Junk In The Trunk

It is exactly what it looks like; more Canna rhizomes. I am very aware that there are already too many Canna here. I grew them. I do not care. I saw these in a neighbor’s garden, and asked for a few copies. She told me that I only needed to dig them myself, as if that might be a problem. As she pointed out those that were migrating a bit too close to her home, I dug many more than I should have. Since she was so generous to share so many, I felt obligated to remove all that were superfluous. Besides, to me, they are not junk. I am very pleased with them, even if they are a bit excessive.

There are two cultivars, and perhaps seed grown rhizomes of one of the two cultivars. The shorter sort are ‘Inferno’, which is the same as ‘Tropicanna’ and ‘Durban’. Some Canna cultivars seem to develop several synonyms. Its bright orange bloom stands tall above distinctively striped and bronzed foliage. It gets about six feet tall, so is only the shorter of the two cultivars because the other is so much taller. Although it is one of the more popular cultivars, I only recently acquired a single can of it from Brent last year. I am pleased to grow much more.

The other cultivar seems to be comparable to the unidentified cultivar at work that resembles and might actually be Canna musifolia. It has similar scrawny orange bloom on top of very tall canes that I must bend over for deadheading. Because I did not notice them until after frost, I do not know how bronzed the foliage is, or if it is bronzed at all. The neighbor who gave them to me says that they are ‘lightly’ bronzed. The newly emerging buds seem to be green without any bronze. I will be pleased with any color, but simple green would be awesome! Some of these may have grown from seed, so may be slightly different from the original.

There were enough rhizomes of ‘Inferno’ for a dozen #5 cans with about four rhizomes each. There were enough rhizomes of the taller sort that might be Canna musifolia for sixteen #5 cans with about three very plump rhizomes each. That was after sharing some with others at work, and leaving some for a neighbor of the neighbor who shared them with me. I intend to take some to the Pacific Northwest before the end of winter, but canned them all because I do not yet know when I will leave. I can always remove some from their cans, or just take them in their cans.

Since they fit into the trunk more easily than a previous batch of ‘Wyoming’ and a cultivar that resembles Canna flaccida that I obtained from another neighbor, they seemed to be less numerous. However, the previous batch included foliage. These rhizomes lacked foliage, and were actually a bit more numerous. Regardless, I am very pleased with them, and intend to enjoy growing them. As I closed the tailgate after unloading them, I could see that Rhody did not share my enthusiasm.

Six on Saturday: 2022 Ends

The year ends with the day, but bad habits continue. I make no resolutions. I continue to collect too much seed, plug too many cuttings and divide too many perennials. Common weeds are not off limits. Canna were already too abundant before more were canned last week. More will be divided later! Cymbidium is not proliferating yet, but has potential to do so after bloom. For now, there is no need to irrigate any of this surplus, since the rain will not stop.

1. Lunaria annua, money plant or honesty, is not quite naturalized within unrefined but damp zones of our landscapes. We collect seed to toss where we think it should perform well. It has become a tradition. The name implies that it is native to the Moon, and that, like 2022, lasts only one year. These seed in key envelopes are for whomever takes them.

2. Canna ‘Australia’ are bloomed canes that I groomed from the downtown planter box, as seen last week. There are a dozen #5 cans of four canes, and six #1 cans of two canes! More pups must be thinned later! Also, I will soon dig even more cannas for a neighbor!

3. Bellis perennis, English daisy is naturalized in the vast lawn at Felton Covered Bridge Park. I have no use for it, but plugged a dozen solitary rosettes in with the Canna canes.

4. Sambucus nigra ‘Black Lace’, black elderberry should generate a bit of fruit without a pollinator, but is merely pretty here. I plugged a few cuttings because its darkly bronzed foliage works so well for our landscapes. Native blue elderberry produces plenty of fruit.

5. Cymbidium orchid is extending quite a few floral spikes. I have not counted them yet.

6. Morgan was reminded why no one craves his parking space. Rain is splendid though!

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate: https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

Grafting fact and fiction

The scion is above this graft union. The rootstock is below.

There are not many Californians of my generation who do not remember growing avocado trees from seeds when we were kids. We simply impaled the big seeds around the middle with three evenly spaced toothpicks to suspend them from the rims of Dixie cups partly full of water. If just the bottoms of these seeds remained properly submerged, they grew roots and a stem with a few leaves, all they needed to grow into trees that were producing too many avocados by the time we got to high school.

