Six on Saturday: TWIGS!


The Belmont Rooster posted pictures of red mulberry that really got my attention back on February 15. The trees are native on his farm, but not here. I only remember them as decoy trees that provided berries to distract birds from other fruit as it ripened in the orchards. Of course, those that I remember were planted. I neglected to get seed or cuttings from them while in Oklahoma. I have been craving them since.

1. $8.85! The Belmont Rooster spent some major funds to get this package to me. It must be important. I already know it is very important to me! I have been wanting this for seven years. P00411-1

2. TWIGS! I got two bundles of twigs! These are not just any twigs though. They are from red mulberry, Morus rubra. One bundle is from a female tree. The other is from a male pollinator.P00411-2

3. Cuttings were processed from the twigs. There are a dozen female cuttings, and sixteen male cuttings. These are male. I was informed earlier that the female twigs were starting to foliate.P00411-3

4. Plugged cuttings are not much to look at. Rooting hormone was applied, but is not visible on the bottom ends. Only a few popping buds are barely visible in the female cuttings to the right.P00411-4

5. White mulberry was the only mulberry that I was growing here. I got the cuttings for it from a client’s tree. I do not know what cultivar it is. I have not been very impressed with it so far.P00411-5

6. The Belmont Rooster sent these cuttings from Missouri, just to the left of the center of this picture. All of Missouri is within the native range of red mulberry, which is designated by green.P00411-6

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





Two at Two

This species of Rhus remains unidentified.

Apologies for the delay of posting something for noon as I typically do.

These are just two pictures of two species that were not interesting enough for my Six on Saturday post this morning. Now that it is past one as I write this, it will be scheduled to post at two, hence Two at Two.

Most of what we propagate or recycle here has some potential to be used in the landscapes. Sometimes, we salvage something just because it it too appealing to waste, even if there is no plan for what will be done with it later. For example, we now have five nicely canned but otherwise useless Norway maples, just because they needed to be removed from a landscape.

I canned the four specimens of unidentified Rhus in the picture above because I thought I knew what they are, and that I wanted to plant them somewhere. Now that I realize that I have no idea what they are, and that the one thing I know about them is that they are invasive, I really do not know what to do with them. For now, they will stay canned right here where they are.

The buckeye in the picture below were grown just because the huge seed were too compelling to discard. Although I know what species they are, I also know that they are not very popular. Actually, because they defoliate and seem to be dead through summer, they are rather unpopular. They will likely just get planted in a bare spot on the bank of Zayante Creek right outside.

That is part of the problem of enjoying our work a bit too much. We take horticulture a bit too seriously, and feel compelled to find homes for all the unwanted flora that we can salvage.

Buckeye will not be easy to find a home for.

Six on Saturday: More Recycling


Since lauristinus, deodar cedar and a few other species are happy enough here to naturalize and proliferate a bit too much where we do not want them, they should be just as happy to perform where we do want them. That is how we justify reallocation of such resources. We do it with other species too, just to avoid wasting them, or just because they are easy to propagate.

Norway maples and birches got canned over winter too, but I did not get pictures.

1. cyclamen – was something I grew in high school as a perennial that went bare for the heat of summer. It saddens me that it is so expensive, but also so expendable as a cool season annual.P00404-1

2. cyclamen – will get a second chance this year. They got replaced earlier because of mold, but both the white group above and this red group went out into a landscape where they can stay.P00404-2

3. ivy geranium – pruning scraps got plugged as cuttings to eventually replace zonal geranium that were mistakenly planted into hanging baskets. (That is the Pet Rock in the background.)P00404-3

4. zonal geranium – pruning scraps get plugged as cuttings also. As they hopefully subordinate to ivy geranium, those in the hanging baskets will get pruned back more until totally replaced.P00404-4

5. pigsqueak – that needed to be removed from one spot got plugged into another. Leftovers that could not be accommodated there and then, got canned for another time and another place.P00404-5

6. Boston ivy – could be a problem. We wanted only a few copies. Rather than plug just a few pruning scrap cuttings into just a few cans, I plugged a whole flat of a hundred. Most are rooting!P00404-6

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

Blank Slate

This tank could use some greenery . . . or maybe not.

