Horridculture – Weed Whackers

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This must be the better half.

This neatly sliced prickly pear is too silly to rant about. There is another just like it. Two others were not sliced, as if, after the first two, someone realized that there was more to the roadside meadow than combustible dry grass. The prickly pear were put out there just last winter. They each extended only a single pad half a foot or so above grade, so were obscured by the grass.

Realistically, the damage is minimal and tolerable here. The priority of the crew who performed the vegetation management was to cut down all the combustibles. They did an efficient job of it. They did not expect to encounter anything that had been intentionally installed out there, or even any desirable vegetation. Besides, this prickly pear will recover as if nothing happened.

Unfortunately, damage caused by weed whackers is rarely so innocuous. Weed whackers are one of the most commonly misused horticultural power tools, and are very often used by those who are not aware of how to use them properly. They are easy enough to operate that minimal consideration is given to the potential for damage that they can cause. It is a bad combination.

Because weed whackers are often and improperly used to cut tall grass that is too close to trees for lawn mowers to cut, they commonly strip off bark and cambium from young tree trunks. A tree can not survive without its cambium, and quickly dies if too much is stripped away from the base of its trunk. That is why it is very important to pull weeds from around trees instead.

For now, there is nothing to do for the two sliced prickly pear. The bud to the upper right corner of the pictured specimen is beginning to develop into a new pad.

Horridculture – Vandalism

This would have been an ideal time for a seasonal update on the little Memorial Tree in Felton Covered Bridge Park. Until recently, it had been healthier and growing more vigorously than it had since it was installed a few years ago. It had survived major accidental damage, and was just beginning to thrive. Sadly […]

https://feltonleague.com/2020/06/28/vandalism/

via Vandalism — Felton League

Horridculture – eBay

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I certainly got good deals on these recent acquisitions. However, I have no idea what I will do with them.

It is such a bad habit! Even if I spend no money, I spend too much time perusing what I could spend a little bit of spare cash on. On rare occasion, I actually do spend a little bit on something that I can get a good deal on, not because I actually have any use for it, but merely because I got a good deal on it, . . . or because I believe that I may not be able to find it for sale again later.

Now, I have more than two hundred seed for Pygmy date palm, Phoenix roebelenii. They certainly were inexpensive, costing less than a few dollars. Most of the expense was for postage. It really was a good deal. However, I have no plan for so many Pygmy date palms. I do not expect all to germinate; but I have no plan for just half of them. Actually, I have no plan for just one.

The other seed to the right in the picture are for muscadine and scuppernong, Vitis rotundifolia. Although I purchased them as a ‘mix’, the seller kindly separated the two varieties. They are easier to accommodate than two hundred palms, and I really do have plans for them. I know growing them from seed is riskier than growing known cultivars, but I wanted them to be ‘wild’.

Regardless, I really should not have purchased even muscadine and scuppernong seed while there is so much other seed here that can not be accommodated. I really must sow all of the old seed this autumn or winter, whether I have plans for it or not. I suspect that most will not germinate. Some of the most questionable seed can be sown out in the garden rather than in flats.

No more eBay!

Horridculture – Bucket of Bolts

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They started out nicely.

Radishes seemed like a good idea back when I sowed the seed in the garden. I had not grown any in many years. I thought that the particular location would be cool enough to inhibit bolting, even though it was starting to get close to the end of their season here. They are definitely a cool season vegetable here, with brief seasons in spring and autumn. Some linger through winter.

The seed germinated efficiently. The seedlings started out well. Radishes are small roots that mature in only about three weeks. Technically, they were right on schedule. I happened to get a few tiny radishes from the batch. However, after the seed were sown, but before the radish roots developed, the formerly cool spring weather warmed suddenly enough to stimulate bolting.

The elongation of floral stalks was visible within the foliar rosettes of most of the individual radishes while they were still quite dinky. Initially, I thought it would be no problem. There were a few good radish roots, which was all I needed to brag to my colleague down South about. Those that bolted would sort of be palatable as radish greens. Bitterness does not bother me much.

