Six on Saturday: The Endless Summer


Summer really did end here. There was a minimal frostless frost to prove it more than two weeks ago. This climate just happens to lack the more apparent seasonal changes that others get to show off. Except for a bit of drizzle last Thursday, and a bit at the end of September, there has been no rain since last spring. It may seem to be boring, but such weather is normal here.

1. There is typically more foliar color by now. Sweetgums are only beginning to yellow. However, these dogwoods started to defoliate early without much color. This is about as good as it got.P91116

2. Not all of the warm season annuals have been replaced with cool season annuals. These petunias are blooming too happily to be replaced with pansies or violas like we installed elsewhere.P91116+

3. Roses continue to bloom. This one looks like ‘Double Delight’ to me. I really do not know what it is. The flowers are rather small, so it must have noticed that nights are longer and cooler.P91116++

4. These two look silly to me because both are grafted together onto the same standard (tree rose). I believe they are ‘Iceberg’ and ‘Burgundy Iceberg’. I would not mind them individually.P91116+++

5. Even by our local standards, roses should be finishing by now, with only a few that are still blooming when they get pruned in winter. I do not know what this one is, but it still looks great.P91116++++

6. This is my favorite of these six pictures. I do not know what this rose is either. It is in a neighbor’s garden. It did not start to bloom until part was through summer, and is now at its best.P91116+++++

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


Horridculture – Clinging Vines

P91113Ivy often climbs into trees, buildings and all sorts of other situations where it becomes problematic. It might have been planted intentionally. It might have grown from seed left by birds. When it gets into trouble, we can easily blame it on the ivy. Even that which was planted was intended to be mere ground cover. It only climbs out of control because that is what ivy does.


This Boston ivy that . . . ‘someone’ planted almost a year ago was actually expected to climb. That is what Boston ivy does. Even if it would be willing to grow as a ground cover, it would not work well as such because it is deciduous. As a climber, it covers freeway sound walls and any associated graffiti with vibrant green foliage that turns fiery orange and red this time of year.

The problem with it is that there are not many practical applications for it. Yes, it does well on freeway sound walls. It also does well on concrete parking structures, where it can not reach painted or wooden surfaces. There are a few unpainted reinforced concrete building out there that it would work nicely on, as long as it gets trimmed around windows, doorways and roofs.

It has no business on painted wooden surfaces, or even stucco. It clings with these weird ‘suction discs’ that never let go! (They do not really use suction, but an adhesive instead.) You can see a few to the right in this picture below. When vines get pruned back every few years, the suction discs remain attached. Although not a problem for concrete, they promote rot in wood.P91113+

What concerns me with the Boston ivy in these pictures is that it grew to the top of the pillars that they were planted on in less than a year. Even if they get pruned down this winter, they will grow farther next year, and will reach the wooden bridge above. It will be a lot of work to keep them pruned back from the bridge.

As you can see I the picture below, Boston ivy is quite pretty on the concrete. Fall color is delayed this year. P91113++

Six on Saturday: Tree Removal


The forest is constantly producing trees faster than we can cut them down. Even if we were not too busy with our many other tasks, we are not equipped to safely remove all of the large trees that become hazardous as they mature. Therefore, a crew who is so equipped is sometimes hired, and was here just this last week to remove several locusts, a few bays and a live oak.

1. The 80s are over. Someone painted this water pipe like this so that a crew cutting trees down nearby would not drop anything on it. The crew would have just put an orange cone over it.P91109

2. I was much younger and healthier back in the summer of 1988, when I did an internship with some of the most excellent arborists in the Santa Clara Valley, but I never climbed like this.P91109+

3. These trees are not much more than eighty feet tall, but needed to be parted out over those roofs. They are less than forty years old, from the 1980s or so. The arborist is in the middle.P91109++

4. Locust is unpopular firewood. These locust trees were therefore cut into logs less than seven feet (or 84 inches) long to fit into a pickup for removal, but were then instead chipped on site.P91109+++

