Dago Wisteria

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All this bloom will eventually be fruit.

My colleague down south and I have completely different gardening style. He is a renowned landscape designer, so his home garden is as elaborate as the landscapes he designs for his clients. I am primarily a farmer of horticultural commodities, so my home garden is very strictly utilitarian, with few items that are grown just because they are pretty.

My colleague’s garden is outfitted with a very well built pergola over the patio at the rear of the home. Six common Chinese wisteria were installed to climb the six supporting post and sprawl above. Their cascading spring bloom is both spectacular and alluringly fragrant.

Of course, when I saw that pergola while the wisteria were still young, I thought that it would be ideal for Dago wisteria, which most of us know simply as grapes. They climb like Chinese wisteria. They bloom with somewhat pendulous floral trusses that . . . sort of resemble wisteria bloom. Although they lack color and fragrance, they provide an abundance of fruit.

Now I get to work with some real Dago wisteria. It was planted years ago by someone who did not stay to maintain it. It got rather overgrown and gnarly before I pruned it into submission. Without a pergola, I extended vines from the rail fence that the main vines climb, over to a banister on the upper floor of an adjacent building. It works something like a pergola.

Because I do not know what cultivar of grape the vine is, I do not know what pruning technique it prefers. I happened to leave long canes last winter, just because they reached the banister on the opposite side so well. Now, the bloom is so profuse that I am concerned about the weight of the subsequent fruit pulling the rail fence over!

Mild Weather Is Still Problematic

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Minimal frost delayed certain spring blooms.

It is amazing that so many orchards are so productive in California, and that so many similar orchards had formerly been productive in the urban areas in which so many of us now live. Nowadays, it takes so much work to care for just a few fruit trees in home gardens. Horticulture is not what it used to be.

Diseases and pests get transmitted all over the world at a rate unlike at any other time in history. It is just too easy to buy and sell infected plants online, and get them delivered without adequate inspection. Many varieties of plants that are so easily imported may not perform as reliably as the more traditional varieties.

Modern landscaping does not make fruit production any easier. Most deciduous fruit trees do not get pruned adequately or properly. Many get too much water. Almost all must live in crowded landscape conditions where diseases and pest proliferate. Sanitation (removal of infected plant parts) is rarely as efficient as it should be.

Then there is all this crazy weather! First, the winter does not get as cool as it should. Then, it does not get warm enough in spring. It is all so difficult to keep track of. Many plants do not know how to respond. Those that stay dormant through cool weather got an early start. Those that like warmth in spring started late.

The unfortunate deciduous fruit trees that need both a good chill through winter and nice warm spring weather are really confused. Early blooms were ruined by brief late frosts or brief rain showers. Some delayed blooms were not synchronized with pollinators. Some of the minimal fruit is developing slowly.

Even the fruitless or ‘flowering’ relatives of the deciduous fruit trees are annoyed by the weather. Many flowering cherry trees that should have bloomed profusely prior to foliation delayed bloom until lower foliage started to appear. However, both bloom and foliation are so slow and sporadic that upper stems stayed bare quite late.

Flowering crabapple trees, which generally bloom after flowering cherries, actually bloomed more reliably, and were not delayed as much. Hopefully, fruiting apple and pear trees, although late, will be more productive than so many of the cherry, apricot, plum, peach and nectarine trees will be this year.

Natal Plum

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Lush foliage hides oddly branched thorns.

The very glossy and richly deep green foliage seem to be so soft and luxuriant. Simple bright white flowers enhance the appeal. However, closer examination of Natal plum, Carissa macrocarpa, reveals impressively nasty thorn structures that are doubly branched into pairs of paired rigid and sharp thorns. That is four thorns each!

To make matters worse, all parts of Natal plum that are not fruit are toxic. But hey, they all work together to be visually appealing, even if really unfriendly. The one or two inch long evergreen leaves are quite round and stiff. The star shaped flowers that bloom as long as the weather is warm are somewhat fragrant in the evening.

Some varieties of Natal plum can reach the eaves, but most stay lower. They do not need much water, and can tolerate a bit of shade. The rosy red fruit would be delightfully colorful if it were not so rare. Manual pollination, preferably with a different pollinator, produces more of the two inch long berries that are something like mildly flavored cranberries.

Six on Saturday: TWIGS!

 

The Belmont Rooster posted pictures of red mulberry that really got my attention back on February 15. The trees are native on his farm, but not here. I only remember them as decoy trees that provided berries to distract birds from other fruit as it ripened in the orchards. Of course, those that I remember were planted. I neglected to get seed or cuttings from them while in Oklahoma. I have been craving them since.

1. $8.85! The Belmont Rooster spent some major funds to get this package to me. It must be important. I already know it is very important to me! I have been wanting this for seven years. P00411-1

2. TWIGS! I got two bundles of twigs! These are not just any twigs though. They are from red mulberry, Morus rubra. One bundle is from a female tree. The other is from a male pollinator.P00411-2

3. Cuttings were processed from the twigs. There are a dozen female cuttings, and sixteen male cuttings. These are male. I was informed earlier that the female twigs were starting to foliate.P00411-3

4. Plugged cuttings are not much to look at. Rooting hormone was applied, but is not visible on the bottom ends. Only a few popping buds are barely visible in the female cuttings to the right.P00411-4

5. White mulberry was the only mulberry that I was growing here. I got the cuttings for it from a client’s tree. I do not know what cultivar it is. I have not been very impressed with it so far.P00411-5

6. The Belmont Rooster sent these cuttings from Missouri, just to the left of the center of this picture. All of Missouri is within the native range of red mulberry, which is designated by green.P00411-6

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/

 

 

 

 

Horridculture – When Life Gives You Lemons, USE THEM!

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“Hello – my name is LEMON.”

Almost all of the fruit trees that I encounter are or were neglected to some degree.

Many were planted a long time ago by someone who was able to maintain them at the time, and perhaps for many years, but then relocated, passed away, or just got too elderly as the trees grew and required more work.

Many were planted by those who simply enjoy gardening around their homes, and wanted to grow some fresh fruit, but were not aware of how intensive the maintenance of most of the fruit trees is, or how to execute such maintenance properly.

Many were planted by so-called ‘gardeners’ or so-called ‘landscapers’ who had no intention of actually ‘maintaining’ them, or believed that they could ‘maintain’ them with motorized hedge shears and a blower . . . just like they ‘maintain’ everything else.

There is a young but nicely productive ‘Eureka’ lemon tree at work. I would not say that it is neglected. Someone has been maintaining it well since it was installed. However, I remind others at work to take some of the lemons because the tree gets overloaded with otherwise unappreciated and unused fruit.

The tree is strategically located right outside of one of the big cafeteria kitchens, so that those who work in the kitchen could use the fruit. The kitchen probably uses more lemons that the still young tree could produce, but does not seem to use any from the tree.

While dumping greenwaste from the kitchen onto the big compost piles, I noticed this labeled but unused lemon. I can not help but wonder why lemons from my tree aren’t good enough, and why this particular lemon wasn’t good enough either. How many of us nowadays would even recognize a lemon tree, or appreciate the fruit that it produces?

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This lemon tree right outside of one of the kitchens is loaded with fruit.

How To Train Your Dragon

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Oh, the SHAME!

Dragon fruit became a fad on the West Coast of California several years ago. They were probably always around, but had previously been rare. When they inexplicably became more popular and common, they did so down south first. Their popularity migrated to the Santa Clara Valley a few years later. It probably will not go much farther though, since they are sensitive to frost.

It is not a bad fad, at least relative to most others. Dragon fruit, which is also known as pitaya, happens to be very easy to grow and propagate from cuttings. Locally, it needs protection from frost, but no more than other popular tropical plants. It recovers from minor frost damage quite efficiently. Pruning scraps can be rooted and grown as more plants for friends and neighbors.

Of course, I dislike fads. I am not impressed by the fruit, which might lack flavor here where the weather does not stay very warm for very long through summer. The coarsely textured and floppy plants get big and awkward. They are typically trained up onto posts from which their many long stems hang downward. An exemplary specimen looks like Sigmund the Sea Monster.

This is a fad that I dislike enough to try. I want to see what all the fuss is about. These are my first two cuttings. The upper cutting produces red fruit. The lower cutting that is marked with a line to show how deeply it should be stuck into rooting medium produces white fruit. I will know where to release them into the landscape by the time they develop roots and start to grow.

This is so shameful that I probably should not be writing about it. Oh well. Perhaps in a few months, I will write about how these cuttings will be progressing.

Orange

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Not all oranges are this orange.

Most of us know what oranges are. The color is, of course, orange. They are very juicy and sweet. Cultivars that are most popular for eating fresh, particularly ‘navel’ oranges, are easy to peel and separate into segments. Those that are best for juicing, such as ‘Valencia’, are a bit smaller with thinner rind, so are a bit sloppier to peel and separate. Such ‘sweet’ oranges are Citrus sinensis.

Richly tangy blood oranges are of the same species, but have blushed or deep red pulp and juice. ‘Sanguinelli’, although rare here, is nonetheless the most popular of the blood oranges, and is a traditional citrus component of sangria. The juicy fruit is compact, with tightly fitting thin skin, comparable to that of ‘Valencia’. Rarer ‘Moro’ produces plumper fruit that is easy to peel and eat fresh.

Sour and bitter oranges, which are very rare here, are mostly Citrus auranticum. Sour oranges, such as ‘Seville’, are used for marmalades and confections. Bitter oranges are used for flavorings and fragrances, such as ‘Bergamot’ for Earl Grey tea. Both bitter and sour oranges were less rare a century ago, when some were appreciated for alluringly fragrant bloom and handsome foliage.

Citrus Are Summery Winter Fruits

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Kumquats are now at their prime.

