Six on Saturday: Recycling Weeds


A weed is a plant where it is not wanted. There are plenty here. There are also a few situations that could use some of the plants that are considered to be weeds in their present situations. Since we are not a ‘landscape’ company that earns more by needlessly disposing of, and installing, as much plant material as possible, we sometimes get to recycle some of our useful weeds.

Laurustinus, Viburnum tinus, which I refer to simply as ‘viburnum’, has politely naturalized here. It is not prolific enough to be invasive. It just has a sneaky way of getting around, mostly in irrigated landscaped areas. It lives in the wild too. It sometimes grows into situations where it is an asset. It sometimes becomes a problem. I don’t mind removing it. I am none to keen on it.

A thicket of viburnum is in the process of being removed from an area that will soon be outfitted with a new and more appropriate landscape. Rather than merely removing and disposing of all of the viburnum, we are relocating it into other landscapes where it will be more useful as informal screening hedges. I would prefer to wait until autumn, but the new landscape is waiting.

For the informal screening hedges that we want, these viburnums will work splendidly. They will fit right into the unrefined and unlandscaped areas as if they belong there. Prettier species that I would prefer would be more conspicuous, and look like something that was planted. I know that these recycled plants will initially not be as uniform as nursery stock, but I do not care.

1. This thicket of viburnum has been here as long as anyone can remember. It gets cut down when it gets too high, and takes a few years to regenerate. A new landscape will be going in here.P90914

2. The biggest and gnarliest specimens get discarded. It would not be practical to salvage them. These mid-sized specimens with relatively compact root systems should be easily relocated.P90914+

3. They clean up nicely, with most of their foliage pruned away, and their long stems pruned back. Some of their roots get pruned to facilitate planting, and also to stimulate new root growth.P90914++

4. Once planted and soaked in, many of the relocated specimens seem to be comparable to what might have been purchased from a nursery. Even with the warm weather, wilting is minimal.P90914+++

5. With two more that are out of view beyond the right margin of this picture, these five make a nice hedge of seven newly relocated viburnum. They are nothing fancy, but should work well.P90914++++

6. This is the view that they are intended to obscure, featuring seven dumpsters and various utilitarian unpleasantries. That’s them in a neat row across the lower right corner of the picture.P90914+++++

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Six on Saturday: White (but not) Trash


That is, of course, a matter of perspective. Some of us might find some of the six species represented here to be trashy. Some of us might find all six to be appealing. After a slight expression of disapproval of my insensitive designation of my six pictures as ‘White Trash’ last week, I considered that I should perhaps be more tactful with my opinions this week. Then, I got over it.

These six just happen to be rather innocuous, so I have nothing too objectionable to say about them. I am actually rather fond of them. The last comment about #5 refers to the 2-in-1 graft.

1. Oregano, Oringamum vulgare, is civilly naturalized in a few spots. I let it bloom because it is rather pretty. There are plenty of unbloomed stems for anyone who wants a bit of the foliage.P90907

2. Autumn sage, Salvia greggii, with white flowers, developed within a colony that was originally of the cultivar ‘Hot Lips’. The more typical flower is blurred in the upper right background.P90907+

3. Chilean jasmine, Mandevilla laxa, is a mildly fragrant mandevilla. The fragrance is barely perceptible here. I am impressed anyway. I do not expect any fragrance at all from a mandevilla.P90907++

4. Star jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminoides, is much more fragrant, especially in abundance. I know it is common, but I like it anyway, as much for the foliage as for the fragrant bloom.P90907+++

5. Rose, Rosa spp., seems to be the all too common floribunda cultivar, ‘Iceberg’. It is grafted together with what seems to be ‘Burgundy Iceberg’, onto standards (rose trees). 2-in-1 = tacky!P90907++++

6. Oleander, Nerium oleander, to many, is even tackier. I really like it. Besides, it does so well without irrigation in the rustic or unrefined landscapes. It might be the cultivar, ‘Sister Agnes’.P90907+++++

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Six on Saturday: White Trash


This is getting close to the in-between time for annuals. Warm season annuals that bloomed through summer will soon be getting replaced with cool season annuals that will perform through winter. Of course, our seasons are neither as distinct nor as severe as they are elsewhere. Many annuals are actually perennial here. Some stay later than they should, just because they can.

