Six on Saturday: Rhody


Everyone loves Rhody. Regardless of how interesting I like to believe my articles are, nothing gets as much attention as the few illustrations that are photo bombed by Rhody. There are not many good pictures of Rhody, and it is difficult to get good pictures of him. He is too active, and when I try to get him to be still for the camera, he looks sad. I suppose that part of the problem is that I am not very proficient with taking pictures of him in action, rather than while he is trying to cooperate for a posed picture. These pictures are not exactly horticulturally oriented. Except for a few background bits, the only horticultural subjects are a big California sycamore that does not fit into the picture, a dead box elder that is mostly gone, and an uninteresting lawn.

1. Rhody is an expert of meteorology. He is looking to the gray sky and predicting rain. He will want to get inside before it arrives.p90119

2. Rhody is also an expert of arboriculture. After inspecting this big California sycamore, he concluded that the ‘bark’ is ‘ruff’. He happens to be particularly fond of dogwoods.p90119+

3. Rhody is stumped. He is wondering where all the firewood from this dead box elder went. It is within a protected riparian zone where deteriorating trees were to be cut down and made safe, but otherwise left on site.p90119++

4. Rhody occasionally inspects his big lawns to evaluate their maintenance, and perhaps find sticks or balls left by trespassing dogs.p90119+++

5. Rhody found the maintenance of this lawn to be satisfactory.p90119++++

6. Rhody is finished with his work and is getting ready for the incoming storm.p90119+++++

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Six on Saturday: Forsythia Division


Stems that develop roots to grow into new plants as they lay on the ground are known as ‘layers’. Because cane berries develop tall vertical canes that seem to leap as they arch over to touch the ground and root in, the new plants that develop where they do so are known as ‘leapers’. I sort of think that ‘layers’ sounds more like reliable hens than self propagating plants. I also sort of think that ‘leapers’ just sounds funny.

A big forsythia at work had become overgrown with several layers or leapers. I am not really sure which they are, but there was quite a mess of them. We needed to remove the superfluous plants. Also, we wanted a few forsythias in other parts of the landscape. Well, you can figure this out. We decided to kill two layers with one stone . . . or something like that. We decided to pull up the unwanted layers or leapers in one area, and plant them where they were actually desired. We decided to get it all done just prior to a big storm that would help settle the new plants in.

1. Forsythia before division.p90112

2. Forsythia after division. The entire left half of the original clump, which happens to be the original plant, as well as a few small layers or leapers, were removed. This remaining portion of the clump was not pruned yet. It will be pruned after later winter or very early spring bloom. This picture is approximately in the same position as the previous picture #1.p90112+

3. This largest of the new plants to be divided from the main plant was actually the original plant. The label was found on one of the old canes. Four smaller layers or leapers are to the right. The four smallest that are shown in picture #5 are not visible here. Because they needed to be pruned back to compensate for the root damage associated with the process, these plants were pruned almost as they would have been after bloom, which will unfortunately limit bloom in their first season.p90112++

4. This is the same largest clump in picture #3 after getting pruned and installed into another part of the landscape just before the rain. If it does not get pruned after bloom this year, the big older caned will be cut to the ground after bloom next year. By that time, there will be plenty of basal stems to replace them. Ideally, it will be pruned annually after bloom by a process known as ‘alternating canes’, which involved removing old canes to favor newer canes. Individual canes last no more than a few years before getting pruned out.p90112+++

5. After the largest of the freshly divided plants were installed directly into the landscape, the four smallest layers or leapers were canned and put into the nursery, just because we could not think of a place to plant them directly right away. A layer in the hand is worth two in the bush, and four in the nursery is even better.p90112++++

6. Another unassociated forsythia bloomed in the nursery at the shops early last year.4bd2

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Six on Saturday: Cabin Fever


Seriously! The flu!, or something like it. I was totally sick for days, with an awful fever. As if that were not bad enough, it happened while I was supposed to be relaxing and on vacation!