Yet, I and others of my generation have always heard that avocado trees need to be grafted to produce fruit. (Grafting is the union of two or more compatible but different plants. The ‘scion’ is the upper portion that forms a trunk, branches and foliage. The ‘rootstock’ is the lower portion that provides roots.) Well, this is obviously not true, but does make us wonder about the advantages of grafted trees.

They myth of seed grown trees being unproductive probably originates from the tendency for seed grown avocado trees to be unproductive for the first few years during the juvenile stage. Scions of grafted trees are taken from adult growth that is ready to bloom and fruit immediately; although even grafted trees need a few years to grow large enough to produce more than just a few avocados.

Many plants are juvenile while young, in order to better compete in the wild. While juvenile, avocado tree seedlings grow vigorously enough to compete with other trees. Adult habits of blooming and fruiting would only slow them down. Besides being fruitless for many years, citrus seedlings are very thorny through their juvenile phase, to avoid getting eaten by grazing animals. Scions of grafted citrus trees are from relatively thornless adult growth that is immediately ready to produce fruit.

The primary advantage of grafting fruit trees though, is keeping the many different cultivars (cultivated varieties) ‘true to type’, since many seed grown plants exhibit at least some degree of genetic variation from their parents. For example, avocados from seed grown (ungrafted) trees tend to be much larger, but often less flavorful than the fruit that the original seed came from. No one really knows what the fruit will be like until it actually develops. Some seed grown peaches are indistinguishable from their parents, but most are very different. However, most pecans and chestnuts are actually produced from ungrafted seed grown trees.

The secondary advantage of grafting fruit trees is the ability to graft onto dwarfing rootstock. Although few avocado trees are dwarf trees, almost all citrus trees for home gardens are grafted onto dwarfing rootstock that keeps them more compact and proportionate to home gardens. Most deciduous fruit trees are similarly grafted onto semi-dwarf rootstock.

Six on Saturday: New Photinia

Renovation of an old photinia hedge on the main road at work has been more work than it should have been. It was too overgrown for simple shearing. I pruned it up as a row of small trees, with the intention of eliminating their upper canopies as basal watersprouts grew upward from the newly exposed trunks below. Well, water sprouts did not grow as readily as I hoped for. The trees were cut down while the hedge below was still scrawny. As planned, I layered a tall water sprout as a replacement for one of two missing shrubs, but needed to replace the other with the naturally layered specimen from another hedge. (Layers develop roots where they touch soil, while attached to their original specimens.)

1. Rain! The first storm of the season came and went about two weeks ago. The drainage pond flooded about two feet over its spillway! This duckweed was left on a nearby fence.

2. Controlled burns resume now that the beginning of the rainy season is also the end of the fire season. There has been no more rain since the first storm, but forests are damp.

3. Damp ground and cooler weather facilitate planting within areas that lack automated irrigation. This layered photinia stem got relocated from one old hedge to patch another.

4. It was not enough though. To compensate for lack of another, I simply made a second layer by bending over and mostly burying a vigorous water sprout of an adjacent stump.

5. A new photinia can now grow where the tip of the mostly buried water sprout emerges from the soil. I am very pleased with the very uniform spacing of all specimens involved.

6. Meanwhile, I plugged a rooted sucker of an ungrafted historic flowering cherry within the decayed center of the stump of the now deceased original tree. It could replace itself!

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate: https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

Six on Saturday: L. A. II

Los Angeles was fun, even if merely for five days. So was the indirect trip there and back. While there, I collected a few bits and pieces of vegetation to bring back here. Much of it, including these Six, needed to be removed from Brent’s garden anyway. I want to collect more Plumeria cuttings later, during the correct season. I only took what I got from this procedure because two of the dozen or so specimens needed minor pruning. Conversely, I collected many more giant bird of Paradise seedlings than I can accommodate because they needed to be removed from where they were. A neighbor here should hopefully take most of them. Most of these acquisitions were expected, although the quantities of some were unexpectedly excessive. Nonetheless, I am very pleased with them.

1. Heliconia of an unidentified species was phased out as other vegetation matured over the past several years. Remnants came up with only bits of rhizome, so may not survive.

2. Strelitzia nicolai, giant bird of Paradise grew from seed from a very mature specimen that was the first plant that Brent installed after he moved here almost twenty years ago.

3. Plumeria of an unidentified cultivar or even species needed to be pruned off the roof. It grows easily from cuttings, such as these, but needs protection from minor frost here.

