Okay, so I felt slightly guilty about not posting anything of any horticultural interest today. Okay, perhaps a bit more than slightly. Okay, perhaps guilty enough to post a few pretty flowery pictures . . . and the last one, which some might find objectionable.
I will not put much effort into this. I did not even take these pictures for any particular article. I am only sharing them here and now because I have no use for them, but did not want to just file them away unseen forever. Hey, these flowers work hard to bloom!
Actually though, except for the last picture, all are about a month old. The last picture is half as old, and the bloom that is shows continues. Otherwise, the other blooms are already finished. Although colorful, none are particularly remarkable or interesting.
This odd camellia seemed to grow from the base of a bigger and older specimen, as if it is a sucker from understock. However, there is no indication that the original specimen is grafted. Nor is there any reason why a Camellia japonica should be grafted. The odd camellia could have grown from seed. It is rare but not impossible for Camellia japonica to produce seed here. It is not crowding anything, so remains.
I really should eradicate this pampas grass. However, it has been here for many years without becoming aggressively invasive. We have observed no seedlings nearby. Besides, even if we did eradicate it, there are herds of more just over the ridge. I can not explain why it is not migrating inward, but I am not complaining. I happen to like the bloom.
These pictures are, of course, not nearly as awesome as the pictures of Rhody that posted earlier. They just happen to be more relevant to what should be a horticultural blog.
Wednesday has been my day for ranting about aberrations of horticulture. I certainly have plenty to rant about. However, there is plenty of other ranting going on nowadays without my help. Therefore, for this Wednesday only, I will forego the ranting. Furthermore, I will forego the horticulture too. I can not remember ever doing that before. This could be something totally new for me.
After Rhody photo bombed one of my pictures that was featured on Saturday, others suggested that I feature more pictures of Rhody. Everyone loves Rhody.
Most of these pictures are devoid of vegetation. The minimal vegetation that is visible in the other pictures is mostly unrecognizable in the background. There are a few redwoods, a few firs, some English ivy and all that riparian mess around Zayante Creek behind the abandoned ball field. They are unimportant in this post.
This post is just pictures of Rhody, complete with captions that all begin with ‘Rhody’.
Rhody really has been a good sport. He has been coming to work without his crew for more than a week. Only a few of them stop by in the morning. One or two rarely come by through the day. We avoid each other.
Rhody misses them very much. He frolics on their sofa where he typically does ‘laps’ during morning staff meetings, and sometimes settles into the rocker chair that he typically avoids when no one else in it. He neglects his favorite thrasher toys, but instead drags around a dirty glove that belonged to someone of his crew. He takes it to bed, but I somehow wake up with it.
We will work in the still unvegetated vegetable garden in the morning. It is right outside, so he will be here if anyone of his crew happens to stop by.
This illustration is relevant neither to the topic, nor to that really creepy rock band of the same name. Even though the band has been popular since I was in high school, all that I know about them is that I am none too keen on their music. Embarrassingly, I do not know much more about the topic, and it has been a hot topic much longer than I have been growing my vegetables.
Vegetables make no music of course. I just mean that I am no more familiar with contemporary cultivars of hot pepper than I am with music that I do not appreciate. I happen to appreciate some types of peppers, and some of them happen to be hot peppers. However, I have not bothered to get acquainted with those that are so ridiculously hot that I do not want to grow them.
Why should I? What are they good for? Why waste my time, limited garden space and other resources on something that no one wants to eat or add to any recipe? They are not particularly productive. If they were, they would only make more of something that is just as useless as the few that each plant produces. I can not even justify putting effort into finding a picture of one.
Those who indulge in this fad brag about it profusely. They post pictures of their few tiny hot peppers online, with sensational claims that there is nothing hotter. Some post selfies with their free hand dangling one of their weird peppers over their extended Gene Simmons tongue. Some even post videos of their drunken friends tasting their peppers, as if it can not be done sober.
I suppose that, regardless of how pointless it seems to me, it is one way to enjoy gardening.
Almost all of the fruit trees that I encounter are or were neglected to some degree.
Many were planted a long time ago by someone who was able to maintain them at the time, and perhaps for many years, but then relocated, passed away, or just got too elderly as the trees grew and required more work.
Many were planted by those who simply enjoy gardening around their homes, and wanted to grow some fresh fruit, but were not aware of how intensive the maintenance of most of the fruit trees is, or how to execute such maintenance properly.