Neither was planned. Getting sick never is. The vacation was a total surprise too; a Christmas gift from one of the guys at work! It was totally rad, even if I was sick for it.

You see, we work at one of the most excellent places in the entire universe, where people come from all over for restorative retreats. That by itself is totally rad. What is radder is that we can rent unused rooms or cabins for out-of-town guests or for ourselves if we like. It is very affordable, and like vacationing at work. That may not seem like much fun for those who do not enjoy their work like we do, but like I said, this is one of the most excellent places to work in the entire universe.

So, my colleague got me nine nights in what is classified as an ‘economy’ cabin, but by my standards was very luxurious. I had stayed in a smaller newly remodeled cabin for two nights, and a hotel like room for a night, but had done nothing like this; nine nights in secluded luxury! If one must get sick, this is the way to do it!

Anyway, this is where my six pictures for this week came from.

1. This is the upward view from the front door. The black margin at the top of the picture is the edge of the eave. The trees to the left are canyon live oaks and a tan oak. The trees to the right are towering coastal redwoods.p90105

2. This is the same spot. Instead of looking straight up, this is looking outward from the front door. There is no refined landscaping here; only the native trees with the exotic English ivy that is cascading slightly over the old stone wall.p90105+

3. These towering coastal redwoods are outside a bedroom window.p90105++

4. These towering and somewhat darker coastal redwoods are outside the bathroom window.p90105+++

5. The artwork on the interior walls are mostly pictures of the local flora and wildlife. Most are rather artistic. Some are pictures of common but exotic flora that, although probably appealing to those who do not recognize them, are not the sort of subject matter that I would have selected. For example, one of the big framed photographs in the bedroom is a closeup of the summery foliage of London planetree, Platanus X acerifolia. Ick! I took this picture of three pictures that I found to be amusing. On the left, we have some interesting lichens and a bit of moss on what seems to be an apple tree. Okay. In the middle, we have foliage of California bay tree, Umbellularia californica. Odd, but again . . . okay. On the right, we have maces from the exotic sweetgum, Liquidambar styraciflua. Now, I would say that is weird, but it really is a cool picture!p90105++++

6. Rhody was not supposed to be on the bed.p90105+++++

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Six on Saturday: Shrooms


It is unlikely than any of these are related to ‘shrooms’ or ‘magic mushrooms’, the psychedelic mushrooms Psilocybe cubensis; but this is Santa Cruz County. I would not know one if I saw one. I think that #4 looks like pancake; and #6 looks like a strawberry. All except #1 were found within only a few feet of each other. They showed up immediately after the rain, in spot that had been dry all summer.

If #1 looks familiar, it is because it is the dreaded oak root rot fungus, Armillaria mellea. It was was at an adjacent building where another less developed colony of the same was featured in ‘The Humungous Fungus Among Us’, . The colony that was featured earlier developed into mushrooms just like those shown here, but by the time these pictures were taken, had deteriorated into a sloppy puddle of chunky goo from a bad 1980s horror movie. It looked like someone ate a bucket of chocolate covered olives, and threw up. To make matters worse, the whole mess was shimmering with the squirming of maggots, and exuded an aroma that was appropriate to visual aspects of the situation. Wow! I am grossing myself out, and I experienced it already.

When I compare picture #1 of the more developed colony of oak root rot to the earlier picture of the less developed colony. I sort of wonder if some of these other pictures are redundant to each other. Could #4 be a more developed form of #3? Could #5 be the deteriorating phase of #2? Well, I don’t know. I am just a horticulturist, not a mycologist.







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Six on Saturday: Rain On My Parade


Actually, this rain ‘is’ the parade. In parts of California, we do not get much of it, so when rain happens, it is worth celebrating. Although this side of the Santa Cruz Mountains gets significantly more rainfall than the chaparral on the other side in the Santa Clara Valley, there are not many more rainy days here. What that means is that when it rains here, it does so with more volume than in the Santa Clara Valley.

