The Wrath Of Grapes

P91006Jocular reference was made to ‘The Grapes Of Wrath’ on our our backward version on the way to Oklahoma several years ago. We happened to drive through Salinas, where author John Steinbeck was from, and Bakersfield near Weedpatch, where the migration from Oklahoma in the story ended. From there, we literally drove the same route from Oklahoma, but in reverse.

I never read ‘The Grapes Of Wrath’.

I do enjoy growing the sort of grape vines that some of us grow in our home gardens for fruit that can be eaten fresh. (I loath wine grapes and vineyards, but that is another topic for later.) There happens to be a nice big unidentified grapevine at work that needed major pruning last winter. It was a sloppy and formerly unpruned mess, with rampant long canes strewn about.

Some of these canes developed roots where they had been laying on the ground long enough to do so. The process is simply and conveniently known as ‘layering’. It is actually a technique for propagation that is sometimes done intentionally to plants that are not doing it naturally, (Again, that is another topic for later.) After giving a few rooted canes away, there were a few extra.

Since last winter, seven copies of the original grapevine are still here! I really do not know what to do with them. I could give them to neighbors before the end of this winter, but would then worry about them not getting the annual pruning they need, and overwhelming the landscapes they inhabit, just like the original vine did. Even in their cans, they are already a sloppy mess.

Many surplus plants are accumulating here. Many will go into landscapes as rainy weather starts. However, there are a few that will not be so easy to accommodate.

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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+++++

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/

Recycle And Repurpose Overgrown Perennials

60720thumbJust like anything else that gets planted in the garden, new perennials seem to be so cute and innocent. They get even better as they mature. Some grow and spread to impressive proportions. Then . . . some perennials get to be too large. Some get overgrown enough to obscure their own appealing characteristics or other plants. Others get crowded enough to inhibit their own bloom.

Lily of the Nile, which is one of the most common and resilient of perennials, grows and blooms indefinitely. It does not spread too quickly, but eventually creeps a few feet every decade or so. However, if it is too healthy, individual shoots can get too crowded to bloom as prolifically as they want to. Also, shoots that get too close to walkways or other plants eventually become obtrusive.

Anyone who has tried to shear encroaching foliage of lily of the Nile knows that doing so ruins the natural lushness of the foliage. Once scalped, it will stay that way until obscured by new foliage that will be just as obtrusive as the removed foliage. The only remedy is to remove the shoots that produce the foliage, leaving the shoots behind them with adequate clearance for their foliage.

Lily of the Nile shoots are not easy to remove. Their rubbery roots have quite a grip! Yet, once removed, the stout stems can be planted as new plants wherever more new plants are desired. They only need to be watered regularly for the first few months until winter, so that they can disperse roots. If dug and replanted in autumn, they generate roots over winter, and are ready to go by spring.

Overly congested colonies of lily of the Nile, as well as African iris and New Zealand flax, can be dug, split into individual shoots, groomed of deteriorating foliage, and then replanted. Because New Zealand flax has such big leaves, it should be processed in autumn or winter; and its leaves should be cut short so that they do not get tattered and floppy while new foliage and shoots grow.

Bird of Paradise can be divided similarly, but carefully because the shoots are surprisingly fragile. However, giant bird of Paradise is a completely different animal. The tallest trunks eventually begin to deteriorate, so get cut down like trees. Basal shoots are left intact to replace them, so only get divided if obtrusive or overly abundant. Most perennials prefer to be divided after bloom.

Canna and calla prefer to be dug and relocated as their foliage dies back after bloom, just before new shoots develop. However, new shoots often develop before older foliage must be cut back.

Finish Transplanting Before Winter Ends

90220thumbAutumn is for planting; and for good reasons. It is the beginning of dormancy for almost all plants, including evergreens. It precedes cool and rainy weather that inhibits desiccation until new roots are able to disperse sufficiently to sustain new plants. Some plants need to be in the garden in time for winter chill in order to initiate bloom. However, not everything should get planted in autumn.

Winter is the best season for some plants. Many summer blooming bulbs get planted in winter because they are likely to start growing prematurely and get damaged by frost if planted in autumn with spring bulbs. Some perennials that are slightly sensitive to frost may get planted after average frost season so that they can bulk up enough to be more resilient to frost by the following winter.

Besides new plants that are purchased from nurseries to be planted in the garden, there are plants that are already established in the garden that might need to get dug, divided, and then planted back into the garden, or shared with friends and neighbors. Some might need to be transplanted because they are crowded or in the way of something. These present a different set of variables.