Many were planted by so-called ‘gardeners’ or so-called ‘landscapers’ who had no intention of actually ‘maintaining’ them, or believed that they could ‘maintain’ them with motorized hedge shears and a blower . . . just like they ‘maintain’ everything else.
There is a young but nicely productive ‘Eureka’ lemon tree at work. I would not say that it is neglected. Someone has been maintaining it well since it was installed. However, I remind others at work to take some of the lemons because the tree gets overloaded with otherwise unappreciated and unused fruit.
The tree is strategically located right outside of one of the big cafeteria kitchens, so that those who work in the kitchen could use the fruit. The kitchen probably uses more lemons that the still young tree could produce, but does not seem to use any from the tree.
While dumping greenwaste from the kitchen onto the big compost piles, I noticed this labeled but unused lemon. I can not help but wonder why lemons from my tree aren’t good enough, and why this particular lemon wasn’t good enough either. How many of us nowadays would even recognize a lemon tree, or appreciate the fruit that it produces?
I seriously can not think of a title for this one. All that comes to mind is too objectionable. Writing about it will not be much easier.
It began with a few mature camellias that were in need of grooming a few months ago. They were sufficiently shabby that I did not mind pruning them at the wrong time. Ultimately, almost all of what was groomed out was necrotic anyway, so did not compromise bloom significantly. I was pleased that the eventual bloom would be better presented against a neater background.
Then, I was informed that several of the same camellias would need to be removed to facilitate the installation of a new sidewalk. That would have been useful information before I put such meticulous effort into grooming them. It was briefly annoying; but I did not fret long. I planned to recycle the camellias, and realized that I would have groomed them in the process anyway.
At the time, there was no rush. I thought that the camellias would get to bloom prior to relocation. In the meantime, someone else removed a rotting madrone stump nearby. I thinned and groomed a sloppy filbert into an impressively tailored specimen. Immediate relocation of the camellias was not yet a priority. We had not even identified the precise location of the sidewalk.
Then, there was another disappointment. The project was unexpectedly scheduled immediately after another nearby project that would be completed in only a few days. It would have been more expensive for the crew to leave after finishing the primary project, and then return for the secondary project. I might salvage the camellias, but I knew I could not salvage their bloom.
That is not the worst of it. After planning to relocate the five or so offending camellias on Wednesday or Thursday, I was informed on Tuesday morning that three had already been removed by the backhoe operator who had removed old concrete pavement from the other nearby project. By removed, I mean they got torn mercilessly from the ground and completely destroyed.
No other excavation was done. Asphalt pavement and a curb that need to be removed remain intact. The unwanted ivy is just as unwanted and intact as it was before this weird incident, as if nothing happened. The craters where the camellias got gouged out are barely visible. The only other damage was the mutilation of my well groomed filbert, which was not even in the way.
It was as if the camellias were targeted. Two survived only because someone arrived on site to stop the backhoe operator from destroying them also. There was no regard for any associated subterranean infrastructure, such as an irrigation system and electrical landscape lighting. I suspect that the filbert was mangled just because it was too close to one of the targeted camellias.
I tried to conceal my anger as I frantically relocated the two surviving camellias, while the backhoe operator who so needlessly and blatantly destroyed the other three worked with the crew at the other project just a few yards away. I tried to convince myself that the incident was merely an honest mistake. I doubt that the backhoe operator intentionally targeted the camellias.
As I finished, and was calmly leaving the site, something happened that made me realize that perhaps some of my anger was not completely unfounded. I still do not believe that the backhoe operator was intentionally malicious. I realized instead that the backhoe operator, regardless of his intentions, should most certainly not be operating such potentially dangerous machinery.
From where the crew was taking a break, and the backhoe operator seemed to be enjoying a cigarette, a voluminous and aromatic cloud of marijuana smoke drifted to where I could smell it.
What these guys do prior to or after work is none of my business, as long as it does not compromise their safety or rationality. If someone wants to go off and use their so-called medication in private during the day, he should do so discretely and moderately. Someone who can generate such a voluminous cloud of smoke with no regard to what others think about it has a problem.
Camellias have been blooming for a while now. I typically get rather good pictures of them. The pictures are nothing too artistic, of course, and are intended to merely exhibit the floral color and form. A bit of the glossy foliage in the background is nice.
The picture above is not so useful for exhibiting much of the floral characteristics. Even the pink color is muted by the sloppy background and gray sky above. Zooming in would not have corrected the positioning of the flowers. I simply could not get close enough to do any better.