Rain is not easy to get pictures of. The first four picture just show water from one of our first major storms of the season. The fifth pictures does not even show that much. The sixth picture is from the most recent storm that came through Sunday night and finished on Monday morning.

1. This waterfall was flowing both through and over the deteriorated and also clogged gutter on the roof of the shop building across the driveway from the gardening shop at work. The gutter is so deteriorated that I would have expected all of the water to just flow through it. Incidentally, the big roll-up door to the lower left of the picture happens to be that of the plumbing shop.P81222

2. This waterfall was flowing through a storm drain on the Mount Hermon Road bridge over Zayante Creek, East Zayante Road, and the railroad tracks in between them.. This section of Mount Hermon Road is known to some as ‘the Bypass’ because it bypassed the older Conference Drive in picture #5. What is not visible in this picture is that the upper part of the waterfall lands in the ditch on the side of East Zayante Road below. It might have seemed like a good idea when the bridge was built, but so much water falls from so high up that it erodes the ditch, and splatters gravel onto cars driving by. The lower part of the waterfall flows into a ditch on the edge of the railroad tracks, and then under the tracks towards picture #3 below.P81222+

3. This waterfall was flowing out into Zayante Creek from a culvert just downhill from the culvert under the railroad tracks mentioned in #2 above. It is the same water that was falling from the Mount Hermon Road bridge.P81222++

4. These two waterfalls were flowing from the roofs of the local supermarket and adjacent drug store and pharmacy, and onto the newsstand below. What is disturbing about this picture is these drains are merely back up drains that do not allow the flat roofs surrounded by parapet walls to fill with too much water if the main drains get clogged. The main drains are likely at the rear of the building where they can drain discretely and out of the way. These back up drains are on the front of the building so that they get noticed if they start to flow. All this water flowing out of them indicates that the main drains are clogged, and that the roofs are flooded.P81222+++

5. This is the Conference Drive bridge over Zayante Creek, East Zayante Road, and the railroad tracks in between them. It is the bridge that was bypassed by the Mount Hermon Road bridge in picture #2. The big greenwaste pile where I dump debris from the landscapes is directly below the southern edge of this bridge, which is to the left in this picture. You can not see it in this picture that was taken before the rain started, but a bit of water drains from this bridge onto the greenwaste pile. It is not much, but it is enough to be a bother when I am unloading debris in the rain. It falls from so high up, that even if I am avoiding the spot where the falling water lands, the wind can blow it all over me. From that height, any bit of road gravel that falls with it can give me quite a sting.P81222++++

6. The most recent storm finished early Monday morning, after dropping two and a half inches of rain.P81222+++++

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Six on Saturday: Deodar Cedar Migration


Deodar cedars that were featured in the gardening column about two weeks ago, , live in a small grove adjacent to a building that I work out of. They need a bit of pruning for clearance from the roof, but are otherwise rather nice and healthy specimens.

They are also prolific. Quite a herd of seedlings is developing on the ground below. None of the individual seedlings are more than just a few years old, which suggests that the area was cleared of seedlings a few years ago. The area needs to be cleared of seedlings again, before they grow big enough to become a messy thicket.

Part of another landscape in another area happened to be in need of a few deodar cedars. There were two established specimens there already. They suit the situation so well that more are desired. However, new trees are expensive, and because there is no irrigation system in that particular site, they would need to be watered very regularly by hose until they get established.

Well, you can guess what happened. We pulled up several of the seedlings that needed to be pulled up anyway, and simply plugged them into the site where more deodar cedars are desired. It was done just prior to rain, so the relocated seedlings did not even need to be soaked in. They were pruned so that they would not desiccate so readily. We planted way more than necessary because there were plenty to spare, and also because we expect that several will not survive the process. We also expect that we will likely need to cut down a few later because, although some will not survive, too many probably will. Because they are just tiny seedlings, they will get established more efficiently than canned nursery stock, and will not be so sensitive to lapses of irrigation.