4. Washingtonia robusta, Mexican fan palm, like giant bird of Paradise, grew from seed from a recycled specimen that Brent installed. Its parent is his brother’s Memorial Tree.

5. Clivia miniata, Natal lily formerly bloomed profusely in the front garden, but became overwhelmed by other vegetation. They were installed directly into a landscape at work.

6. Chamaedorea costaricana, pacaya, which Brent and I know as bamboo palm, is much more vigorous and larger than the more common bamboo palm, Chamaedorea seifrizii.

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate: https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

Six on Saturday: Origins

Most of what comes to recover in the nursery here was originally from the landscapes at work. Some needed to be removed because it was deteriorating. Some was obstructive to another project. Some of what is here grows from seed that was found in the landscapes. Several plants here came from more unusual and unexpected sources. A few plants grew from seed or cuttings that I found while out and about elsewhere, merely because I took interest in them. Such procurement would not be such a bad habit if more of such plants were actually useful to the landscapes here. Vines require too much maintenance. Cacti, palms and tropical foliage are not sufficiently compliant with the style of our landscapes.

1. Salvia elegans, pineapple sage is the most likely of this Six to be useful to landscapes at work. I grew cuttings from a stem that was obstructive to my use of an ATM machine.

2. Distictis riversii (or Distictis ‘Rivers’), royal trumpet vine grew from cuttings of a wiry and stray stem that encroached far enough into a public parking space to annoy Carson.

3. Washingtonia filifera, California fan palm, or desert fan palm, is the only palm that is native to California, but is rare locally. I took seed when I got the chance, but now what?

4. Musa basjoo, Japanese banana is one of four pups that I was quite pleased to acquire from an established specimen within a private garden. It now has three additional pups!

5. Opuntia microdasys, bunny ears cactus was originally a component of a prefabricated ‘terrarium’ of small tropical plants that need regular water. It was removed and left here.

6. Carnegiea gigantea, saguaro cactus arrived with assorted potted succulents that were left by a relocating neighbor family. Actually though, I have no idea what species this is.

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate: https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

Pups Of A Horticultural Nature

Pups are copies of their parents.

Pups of the most familiar type are canine. Most are puppies of domestic dogs. Some are foxes or wolves. A few are seals, otters or various other animals. Garden variety pups do not get much consideration though. They develop into new progeny of plants rather than animals. Unlike animal pups, they are genetically identical clones of their single parents.

Pups of the horticultural sort generally develop from subterranean stems, such as corms, tubers or rhizomes. Most emerge from formerly dormant buds. Some grow adventitiously from roots. Pups appear as basal sideshoots against or close to their parent plants. They efficiently disperse their own roots to eventually survive as new and independent plants.

Most plants that produce pups are perennials. Some are so proficient with the technique that they grow into substantial colonies of genetically identical clones. For some, it is the primary method of replication. They actually prefer to replicate vegetatively than by seed. Some trees and woody plants do the same, but their clones lack the same classification.

For many perennials, propagation by division is merely the separation of pups from their parent plants. Most types of banana trees eventually generate a few surplus pups. Some types generate an abundance of pups to share with anyone who wants them. Separation of their pups is very similar to division of the smaller rhizomes of canna or lily of the Nile.

Individual rosettes of various species of Agave and a few terrestrial species of Yucca are monocarpic. In other words, they die after blooming only once. However, instead of dying completely, most generate several pups prior to bloom. Some produce pups excessively! Such pups can be difficult and hazardous to separate, but can replace their own parents.

Mediterranean fan palm is one of only a few palms here that generates pups. That is why it develops multiple trunks. Surplus pups can survive separation to grow as distinct trees. However, because of their densely fibrous roots, separation of intact pups can be difficult or impossible. Sago palms, which are not actually palms, are more compliant to division, even for rootless pups that develop on their stout trunks.

Six on Saturday: Bad Habit

Growing horticultural commodities can be a very rewarding occupation, even if not very lucrative. Growing random plants merely because they are available may be a bad habit. Sometimes, I procure propagation stock intentionally because I want to grow copies of a particular plant. Perhaps more often, I grow something merely because I can not bear to discard good propagation stock or actual plants. That is why there are so many homeless cannas here now! After I prune zonal geraniums, I feel obligated to process all the scraps into cuttings rather than simply discard them into the compost.

