Six on Saturday: Nursery Schooled

Horticulture can be such a bad habit. (Where have I heard that before?) Once one learns how to grow horticultural commodities, it is difficult to stop. Pruning scraps get processed into more cuttings. Self sown seedlings get relocated instead of discarded. Extra pups (divisions) get salvaged as if the garden can accommodate more. There are several acres of landscapes here, but it is not enough for what we could grow.

1. While dividing a bunch of Morea bicolor, I found a single shoot of Morea iridioides. How did that get in there? I should have discarded it. Perhaps it will grow to become something useful.P00725-1

2. Pruning scraps of zonal geraniums got plugged as cuttings, but then did not get separated as they grew. There may be a dozen in there. They are nice, but we really do not need any more.P00725-2

3. When composting just is not good enough, plug cuttings instead. There may be a dozen Ponderosa lemon cuttings here. One is too many. They are not grafted, so will be on their own roots.P00725-3

4. Boston ivy is fortunately not as abundant as I thought it would be. We wanted four, so I plugged a hundred cuttings. It seemed to make sense at the time. Most did not survive. Plenty did.P00725-4

5. This self sown bigleaf maple is not in the nursery, but I want it to be. It should not remain where it is. I may dig and can it this autumn, as if there is a situation into which to install it later. P00725-5

6. These summer squash are not from the nursery, but from right downstairs. They are happy with all the runoff they get from above. Neighbors have been getting many pounds of squash.P00725-6

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

Six on Saturday: Self Isolation


Self isolation was not exactly why I avoided the landscapes. Since there are very few people here, I can get all the pictures I want without getting too close to anyone. Nor did I intentionally avoid the landscapes because, as I mentioned earlier, it is too saddening to see them looking so good without anyone here to enjoy them. I was just too busy to get out. These six pictures are instead from the recovery nursery. These are items that should eventually be out in the landscapes. Some should have bee there a long time ago.

1. Jasminum humile, Italian jasmine was grown from pruning scraps from a big shrubby specimen in Monterey. It does not look like much so far, but is extremely fragrant, like pink jasmine.P00502-1

2. Solanum jasminoides, potato vine was left by someone who moved away, but has not yet been planted into a landscape. It is overgrown now, so will need to be pruned back when planted.P00502-2

3. Mimulus aurantiacus, sticky monkey flower got removed from where it was in the way of something else, got canned, and now waits to be recycled elsewhere. I should have composted it.P00502-3

4. Cistus x argenteus, rockrose was actually purchased rather than recycled or grown here. It was for a small new landscape that can not be completed right now. This might be ‘Silver Pink’.P00502-4

5. Pelargonium peltatum, ivy geranium provided cuttings when pruned a month ago. It might be ‘Royal Candy Cane’. They should have been planted intact, but there is not enough of them.P00502-5

6. Leucanthemum × superbum, Shasta daisy, like sticky monkey flower, was removed from an area that was outfitted with a new landscape, but not yet recycled. I really should just plant it.P00502-6

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

Horridculture – Fake Media

P90911This is no way to get the dirt on someone. There is no dirt involved. If there were, it would be referred to as ‘soil’. ‘Dirt’ is a term used by those who do not know any better.

Anyway, this is about the media that plants are grown in. It might be called growing media, potting media, potting mix or simply potting soil. Some in the horticultural industries might say that, because it is assembled from a variety of components that do not naturally occur together, growing media is synthetic. Because it lacks real soil, most of us refer to it simply as soilless.

Now, I am aware that not all media are created equal. The medium that we grew citrus in was much sandier than what we grew rhododendrons in. It was purchased already mixed specifically for citrus, and ready for use. The medium for the rhododendrons was mixed on site, with more coarsely shredded fir bark (from local mills), less sand and a little bit of perlite.

What I was not aware of, was just how perishable potting media purchased from retail garden centers are. Rather than drive out to the farm for a bin or two of medium, I purchased a bail of common ‘potting soil’ from a garden center about two years ago. I just happened to be there to pick up something else. The cost seemed worth avoiding an extra trip to the farm.