Now, because so few of the radishes were pulled for their roots, too many are growing as greens, and they evolved from merely bolting to blooming. The flavor evolved from normal bitter to almost icky bitter. I will not be sharing these with anyone. I can not leave them in the garden to get shabby either. Besides, I want the space for something else. I suppose I will freeze some.

After all the effort, I got only a few small radishes, some decent greens, and mostly bitter greens. Perhaps I will try radishes again in autumn. This radish trial was a ‘FAIL’.

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Yes, we have no radishes.

Horridculture – Spruce Up

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Even Charlie Brown would reject this little blue spruce.

No one wants to cut down this little blue spruce. What is worse is that no one wants anyone else to cut it down either. We all know it is ugly. We all know that it can not be salvaged. We all know that it really should relinquish its space to the healthy and well structured coast live oak next to it, in the lower left of the picture. Yet, it remains.

It was planted amongst a herd of gold junipers in about 1980 or 1981, shortly after the construction of the adjacent buildings. An abandoned irrigation system indicates that it was likely irrigated for some time afterward, although it is impossible to know for how long. Otherwise, it and the junipers were completely ignored for the last four decades.

When the vegetable garden was installed nearby, brambles, weeds and trash that had been accumulating for forty years was removed from the area. A few of the most decrepit junipers that were not worth salvaging were removed too. The young and feral coast live oak that grew next to the spruce should have been removed as well, but is actually in very good condition.

Furthermore, the coast live oak is a better tree for the particular application. It is native, so does not mind neglect. The spruce was never really happy there, which is why it is so puny and disfigured now, with the lower two thirds of the trunk bare of limbs and foliage. Obviously, the spruce should be removed so that the oak can continue to develop as it should.

We just like the spruce too much to remove it directly. Even though it would look silly if the bare trunk were exposed by the removal of the oak, the bit of foliage on top is so pretty and blue and familiar. I mean, it looks like we have a spruce in the yard; and everyone likes a spruce!

The plan is to subordinate it to the oak. As the oak grows upward and outward, the lower limbs of the spruce will be pruned away to maintain clearance. Eventually, the spruce will look so silly that the landscape would look better without it, and we will not mind cutting it down so much. It will be unpleasant, but it will be better than interfering with the development of the oak.

Horridculture – Neglected Seedling

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They are so cute when they are young.

This was not planned very well. Actually, it was not planned at all. While sorting through the seed for a vegetable garden, I found a can of seed for winter squash that was a few years old. They might be close to five years old. I really do not remember. I did not expect them to be viable, but did not want to discard them without at least trying to test them for viability.

Rather than just put them in damp rag for a few days, I plugged a few seed into a spider plant on a windowsill, and forgot about them. I really did not expect to see them again. When the first one emerged, I though it was a weed, so plucked it out. When I realized what it was, and that it came out intact, I felt badly for it, and like the original seed, could not discard it.

I do not remember why, but at the time, I did not want to go out to can it in a real pot. Nor did I want to plug it into the garden while I was still getting other seed situated. I therefore planted into an empty eggshell from those drying for coffee. I scraped a bit of medium from a potted bromeliad. It was happy on the windowsill for maybe a few weeks.

The other seed germinated too, but were more carefully removed and plugged into the garden. Since the seed was still viable, I sowed more around the junipers outside. Somehow, in the process, I neglected to put the little seedling in the eggshell out into the garden with them. It has not been happy in here, so has not grown much at all.

Now that the winter squash are already growing well outside, and the summer squash are already producing, this unfortunate seedling still needs to go out to join them.

If I were to grow seedlings inside again, I would do so in some of the cell packs that we recycle from work. They are more efficient, less wobbly, and they do not look so ridiculous.

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Now it wants out!

Horridculture – Dust Bowl

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Cimarron County in 1940 or the road out back last Wednesday?

 

In a commotion that an Okie would flee from, the road out back got blown last week. What a mess! Dust was everywhere, and I mean, except for the road from which it was blown, it went ‘everywhere’. The engines of the two blowers at full throttle echoed loudly against pavement, the cinder block and metallic walls of the industrial buildings, and under the broad eaves above.

