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.

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

Six on Saturday: Recycling

It can become a bad habit in the garden, and migrate into neighboring gardens and landscapes, and even farther. My ‘Australia’ canna was acquired only a few years ago, so has not gotten too far, yet. The African iris (Morea iridioides) seems voluminous, but took nearly three decades to get like that. Montbretia and white violet really should not be recycled any more than they have been already though. They are just too invasive. Agapanthus and Amaryllis have potential to become habitual, but fortunately for me, have been manageable. Amaryllis are not overwhelming. Agapanthus have been useful since I started recycling them.

1. Canna indica ‘Australia’ is one of the very few plants that I actually purchased. A neighbor of my downtown planter box requested bronzed foliage. After a few years, it needed to be thinned.

2. Morea iridioides was another purchase, back in the 1990s. It was in a #1 (1 gallon) can back then. It got so overgrown than it needed to be removed, so will now get divided into many more.

3. Crocosmia masoniorum is probably the same common montbretia that grows as a weed here, but seems to have much bigger leaves. I found it growing wild at my Pa’s home in about 1980.

4. Agapanthus orientalis has been with me since 1978, when a neighbor had me remove it from her garden. These copies of that original were planted nearby years ago, and recently removed.

5. Viola sororia ‘Albiflora’ came from my Grandmother’s garden in the late 1970s. I still have copies of them, but might discretely allow them to go extinct. They are just too invasive to recycle.

6. Amaryllis belladonna is mundane and naturalized. However, these came from the garden of my great Grandmother in about 1980. I need no more here, but recycle these in my own garden.

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

Six on Saturday: Folly

There is a certain degree of silliness to horticulture. Some of us indulge in it whenever there is an opportunity to do so. I prefer to conform to most rules when I can, but even I rarely engage in irresponsible gardening tactics. My predilection for white, and associated lack of appreciation for more interesting color, might be the most obvious example. Another example is my desire to grow too many useless plants simply because propagation stock happens to be available, or because I happen to enjoy the particular plants. Hey, it keeps me happy.

1. Agave attenuata – fox tail agave needed to be removed from one site, so should have been relocated neatly to another. It instead got cut down (with a chain saw!). It is now a shabby cutting.

2. Calandrinia grandiflora – rock purslane was more fortunate as it remained intact for removal and relocation, but will now get dismantled into a bunch of cuttings. Look at its silly little pot!

3. Phoenix dactylifera – date palm grew from seed in a neighbor’s compost pile. It would be nice if one is female and the other is male, but they could not produce fruit for many years anyway.

4. Lathyrus latifolius – perennial pea is common, but only a few bloom white. I tagged two to dig and can this winter. Well, I did not wait. They were already dormant. Now they are sprouting.

5. Petunia X hybrida – petunia is something that I do not get involved with at work. I lack proficiency with color. My colleague found this ‘Night Sky’ petunia, and despite reviews, is trialing it.

6. Rhody would not allow me to get a good picture of him, so I got this bad one instead. Everyone loves Rhody. He really is exemplary. Even his bad pictures are the best of all Six on Saturday.

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/

Layer To Propagate Favorite Plants

Ivy takes root as it grows.

Ivy is creepy. It creeps everywhere. As it does so, it extends roots into or onto whatever it creeps over. Not only does it do this to climb, but it also does this to propagate. It literally roots as it goes, to function more as a swarm of countless small plants instead of a single big plant. A bit of well rooted stem may grow independently from the original as a ‘layer’.

Many vines do the same, even if they are normally climbing vines that just happen to fall onto the ground. A few shrubs and trees, especially riparian sorts, are happy to do it also if lower limbs lay onto damp soil. Such a rooted stem is known as a layer because it lays on the ground to root. In a home garden, a layer might root below a layer of mulch or soil. 

In fact, many plants in home gardens are easy to propagate by intentional layering. Many develop roots more reliably if layered than if propagated from cuttings. They grow almost like cuttings, but while attached to the original plants to sustain them. Layering produces only one or a few new plants, unlike cuttings, but for most home gardens, that is enough.

Some plants are easier to layer than others. Pines and most eucalypti are uncooperative to the technique. Rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias layer relatively easily, but may take more than a year to finish. Elms and magnolias are even happier to layer, but rarely retain low stems. Some plants layer best after spring bloom. Others layer through winter.