Although way more than necessary were relocated, they were not even a quarter of what was available in the original herd. More than three quarters of the herd remain available to be planted elsewhere. More will likely be relocated to other parts of other landscapes before the rainy season is half way finished. A few will be canned and put into the nursery. Whatever we do to them should be done in the early part of the rainy season to take advantage of the weather while they get established. We prefer to relocate the larger seedlings first, so that those that remain will be the smaller seedlings that will take longer to get too big to move if they must wait until next year to be relocated.

This is actually old technology, and how tree seedlings were pulled and plugged to enhance the production of woodlots since ancient history. While undesirable seedlings were pulled and discarded, more desirable seedlings that happened to be crowded around the parent trees were pulled up and plugged in more uniformly over a larger area.

1. seedlings in the ground below the parent treesP81215

2. parent treesP81215+

3. bundle of seedlingsP81215++

4. unpruned seedlingP81215+++

5. same seedling prunedP81215++++

6. seedling in new locationP81215+++++

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Six on Saturday: Too Much Autumn Color IV – Uncategorized Exotics


These are the last six of the twenty four pictures of autumn foliar color that I got before the rain knocked so much of the foliage to the ground more than a week ago. #2 is the only picture of foliage that is on the ground instead of still suspended on the stems that produced it. The fallen birch leaves were just too pretty on the stone wall to not get a picture of them.

1. Japanese maple is not my favorite species, but it does have certain attributes. There happen to be several at work just because they happen to work well there. Some that do not typically develop good color got remarkably colorful this year. I believe that this particular Japanese maple is the common ‘Bloodgood’. It had been dark reddish bronze through summer, and then turned brighter red for autumn.P81222

2. European white birch is grown for the elegant white trunks that contrast so nicely against the deep green of the redwoods. This autumn foliar color, although brief, is an added bonus. These trees were already starting to defoliate before the rain.P81222+

3. Hydrangea is not known for autumn foliar color, and as you can see, turns only pale yellow. Yet, it is striking in the shade, and contrasts nicely with the rich green of redwood and English ivy foliage.P81222++

4. Spirea is likewise not grown for autumn foliar color, or at least no so much in our mild climate. There are more than a dozen of them here, and none are doing very well. They will get cut back and groomed now that they are bare. I do not know what cultivar this particular spirea is.P81222+++

5. Golden weeping willow was not only golden with autumn foliar color, but is still golden with the yellow bark on the twigs. So far, I am not too impressed with the yellow twigs. It is still a small tree, and growing in a mild climate that may not stimulate much color. Regardless, I happen to like weeping willows. This one happens to be in a swampy spot where it is quite happy.P81222++++

6. Bald cypress is rare here, but there happens to be two at work. One was supposed to be a dawn redwood, but was obviously mislabeled. Fortunately, it just happened to be planted on the bank of a small creek where it gets plenty of water. The other was planted in an area that is too swampy for other trees. Both are doing quite well. When they defoliated, they covered the ground with finely textured needles that would have been impossible to rake up.P81222+++++

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Six on Saturday: Too Much Autumn Color II – Natives & Exotics


Now we have a bit more variety than the last batch of six.

Red stem dogwood of the first and second pictures is the only species that is locally native. The California currant of the fourth picture, and the California black walnut of the fifth picture are both as native to California as the names imply, but are not native locally. The flowering dogwood of the third picture is from Eastern North America. You can guess the origin of the Chinese wisteria of the sixth picture, which happens to be the only vine represented in all four groups of six pictures.

The first three of the six pictures, or half, are of dogwood. The first two pictures are the only two in all four groups of six pictures that are the same species, namely red stem dogwood. Both were posted just to demonstrate that red twig dogwood, which typically turns only pale yellow like the foliage of the first picture, can develop a bit of red foliage like that of the second picture, if conditions are just so. Both the red stem dogwood of the second picture, and the flowering dogwood of the third picture, are the first two examples of red foliage from my four groups of six pictures. In the next two groups of six pictures, there is only one other example of bright red foliage, as well as an example of brown foliage, and an example of irregularly bronzed orange foliage. Those are topics for next week.