5. This structurally deficient oak will eventually need to be removed. For now, it is groomed and lightened for winter storms. It was a nice day at the time, with temperatures in the low 80s.P91109++++

6. Mature bay trees develop distended lignotubers. The trunk of this bay tree was significantly narrower just two feet above this stump. The tree was not much more than eighty years old.P91109+++++

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

Horridculture – Sealant

P90810++++Grafting compound is a thick sealant applied to a fresh graft union to limit desiccation while the graft knits. A bit more typically gets applied to the cut distal end of the scion. There are various formulations of grafting compound, ranging from something resembling roof patch to a something with the consistency of thick paint.

The stuff, as sloppy and icky as it is, really is helpful. I can not imagine how big orchards were grafted before it was invented.

It is also useful for keeping cane borers out of the cut ends of freshly pruned roses. For those of us who remember how to prune roses properly, leaving only a few thick canes, grafting compound really is practical. I just don’t use it on roses because cane borers are not a problem here.

Since I do not use grafting compound on roses, and the plants that I graft do not need grafting compound, I presently have no use for it. I suppose I could use it on apple and pear trees, but it really is not necessary. When I get around to grafting apricots and peaches, it will only be for a few trees in my own garden, so I will just use candle wax.

This surprises people. At work, I am often asked about ‘painting’ pruning wounds and shiners as trees get pruned, presumably with sealant. Decades ago, it was actually commonly done. Even when I did my internship in arboriculture in 1988, some arborists were applying sealant because it was easier than arguing with their clients about it not being necessary.

The problem with applying sealant to large wounds is that is actually seals moisture within the otherwise exposed wood, and promotes rot. It is best to do nothing, and allow the affected trees to compartmentalize their wounds as they would do naturally if limbs were broken off by the weather. Trees know more about their processes than we do.

Six on Saturday: Light Duty Autumn


Autumn is mild here. There has been no rain yet. None is in the forecast. Nights are only beginning to get cool. A thermometer outside claims that it has been cool enough for frost, although none has yet been observed. As pleasant as such mild weather is, it can be boring in the garden. The few deciduous trees that develop good color are only beginning to do so, and in no rush. Some chores that rely on chill or rain get delayed.

1. 32 degrees! Does this qualify as frost? This is the same thermometer that said it was 96 degrees last week. I do not believe everything it says, although cold is not as easy to fake as heat.P92202

2. Krispy Kritter had a bad day. It is not from frost though. This formerly exemplary Heavenly bamboo succumbed to warmth and aridity, . . . . and unintended disconnection of irrigation.P92202+

3. California buckeye defoliated through the warmth of summer, and should foliate for early winter, only to defoliate as winter gets cooler. I knock these big seeds out because they look silly.P92202++

4. African iris, Morea bicolor, got split early where it crowded a walkway. We did not want to plug it until the rain starts, so soaked it in a bucket of water, where the roots started growing!P92202+++

5. Mrs. Pollock zonal geranium, Pelargonium hortorum ‘Mrs. Pollock’, likewise needed to be pruned back prematurely. I was able to process cuttings from the scraps, and plug them directly.P92202++++

6. Such intricate variegation is genetically unstable. Mrs. Pollock zonal geranium often gets less variegated mutant growth that must be plucked. Well, . . . . I sort of plugged some as cuttings.P92202+++++

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Six on Saturday: More Outages


Electricity is expected to be turned off again tomorrow. The weather is predicted to be too warm, windy and arid (with minimal humidity) to leave it on. Otherwise, sparks from electrical cables out in forested areas could potentially start catastrophic fires. Although unlikely, it is more likely during such weather.

Hopefully, fires will not be started by candles, oil lamps, barbecues, or any of what will compensate for the lack of electricity. One of the worst fires in history here was incidentally started by sparks from a generator.