That eave in the lower right corner of the picture is above a two story building. That is where all the blooms of this particular camellia shrub are located. With so much of the lower growth shaded out and gone, this shrub is more like a small tree. The bloom is too high up to be appreciated. The picture below demonstrates what it all looks like without zooming in.
If there were windows facing this big camellia shrub or tree, I would likely prune it only a bit lower, just to keep it below the eave and within view of the windows. Without windows, I know that I really should prune the tall trunks back to what little lower growth remains, in order to promote more growth and bloom closer to ground level where it can be appreciated.
The difficulty I have with pruning it back is that this big camellia shrub or tree is so impressively big and sculptural, and all the glossy foliage looks so good in the foreground of the rich dark brown wall. I do not know what is more important here, the sculptural limbs and rich green foliage that lasts throughout the year, or the colorful but seasonal bloom.
No, that is not backward. It refers to a legendarily disastrous incident with artificial turf at the Morgan Hill Outdoor Sports Center. Prior to about 2010, while I was the only horticulturist on a big staff of a big so-called ‘landscape’ company that expressed almost no interest in horticulture, I was summoned to the site to investigate an ‘issue’. I was told nothing about artificial turf.
Upon arrival, it became immediately obvious that this was no horticultural issue. Wind was generating waves in the recently installed artificial turf that were taller than the unfortunate guy who was scurrying about in an futile attempt to nail the turf surf to the ground. I was dismayed. I know nothing about artificial turf. Why was a so-called ‘landscape’ company even involved?
I suppose I should not have been too surprised. It was not as if many of the rest of our collective staff knew any more about horticulture than artificial turf. They seemed to take me way too seriously when I joked about the special farm that grows the artificial seed for the yellow and white stripes and yard line numbers. Otherwise, I would have told them about blue Smurf Turf.
As much as I dislike it, I know that artificial turf is quite practical for particular applications. However, it is most certainly not a horticultural commodity. It is a synthetic turf substitute that works like carpeting for landscapes and athletic fields. So-called ‘landscape’ companies that maintain it should be qualified to do so, with at least some sort of relevant and practical expertise.
That being said, why is it all green? We all know it is fake, so why not have some fun with the color, like the colorful fake snow on flocked Christmas trees in the 1970s? Some of us might like penalty line yellow. Yard line number white would be my favorite color, but would look like snow, and be difficult to keep clean. I think iron oxide red might be nice, or perhaps simple brown.
Heck, why not mix it up a bit? Sky blue with white clouds might be fun. Black and white checkerboard? Purple swirled with orange? Why not make it resemble a made-in-China Persian rug, with patterns of all sorts of colors?! What about a Gothic cathedral labyrinth? Oh, a road map of Route 66! A map of Kansas might work nicely for a small space. The possibilities are endless!
There is no right answer. For lawns that is. Horticulturists who actually enjoy horticulture . . . and are not specialists of turf . . . loath them. (Yes, there are horticulturists who are specialists of turf.) We merely tolerate them because they are so useful for so many applications, and they do happen to be very visually appealing within or in the foreground of interesting landscapes.
After all, lawns are the vegetative green carpeting that covers otherwise bare ground without interfering with the flow of pedestrian traffic. For parks and other public paces, it is better than other types of ground cover, mulch, pavement or lowly mown naturalized weeds that would grow if nothing else were there to occupy the space. For athletic fields, there are no alternatives.
They are just so unnatural. Most plants in our garden are selected for their natural attributes, and because they appreciate our respective climates and soils. Lawns must be mown regularly because they would otherwise get too deep and sloppy. They must be irrigated very regularly and generously because they can not survive on seasonal rainfall or even moderate irrigation.
In fact, lawns are so unnatural that, to many horticulturists, they are no worse than artificial turf. All the plasticky infrastructure of elaborate irrigation systems, all the chemical pesticides and fertilizers, all the fuel consumed by mowers, all the water, and all the labor that goes into the maintenance of lawns is no closer to nature than artificial turf is. Strange but strangely true.
Artificial turf is no fun either. The plasticky texture is so blatant and unavoidable. Although it needs only minimal maintenance and last for many years, it does not last forever, and slowly deteriorates like carpet. Once replaced with more of the same sort of plasticky artificial turf, it must be disposed of like so much other used up plastic that the World should be using less of.