An intentionally layered stem should be partially buried, with a few inches of stem below the soil, and a few inches of the tip of the stem protruding above the soil. Notching about a third of the way through the underside and applying rooting hormone promotes rooting. Regular watering is necessary through the process, which continues at least until winter. 

Make Copies Of Favorite Plants

Honeysuckle can layer naturally, and will most certainly layer if a portion of stem is simply buried or weighed down under a rock.

Where they grow wild in riparian environments, box elders, willows and cottonwoods are not as clumsy as they seem to be. As the rivers and creeks that they live so close to erode the soil around them, they often become destabilized and fall. Yet, this is actually part of their plan. If their original roots remain somewhat intact, the limbs and trunks develop new roots where they touch the ground. Eventually, these rooted limbs and trunks develop into new and separate trees.

In home gardens, a similar technique known as ‘layering’ can be employed to propagate one or a few copies of many other plants. Many sprawling vines and ground covers, such as ivy, honeysuckle, blue rug juniper and trailing rosemary, are likely to develop roots where their stems touch the ground anyway. Rooted stems need only to be found, dug and separated as new plants. Shrubbier plants need a bit more help.

Azalea, rhododendron, camellia, holly and just about any plant that has low stems that can be bent downward into the soil can be propagated by layering. Redwood, elm and magnolia do not always have limbs that reach the ground, but any that do would be pleased to cooperate as well. In fact, there are only a few woody plants that do not develop roots by layering, such as some pines and most eucalypti.

A layered stem only needs to be partly buried to develop roots. The tip should protrude from the soil a few inches. A short stem may barely protrude above the soil. A layered stem of a plant that develops adventitious roots very efficiently can be as long as a few feet. A very flexible stem can easily be held down by the weight of the soil that it gets buried with. A more rigid stem may need to be held down with a rock.

Before getting buried, the stem should be cut about a third of the way through to promote development of roots. The cut should be made on the underside so that it stays open when bend downward and buried. A bit or rooting hormone powder applied to the open wound accelerates the process. It works almost like taking a cutting, but without completely separating the cutting from the parent plant right away.

Once buried, a layered stem should be watered regularly until it gets dug while dormant (or mostly dormant) the following winter. By that time, the rooted stem can be dug and pruned from the parent plant, and then planted where desired. Because it takes a few months for enough roots to develop, layering should be done in spring.

Iris Blooms Almost Any Color

Such cheerful colors are too easy.

Iris got its name from the Greek word for rainbow, because all the colors are included. There are thousands of varieties of bearded iris alone, to display every color except only true red, true black, and perhaps true green. (However, some are convincingly red, black or green.) Then there are as many as three hundred other specie of iris to provide whatever colors that bearded iris lack.

Bearded iris are still the most popular for home gardening because they are so reliably and impressively colorful, and because they are so easy to grow and propagate by division of their spreading rhizomes. Siberian, Japanese and xiphium iris are less common types that spread slower with similar rhizomes. Japanese iris wants quite a bit of water, and is sometimes grown in garden ponds. The others, like most other rhizomatous iris, do not need much water once established. Dutch iris grows from bulbs that do not multiply, and may not even bloom after the first year.

Iris flowers are so distinctive because of their unique symmetry of six paired and fused ‘halves’ that form a triad  of ‘falls’ and ‘standards’. The ‘falls’ are the parts that hang downward. The ‘standards’ that stand upright above are the true flower petals. As if the range of colors were not enough, the falls and standards are very often colored very differently from each other, and adorned with stripes, margins, spots or blotches. Many specie have fragrant flowers. Each flower stalk supports multiple flowers. Some carry quite a few flowers!

Some types of iris are so resilient to neglect that they naturalize and grow wild in abandoned gardens. Bearded iris are more appealing and bloom better with somewhat regular watering, but can survive with only very minimal watering once established. Some iris multiply so freely that they get divided after bloom, and shared with any of the neighbors who will take them. Newly divided rhizomes should be planted laying flat, with the upper surfaces at the surface of the soil.

Six on Saturday: Schwedler Maple

Norway maple is aggressively invasive in the Pacific Northwest and the northeastern quadrant of America. It is no problem here though, and is actually rare. Schwedler maple is a cultivar of Norway maple that used to be more popular as a street tree in San Jose. I had been trying to grow copies for years. Besides propagating by cutting, I also tried grafting.

