Six on Saturday: Joshua Tree

Yucca brevifolia is commonly known as Joshua tree. It is native to the Mojave Desert. It is very rare in home gardens because it is so extremely susceptible to rot with irrigation, or even where it gets more rain than it is accustomed to in the Mojave Desert. Besides, it is very difficult to work with, and even with impeccable maintenance, even the healthiest of specimens develop weirdly and unpredictably irregular form that too many find to be unappealing. Nonetheless, whether appealing or otherwise, whether in a landscape or in the wild, it is a fascinating species of Yucca. Rhody and I encountered these Joshua trees and many others west of Boron last Thursday.

1. Joshua tree is the tallest tree in this region, but does not get as tall as utility poles. The scarcity of moisture limits vegetation here. That is not wildlife in the lower right corner.

2. Zooming in on the specimen to the right in the previous picture reveals that there are many more in the distance. Many are solitary. Most live socially, in otherworldly forests.

3. If there were an exemplary Joshua tree, it might look something like this. The shabby specimen in the background to the right is also rather typical. They are weirdly variable.

4. These short and rigid leaves are extremely sharp! They look somewhat like the foliage of common giant yucca, but are very difficult to handle. Joshua tree is better in the wild.

5. Old foliage decays very slowly. It folds back and lingers on the limbs like this for many years. Joshua tree grows very slowly, so this foliage may have been like this for decades.

6. Trunks eventually shed deteriorated old leaves as they widen and develop this roughly textured exterior that resembles bark. Again, that is not wildlife in the lower left corner.

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Six on Saturday: Winter Lite

There is not much time to finish all of the winter chores. Deciduous plants defoliate a bit late and refoliate a bit early. They do not stay bare for long. Roses were a priority for this week. We managed to prune all of them, and relocate several of them as well. Their buds are plump but still dormant. Although the weather has been pleasantly mild for the past several days, it has been more seasonably cool and even frosty for night. Seriously, there was genuine frost and even ice! It would not impress those who are familiar with wintry weather, but it makes our work a bit less rushed. All that we need now is a bit more rain. 

1. Pruning roses is one of my favorite winter chores. It is almost as much fun as pruning fruit trees. Just a few are my favorite hybrid tea roses though. This is merely understock.

2. Carpet roses are the most common roses in our landscapes. I loathe them. However, I have been enjoying some of them. The smaller of two big colonies generated this debris.

3. Salvia greggii appeared mysteriously near some of the roses last year. Seriously, it is a mystery. I like it enough to layer the stems from the right for little new plants to the left.

4. White fir appeared mysteriously behind the Salvia greggii just recently. It lacks roots! Excellent! It can not damage pavement or septic systems! I should propagate more of it.

5. Angel’s trumpet has been confused since it arrived. It bloomed before developing new foliage last spring, stopped blooming before autumn, and now, is trying to bloom again!

6. Winter is famously mild here. Nonetheless, the weather sometimes gets cool and even frosty. On rare occasion, it gets cold enough for icicles. This appeared here on January 2. 

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Six on Saturday: HAPPY NEW YEAR!


Happy January too! Happy Saturday! Really though, what is all the fuss about? There is nothing new about this. New years have been arriving annually for as long as anyone can remember. New days arrive daily. New hours arrive hourly. In fact, a new one just began within the last sixty minutes or so. Perhaps that justifies trying to be happy whenever we want to. I digress. My Six for this Saturday are irrelevant to this New Year, and actually, are not exactly happy. All six pictures involve just two trees, a valley oak, Quercus lobata and a coast live oak, Quercus agrifolia.

1. Thunderstorms are rare here. A real doozy arrived on Christmas morning though. The wind could have landed Rhody in Oz. This distinguished valley oak lost two major limbs. 

2. The worst of the damage is just above and slightly left of the center of this picture. The large limb that fell from there clobbered another large limb that was closer to the center.

3. Can you identify what this picture shows? The pair of short yellow lines near the lower center of the picture is a clue. That is the dirty tip of my left boot in the lower left corner. 

4. Tilting the camera from vertical reveals why I could not return to work after what was supposed to be a quick errand. This large coast live oak fell and totally blocked the road.

5. But wait, there’s more! This was more than we could move efficiently with the tractor. Two crews, working at both ends, took all day to clear it all. Another trunk fell to the left. 

6. The trunks had been deteriorating for decades. The moisture of the adjacent drainage ditch accelerated rot. All that evergreen foliage finally got too heavy when wet from rain. 

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Six on Saturday: Rhody Hates Pictures

Six on Saturday is cancelled for Christmas. I should have remembered that. Well, I already posted my Six on Saturday, as well as these extra Six.

. . . .

Rhody is who everyone who comes to my blog really wants to see. I would share more of his pictures, but there simply are not many. He dislikes getting his picture taken, so does not cooperate. These six pictures demonstrate that splendidly. This is not my real Six on Saturday for today. I submitted them a moment ago. I just added these because Rhody is just that popular, and because I did not know what else to do with these six silly pictures that do not conform to any particular horticultural topic.