The scrub palm incident should have reminded me that there is such a thing as too much of good thing. By the way, I do intend to grow every single seedling that germinates and somehow find homes for them all. I suspect that almost all will live in my own garden, but at least I know they will live in a good home. I have grown surpluses before, and I actually plan to do it again.

For examples, that big herd of cedar seedlings that was partly reassigned into landscapes is just too numerous for all seedlings to be accommodated. Most of what remains will get canned to be installed into landscapes later. Since we planted about as many as we possibly can here, most will likely go to Los Angeles, and installed onto embankments of the Santa Monica Freeway.

That is too many cedars; but I just can not bear to discard them as I should. Nor can I leave them to grow into a crowded and likely rat infested grove. They should be happy in Los Angeles.

Anyway, I was asked to grow a few copies of Boston ivy for a pair of concrete columns that support a pedestrian bridge. Two specimens were already planted on two other concrete columns of the same pedestrian bridge, from which English ivy had been removed. Two other specimens grow on a concrete retaining wall from which Algerian ivy gets removed ahead of its advance.

I should have just plugged a few cuttings into a can, and then separated them and plugged them directly into the landscape as they rooted. Instead, I plugged cuttings into a flat. Well, I could not just plug a few, and leave the rest of the flat empty. I filled an entire flat with a hundred cuttings. I expected a high mortality rate, but alas, almost all of the cuttings are doing quite well.

Now we are finding all sorts of concrete retaining walls and other infrastructure where we can plant Boston ivy. We are also realizing that there is a difference between ‘can’ and ‘should’. As I was dumping greenwaste, I noticed how austere this big water tank looks. Boston ivy would really appreciate all that surface area! There is enough to plant all the way around the perimeter!

Then, I thought of all the reasons why clinging vines are not allowed onto water tanks. They deteriorate the paint, which allows the tanks to rust. They allow rodents to climb up to the top of the tank, which is really not a good place for rodents. They need maintenance, which is not justifiable for landscape features that serve no practical purpose. They need (ironically) watering.

If the tank were in a more prominent location where it should be obscured, it would be best to plant dense evergreen trees, such as cypress trees, around it. Such trees would be planted at a distance, to maintain reasonable clearance. Really though, the tank is in a secluded place, where not many of us see it. It needs no landscaping, so will remain as austere as it has always been.

But, what about the cyclone fence around the water tank? All those surplus grape vines could most certainly make good use of it as a trellis! Okay, I get it. It would take too much work, and there is too much potential from problems . . . rodents, maintenance, watering, damage to the fence, and half of all the grapes would be locked inside where only a few of us could get to them.

Fence or trellis?

Figs Are Easy To Propagate

Some grasses can propagate by division.

The easiest way to propagate new fig trees may seem to be violent, but it works. Basal shoots that grew last year from the roots near the trunks of ungrafted trees can simply be torn out of the ground with as many attached roots as possible. These shoots can then be planted directly wherever new trees are desired, and watered in. Larger shoots may need to be dug out, and might do better if pruned down to just a foot or two tall when planted. Smaller shoots can be potted to grow through next summer, and then get planted in the ground next winter.

Tearing the shoots off in this unpleasant manner is effective for two reasons. It gets the most roots for the shoots to help the grow into new trees. It also removes more of the burl growth that produces the shoots than simply cutting the shoots neatly. Even if copies of the original tree are not desired, the basal shoots must be removed anyway. Simply pruning them away leaves more burl growth so that more shoots grow back next summer. Ideally, well maintained trees should actually not produce basal shoots.

Fig trees are innately easy to grow from basal shoots or cuttings while dormant through winter. Basal shoots, even those that get pulled without any obvious roots, will develop roots more efficiently than stem cuttings that were never in contact with the soil. However, if no basal shoots are available, stem cutting work just fine. Furthermore, grafted trees (which are quite rare) can only be copied by cuttings from above the graft. Basal shoots from below the graft will only produce copies of the understock.