Trees are regularly and efficiently pruned for clearance from electrical cables. That does not fix everything though. Utility cables can spark even without trees blowing into them. Many trees in many areas are much higher than the utility cables, so can drop limbs onto them.

1. These are the regions of Northern California where electricity will be turned off.


2. This is a close up of our region, between San Jose and Santa Cruz. At the moment, I am near the first ‘t’ in Scott’s Valley.


3. I am not as concerned about the garden in this weather as I am about this freezer without electricity. I would not use a freezer, but this one if for Felton League. I would not normally freeze bread either, but there happened to be space at the time, and it was better than discarding it.P91026++

4. Although this thermometer supposedly got to a hundred today after I got this picture, it was really not much more than ninety degrees. This thermometer is just in a hot spot. According to the weather forecast, it should be only in the mid seventies tomorrow. Obviously, the predicted fire risk is determined by a combination of heat, humidity and wind.P91026+++

5. There was a bit of horticulture to mention too. These are seeds of naked lady amaryllis. They certainly are weird, like mutant salmon eggs, or pink pomegranate seeds. They are supposed to be sown while still pink and fleshy like this, rather than dried. It just seems wrong.P91026++++

6. There were a few amaryllis bulbs in a group that made these unusually big seed capsules. I should have put something else in the picture to show scale. The largest is about as big as a ping pong ball. I suspect that they are the same as the others, but I will sow them separately anyway. Although unlikely, neighborhood crinum could have gotten in the mix.P91026+++++

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

Horridculture – Home Greenhouses

P91023Why do we all think we need a greenhouse? Some of us may rely on them for sheltering plants through cold winters. Some of us grow seedling late in winter, for an early start in spring. For some of us, greenhouses are where we grow plants that would not be as happy out in the natural climate. There is a multitude of uses for a greenhouse; but really, how many of us need one?

When I grew citrus trees, I needed a greenhouse. It was where the freshly grafted cuttings were rooted. (Citrus are grafted and rooted simultaneously, literally by grafting the scions to the unrooted understock, and ‘sticking’ the combination as a cutting into rooting media.) The greenhouse contained humidity to prevent desiccation, and warmth to stimulate root development.

From there, freshly rooted citrus trees were canned and moved out of the greenhouse and into a partly sheltered location to harden off. Once well rooted, they graduated from #1 cans to #5 cans, and were moved out to the field where they were completely exposed to the weather. All those acres of citrus tree production used only a few hundred square feet of greenhouse space.

Most of us are not rooting freshly grafted citrus cuttings, or many other cuttings that can not be rooted out in the real weather. Really, in this particularly mild climate, not many of us have any practical use for a greenhouse. It is just something that we believe a well outfitted garden should include, even if we need to procure a few rare and needfully tropical plants to prove it.

Contrary to what anyone says, plants in greenhouses need more work than those of comparable substance outside. They need to be watered even during rainy weather. They need the vents opened during warm weather. Most pathogens proliferate much more aggressively inside a greenhouse than outside. Greenhouses can create almost as much extra work as they eliminate.

The saran house in the picture above works nicely for a few plants that want a bit of shelter. Some plants are recovering from removal from landscapes, and will eventually get planted back into other landscapes. We grew a few of these plants from cuttings. They all get a bit of shelter from hot direct sunlight in summer, and frost in winter. We grow many more plants outside.

Shade trees, even the nearby deciduous box elders, could provide as much shelter as the saran house provides. Nothing fancy is necessary. Plants that need any more shelter than what they could get here or under a shade tree are useless in our landscapes. After all, our landscapes, by nature, are all outside. The plants that go into them must therefore be able to survive outside.

Six on Saturday: Moss Rose

Moss rose has something in common with fern pine and cabbage palm. ‘It is neither this nor that’. Fern pine is neither a fern nor a pine. Cabbage palm is neither a cabbage nor a palm. Well, moss rose is neither a moss nor a rose. It is Portulaca grandiflora. It is a somewhat uncommon warm season annual that blooms until frost, with potential to toss a few seed for next year.