Aging annuals and perennials can get somewhat trashy if they are not pruned back or replaced soon enough. Their replacements might not be very impressive until they get established and start to grow. So far, only a few violas have been installed here for autumn, and only because the petunias that were where they are now were getting tired prematurely. There will be more.

There is certainly much more color in the landscapes than what these pictures show. White just happens to be my favorite color.

1. Alyssum is supposed to be a cool season annual for spring or autumn. It does not like cold winter weather or warm summer weather. In our mild climate though, it does well in any season. In sunny spots, it self sows to replace itself before it gets old and deteriorates. This batch will eventually get removed, just so we can put something else here. It is prettier in sunnier spots.P90831

2. Dianthus, like alyssum, is supposed to be a cool season annual. It just does not succumb to the minor summer warmth here. Nor does it succumb to the mildly cool winter weather. It could grow as a short term perennial if we did not need to remove it to plants something else later. It also would perform better with better sun exposure. Here, bloom is not as full as it should be.P90831+

3. Viola is one of the cool season annuals that does not do well through summer here. Some survived from last spring, but they were not happy about it. A few of the many might survive and regenerate if we cut them back, but it is easier to plant something new. These white violas, as well as some comparable yellow ones, got planted early to replace prematurely fading petunias.P90831++

4. Petunia is a warm season annual that did well through most of the summer, but is now fading a bit early. Some have already been replaced with violas. Others probably should be. These are still mostly presentable, so can remain for now. If possible, it is better to not replace them with violas too early. Violas that grow too much before autumn can get floppy through winter.P90831+++

5. Phlox was not planted. A single plant grew in an already crowded bed of flashy annuals and perennials two springs ago. There were a few more last year, and even more this year. They all land in good situations, where they unobtrusively grow through spring, bloom in summer, and die back through autumn. They are warm season annuals, but are expected back next spring.P90831++++

6. Geranium, which are really pelargonium, are perennial here, rather than annual like they are in climates with cooler winters. They can be damaged or even killed by frost where they are more exposed, but this particular geranium is sheltered by an eave and trees. They will probably get cut back at the end of next winter, just to stimulate fresh new growth to replace the old.P90831+++++

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Six on Saturday: The Shining


‘Shiners’ have nothing to do with Rudbeckia hirta, which is commonly known as ‘black eyed Susan’. (Why did rude Becky hurt Susan like that anyway?) Shiners are the wounds left from pruning significant limbs from their supporting limbs or main trunks. They shine most blatantly when fresh, and then fade in the weather.

The best shiners are those that will be compartmentalized (healed over) most efficiently. They should not be cut too deeply, or be left with stubs that interfere with compartmentalization. There is quite a bit of science to shiners.

1. This is a good example of a bad shiner. (I could have gotten a better picture of it, but thought that the sun shining from behind was appropriate to the topic.) This shiner was not made by pruning a limb away from a main trunk, but by pruning a main trunk away from a limb. The main trunk leans over so much that most of it needed to be removed to maintain minimal clearance over a driveway. The only two options were to prune it back the the limb on the left, or remove the entire tree. Because the shiner is wider than the remaining limb, which will become the main trunk, it will take several years to be compartmentalized. By that time, decay will have extended downward from the shiner into the main trunk below.P90824

2. Removal of a limb that was battering the topsides of delivery trucks left the shiner above and left of the center of the picture. The scar to the lower left of the shiner, and another scar farther the lower right, closer to the lower right corner of the picture, were caused by a single altercation with one truck that drove off the edge of the driveway. Since it is not really encroaching into the driveway, or interfering with minimal clearance, this particular damaged limb remains.P90824+

3. This is the thrashed limb that was removed from the limb in the #2 picture above. The freshest damage is still red. This limb had been up above minimal clearance for a few years before the supporting limb sagged with the weight of the growing canopy above. Damage to the trucks is more of a concern than the limbs, so it had to go.P90824++

4. This is another good example of a bad shiner. The main trunk to the right would not have been able to compartmentalize over the stub until it grew out past it, or the stub rotted and fell away. The stub was partly rotten, but also partly viable, with a small branch growing from it. The viable portion would have taken more time to rot away. The whole mess was cut away after this picture was taken; but the resulting shiner that I did not get pictures of has another problem. This picture shows how the stub wraps around the main trunk from behind. The bark compressed between the stub and the main trunk, which is known as ‘included bark’ or ‘bark inclusion’, will temporarily be in the way of compartmentalization of the shiner. Fortunately, the tree is young and vigorous enough to figure it all out.P90824+++