Just as unwanted basal shoots and cuttings from pruning scraps can be grown into fig trees, overgrown perennials in need of thinning can be divided to propagate more of the same. Lily of the Nile, red hot poker, daylily, mondo grass, African iris, terrestrial yuccas, some ferns and some grasses are not only easy to propagate by division through winter, but many perform better if divided every few years or so, before they get too crowded. The common giant yucca develops big trunks instead of clumping shoots, but can be propagated just as easily from big cuttings.


African iris are happily rehomed.

African iris, Dietes bicolor, that I mentioned three weeks ago were finally installed into a new landscape. It may not be permanent. They may need to be relocated again if they happened to land where two of four birch will be installed as the landscape is slowly assembled before winter ends. The installation was done hastily before the last storm delivered a good dose of rain.

It could not be delayed any longer. These African iris had been divided and groomed so long before they were featured on the fourteenth of December that they were likely to succumb to rot or desiccation if installation was delayed any longer. They soaked in buckets of water for days at a time, and were then left to drain for days at a time so that they would not soak for too long.

I do not remember how many times I repeated the process. I knew it was getting risky. Surprisingly, by the time they were installed, only a few of the worst of the rhizomes were beginning to exhibit negligible indications of rot. Now that they are in moist but fluffy and well aerated soil, they can recover and begin to disperse new roots, even if they must be relocated again later.

If relocated again later, the process will be fast and direct. They will get dug and plugged within minutes. Compared to alternated soaking and draining for more than a month, it will be easy.

The formerly feral birch that will eventually be added to this landscape are also being reassigned. Of nine that were removed from another landscape in the neighborhood, five were already plugged directly into a landscape across the road. The other four were canned temporarily until we determine where they will fit into this new landscape. They will arrive before winter ends.

Lauristinus that formerly inhabited this area were already being reassigned as hedges in other landscapes before we planned to reassign extra African iris and feral birch to this landscape. A few got canned to replace any that do not survive the process. So far though, all have not only survived where they were reassigned, but were growing happily before the weather got cool.

Growing Problem

P91221KRecycling plant material is practical and gratifying. We do quite a bit of it here. Back in September, I briefly wrote about recycling laurustinus that was removed from an area that was about to be landscaped, and relocated to other sites where it can grow into functional informal hedges. We were able to use something that was a problem in one location as an asset somewhere else.

We will be doing more of this sort of recycling now that the rainy season has started. Right now, the plants that need to be removed are as dormant as they get, so do not mind getting dug as much as they would have while they were still active. Rain helps settle them in at their new locations. A few get canned and stocked into the nursery, to be planted into new landscapes later.

Some of what gets recycled was intentionally installed in the past, but for one reason or another, became inappropriate for a particular site. For example, I will soon be relocating agapanthus that performed well for many years, but eventually became too shaded by growing trees nearby. Forsythia that has already been relocated was too big and awkward for its confined space.

Many plants that get recycled were not intentionally planted, but happened to grow wild in situations where they can not stay. Some are native. Some are descendents of desirable exotics. The laurustinus that I mentioned above are such an example. Just yesterday, I relocated a few naturalized but superfluous birches from an established landscape to an unlandscaped area.

We certainly do not recycle everything that can be recycled. Many plants, both native and naturalized exotic, are just too problematic. Fleabane that I wrote about yesterday is marginal.

Sweetgum happens to be one of those trees that we probably should not recycle. They are splendidly colorful in autumn, and particularly spectacular amongst the deep green redwoods. The problems are that the now overgrown trees here are developing serious structural deficiency, and producing an overwhelming abundance of messy and potentially hazardous maces (fruits).

Nonetheless, I found and canned these four rooted sweetgum watersprouts. They were growing from roots of one of several big and very problematic sweetgums that got removed last year. If they get planted here, they and their associated problems will be located outside of refined landscapes. In the future, thy can drop maces and limbs in the forest without bothering anyone.

Six on Saturday: Nursery Work


This is more like what I should be doing. My part time job here was supposed to be temporary, just until I went back to work growing things. It is not easy to leave. Actually, it is downright difficult. Well, that is another story. Yesterday, Friday, I got to pretend I was back at work, dividing perennials and plugging cuttings. It all came from what already lives in the landscapes.