Once divided and transplanted, grasses, New Zealand flax, lily-of-the-Nile, African iris and other stoloniferous perennials (that spread by creeping stems known as stolons) are more susceptible to rot than nursery grown plants, because so many of their roots get severed. Even if aggressively pruned while getting divided and transplanted, shrubby plants, like lilac and forsythia, are more susceptible to desiccation than nursery grown plants, simply because they lack sufficient roots.

If divided or transplanted through winter rather than autumn, plants get a few weeks of cool and rainy weather to settle and disperse their roots, but do not have enough time to rot or desiccate before the weather gets warm enough for them to resume growth and recover resiliency. Perennials that get cut back in the process spend less time looking shabby before new growth develops.

Tree Houseleek

60210The dark bronze and variegated varieties of tree houseleek, Aeonium arboreum, are so much more popular than the simple species, that the simple species with plain green foliage is now rather rare. The succulent stems do not stand much more than three feet tall. They get about as broad, and can get even broader as lower stems develop roots and grow into new plants. The succulent rosettes of foliage of well watered plants can be fragile to handle. Mature plants can bloom in spring with unusual conical trusses of yellowish or chartreuse flowers.

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

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/

Propagation Of Perennials By Division

80718thumbAutumn is for more than planting. It is when most of the aggressive pruning gets stared. It might be the best time to work with compost and conditioning the soil. Bulbs get planted. Gutters get cleaned. Leaves get raked. Perennials get groomed. We might think of it as a time of slowing down after such a busy summer, but in many gardens, autumn is just as busy with seasonal chores.

Autumn is when many of the spring, and some of the early summer, blooming perennials get divided. That means that they get dug up, split into smaller parts, and then replanted. Because there will be more smaller plants after the process than there were bigger plants before the process, some should get planted over a larger area, in other parts of the landscape, or shared with friends.

Not all perennials need to be divided annually, and some may never need to be divided at all. Perennials that bloom in autumn or winter, such as Japanese anemone and bergenia, get divided in spring, since they will have plenty of time to recover from the process to bloom on schedule. Black-eyed Susan does not likely care if it gets crowded, but can get divided simply for propagation.

Lily-of-the-Nile should be divided if it gets too crowded to bloom well. Division allows more room for the individual shoots to grow and bloom as they should. However, because it takes a while for newly divided shoots to recover, they should only be divided every few years or so, and only if they happen to be getting crowded. African iris gets divided if overgrown plants are looking shabby.

It is not always necessary to dig entire plants. If dividing New Zealand flax just for propagation, it is easier to pry the desired number of side shoots from a mature clump, without digging the main part of the clump. Agave pups might be (very carefully) pried off of larger rosettes just to keep the main rosettes neat. Black-eyed Susan and other deciduous perennials get divided while bare.

Propagation Is No Big Mystery

Layer_(PSF)All plants propagate. Otherwise, they would go extinct. They all have the potential to propagate by seed or spores. However, some are more efficient at vegetative propagation from stems or roots. Of the later, a few propagate by seed so rarely that it is a wonder that they can evolve, since vegetatively propagated plants are clones, or genetically identical copies, of the original plants.

A single coastal redwood can live for thousands of years. Before such a tree dies, it clones itself by producing adventitious stems from its aging root system. These stems mature into new trees that can live for thousands of years more, only to repeat the process indefinitely. There is no opportunity to generate and share any slight genetic variations that are necessary to natural selection.

Well, this is probably more information than any of us need for our home gardens. It is only relevant to demonstrate than many plants are happy to propagate themselves vegetatively, or are at least conducive to simple vegetative propagation techniques. This is why most nursery plants are grown from cuttings, which are merely pieces of stem stuck into media and forced to grow roots.

For those of us who are not in the nursery industry, there is a more practical way to propagate a few copies of certain favorite plants. Sprawling groundcovers and vines like iceplant, knotweed, jasmine and ivy know all about it. So do many low growing succulents. Their lower stems develop roots where they lay on the ground, and grow into new plants. The process is known as ‘layering’.

Some low shrubby plants that might not layer naturally might be coerced to do so simply by getting a few of their lowest stems buried just below the surface of the soil, with a few inches of the tips sticking up. It helps to scratch off a patch of bark about a third of the way around the buried section of stem, and apply rooting hormone. Sturdy stems can be held down with rocks if necessary.

For most plants, layered stems can be buried about now, left through winter, and should be ready to be separated from the parent plants by next summer, just after any new growth matures. New plants will of course need to be watered generously until they develop enough roots to be self sufficient. Most plants with pliable stems that reach the soil can be layered. Junipers, euonymus, euryops, marguerites, boxwoods and carpet roses are some of the more popular candidates.