1. Opuntia (of unidentified species or hybrid), prickly pear lives at a clinic in Santa Cruz. Someone with a weed whacker busted off a few pads. It is good for both nopal and tuna. It is shabby and canned because someone with a weed whacker here kept cutting it also.

2. Clivia miniata, Natal lily was pulled from a trailside prior to weed whacking. I do not know if it is feral from seed or a cultivar from landscape debris. They have not bloomed.

3. Iris pseudacorus, yellow flag is naturalized in a roadside ditch in Ben Lomond. It is an invasive species in some regions. Therefore, it must be contained and deadheaded here.

4. Platanus racemosa, California sycamore was a sucker on one of the big trees at work. It pulled off with roots attached, so got canned. Its trunk died, so is now replacing itself.

5. Washingtonia robusta, Mexican fan palm needed to be removed from a yard in Santa Clara. Many were in pavement. Someone else got most that were salvageable. I got eight.

6. Cinnamomum camphora, camphor tree seedlings grew out sidewalk expansion joints at a job in San Jose. I pulled some out. A few came out with roots, and grew up like this.

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate: https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

How To Deceive Smart Seeds

Some seeds need help to germinate.

Plants could not proliferate as they do if they were as unintelligent as they seem to be. Actually, much of their activity would be considered quite ingenious if it could be observed in a more ‘human’ perspective. From their exploitation of pollinators to their aggressive tactics for competition with other plants, the behavior of plants is obviously very deliberate and purposeful.

Because they are so reliant on the weather, pollinators and so many other environmental factors, the life cycles of plants are on strict schedules. They must also adapt to diseases and all sorts of other pathogens. Fires and grazing animals are problems for many, but advantages to most.

Most seeds develop during summer and autumn. When they fall to the ground, they need to know to delay germination until spring to avoid frost and the likelihood of getting eaten. Seeds of many plants, particularly those from more severe climates, germinate only after being ‘stratified’ by a specific duration of cold weather. Such seeds need to be artificially stratified by refrigeration in order to germinate any differently from their natural schedule, or where winters are not sufficiently cold.

Many seeds require ‘scarification’ by digestion by animals that naturally eat them, or by the quick heat of a wildfire, to break or soften a hard outer coating that otherwise inhibits germination. Seeds that need to be digested actually rely on animals for distribution. Seed that need heat want to be the first to regenerate after a wildfire, before competing plants recover.

Goldenrain tree, and many maples and pines produce so many seeds that even if less than one percent germinate in the garden, they seem to be prolific. However, for more reliable germination of a majority of seeds, they should be scarified. The seeds of many pines that crave fire can be heated briefly in an already hot oven to simulate fire, just enough to heat the seed coat without roasting the seeds. Some people actually prefer to spread them on a piece of paper, and then burn the paper. Seeds that only need their hard outer coating to be damaged slightly might need only to be sanded lightly on sandpaper. I actually prefer to rub my canna or Heavenly bamboo (nandina) seeds on a brick or bit of sandstone.

Six on Saturday: Best For Last

Seed are germinating; and cuttings are rooting. I try to finish my propagation before the end of winter. Some seed appreciate the last bit of chill to maintain their schedule. Some cuttings prefer to start their rooting process while still dormant, so that they are ready to grow by spring. The last and most important of these six pictures is irrelevant to cuttings and seed though. Only the names of those involved are relevant to horticulture; and half of that relevance is merely, although amusingly, coincidental. It will be interesting to see how many can answer the question presented with the last picture. It was difficult to get a reasonably clear picture, and after all the effort, the clarity may not help much.

1. Esperanza seed from Crazy Green Thumbs is finally germinating! Poinciana seed that came with them are still inactive. My rush to sow them prior to spring seems unfounded.

2. Poinciana seed of another kind and from another source is germinating though. Brent thought that I got royal poinciana seed. Rather than disappoint, I procured a few online.

3. Canna seed germination is a surprise. These seed were discarded runts from pods that were still green when deadheaded. I saw them growing from the trash and canned them.

4. Red passion flower vine was a runt also. None of a few other cuttings that got plugged properly took root. This one was too dinky, so was left in its jar of water, where it rooted.

5. Angel’s trumpet cuttings are growing like the red passion flower cuttings should have. They were scraps from pruned out frost damage. Many appeared dead prior to plugging.

6. Lily and Rhody are nearly indistinguishable as they frolic. Their genders are opposite, and their faces are distinct, but they scamper too fast to discern. Can you identify them?

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate: https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/