Fortunately, no one else was here to be bothered by it. Actually, no one would have been as bothered by it as we were by the crud that was on the road prior to getting blown. We know that blowing is sometimes necessary. There are only a few windows on the industrial buildings, and they were all closed. The few vehicles that happened to be parked nearby were already dirty.

Where I lived in town many years ago, the apartment buildings to the north and south were ‘maintained’ by so-called mow-blow-and-go ‘gardeners’. The building to the south lacked a lawn, but there was plenty of shrubbery there to be destroyed, even though the name of the technique does not rhyme with the rest of the routine. For both buildings, blowing dust was extreme.

There was no attempt to be tactful about it. The so-called ‘gardeners’ operated their blowers very loudly at full throttle, with no regard for where all the crud went from the pavement. Much of it went onto cars in the carports. Much went into the washrooms. Almost monthly, I needed to ignite the blown out pilot for the water heater in the washroom of the building to the north.

Both back corners of my garden were paved. There was a small paved laundry yard to the north, and a small paved trash yard to the south. The so-called ‘gardeners’ on both sides removed the kickboards from below the rear panels of those dreadful fences that I disliked so much, and blew the detritus from the neighboring properties into may back yard as if I would not notice.

When I replaced the kickboards, the so-called ‘gardeners’ broke pieces of them out, and continued with their technique. There was not much detritus from pavement that got blown weekly, but it was enough for me to collect and show to the property management of the adjacent apartments. It put the ‘go’ in ‘mow-blow-and-go’. It was the same technique only a few years apart.

As necessary as they are, and even though they can be used properly and tactfully, blowers still annoy me. The noise, the dust, and the seemingly innate disregard for others are not justified by their efficiency. I have used them, so I know that a practical degree of tact does not compromise efficiency. They exemplify the worst of what a formerly respectable industry has become.

Horticulture – It’s What I do.

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Rhody, . . . because everyone loves Rhody, . . . and this is not about horticulture anyway.

This is not a misspelling of a misspelling. There is no misspelling of “Horticulture” in the title this week. “Horridculture” is typical of my rants on Wednesday. It is not the only deviation from the norm here. I included the contraction of “It’s” in the title. I have been trying to relax my otherwise objectionably uptight writing style; but a contraction in the title still makes me cringe.

Horridculture – It Is What I Do Not Do.” would be consistent with my style, but silly, and not so relevant to the subject matter. I am a horticulturist, arborist and garden columnist. I enjoy what I do very much, which is why I made a career of it. It is demanding work though, and does not afford much time for blogging. The quality of my blogging is consequently compromised.

I still work as many as three days weekly at a job that was supposed to be temporary two years ago! It is so excellent that I can not bear to leave, although I must eventually do so. It entails the maintenance of many acres of landscapes and forest at a Christian Conference Center. We have been unable to work for the past month, so will be busier than typical as we resume work.

Mondays and Tuesdays are my days for writing my weekly gardening column. I should probably retire from this work, but enjoy it so much, and would prefer to instead expand it into other publications to fill in the gaps between San Francisco and Los Angeles. I do intend to simplify this writing, even if expanding it; so that I can do it all on Mondays like I used to not so long ago.

For more than the past two years, I have not inspected trees or landscapes for other arborists or landscape professions. There just is not sufficient time! I do miss that work, and composing reports for those who dislike writing. (Arborists and landscape professionals who enjoy their trees and landscapes innately dislike writing.) If I ever resume such work, it will be only rarely.

I intend to eventually return to the farm where I belong, and resume production of horticultural commodities. As much as I enjoy the rest of what I do, growing things is what I do naturally. It is why my ‘temporary’ job was supposed to be ‘temporary’ two years ago. It will involve even more demanding work than what I already can not keep up with, but it is what I need to do.

Therefore, I will have even less time to devote to blogging. I intend to continue to post my brief weekly gardening column in two parts on Mondays and Tuesdays, as well as old articles from the same gardening column in two parts on Thursdays and Fridays. I would also like to continue with Six on Saturday and other brief posts for Saturdays at noon, Sundays and Wednesdays.

I write for my gardening column weekly regardless of the blog. Old articles from the column are already written. Only new posts for Saturdays, Sundays and Wednesdays need to be written separately; so some or all will be omitted if necessary. What I must discontinue now is my involvement with the many compelling blogs that I have been following for the past many months.