Ours were planted a bit late, after English daisies that were where they are now succumbed unexpectedly to rust. Because they are in three small planter boxes, where annuals get replaced regularly, they will not be able to naturalize. I suppose I could collect some of the seed to toss about nearby, or in a sunnier place where they would be happier. It really is that time of year.

These six picture show six of the colors of our moss rose. There might have been a seventh color that was very pale pink. It was omitted because it was so similar to the white that I am still not certain that it was not white. Peach #3 is more distinct from orange #4 than it seems to be in these pictures. Red, which is common among moss rose, is strangely lacking from our mix.

Flowers are somewhat variable. Pink #1 seems to be a bit fluffier than the others. Yellow #5 has a bit of red around the center. Rose #2 seems to have a very slight bit of white at the center. I only guessed on the names of the colors ‘rose’ for #2 and ‘peach’ for #3.

1. pinkP91019

2. roseP91019+

3. peachP91019++

4. orangeP91019+++

5. yellowP91019++++

6. whiteP91019+++++

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Horridculture – Sign Up

P91016Perhaps the signs should be down instead. They are obscured by the crape myrtles where they are now. They would be more visible if they were either higher or lower, but not in line with all these trees. The trees were planted only a few years ago, but have done very well. Lodgepoles need to be removed. The specimen to the left is recovering well from earlier disfigurement.

Selection of trees for parking lots is not easy. Such trees must disperse complaisant roots that are not likely to displace pavement or curbs. They should should be reasonably high branched and conducive to pruning for clearance above parked cars, and where necessary, for delivery trucks. Excessive floral or foliar mess would be a problem. So would fruit that attracts wildlife.

Unfortunately, not many trees conform to all limitations. Those with the most complaisant roots do not get big enough to be pruned up high enough for adequate clearance, or even provide significant shade over the often hot black pavement below. Since shade is the primary function of such trees, an abundance of diminutive trees often compensate for fewer substantial trees.

This presents another range of problems. The smaller trees can be pruned for minimal clearance above pedestrians and parked cars, but not delivery trucks. What is worse is that they can not be pruned above lighting and shop signs either. Pruning them lower than the signs instead would only work if the signs were to be viewed horizontally, from the same height as the signs.

Nonetheless, that is what is most commonly done. This is the result. All those flashy and expensive signs on the buildings in the distance are mostly obscured from this vantage. Fortunately, the honey locusts closer to the signs can be pruned up higher for adequate clearance.

Six on Saturday: Souvenirs From Oklahoma


Oklahoma is a place that I mention often in my writing. It was one of those very few places outside of California that I had always wanted to go to. After actually going there seven years ago, I want to go back to see what another season besides autumn is like. The flora there was so fascinating and unfamiliar. In the short time I was there, I collected seed of several species. Amazingly, most seed were viable a few years after collection.

1. Seed ~ was collected in these old pill bottles. These seed are not really from Oklahoma. They are mostly from canna, and were collected more recently. Collecting seed can be a bad habit.P91012

2. Yucca glauca ~ seed was collected at a truck stop in New Mexico on the way to Oklahoma, where it is also native. I found a shoot of Yucca arkansana in Oklahoma, but it did not survive.P91012+

3. Sapindus saponaria ~ seed was found hanging over a fence from a backyard into an alley in Norman. The ‘seedling’ on the left grew from a root that broke from the seedling on the right.P91012++

4. Diospyros virginiana ~ happened to be in season while we were there in November and December. The small persimmons are very different from Japanese sorts, and loaded with seeds.P91012+++

5. Cercis canadensis ~ is the state tree of Oklahoma. Supposedly, the variety that grows wild there is ‘Texensis’. Several native plants are named for places where they were first identified.P91012++++

6. Juniperus virginiana ~ was not grown from seed, but gathered as wild seedlings. It is unpopular among those more familiar with it, and for good reason. I, however, am unfamiliar with it.P91012+++++

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