1. If only I could get a few simple candid pictures of Rhody before he notices the camera.

2. Oops! It is too late now. He gets so annoyed when he sees me aiming a camera at him.

3. Then I get ‘the look’, which, as one can imagine, means that he is even more annoyed!

4. Now he is contemplating where he will hide each left boot of every pair of boots I own.

5. Again I get ‘the look’, but a bit more resigned. He just wants me to finish and go away.

6. Now he just does not care. He knows I will take pictures anyway. He does as he wants.

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Six on Saturday: Halloween is Dead!

Halloween is the Holiday that I loathe most, for several reasons. Nonetheless, pumpkins that are grown almost exclusively for Halloween, are one of the main crops of Half Moon Bay and the rest of coastal San Mateo County. One of my classmates at Cal Poly was Half Moon Bay Pumpkin Queen of 1985! I am actually rather fond of pumpkin. Where I lived in town, neighbors left pumpkins on my porch after Halloween. They were bright orange but mildly flavored Jack O’ lantern types, but were good enough for me to can enough to last until the next Halloween. Anyway, these six might have been more appropriate prior to last Halloween.

1. Screwball! Seriously, what is this? I did not grow this orange. I have no idea how it got impaled by all those screws. I just found it here. It resembles a character of ‘HellRaiser’.

2. Skeletal remains of trees that were burned by the CZU Fire, which I happened to write about on Halloween last year, were likely Douglas fir. They look like the Haunted Forest.

3. Poison oak is a nasty species in all regards. Not only are most people very allergic to it dermally, but it looks evil also! These vines look like they want to strangle their support.

4. Hellebore does not perform well here. Perhaps it might perform better if it were bored in . . . someplace else. This is likely my favorite since it is white; but such a ghastly white.

5. Ignore the diminutive werewolf to the lower left, and the background flora too. Notice the bridge above instead, and the bright orange horticultural oddity in the middle below.

6. Pumpkins are squash. This one demonstrated that characteristic splendidly. Now that Halloween was a month and a half ago, most go to waste. At least this one had some fun.

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Six on Saturday: No Theme

There was a theme when I assembled these six pictures. I just can not remember what it was now. I am very happy with the three species from Del Norte County, #3, #4 and #5. #6 is my favorite though. It was so unfortunately necessary to remove the venerable old trees. It was necessary to remove their suckers too. I combined the two unpleasant tasks in a rather satisfying manner. There was absolutely no indications that the original trees were grafted. I looked for unions. I was informed that the suckers were visually identical to the original trees. I hope that the suckers that I transplanted within the centers of the decayed trunks will grow into trees that are new copies of the original trees!

1. Brugmansia X candida ‘Double White’, angel’s trumpet is a copy of the specimen at el Catedral de Santa Clara de Los Gatos. It somehow got frosted! Frost happens even here.

2. Yucca recurvifolia or Yucca gloriosa var.(iety) tristis, pendulous yucca is blooming at an unoccupied residence where only a few neighbors see it. It tastes like iceberg lettuce.

3. Abies grandis, grand fir was brought by another horticulturist here, from the extreme northwest corner of California, literally on the coast, barely south of the Oregon border.

4. Picea sitchensis, Sitka spruce got collected with the grand fir above and the bear grass below. I am very pleased with these species, but do not know where to plant more trees.

5. Xerophyllum tenax, bear grass came with the two tree species above, but will be easily incorporated into landscapes here. I am unfamiliar with it, and intent to get acquainted.

6. Prunus serrulata ‘Beni Hoshi’, flowering cherry was so severely decayed that only the outer shell of its stumped trunk remains. The twig in the center is its own rooted sucker! 

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Six on Saturday: More Bad Recycling (Even More)

This is the season for digging and relocating crowded or redundant plants. Most of them get recycled directly back into other landscapes, so that there is no need for the extra work of canning and storing them. Most of the daylily (#1) were simply relocated with only a few leftovers for canning. Bamboo (#2) and perennial pea (#4) were actually canned earlier in the year. Ponderosa lemon (#5) is a rooted cutting (which is ungrafted and therefore ‘on its own roots’) that I grew from a pruning scrap. I have no idea of what to do with it. I really should limit all these recycling projects to plant material that is actually useful.

1. Hemerocallis, daylily, migrated too aggressively, so needed to be removed from under benches and other perennials. More of another cultivar got dug where an old sewer pipe was replaced.

2. Phyllostachys aurea, golden bamboo, appeared within an unrefined landscape, and wasted no time migrating. It should have been killed and discarded rather than canned live for recycling.

3. Salvia mellifera, black sage, layered a few copies from an original specimen that was planted intentionally. It is native here, but unpopular. Some find the foliar aroma to be a bit too strong.

4. Lathyrus latifolia, perennial pea, is a persistently and invasively naturalized exotic species. In other words, it is a weed. I canned this and three copies of another, because they bloom white.