Division Is Equal To Multiplication

70809thumbMathematically, division is the opposite of multiplication. Horticulturally, they are the same. Digging and splitting overgrown perennials to propagate them is known as ‘division’ because it divides many rooted stems or rhizomes of one plant into many new plants. Division is a form of propagation; and propagation is commonly known as multiplication. So, we divide plants to multiply them.

Autumn is generally the best time for panting. It is after most of the warmest and driest weather, and just before the cool and rainy weather that keeps newly planted plants from getting too dry. It seems obvious that autumn would also be the best time for division. However, a few perennials that are dormant or mostly dormant by the middle of summer can be divided now for an early start.

Bearded iris may not look dormant with their leaves still green, but they are about as dormant now as they will get. If divided now and allowed to slowly disperse roots through the remainder of summer, they can prioritize the production of new foliage when they come out of dormancy in autumn, like they would do naturally. Like many perennials in mild climates, they grow through winter.

Once dug, the plump rhizomes need to be separated from the old shriveled rhizomes that they grew from. For most, the best segments of rhizome are between the leafy tips and the stalks of the flowers that bloomed earlier this year, although it may not be easy to see where floral stalks were attached. The older sections of rhizome behind the flower stems are probably shriveled already.

The freshly divided segments of rhizome should then be groomed of deteriorating old leaves. Remaining green leaves can be cut in half to remove drying tips. Rhizomes then get replanted just below the surface, with the perpendicular fans of foliage standing upright. The main difficulty with dividing iris now is that they will need to be watered until the rain starts late in autumn. Bergenia, lily-of-the-Nile and a variety of perennials with big rhizomes get divided in a similar manner.

Souvenir

P80609KNurseries are full of plants for sale. That is their business. They sell plants, and whatever plants need. With a bit of money, it is easy to purchase plants to compose an exquisite landscape. That is important to landscape professionals who make a business of composing landscapes to beautify the environments in which they work.

Those of us who enjoy home gardening might also purchase plants that we want for our garden. Yet, our home gardens are more than mere landscapes that are designed to simply beautify. The might also produce flowers for cutting, fruits and vegetables. Some might produce firewood. Gardens are usable spaces for active lifestyles. They are spaces for us to grow whatever we want to grow.

I buy almost nothing for my garden. The last item I purchased was a ‘John F. Kennedy’ rose, and I only did so because it was easier than growing one from scratch, and it is my favorite hybrid tea rose. Almost everything else was grown from seed, cutting, division or even as entire plants taken from somewhere else. They all have stories. My figs and quince are from trees that have been producing fruit in the Santa Clara Valley for generations. My great grandfather gave me my first rhubarb before I was in kindergarten. I found one of my pelargoniums in a neighbor’s trash heap when I was in junior high school. I found another in a creek where I grew citrus in Gilroy in the early 1990s.

My iris are from all over. My favorite are still those from the garden of my great grandmother https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/09/10/roots/. Two others came from and ‘incident’ back in college https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/the-colors-of-karma/ . I may grow as many a four white iris, not only because they are my favorite color, but because they came from important origins. The short white iris that I do not like much must stay because it came from my grandmother’s garden in Saint Helens. There is another tall iris that is not a pure white, but seems to be somewhat grayish, but it must stay too because it is the only iris I got from the historic home of a friend’s mother in Monterey. One of my favorite whites was supposed to be red, but must stay because it came from a friend’s home in Lompico . . . and because it is one of the prettiest. I have a purplish burgundy iris that I only recently learned was brought from the garden of a colleague’s grandmother in Placentia, a town in Orange County that really should change it’s name. It proliferated and was shared with the Felton Presbyterian Church, where it proliferated again, which is how I found some on a trash heap. They are a keeper now.

When they were all together in the same garden, I grew as many as fourteen bearded iris, with a few other types. Some of the redundant white bearded iris have been relocated to the garden parcel in Brookdale, just to keep the separate from similar cultivars. Not many have been added, although there does happen to be a group of mixed iris from the garden of a former client in Ben Lomond. I think I will keep them mixed because they are easier to keep track of as a single mixed group rahter than as several separate cultivars.

These pictures are a few weeks old, from when the iris were still blooming. The iris in the picture above came from the garden of a friend in the East Hills above San Jose. The flowers are the biggest of all the iris I grow. You can see how distinctive they are. The iris in the picture below, which is not a good picture, is ‘Blueberry Ice’. It was a gift from the Clara B. Rees Iris Society. It has stout stems to support the very wide flowers that are mostly white with a variable blue edge.P80609K+