last long in this weather.P00111-5

6. Hydrangea macrophylla – Bloom continues even as the yellowed deciduous foliage is falling to the ground. Other juvenile blooms are still developing. I will elaborate on this topic at noon.P00111-6

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/

Why Cyclamen Are So Popular

41224thumbCyclamen are everywhere! Some nurseries have more cyclamen than all other cool season annuals combined. Not all cyclamen are represented though. Almost all are white or simple red. Pink, salmon and other shades of red are noticeable scarce because they are not traditional colors of Christmas. The plants are mostly of impeccable quality, and outfitted with abundant flowers. While there is not much else blooming, the popularity of cyclamen is impossible to ignore.

The problem with cyclamen is the expense. Relative to other cool season annuals, they are large plants that are only available in four inch and larger pots, so naturally cost more. They can not be purchased in less expensive cell packs. Even though they are perennials that can last for many years, they are almost always used as disposable cool season annuals that get replaced when warm season annuals come into season. It can be difficult to justify such an expense for something that lasts only a few months.

The advantage to cyclamen is that they look good instantly, even if they do not perform as reliably during the next few months. This is something that the other cool season annuals have difficulty with. Only larger and more expensive annuals in four inch pots are so immediately colorful, and even they need some time to fluff out and get established in the garden. They just do not grow as fast now as they did earlier in autumn. The weather is now cooler. The days are now shorter.

This is why it was important to replace warm season annuals with cool season annuals earlier instead of later, even if some of the warm season annuals had still been blooming somewhat well. It gave the cool season annuals some time to mature before winter really slowed everything down. Even though they do not grow as actively now, they are already big enough to bloom impressively.

Pansy, viola, stock, Iceland poppy, nemesia, various primroses and ornamental cabbage and kale can certainly get planted now, but will grow a bit slower than they would have if they had been planted earlier in autumn. If necessary, it might be worth planting them a bit more densely than typical, or planting larger plants from four inch pots.