1. red stem dogwoodP81208

2. red stem dogwoodP81208+

3. flowering dogwoodP81208++

4. California currantP81208+++

5. California black walnutP81208++++

6. Chinese wisteriaP81208+++++

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Six on Saturday: Too Much Autumn Color I – Natives


The merely adequate color among the sweetgums early in the season suggested that color would be insipid this year. Then, the weather did something that set it all off. There was too much autumn foliar color this week to select just six pictures. So, I didn’t. These six are only the first of four groups of six. It would not be practical to post a group weekly for four weeks, particularly since some of the colorful foliage in these pictures was dislodged by generous rainstorms shortly after the pictures were taken. There will be very little foliage left by the time the last group of six posts. Instead, two groups of six will be posted presently, and the other two groups of six will be posted next Saturday, before they are two weeks old. I hope this does not violate any rules.

All six specie in this first group happen to be locally native. They are also all yellow, which is the standard color here. Regionally, there is not much orange or red. The thimbleberry in the first picture is rather pale yellow, but that is more color than it typically gets. Of these six, the thimbleberry is also the only species that does not grow as a tree, or a shrub like the hazelnut of the second picture. The hazelnut happens to be a Western hazelnut. The cottonwood happens to be a black cottonwood, although I would not know what distinguishes it from any other cottonwood. The sycamore is more specifically a California sycamore, which really is quite distinct.

1. thimbleberryP81201

2. hazelnutP81201+

3. cottonwoodP81201++

4. sycamoreP81201+++

5. boxelderP81201++++

6. bigleaf mapleP81201+++++

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Six on Saturday: More Unknown Succulents


This is not as simple as it looks. It is something of a guessing game for me. I am rather certain that #1 and #2 are identified correctly. I am not so certain about #3 and #5. The name of #4 is merely a guess. #6 is the only one that I know the name of for certain, although the name that I know it as is now outdated.

The lack of a species name for the two species of Sedum #1 and #2 seems like a cop out to me. I might have discussed it in one of my Wednesday rants, or will do so soon enough. All species should be described as a ‘species’, not merely as a genus with a cultivar name tossed in as if it adequately designates the identity. I sometimes write about how the nomenclature of plants is like that of cars. Both plants and cars are distinguished by genus AND species, with some specie divided into separate cultivars and varieties. (Cultivars are merely ‘cultivated varieties’.) Depriving a plant of a species name is like describing a car as a Buick ‘Convertible’, or a Chrysler ‘Sedan’. There is a big difference between a convertible Electra and a convertible Skylark, although both are Buicks. There is also a big difference between an Imperial sedan and a LeBaron sedan, although both are Chryslers. I may not have identified the two Sedum with their correct names, but even their correct names are not very correct anyway.

Echeveria glauca #3 seems too simple. Shouldn’t it have a cultivar name too? I really do not know. I really do not even know what species it is.

The same goes for Graptopetalum paraguayense #4. Really, I do not even know what genus it is. This is merely a guess. How embarrassing.

Aloe brevifolia #5 has a different issue with its name. It seems that all aloes are known simply as Aloe vera, even though not many of us would recognize Aloe vera if we actually saw it. This makes it easier to identify unknown aloes, but complicates the identification of familiar aloes.

Then there is the easily identifiable Bulbine caulescens #6. Seriously, I recognize it, but somehow, the name got changed. The first name is how I know it. The second name is the newer correct name.

1. Sedum ‘Angelina’P81124

2. Sedum ‘Blue Spruce’P81124+

3. Echeveria glaucaP81124++

4. Graptopetalum paraguayenseP81124+++

5. Aloe brevifoliaP81124++++

6. Bulbine caulescens or Bulbine frutescensP81124+++++

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