January 17 is as far as I have gotten with the backlog of articles from blogs that I follow. I am now two and a half weeks behind schedule. Articles are old news by the time I see them. I have been trying to catch up for weeks or maybe months, but have instead been getting farther behind. The video above is from the article I posted back then. There has been no rain since then.
The video also looks like what I feel I am doing to that backlog of article while I skip ahead to current articles beginning with February 5. Flushing them like this seems so negligent. I feel so obligated to read the articles of blogs that I follow. That is why I follow them. However, if I do not flush the backlog, articles that are current now will also be old news by the time I get them.
I have been reading some of these blogs so regularly that those who write them sometimes include notes to me within the contexts of their articles. Sometimes they comment on something that they think I would be particularly interested in. Sometimes they ask questions that they think I might know the answers to, or just ask for a bit of advice. Flushing all that is just wrong.
I have no choice. I have no time for it all. I write my brief gardening articles for more small newspapers than I can keep track of. I still work at a part-time and temporary job that involves maintenance of landscapes and small scale arboriculture because I can not bear to leave! I intend to eventually return to work at nursery production, but have been too overworked to do so.
Meanwhile, former clients and clients of former clients continue to contact me in need of services that I can no longer provide. I can find no one to refer them to for comparable services. All of the best arborists and horticulturists are retired, deceased or too busy (compensating for the lack of those of us who are retired or deceased) to accommodate more work. It is saddening.
On top of all that, I am supposed to be canning cedar trees and plugging sycamore cuttings for street trees in Los Angeles a few years from now . . . and maybe working in the garden?!?!
Nomenclature used to be more predictably standardized than it is now. When I write about how it works, I compare it to the names of cars. For example, ‘General Motors’ is just a family. ‘Buick’ is a genus. ‘Electra’ is a species. ‘Limited’ is a variety. Well, my Sebring was labeled as a Chyrsler but made by Mercedes Benz. Modern horticultural nomenclature is no more accurate.
With all the promiscuity going on nowadays, it is impossible to know who the parent of some of our favorite plants are. Many are interspecific hybrids. Some are intergeneric hybrids. Some are so complicated that their species names are merely omitted; and no one seems to notice! That is like driving a Mercury LS without knowing or caring if it is a Grand Marquis or a Lynx.
So, now we can grow such aberrations of traditional stone fruit as as aprium, apriplum, pluot, plumcot, nectaplum, pluerry and peacotum. The first half of the names supposedly indicate who the promiscuous maternal parent is. The second half refers to the male pollinator. Parents who contributed fewer letters to the name were supposedly already hybridized prior to breeding.
For example, an apricot pollinated by a plum creates an aprium; and an aprium pollinated by a plum creates an apriplum. The apriplum gets an extra letter from plum ancestry because it is %75 plum and %25 apricot. A plum pollinated by an apricot creates a pluot; and a plum pollinated by a pluot creates a plumcot. There are, of course, many other complicating combinations.
Sure, the resulting fruit is very good; but is it any better than what it was bred from? If everyone could have tasted the simple, traditional and exemplary stone fruits that formerly grew in the vast orchards of the Santa Clara Valley, there would be no need for all this hooey. Besides, why is there all this interest in creating new and weird fruit while eliminating some of the old?
Prunes and plums, as I explained earlier, are two distinct types of fruits. Japanese plums are the richly flavored and typically more brightly colored fruits that were more popular in home gardens than in orchards, since they are not easy to transport. European prunes are the sweeter but mildly flavored freestone fruits that grew in orchards, generally for drying and canning.
Apparently, the name of ‘prunes’ was not appealing enough . . . or was actually considered to be unappealing. Almost twenty years ago, prunes were consequently reclassified as plums. Dried prunes are now known as dried plums, as if they are dried versions of the classic ‘Santa Rosa’ plums that so many of us grow in our home gardens. Some of them just might be! Who knows?!
Plum juice could be extracted from Japanese plums, which actually make excellently rich juice, but is more likely from fresh (not dried) French or Italian prunes. However, there is still such a beverage that is known as prune juice. It is extracted from, of all things, rehydrated dried plums . . . or dried prunes. These unfortunate fruits get dehydrated, rehydrated, and then juiced!
The juice of rehydraded dehydrated plums or prunes might be the only remaining application of the word ‘prune’. At least it is useful for that; in the sense that it designates the source of the juice as rehydrated dehydrated fruit of some sort, rather than fresh fruit of some sort. Whether such fruit is a plum or what was formerly known as a prune remains something of a mystery.