5. What looks like shark jaw bones without the teeth is the callus growth that once surrounded a well cut shiner. After the shiner was cut, and the tree started to compartmentalize over it, the tree died suddenly. As the trunk decayed, this dense callus growth that started to compartmentalize the shiner decayed slower. The uniformity of the callus growth shows how evenly the shiner was cut. I believe that the bottom of the shiner is to the left, but that could be backward. I can only say that the shiner is sideways in this picture.P90824++++

6. Coast live oak, Quercus agrifolia, is the only species in all five of the pictures above, and also provided the biscuits to the lower left and the upper right in this picture. ‘Biscuits’ are sometimes cut to adjust a shiner after the main part of a limb is pruned away, or perhaps to cut a stump slighter lower after a tree is cut down. I really do not remember why I saved the biscuit to the lower left, although I can remember the tree that it came from. The fresher one to the upper right is from the shiner in the first picture #1 above. I kept the Hollywood juniper biscuit to the upper left because I thought it would smell like the related Eastern red cedar (which is actually a juniper rather than a cedar) that cedar chests and closets are made with. The deteriorating biscuit to the lower right is from a very dead white fir that needed to be cut down. I kept it because I happen to be very fond of white firs, but so rarely see them here.P90824+++++

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

Horridculture – True Colors

P90821Bearded iris can bloom in almost any color. It is expected of them. There is not much they can do to surprise us.

Dahlias exhibit a remarkable range of both color and floral form. Only a few colors are beyond their range.

Roses, gladiolus, freesias, tulips, hyacinths, petunias, pansies, primroses and several of the most prolific bloomers are expected to provide many choices of color.

Other flowers are not so diverse. Forsythia blooms only in bright yellow, or perhaps a lighter hue of yellow. Mock orange blooms only in white, either single or double. Until recently, before purple was invented, the common species of lily-of-the-Nile were either blue or white. We tend to appreciate such flowers for their simplicity, and do not expect anything more from them.

Decades ago, hydrangeas were either white or pink or blue. I say ‘either’ because what seems to be three choices is actually only two. White hydrangeas were always white. Pink or blue hydrangeas were the same, but were pink in alkaline soil, or blue in acidic soil. Blue hydrangeas planted into alkaline soil turned pink. Conversely, pink hydrangeas turned blue in acidic soil.

In the slightly alkaline soil of the Santa Clara Valley, pink hydrangeas were common. Blue hydrangeas were fertilized regularly with aluminum sulfate or some sort of acidifying fertilizer.

In the more acidic soil of the West Coast of Washington, pink hydrangeas would have been blue without lime.

Some more recently bred cultivars of hydrangea excel at either pink or blue. It does not take much to convince them to exhibit their preferred color in less than conducive conditions. These cultivars made it easier to grow blue hydrangeas in the Santa Clara Valley, or pink hydrangeas on the West Coast of Washington.

Then breeding got ridiculous. Hydrangeas were bred to bloom reliably in rich shades of purple, red, or dark blue, with minimal sensitivity to the pH of the soil. They are appealing to those who like these unnaturally rich colors; but to those of us who expect hydrangeas to bloom in white or traditionally soft hues of pink or blue, they are just too weird.

Six on Saturday: Out Of Africa


Lily-of-the-Nile was the first perennial that I divided and propagated on a substantial scale. Back when I was in the seventh grade, I was instructed to remove an overgrown specimen that was nearly a quarter of a century old. It was too tough, big and heavy to dig up intact, but relatively easy to dismantle and remove in smaller pieces. These smaller pieces were all too easy to split into individual rhizomes with single terminal shoots. These individual rhizomes were easily groomed and planted where I thought copies of the same lily-of-the-Nile would be nice. A few years later, these copies were big enough to be dug and divided into even more copies. Nearly four decades later, I am still growing a few copies.

Because it is so resilient and undemanding, lily-of-the-Nile is one of the most common perennials here. They bloom through summer, with their firework shaped blooms at their best in time or the Fourth of July. Now that they are finishing their long bloom season, the deteriorating flowers must be removed, by ‘deadheading’.