I will not stop following any of the blogs that I presently follow. I will just not be able to read all of the posts, or interact with them like I had been. For me, it will be quite a weird adjustment. I feel obligated to read much of what others post into blogs that I follow. If someone puts effort into positing it, then it must be important. I certainly enjoy how others interact with my blog.

I certainly do not want anyone to think that I lost interest in their respective blog. Many of them provide ideas for what I should write about within the context of my own weekly gardening column. Insight into horticulture in other climates, regions and even cultures has been fascinating. This is merely something that I must sacrifice in order to continue on with my own writing.

Horridculture – Jumpin’ Juniper!

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This is the backside of some of the better junipers!

Junipers have a bad reputation. They earned it at a time when they were too common. Too many were installed into situations that they were not appropriate for. As they grew, they were unpleasant to handle. If not handled enough, they became overgrown and shabby. Once that happened, there were nearly impossible to prune back into confinement without being ruined.

I was never one to completely subscribe to that bad reputation. There were just too many junipers that I really liked, particularly the Hollywood juniper and the Hetz blue juniper. There were a few that I disliked, and I still loath the common tam juniper, but they were in the minority, and happen to be the same sort that are becoming more scarce.

For landscape situations that they happen to conform to, there really is no reason for junipers to be any less appropriate than any other genus is. They are happy with local climates and soil types. Once established, they do not need much water at all, and many need no supplemental irrigation. They last for a very long time. Best of all, they need only minimal maintenance.

However, even some of the best junipers are not perfect. I know. I just needed to work with some that were installed in 1980, and, except for getting pruned back around the edges, were completely ignored. After days of trying to tame them, I can not longer deny that some of what I have not wanted to believe about them is very true.

Besides all the trash and road debris that had been dumped into them during the past four decades, they were thickly infested with Himalayan blackberry. Removing the bramble was not only wickedly unpleasant, but it exposed bare spots where juniper foliage had been shaded out. Removal of a few junipers that had been overwhelmed and died left even more bare spots.

Well, I could not just leave all the dead twiggy growth under the bars spots, so tried to remove some of that too. That only exposed more of what what under and behind it, and caused the well foliated stems above to sag into the whole mess. In the end, the junipers are an unsightly mess, and I know that they will stay that way for a very long time.

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Removal of all the bramble and dead junipers exposes a lot of bare branches.

Horridculture – Going To Pot

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Would these hanging potted plants even be noticeable if they were not circled?

Container gardening is overrated. Perhaps not so much now as it had been while it was more of a fad a decade or so ago, but it is still overrated nonetheless. Most plants are happier in the ground than they are in confinement. They want to disperse their roots freely to where the goodies are, and not contend with the unnatural temperature fluctuations of contained medium.

There are only a few exceptions for which containment of potted plants is an advantage. Houseplants are the most obvious exceptions. Also, plants that are sensitive to frost can be relocated to sheltered situations for winter if contained. Potted orchids and other flashy bloomers can be prominently displayed while blooming, and then returned to utilitarian locations as they finish.

The justification for the hanging potted plants in the picture above escapes me. Does anyone besides me even notice that they are there? They are hung too high for anyone on the sidewalk to appreciate them, or actually see the flowers that are visible from above. Those on the opposite sidewalk can see them, but only at a great distance across all those lanes of El Camino Real.

Those in cars on the road see less of them than pedestrians. Even those who happen to look up while riding past in convertibles with the tops down will see only the undersides, and only at significant speed. These potted plants would be in the way of the sidewalks if they were lowered to be more visible. No matter where they are, they are not proportionate to the broad road.

Maintenance of the flowers in these many hanging pots was quite a bit of work. The annual flowers needed to be replaced a few times a year, or more if ruined by the weather. Without automated irrigation, someone needed to manually water them, which left puddles on the sidewalks that were more noticeable than the highly hung pots above.

As if all these hanging pots were not already tacky enough, the flowers within were eventually replaced with . . . fake flowers, as seen in the picture below.

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Just when it could not get any tackier; they are fake!