These seasonal tasks had been delayed until the rainy season started.

1. African iris, Dietes bicolor, got plucked around the edges where it was getting too close to a walkway. These plucked and groomed scraps will be plugged directly where more are desired.P91214-1

2. Lily-of-the-Nile, Agapanthus africanus, got pulled a long time ago, and just left here on the floor. It can get split into many individual pups, but will more likely be planted as a full clump.P91214-2

3. Pigsqueak, Bergenia crassifolia, got pulled where it was creeping over a stone wall. Most was plugged back behind where it came from. Sixteen groups of three pups were canned for later.P91214-3

4. Boston ivy, Parthenocissus tricuspidata, provided this mess when it was relieved of its stakes and groomed. It grew so fast in the first year, that there is concern about planting more of it.P91214-4

5. 100 cuttings is too many! There are only a few concrete structures that it can climb onto. It probably would have been more practical to plug a few cuttings directly into only a few cans.P91214-5

6. Cuttings would have fit better into cans too. These cuttings are plugged diagonally, leaning back toward the top of the picture, with the front row leaning toward the bottom of the picture.P91214-6

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



There is quite a bit of open space in some parts of the landscapes. It is not as if the landscapes are lacking much. There just happens to be a few spots where a bit more could be added. This expanse of healthy English ivy was already appealing, but lacked interest.

There is also quite a bit of spare plants out and about in the landscapes. It is not as if there is anything wrong with spare plants. There just happens to be too many of them. These cannas got overgrown and crowded within their original colony in another landscape, so needed to be divided and thinned out.

We are not a so-called ‘landscape’ company, which profits from the removal of some plants, and the installation of others. There is no incentive to dispose of as much vegetation as we could bill a client for. Nor is there any incentive to install as many new and expensive plants as we could fit into any available space. It is not a ‘business’.

To the contrary, it is in our own best interest to exploit resources that are already available to us. For example, when we thinned out these crowded cannas from one situation, we reassigned them to other situations where they could grow and become assets to their new landscapes. Also, viburnums that were removed from one site were reassigned as hedges in other situations.

We will be doing more of this sort of reassignment now that the weather is cooler and rainier, and the plants that will get relocated are dormant. Carpet roses that must be removed from the boundary of a playground because they are too thorny will be relocated to a broad roadside, where they can grow wild. They will be replaced with lily-of-the-Nile that is crowded elsewhere.

Division Renovates Tired Old Perennials

91204thumbAutumn is a time for planting partly because it is when many plants are beginning their winter dormancy. They are, or will soon be, less active than they would be at any other time of year. Some may not start to grow again until after winter ends. Others will want to secretly disperse their roots through the rainy winter weather, while merely appearing to be dormant from above the soil level.

That is why autumn is also the best time for division of many types of perennials. Such perennials should be adequately dormant to not be bothered by the process of getting dug and divided into smaller parts, then replanted. They actually prefer to get it done sooner than later, so that they can slowly disperse their roots through cool and rainy winter weather, and be ready to grow in spring.

Divisions is often done to renovate bulky perennials that have become overgrown, shabby, or too crowded with their own growth to bloom well. Some of the more vigorous perennials may benefit from division for renovation every several years or so. Many complaisant perennials may never benefit from division. Of these, some might be divided merely for propagation of more of the same.

Japanese anemone, bergenia and other perennials that bloom in autumn and winter should get divided later, after bloom. Like perennials that get divided now, they tend to recover and efficiently disperse roots before spring. However, they may need to be watered a bit more than typical if the weather gets warm and dry early next year. Their schedules do not coincide with local climates.

Lily-of-the-Nile, African iris and New Zealand flax can be divided into individual shoots, even if a few shoots get planted together in clumps. Entire plants do not need to be dug if it would be easier to merely pluck a few outer shoots from the perimeters of congested parent plants. Black-eyed Susan and Shasta daisy can be divided into clumps of several dormant basal rhizomes and roots.

‘Pups’, or sideshoots, of agaves and some types of yuccas can be carefully pried from their parent plants without disturbing them.