1. Lily-of-the-Nile, although common, really is a delightful perennial. I thought I was getting a good representative picture here, but can now see that the two lower blooms in the foreground are fasciated, so are more billowy than typical blooms are. Also, the sunlight at about noon was a bit too harsh for a good picture of the foliage.P90817

2. This very late blooming floral truss is how all the other blooms started out.P90817+

3. This one shows how they look at full bloom. It is only beginning to deteriorate.P90817++

4. As individual florets fall away, these maturing green seed capsuled remain. They slowly dry and turn tan before tossing their seed late in autumn or winter. Of course, they should get pruned out before they do so.P90817+++

5. Lily-of-the-Nile are very easy to work with, but snotty with this goo that flows from all cut floral stems and any damaged leaves. Ick!P90817++++

6. This is the pile of deadheaded bloom that got cut on Wednesday. More will be cut next Wednesday. Almost all typically finish within two weeks or so. However, they started a bit late this year, and are finishing more randomly than they normally do.P90817+++++

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

Horridculture – Stumpy

P90814Among pines, firs, redwoods and most excurrent trees (with central leader trunks), stubs or stumps of limbs that were shed are common and more apparent than they are among decurrent trees (which branch into many main limbs). The older lower stubs slowly but eventually decay and fall away as the trunks compartmentalize (heal over) where they were formerly attached.

However, wild trees are rarely completely without such stubs. As the older lower stubs are shed, newer stubs develop higher up. The worst of their stubs get pruned away only when more refined landscapes are developed around such trees, and they get pruned accordingly. If the trees get groomed regularly every few years or so, not many new stubs get a chance to develop.

When pruning out viable limbs, they must be cut cleanly from the trunk or supporting limb, without stubs. Since they do not deteriorate slowly before falling away, the trunk or supporting limb has no time to start the process of compartmentalizing (healing) over where such limbs were attached. Cutting away cleanly eliminates as much obstruction to that process as possible.

Pruning necrotic stubs from trunks of excurrent trees is not quite so important because the trunks have a tendency to start the process of compartmentalization as such stubs are decaying, and can actually constrict and crush stubs if they do not fall away efficiently enough. Nonetheless, necrotic stubs get pruned out when trees are groomed, just because they are unappealing.

So, no matter what, stubs should not be left when pruning. It is not complicated. It is actually easier to control a saw when it is up against a tree trunk or main limb. Yet, many who do not know better, and many who really should, more often than not, leave trees looking like this fir tree.

Six on Saturday: Do Not Sit On Tree


1. Seriously!P90810

2. Allow me to explain. This is one of three small but very gnarly coast live oaks that grew from the roots of a single tree that was cut down or fell several decades ago. Because the trunks of the three trees are so horizontal and sculptural, children climb on them. Sometimes many children sit on the trunk of this particular tree to get their group picture taken. We had been concerned about how this might compromise the stability of the tree for quite a while. Before we constructed suspension devices to prop it and one of the other two trees with, it destabilized and sagged! We pruned much of the canopy away to eliminate some of the weight that exerts so much leverage against the root system, and propped the trunk with a saw horse. We hope that the tree survives the loss of roots that likely broke away in the process, but would not be surprised if it does not. We are not ready to cut it down. It and the two other trees are so well known and popular among guests. The sign is visible to the right. I will explain the colored yarn on the trunk in a moment.P90810+

3. The subject tree is to the lower right in this picture. The two other trees are sprawled to the upper left. The tree that extends farthest to the left will get propped as well. All three have been pruned more aggressively than they should have been to eliminate much of the weight.P90810++

4. The yarn on the trunks is decoration that the camp counselors installed prior to the arrival of the guests. It must have taken a long time to wrap this much yarn around the trunks, and there is a whole lot more in many other trees. I wrote about it earlier in ‘Boom! Zap! Wow! Bam! Zing!‘.P90810+++

5. This is a completely different coast live oak, with a completely different problem. It needed to be pruned for clearance from an adjacent roadway and walkway. The major limb that was here supported less than one tenth of the total canopy, but because it had been cut back repeatedly, it was unusually bulky. Consequently, the shiner that remains is about as wide ad the remaining trunk! That is VERY arboriculturally incorrect. To make matters worse, the cut was not at the correct angle, so eliminated the lower half of the ‘collar’ that is supposed to expand to compartmentalize (heal) the shiner. The problem now is that by the time the shiner heals, the interior of the trunk may be so rotten that the tree may need to be removed anyway. The limb needed to be removed. The only other option was to remove the entire tree.P90810++++