Citrus seem like such summery fruits. Chilled lemonade and lemon meringue pie are best during warm weather. There are certainly plenty of lemons that ripen randomly throughout the year, and plenty that last for months on their trees. Most limes, some grapefruits and ‘Valencia’ oranges will be around in summer too. Otherwise, most citrus are at their best right about now, through winter.

Mandarin oranges are traditional ingredients of well stuffed Christmas stockings. Where winters are cold and snowy, far from where they grow, they seem contrary to their natural ripening season.

Of all the citrus, they are the most perishable, so are best as they ripen. Their loosely fitting skins, that are so easy to peel, allow them to oxidize and dehydrate more readily than other citrus fruits.

Tangerines are just Mandarin oranges that were developed in North or South America. ‘Rangpur’ limes are actually sour Mandarin oranges that are somewhat less perishable because their skins happen to fit more firmly. Calamondins, which are odd but likely natural hybrids of Mandarin oranges and kumquats, are diminutive tangy fruits that do not last much longer than Mandarin oranges.

‘Bearss’ limes are preferably harvested right as they grow to mature size, but just before they ripen completely. Their flavor mellows as they ripen and yellow. Fortunately, they develop sporadically through an extensive season, so can be available any time fresh limes are desired. Grapefruits can be left intentionally to mellow on their trees after ripening, although this tactic can inhibit bloom.

Otherwise, many citrus fruits can last for more than three months on their trees without consequence. Some improve with mellowing. ‘Meyer’ lemons, which are a hybrid of an orange and a lemon, ripen like richly flavored lemons, and then mellow like very tart oranges. Since citrus fruits stop ripening when harvested, it is advisable to taste one before harvesting too many that are not ready.

Some ripened Mandarin oranges may have slight green blotches. ‘Valencia’ oranges may be slightly yellowish.

Horridculture – NO TRESSPASSING

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NO TRESPASSING? . . . No respect!

Growing fruit takes a bit of effort. Trees that produce the fruit must be planted and maintained for all the many years that they produce. They might need to be irrigated through summer. Most need specialized pruning every winter.

Canning surplus fruit takes a bit of effort too. All the jars must be cleaned. All the fruit must be collected, processed and cooked. The jars must be packed and boiled and so on.

Drying fruit is less work than canning, but takes a bit of effort nonetheless.

Where I lived in town, I grew a peach tree closer to the apartment building to the north, and a fig tree closer to the apartment building to the south. I maintained both trees meticulously. Many of the neighbors appreciated the fresh fruit. At the end of their season, there was (almost) always surplus peaches for canning. Sometimes, there were surplus figs for drying.

I really would not have minded if there had not been surplus fruit. It would have been better to have it consumed by the neighbors while fresh, than after it had been canned. Besides, it would have been less work for me.

One summer, there was a major surplus of peaches. We wanted to can them as efficiently as possible because we know how perishable they are. We planned to do all the canning on a Saturday, so got all the jars from the attic and washed them on Friday afternoon. The canning pots and utensils were ready to go. We had purchased lids and several pounds of sugar.

Also on Friday afternoon, the so-called ‘gardeners’ came to the apartment building next door to the north.

The major surplus of peaches, every last peach, was completely gone when we went to collect early Saturday morning.

Now, really, I don’t mind sharing. That is what the tree is there for. I really don’t even mind if a few people want to take all the surplus fruit. I just want to be told about it before I make plans and prepare to do something else with it. What really angered me was the complete disregard for those of us who put the effort into growing all those excellent peaches.

The fig tree to the south produced an early crop of figs before the peaches, and a late crop of figs after the peaches. Each crop lasted a long time, so there were not often too many figs at any one time that needed to be dried. Most were eaten fresh.

I often noticed an annoying absence of figs each day after the so-called ‘gardeners’ came to the apartment building next door to the south. It was not as bothersome as the missing peaches, since I got quite a bit of figs in between. What angered me was that every fig that could be harvested at the appointed time was taken, leaving none for anyone else.

Pear

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Properly pruned peartrees produce pears prolifically.

Ancestral species of modern pears grow wild from western Europe and northern Africa to eastern Asia. Long before they were domesticated and developed in China about three thousand years ago, their fruit was eaten by indigenous people. Farther west, dozens of cultivars were developed and popularized in ancient Roman societies. There are now more than three thousand cultivars.

Most pears that are popular in America are descendants of European pear, Pyrus communis. Asian pears, which are mostly descendants of Pyrus X bretschneideri and Pyrus pyrifolia, became a fad in the 1980s, and are still somewhat popular, particularly in California. Asian pears are generally rounder and firmer than the familiar ‘pear shaped’ European pears that soften as they ripen.

There are too many cultivars of pear for all to conform to similar characteristics. All that are grown for fruit are deciduous, and almost all have potential to exhibit remarkable foliar color in autumn. Abundant clusters of small white flowers bloom in spring. Floral fragrance of some cultivars might be unappealing. Semi-dwarf trees can get more than fifteen feet tall, so should be pruned lower.

Pears can be shades of yellow, green, red or brown, and might be blushed or russeted. They can be canned, dried, juiced, or eaten fresh.