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+++++

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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+++++

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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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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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Six on Saturday: Souvenirs


My first rhubarb was given to my by my paternal-paternal great grandfather before I was in kindergarten. My Iris pallida also goes back four generations. I got one of my two favorite zonal geraniums from a compost pile in Montara, and snuck it back on the train when I was in the seventh grade. Some of the plants I grow have been with me for a remarkably long time.

Well, I did not get pictures of my rhubarb, Iris pallida or zonal geranium for today. Instead, these are five plants with whom I became acquainted more recently, and my first yucca whom I met three decades ago. They all have their respective stories that are more interesting than what I mentioned here. None are directly from nurseries, although #2 and #4 are from cultivars.

I sort of suspect that these plants and others of such significance to me will be with me for a very long time. I know that blue gum is nearly impossible to tame, and that windmill palm can’t be pruned down like the others. I will not force them to comply. The others can give me more cuttings to replace themselves indefinitely. The place names designate where I acquired them.

1. Holmby Hills ~ Los Angeles – Yucca elephantipes – This was my very first Yucca. My colleague, Brent Green, removed it from a project he was working on back in about 1988. It lived as a houseplant next to my desk for many years, and produced a few pups.P91095

2. Mid City ~ Los Angeles – Brugmansia suaveolens – Brent got me cuttings for this angels’ trumpet from another of his landscapes a few years ago because I really wanted a single white to add to the four more complicated cultivars that I already accumulated.P91095+

3. Reno ~ Nevada – Salix laevigata – I know that there is nothing special about the all too common red willow. I like this one anyway, because it grew from a broken twig I happened to grab on the Truckee Riverwalk through Reno. I should be more discriminating.P91095++

4. Murphys – Ficus carica – A few of these little fig trees were grown from pruning scraps. A friend wanted copies of the original tree before selling the home where the tree lived. We do not now what cultivar it is, but we sort of suspect it is the common ‘Mission’.P91095+++

5. Santa Cruz – Eucalyptus globulus – While waiting for a friend who needed a ride, and pacing outside, I started plucking a few tiny weeds from planter. One of the weeds happened to be a tiny blue gum seedling. Against my better judgment, I did not discard it.P91095++++

6. West San Jose – Trachycarpus fortunei – An old friend’s mother grew flowery annuals and perennials in pots on the porch. This windmill palm grew from seed in one of the pots, and was happy there for a few years, but eventually got too big. It lives here now.P91095+++++

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Six on Saturday – II: Six More


Six on Saturday‘ is a popular popular gardening meme that many of us garden bloggers participate in on Saturdays. The link explains how it works. Simply, we post six pictures of what is happening in our gardens or landscapes at the time, along with brief explanations. Mine just posted at midnight. I know I should be done, but I happened to find a few more pictures to share.

These six pictures of marigolds that were just installed at work are not as interesting as the topic I wrote about earlier, but are just too pretty to be discarded before I show them off. The second and third pictures, as well as the fourth and the fifth pictures, might be redundant to each other if they show the same varieties of marigolds, but I do not care. They are all so pretty.

Marigold will not likely be featured in my weekly gardening column this year, because the bigger but related African marigold was featured last October. These here are the smaller and more traditional French marigold. Their bright yellows, bright oranges and rusty reds suit late summer and autumn like miniature chrysanthemums. Their foliage is so delightfully aromatic.

Although I am none too keen on annual bedding plants, I happen to like marigold. They were more popular when I was a kid. They were not so variable back then; and there were certainly none of those pathetic fake white sorts that are really just pale yellow. They were plain and simple orange, yellow and rusty red, in blends or uniform. We could easily grow them from seed.

Unfortunately, marigolds will not be with us for long. They were planted to replace petunias that did not last long enough. At the end of autumn, they will be replaced by cyclamen for winter.


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Six on Saturday: Locust


John the Baptist did not really eat orthopteran insects out in the desert. The locust he ate were the beans of the carob tree, Ceratonia siliqua. They are actually quite nutritious. Supposedly, they are known as locust because they resemble the elongated abdomens of the insects with the same name. A few other related trees that also produce beans are collective known as such.

Robinia pseudoacacia happens to be known as black locust, even though there is nothing black about it, and the tiny and papery beans do not even remotely resemble insects. Supposedly, it arrived with Gold Rush prospectors who wanted something of their homes in Eastern North America. It naturalized aggressively, and is now an invasive exotic species in much of the West.

We tolerate a few at work. They are too pretty to cut down without a good excuse. However, one gave us a good excuse when it fell last winter. It was notably polite about it, by falling into a gap between two roofs that a cat could jump across. Damage was very minimal. Nonetheless, the tree and its destabilizing associates needed to be removed. They are gone but not forgotten.

1. Thorns of black locust only look blurry in this picture. They are wickedly sharp! The sharpest are on the most vigorous stems, which is exactly what the freshly cut stumps here generate.P90921

2. Thickets of suckers (or watersprouts) like these developed where black locust trees were cut down last winter. Most developed on freshly cut stumps. Many emerged from random roots.P90921+

3. More than half of the suckers from the formerly impenetrable thicket around the stump at the center of the picture were removed to relinquish space for the lauristinus in the foreground.P90921++

4. A few bay trees got cut down with the black locust trees. I wanted them coppiced, but was away when they instead got VERY badly pollarded. Oh, the shame! (I will coppice them later.)P90921+++

5. As nasty as black locust is, it has a few attributes. Spring bloom resembles that of white wisteria, and is almost as fragrant. This finely textured pinnately compound foliage is quite elegant.P90921++++

6. Their high and open canopies provide nice shade too. It is just enough for warm summer weather, but not too much to exclude turf grass and understory plants that tolerate partial shade.P90921+++++

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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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White Hydrangea

P90907KWhat ever happened to the formerly common white hydrangea? It used to one of the three standard types of hydrangea; and the other two were really variants of the same sorts of ‘pink or blue’ hydrangea that I wrote about in ‘Horridculture – True Colors‘. The few hydrangeas that are white nowadays are lacy, flat-topped, blushed . . . or anything but simple classic white.

This old fashioned simple white hydrangea is just as elegant now as it has always been. It is always white, without pretense of blue or pink. There is no point of giving it something it does not really need just to change its natural color (like those of us in the Santa Clara Valley do to make pink hydrangeas blue; or those of us in the Tualatin Valley do to make blue hydrangeas pink).

The bulky and almost spherically rounded form of this floral truss distinguishes this old fashioned type as a ‘mophead’ hydrangea. Nowadays, ‘lacecap’, ‘mountain’, ‘smooth’, ‘panicle’, ‘oakleaf’ and ‘climbing’ hydrangeas are the more popular types. There is certainly nothing wrong with contemporary types, but there is nothing wrong with the old fashioned ‘mophead’ types either.

When it is time to prune the hydrangeas this winter, we might take cuttings from this particular specimen, in order to grow a few copies of it. Pink and blue hydrangeas, which get fertilized accordingly (to maintain their desired colors), happen to suit the landscapes very nicely here, but a few more white hydrangeas would brighten the rich dark green of the forest splendidly.

Besides, the old fashioned simplicity and elegance of this old fashioned white mophead hydrangea seem to be more compatible with the old redwoods and other mature forest trees than the relative flashiness of modern cultivars that were popularized only in the past few decades.