It actually was worth the cost. It did what I needed it to do for a time. The problem I am noticing now is that plants that were not planted or canned up (into larger cans) soon enough are now lacking the volume of medium they need. They need to be stuffed, which involves sliding them out of their cans to add a bit more medium to set them on top of, back in their cans.

The potting soil decomposed too readily. It is as if it rotted into muck that was rinsed through the drainage holes with watering. I suspect that there was more to the medium that the typical simple components. It probably contained significant volumes of compost derived from recycled greenwaste. I certainly have no problem with that. I just would have liked to know about it.

This little American persimmon seedling can stay in this half empty can until winter dormancy. Once dormant, it can be canned into a #5 (5 gallon) can, to resume growth next spring, before it even realizes that it is lacking medium. It will get a happy ending.

The Seventh On Saturday

P90511KThis is the one that got away; or actually, the one that was never caught. It bloomed after I got the pictures for the ‘Six on Saturday’ post for this morning. It could be the same unopened bud in picture #3 of the Six on Saturday post, as it is now blooming. If not the same bud, it is on the same plant, and now looks even more like the common ‘Simplicity’ rose. It is not my favorite, but I did not select it.
That is how the recovery nursery works. It is where we bring salvageable plants that need to be removed from their landscapes. Some were in the way of other projects. Some were not the right plants for their particular situations. Some were even donated by neighbors who thought we might be able to utilize them somewhere in the landscapes.
Some of plants brought in are not there long. They might get groomed and then moved directly to a more appropriate situation. That happens more during winter, when we dig up dormant plants and relocate them while the weather is still cool and rainy. We did this with a big overgrown forsythia that was dug and divided into five or so new plants before getting relocated into a new landscape. It helps is we can delay relocation until winter.
There are many potentially salvageable plants that must be moved at a particular time, even if it is not while they are dormant. They get groomed and canned (potted), and can take their time to recover before we put them back into the landscapes. Unfortunately, many do not recover adequately. Some end up staying too long because we can not find homes for them. After several years, the roses will finally be going to a new home soon.

Six on Saturday: The Yard


This is no home garden. It is the yard outside the various shops of the Maintenance Department where I work part time. It contains some of the salvageable plant material that we try to recycle from some of the landscapes from which it must be removed. Over winter, some plants get dug and relocated directly, rather than come to the yard. Otherwise, plants come here to get canned (potted) to recover, and then find a home.

Because no one sees our yard, we need not maintain it like we maintain the rest of the landscapes. Consequently, it collects a few weeds. Also, because there are other shops in the same buildings, there are a few unexpected odds and ends left strewn about by other types of professionals, such as the electrician. Hence, #6.

1. You know, when I took this picture, I though that the annual grassy weeds somehow looked pretty in front of the wild cucumber vine on the cyclone fence. I’m not the artsy sort; so will not try to explain it.P90511

2. Mixed in with the wild cucumber vine, which incidentally makes not edible cucumbers, this potato vine blooms, but incidentally makes not potatoes. Of course, I never dug it up to confirm that claim.P90511+

3. This rose, which might be ‘Simplicity’, has been here for a few years. No one remembers where it came from. It was supposed to get planted into a landscape while it was still dormant. Too late now.P90511++

4. This rose might be ‘Medallion’, but it is hard to say for certain. It is not as big as it should be. It was supposed to get planted while dormant too. There actually is a landscape that can use both of them.P90511+++

5. Shasta daisy has been blooming for a while now. You would think that it would be easy to find a home for this one, but it is still in the yard. It is big enough to divide into more plants if still here this winter.P90511++++

6. Spring bulbs are done now.P90511+++++

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

Horridculture – B & B

P90320B & B, formally known as ‘balled and burlapped’ nursery stock, was expected to be the next big ‘thing’ in nursery commodities here in California back in the late 1980s. As those outside of California know, it is field grown plant material that gets dug and marketed with its roots wrapped in burlap. It was more common in other regions, so was expected to become more common here as more nursery stock was to be imported from Oregon.
However, growers in Oregon started growing more of their stock in cans like we do in California, and then did not send as much of their B & B stock to California as predicted. Only certain slow growing commodities and large items are still field grown, and then dug and ‘balled and burlapped’ for export. Of these, arborvitaes, rhododendrons and various deciduous shade trees are the more commonly available locally.
B & B stock from Oregon is typically of exceptional quality. Horticulture is taken more seriously there.
Because B & B is still a foreign concept in California, it is typically canned to be more familiar to local consumers. It does not take long for it to root into the little bit of extra potting medium and fill out the cans. There is no need for the roots to be unwrapped, since the burlap decays as fast as the root disperse and expand. The now canned but formerly B & B arborvitaes in the picture above are exemplary.
Yet, they are not perfect. The problem with B & B stock here is that there are not many horticultural professionals here who know how to work with it, or even care to do so properly.
The picture below shows how shallow the B & B root systems of the arborvitaes are relative to the squat #15 (15 gallon) cans that they were purchased in. They obviously did not get enough time to root into their potting medium after they were canned. This is not due to a lack of horticultural expertise. This is either (and hopefully) a mistake in scheduling, or merely a lack of concern. But hey, no bother. They are still excellent specimens.P90320+
At least they seemed to be. A potentially serious problem was revealed when they were installed and the loose potting medium fell away from the burlap.
Many years ago, the burlap containing the balled root systems of B & B stock was bound with biodegradable jute twine. It rotted away before it could do any damage. Since then, nylon twine became more commonly used. Those who are familiar with B & B know to simply cut and remove the nylon twine before planting.
Whomever processed and canned these arborvitaes are either (and hopefully) not familiar with B & B, or just do not care. The nylon twine was still tightly bound and tied. If these arborvitaes had rooted into their potting medium and held it intact, this twine would not have been visible. Because it is wrapped a few times around the main trunks as well as wadded up burlap, it could have girdled the main trunks as they grew and expanded!
In a way, it was fortuitous that the potting medium fell away to expose the nylon twine, which was cut to allow for expansion of the main trunks. These exemplary B & B arborvitaes from Oregon should live happily ever after.P90320++

Six on Saturday: Zoning Out


Zonal geraniums, Pelargonium hortorum, can bloom anytime it wants to here, but really does tend to slow down somewhat through autumn and winter. As growth slows, older foliage will deteriorate and become more susceptible to rust and decay. Where exposed, older grown might succumb to frost over winter. Zonal geraniums will soon be zoning out.

Such deterioration and winter frost damage is not as bad as it looks, unless of course, frost is severe enough to kill the entire affected plants. By the time old growth looks shabby enough to be removed, new growth is probably already starting to develop down near the roots. After the last frost date (when no more frost is likely), old growth can be cut back to expose new growth that will soon replace it. Even if new growth is very minimal, growth will accelerate once exposed by the removal of old foliage, and as weather warms into spring.

That is still a few months away. For now, zonal geraniums are just beginning the process of zoning out, which is why their floral trusses are neither as big nor as abundant as they had been through summer. While they are busy with that, autumn flowers are beginning to bloom, and some of the winter flowers are getting ready for their season. Winter flowers get started in autumn because growth is slower in cooler weather, even for plants that prefer cool weather.

1. Chrysanthemum is ‘the’ classic autumn flower. These are blooming well enough in the infirmary that they will soon be relocated out into prominent spots or pots out in landscaped areas.P81006

2. Cyclamen is a winter flower that is just now starting to grow after its long summer dormancy. These rudimentary first blooms are not much to brag about, but will likely be followed by enough for these plants to also be recycled back into the landscape from which they came last spring. These white flowers really are the best of the cyclamen for now. (I did not take this picture just because white is my favorite color.)P81006+

3. Reddish orange zonal geranium, and the magenta zonal geranium below, exhibit two more of those colors that I can not identify. I will just say that it is reddish orange. I happen to like it because the color resembles that of one of my two first zonal geraniums. Mine is not so well bred, so exhibits weedier growth and less prominent bloom. Nonetheless, I like mine because it is so resilient and predictable. I cut it to the ground at the end of winter, before new growth develops, and it grows right back. This prettier garden variety would probably prefer a gentler process.P81006++

4. Red zonal geranium seems to me to be the most elegant of those blooming here presently. Of course, I do not know for certain if it is. I do not know much about color. It just seems to me that this color is not as garish as the magenta sort of color below, or as unrefined as the common reddish orange above.P81006+++