5. Citrus x pyriformis, ‘Ponderosa’ lemon, is not really a lemon, but is a weird hybrid of pomelo and citron. The fruit might weigh five pounds. What can I do with just one five pound ‘lemon’?!

6. Felis catus, Darla, only allowed me to get this picture by zooming in from a distance. She tolerates Rhody, but hates me. She protects cuttings and seedlings from rodents and perhaps birds.

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Six on Saturday: More Bad Recycling

Recycling can be a bad habit. We accumulate more material here than we can use back out in the landscapes. Some gets shared with friends and neighbors. Of these six, all but the Agave (#4) grew from seed, so are not cultivars. Although the Agave grows from genetically identical pups, no one know what species it is! Fortunately, around here, we are not too discriminating.

1. Liquidambar styraciflua, after pruning to compensate for severed roots, has only a few twiggy branches, but is more than sixteen feet tall! What a homely sweetgum! Was it worth recycling?

2. Liquidambar styraciflua grew from seed where it could not stay. It is twice as tall as the eight foot bed of the pickup is long. The roots are now contained in a squatty #15 (fifteen gallon) can.

3. Cornus florida, flowering dogwood, was significantly more prolific with seed than the sweetgum. We wanted to recycle just a few seedlings, but got eighty four. Each cell contains a seedling.

4. Agave of an unknown species was removed from one of the landscapes a few years ago, but has been trying to regenerate since then. We dig and can the pups, but cannot give them all away.

5. Phoenix dactylifera, date palm, grew from seed in a compost pile. There are about seven of them. It is impossible to predict which will be female, or what the quality of their fruit will be like.

6. Acer platanoides, Norway maple, might be invasive, even here. A few that grew from seed in one of the landscapes were therefore removed, but not discarded. I used them as understock for the much more desirable and noninvasive ‘Schwedler’ cultivar last year. The scions, which are above the yellow tie, did not take. I must now try again, or pollard them so they produce no seed.

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Six on Saturday: WHITE

White is my favorite color! It always has been, long before it became a fad and a trendy coffee table book in the early 1990s. I do not care that it has become politically incorrect since then. Nor am I concerned with what Brent has to say about it. (He has not valued my opinion since 1986 anyway.) I realize that he is the famous landscape designer, and I am not, but I also know what I like in my own garden. I am quite pleased that there are so many white flowers at work, and even an exclusively white garden, at el Catedral de Santa Clara de Los Gatos!

1. Pelargonium X hortorum, the white zonal geranium at el Catedral de Santa Clara de Los Gatos, is blooming with smaller floral trusses because the weather is getting cooer through autumn.

2. Dianthus deltoides has the unappealing common name of ‘pink’, likely because most varieties bloom pink. Some bloom red. This is one of the best because it blooms so perfectly clear white.

3. Hydrangea macrophylla should be at el Catedral de Santa Clara de Los Gatos instead of the other ‘white’ hydrangeas that were relocated there last winter before deciding to bloom lavender.

4. Camellia sasanqua is blooming impressively well for the shade that it lives in. I do not remember the name of this cultivar. It might be a hybrid of Camellia sasanqua and Camellia japonica.

5. Rhododendron such as this are known as ‘azalea’. (There is no picture of Rhody.) This and ‘Coral Bells’ bloom about now, but not while the others bloom so abundantly at the end of winter.

6. Betula pendula is an old fashioned tree that still works well here. White trunks are striking among the dark green redwoods. We dig and can their seedlings to eventually replace aging trees.

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Six on Saturday: Hesper Palm Reunion

The small hesper palm that was taken from my garden last August has returned. A colleague directed me to it, at the home of one of his neighbors. I appropriated it without inquiring about its presence there. I suspect that it was taken as random ‘greenery’. However, if the neighbor actually wants a palm, I may provide one that is more appropriate to the particular situation. Since I got only a single picture of the recovered hesper palm though, my Six on Saturday for this week are completely random.

1. Hesper palm would not have been happy here in the shade of a redwood forest. It happened to be just across the driveway from where the kitties of ‘Cat Burglar’ live. It is back at home now.

2. Windmill palm is more impressive. It will be dug and canned for a former resident of the now abandoned house to the left. My date palm seedlings came from the compost pile at this home.

3. Dracaena palm (which is not actually a palm) was too big and tall for me to relocate from the now abandoned house, but not too large for gophers to relocate. They put it right onto the eave.

4. Deodar cedar was relocated three years ago, without the assistance of gophers. Most met a most unfortunate fate with a weed eater. This specimen got established slowly, but is happy now.

5. Gnomes annoy me! I do not know why this appeared in one of the landscapes, but it will go into the trash if not removed. My statue of Saint Francis, in my own garden, offended a neighbor.

6. Rhody does not allow me to get too annoyed. He is posing with mulch because mulch was the topic of the gardening column when this and a few other formerly unused pictures were taken.

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