1. Double white angel’s trumpet is irrelevant to Schwedler maple. It belonged with the Six for last week, but with the addition of the picture of Rhody, did not fit. Omission of Rhody’s picture would have been unacceptable. The parent plant lives at the Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium. The piece in this picture is a pruning scrap that became more new cuttings. Bloom is very fragrant!

2. Scion wood looks like a bunch of bare twigs because that is precisely what it is. This is an important bunch of bare twigs for me. It is from an elderly tree that I met in the summer of 1976.

3. The usual suspects. Norway maple is notoriously invasive elsewhere. The few cultivars that live here are both rare and seemingly sterile. However, one noncultivar tree seeded these five.

4. High bud grafting is not my style, but was likely easier on the thinner portions of trunks five and a half feet up. Besides, the straight trunks were too perfect to waste. It will look silly later.

5. Cleft grafting was also an easier option to more typical budding. Besides, I do not trust budding with such fat buds and such thin bark. I could not find rubbers, so used elastic from masks.

6. Rhody is about as relevant to Schwedler maple as the double white angel’s trumpet. Nonetheless, he is always the main attraction of my Six on Saturday. He is as uncooperative as always.

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/

Dividing Perennials Equates To Multiplying

Yuccas can get divided after bloom.

This seems like bad algebra. Horticulturally, dividing and multiplying really are the same. Division is the separation of crowded perennials into smaller but more numerous portions. It multiplies the number of individual plants. The smaller portions perform better than they did while crowded. Division is both a method of vegetative (clonal) propagation, and a form of healthy social distancing.

Many perennials are ready for dividing about now. They finished blooming through spring or summer, and are going dormant for winter. Some defoliate. Division is not so disruptive to them while they rest. Cool and damp weather keeps them hydrated. They can disperse roots and resume growth as winter ends, as if nothing ever happened. They should bloom right on schedule next year.

The most popular perennials grow for many years before getting overgrown enough to benefit from division. Some may technically never need dividing. They manage to perform adequately even as dense thicket growth. For some, division is primarily for propagation. Only a few perennials appreciate annual division. Perennials that bloom in autumn or winter prefer division in early spring.

Pigsqueak will bloom later in winter. Dividing it now with other perennials would inhibit and retard the blooming process. It will be ready for dividing before winter ends, so can settle in with the last winter and spring rain. The same applies to Japanese anemone, which might still be blooming now. Dividing these two perennials is typically for propagation or containment, rather than crowding.

Lily of the Nile and African iris do not need dividing often, but when they do, it can be a major chore. For moderate crowding, it is relatively easy to pluck many individual shoots without disturbing remaining shoots. However, it is typically more practical to dig bulky colonies, divide them into individual shoots, and then plant the shoots. African iris shoots work best in groups of five to twelve.

Lily of the Nile, with dividing earlier than later, disperses roots in winter, to bloom for summer.

Six on Saturday: Suburbia II

As I said last week, the Santa Clara Valley is the best place in the entire Universe for horticulture. That is where these pictures came from. Although I planted only the Ilex aquifolium of the second picture, I collected all six of these plants from various sources over the years. They have been quite happy here. I will now be taking more copies or originals of all but Ilex aquifolium.

1. Juniperus virginiana – is my favorite this week. I know it is uninteresting to those who are familiar with it, but it happens to be one of only a few that I brought from Newalla in Oklahoma.P00808-1

2. Ilex aquifolium – is the only one this week that I actually purchased from a nursery, while in school in San Luis Obispo in the late 1980s. It is uncommon (and unpopular) here. I still dig it.P00808-2

3. Viola odorata – came from Santa Clara while I was in high school. (I thought) I wanted it because it blooms white. It is not very pretty, but I can not get rid of it. Violets should be ‘violet’.P00808-3

4. Pelargonium hortorum – is not the original that I found in a compost pile in Montara in about 1980, but is very likely the same ‘unimproved’ species or whatever it is. I found it downtown.P00808-4

5. Agapanthus orientalis – from Watsonville in 1992, is one of my two favorite agapanthus; because it is white, but is otherwise identical to my original blue agapanthus from the late 1970s.P00808-5

6. Amaryllis belladonna – came from Hoot Owl Creek in Oklahoma. It lived in the same garden with my Iris pallida! I know it is no more interesting that these others here, but it has history!P00808-6

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/