5. Magenta zonal geranium, like the reddish orange zonal geranium above, is another color that I can not identify. It is a bit too flashy for my taste. However, the other one of my two first zonal geraniums blooms with a softer hue of a similar color. As much as I prefer to not admit it, my two first zonal geraniums are still my favorites, even though they bloom in colors that I am none too keen on.P81006++++

6. White zonal geranium happens to contrast well with the dark greens of landscapes in the redwood forests. Although it is my favorite of the four zonal geraniums that are blooming here now, my first two weedy zonal geraniums that bloom with unrefined reddish orange and garish magenta are still my two favorites.P81006+++++

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

Six on Saturday: Nursery Rhyme


I wish we had one. There is no rhyme and only a few disjointed reasons for what happens at the small storage nursery at the maintenance shops. This is nothing like acres of production nursery full of rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and such. Nor is it like the retain nurseries that sell the rhododendrons, azaleas, camellias and such. This is merely a small yard where we store a few plants that get removed from landscapes, and plants that were recently procured from a nursery but have not yet been planted.

It is like the nursery version of the wood shop, with its collection of new lumber and old recycled lumber that gets used on the historic buildings. The plumbing shop contains all sorts of new plumbing and fixtures, as well as many old fixtures that might someday be useful. The landscape shop, which is separate from the nursery, is #7 of about twelve specialized shops used by the maintenance staff. The nursery might seem to be the most dysfunctional of the several shops, but only because plants are dynamic and need maintenance . . . and because, without necessary maintenance, a few have deteriorated, died or conversely thrived and made themselves at home.

Newly procured plants like #5 and #6 are easy to work with. They come in with a plan, and generally leave within a week or two as they get installed out somewhere in the various landscapes. Recycled plants like #1 and #2 were removed from the landscapes either because they were in the way of something, or because they proliferated too much, but could someday go back into other landscaped areas. Then there are a few plants like #3 and #4 that stay long enough to disperse roots through the bottoms of their cans and into the ground, essentially planting themselves on the spot because they got tired of waiting for a new home.

1. Peruvian lily was so prolific at the Post Office that many needed to be pulled. They were canned to be installed elsewhere, but no one wants to put them into a situation where they might proliferate like they did at the Post Office. Besides this pink, there is also peachy pink and yellow. All are the tall types that were originally grown fro cut flowers, rather than the lower mounding home garden varieties. Consequently, they need to be staked or caged like tomatoes so that they do not lay on the ground.P80623
2. Chrysanthemum was grown as annuals in a few various locations, but when they were removed to relinquish their space for more seasonable annuals, a few were canned. It is not always easy to discard certain perennials just because their time is up. The problem is that, although they look so good in the nursery, and bloom in spring instead of autumn, they do not get cycled back into the landscape. When new color is needed, it is often purchased and planted before the old stock is considered.P80623+
3. Potato vine has been growing like a weed on the cyclone fence and shade structure for so long that no one knows where it came from. I do not even know where the vines originate from. I would guess that somewhere under the overgrowth, the main canes emerge from the remains of a #1 can that the roots split apart years ago. This vine lives here now. Even if we had a spot for it, relocation is not practical. If it gets too overgrown, it might get cut back.P80623++
4. Campanula was probably in a 4” pot that got set into the #15 can of a ‘Black Lace’ elderberry and forgotten about. It might have been recycled, or it might have been something new that never got installed. Before the elderberry was relocated, the campanula had spread into the cans of other trees, so like the potato vine, it lives here now.P80623+++
5. Cone flower is easy. I just arrived from a nursery, and will be installed into a landscape in just a few days.P80623++++
6. Yarrow came with the cone flower, and will be planted nearby in the same landscape at about the same time.P80623+++++

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

High Fashion

P80404This exquisite yet elegantly simple persimmon orange cravat is to die for! See how distinguishing it is for the Umbellularia californica sporting it! The brilliant color is so appropriate for a tree that needs to stand out in a crowd! How else would the arborists coming to cut it down find it? Yes, it is to die for!

This sort of high fashion is not normally so high. Trees that are tagged by surveyors are typically more discretely tagged with spray paint down near the ground. We just used this orange tape because we were only hastily marking a few or our own trees for removal, and nothing else.

The problem with tape in other situations is that it can be removed and applied to another tree. One of my colleagues sent his crew to cut down a street tree downtown that had been marked with orange tape, only to find later that the wrong tree had been cut down. The client had procured a permit for the tree that the arborist had tied the tape onto, but not another tree next to it that he wanted removed also. After the arborist marked the tree to be removed with tape and left, the client removed the tape, and tied it onto the tree that was to be preserved. Of course, the crew cut down the tree with the orange tape. The sleazy client did not want to pay for the removal because the wrong tree had been cut down, and then hired another tree service to legally remove the tree for which the removal permit had been issued, while leaving the first arborist liable for cutting down a protected tree without a permit. Fortunately, a neighboring merchant knew what the client was up to, saw him move the tape, and reported the incident to the responding code enforcement agents. The arborist got paid. The client got two huge fines; one for removing the tree without a permit, and one for the value of the rather valuable tree.

Tape works fine in the nursery because there is no one there to do anything sleazy. Besides, paint would be messy. Many years ago, we used red tape for stock that needed to be disposed of, orange tape for stock that needed to be shifted into the next larger size, and blue tape for stock that was sold and needed to be moved to a holding corral or loaded onto a delivery truck. Of course, different nurseries might use different colors and a different code.

For the sort of tree work that I was involved with, orange or red paint was used only on trees that were to be removed. It would not have been appropriate to tag good trees with paint! We usually marked trees for removal with a circled ‘X’ or just an ‘X’, in a very visible manner.

Surveyors use paint in a more discrete fashion, with single dots or other small markings of paint down near the ground. They use a variety of colors and a standardized code system. The paint is not permanent, and weathers away after a year or so. Some trees get tagged for pruning for clearance from utility cables. Some get tagged for clearance above roadways and sidewalks. A few that are hazardous or in need of such severe pruning that they will be ruined in the process get tagged for removal. Each color of paint means something different. Each specific tag is a message to whomever is responsible for the prescribed procedure. Some who are responsive to the coded messages work for the respective municipality. Others work for a utility company of some sort. They may not know what all the tagging means, but they recognize the meaning of the tags that are addressed to them.

That is why, when a client asks me what a particular tag on a tree means, I can only say that I do not know. I know what tags my associates use, and I can guess what a prominent circled ‘X’ or an ‘X’ means because I know of so many arborists who use that tag. I do happen to know what the bright orange tape around the bay tree above means because my associate put it there. However, I do not know what a blue dot, green dot, yellow dot, orange vertical line or red horizontal line mean.

Autumn Really Was For Planting

70531thumbIt is easy to see why there are optimum times to prune, and just as easy to see when pruning should not be done. Generally, deciduous plants prefer to get pruned while dormant and bare. They should not be pruned when actively blooming or making new foliage. Roots are of course not so easy to see. Do we really know what they are doing, or what sort of mischief they are getting into?

Autumn is the best time for planting most plants. They are less active than they had been earlier in the year, and many are going dormant. Either way, they do not need much. Once in the ground, their roots are kept cool and moist by the weather. They get to sit there all winter, as they slowly begin to disperse their roots to get ready for the following spring. It all fits into their natural life cycle.

Shopping habits, however, do not. By autumn, many plants are neither as pretty nor as tempting as they were earlier in the year. By winter, the weather keeps many of us inside, and out of nurseries. Now that it is spring, it is difficult to resist all the pretty plants that are blooming so delightfully. We are tempted to buy them compulsively, even if we have no immediate plans for them.

That is okay. We can make this work. Buying certain plants in bloom actually has certain advantages. It shows how and when particular plants bloom. This might be helpful when trying to decide between different cultivars of deciduous magnolias, flowering cherries, flowering crabapples or wisterias, for example. Besides, they will finish blooming quickly, and start to produce new foliage.

If planted before new foliage matures, new plants should be planted in cool weather, and maybe sprayed lightly with water after the roots get soaked in. This is best for drought tolerant plants like ceanothus, that want out of their cans (nursery pots) as soon as possible. If new plants stay in their cans long enough for foliage to mature, they must be watered carefully, but not kept saturated. The black vinyl cans should be shaded, since they get warm in sunlight.