6. Nothing was done to this coast live oak. It grew like this naturally. Although not an exemplary specimen, it certainly is impressive.P90810+++++

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

Horridculture – Stinky Flowers

P90807Wednesday is my day to rant. However, I neglected to get out to find a picture or even a topic to rant about. Instead, I found this ugly little . . . what I believe to be a dormant rhizome. It looks more like a tuber or a tuberous root, and very well could be. Someone at work brought it from his home garden, where countless more naturalized and became aggressively invasive.

I do not know for certain what it is. I only know that it is some species of Arum. We refer to it as the ‘death arum’ because, while in bloom, it smells like death. Yet, it seems to be immune to death. It is extremely resilient. All attempts to eradicate any of it have only angered it, and accelerated its migration into other formerly uninfested parts of the garden. Now we have it here.

I am told that the deciduous rhizomes . . . or whatever they are, remain dormant through summer, and then regenerate foliage once the rain starts in autumn. Their visually unimpressive but olfactorily objectionable flowers bloom by late spring or early summer. Foliage and bloom shrivel in warm summer weather, and the remaining seeded stalks collapse shortly afterward.

The thin rubbery leaves are intricately lobed and spotted, which is very distinct from foliage of other arums. Each thin bloom is comprised of a sickly greenish white spathe and a comparably sickly pale tan or yellowish spadix. Seeds are contained in tiny round fruits that resemble capers, that linger briefly on top of the spotted stalks of faded blooms. It all is as weird as it sounds.

I will can (pot) the rhizome . . . (let’s just leave it at that) before autumn, and see what it does. I certainly do not want to plant it into the ground where it can get established and proliferate. Perhaps I will just grow it as a potted foliar oddity, and snip off floral stalks before they bloom. Perhaps I should send it to my colleague in Los Angeles, three hundred and sixty miles away!

Like many of the genera in the family Araceae, what we know as the death arum exhibits an objectionable floral fragrance because it is pollinated by flies. It does what it must to attract the pollinators whom it relies on. The technique is obviously effective, because seeded fruit develops, and the seed within gets dispersed farther and faster than the rhizomes ( . . . ) can migrate.

Six on Saturday: Cannas – Mostly


There are only four pictures of cannas here. I could have gotten two more for an even six, but would have needed to get them elsewhere. These six pictures were obtained within one of the landscapes at work. Except for pruning a grapevine and flowering cherry trees, I do not work in this garden, so can not take credit for these cannas. I will take credit for the pictures though.

However, I probably should have taken pictures that show the foliage in conjunction with the bloom. Without the foliage there is not much to distinguish the big orange flowers of the last two pictures from each other.

1. Kangaroo paw, Anigozanthus, is one of my lesser favorite perennials, but happens to be one of the more practical for the chaparral climate. Besides, this one happens to be rather pretty. I do not know what cultivar, or even what species this one is. The Eucalyptus cinerea to the upper left is the same that was featured in ‘Silver‘ and ‘Exfoliating Bark‘.P90803

2. Honeysuckle, which I believe might be Lonicera periclymenum ‘Peaches & Cream’ was featured as the second picture of ‘Six on Saturday – Not My Garden‘, and was likely also featured in other posts that I do not want to go looking for right now. When I first met this honeysuckle, it was rather grungy and mostly defoliated. I thought that it was Lonicera sempervirens ‘Major Wheeler’, which looks nothing like this.P90803+

3. Canna with wispy orange flowers and big green leaves is probably my favorite of the four. The big leaves, which are not shown here, are quite lush. I believe that this one can get quite tall.P90803++

4. Canna with bigger red flowers and simple green leaves is more what we expect a canna to look like. The bronze foliage to the right and in the background actually belongs to #6 below.P90803+++

5. Canna with big orange flowers and yellowish variegated leaves was the fourth picture of ‘Six on Saturday – No Silver‘. That picture shows only a close up of the foliage, without bloom.P90803++++

6. Canna with big orange flowers and bronze leaves was the third picture of ‘Six on Saturday – No Silver‘. That picture also shows only a close up of the foliage without bloom. I believe this to be the cultivar ‘Wyoming’.P90803+++++

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate: