Junk In The Trunk

It is exactly what it looks like; more Canna rhizomes. I am very aware that there are already too many Canna here. I grew them. I do not care. I saw these in a neighbor’s garden, and asked for a few copies. She told me that I only needed to dig them myself, as if that might be a problem. As she pointed out those that were migrating a bit too close to her home, I dug many more than I should have. Since she was so generous to share so many, I felt obligated to remove all that were superfluous. Besides, to me, they are not junk. I am very pleased with them, even if they are a bit excessive.

There are two cultivars, and perhaps seed grown rhizomes of one of the two cultivars. The shorter sort are ‘Inferno’, which is the same as ‘Tropicanna’ and ‘Durban’. Some Canna cultivars seem to develop several synonyms. Its bright orange bloom stands tall above distinctively striped and bronzed foliage. It gets about six feet tall, so is only the shorter of the two cultivars because the other is so much taller. Although it is one of the more popular cultivars, I only recently acquired a single can of it from Brent last year. I am pleased to grow much more.

The other cultivar seems to be comparable to the unidentified cultivar at work that resembles and might actually be Canna musifolia. It has similar scrawny orange bloom on top of very tall canes that I must bend over for deadheading. Because I did not notice them until after frost, I do not know how bronzed the foliage is, or if it is bronzed at all. The neighbor who gave them to me says that they are ‘lightly’ bronzed. The newly emerging buds seem to be green without any bronze. I will be pleased with any color, but simple green would be awesome! Some of these may have grown from seed, so may be slightly different from the original.

There were enough rhizomes of ‘Inferno’ for a dozen #5 cans with about four rhizomes each. There were enough rhizomes of the taller sort that might be Canna musifolia for sixteen #5 cans with about three very plump rhizomes each. That was after sharing some with others at work, and leaving some for a neighbor of the neighbor who shared them with me. I intend to take some to the Pacific Northwest before the end of winter, but canned them all because I do not yet know when I will leave. I can always remove some from their cans, or just take them in their cans.

Since they fit into the trunk more easily than a previous batch of ‘Wyoming’ and a cultivar that resembles Canna flaccida that I obtained from another neighbor, they seemed to be less numerous. However, the previous batch included foliage. These rhizomes lacked foliage, and were actually a bit more numerous. Regardless, I am very pleased with them, and intend to enjoy growing them. As I closed the tailgate after unloading them, I could see that Rhody did not share my enthusiasm.

Spuria Iris

Spuria iris should be less rare.

Bearded iris are famously diversely colorful. Not much lacks from their floral color range. Spuria iris, Iris spuria, are quite different. Their floral color ranges only from purplish blue to bright white, all with prominent yellow throats. The least rare of this rare species is the subspecies carthaliniae, almost all of which blooms white. Seed is generally true to type.

Seed might be abundant without timely deadheading. However, propagation is easier by division of the copiously branching rhizomes. Such rhizomes are fibrous and tough, with comparably tough and wiry roots. They migrate to develop broad colonies, which should appreciate thinning every few years. They rarely get too crowded to bloom nicely though.

Spuria iris blooms for almost two weeks during late spring or early summer. Two or three flowers bloom in succession on stems that are nearly as high as their deciduous foliage. Leaves are elegantly narrow and upright like those of cattail, but get only about three feet tall. Carthaliniae subspecies defoliate later than others, which defoliate through summer, then foliate for autumn.

Spring Bulbs Begin In Autumn

Spring bulbs are dormant through winter.

Crocus, daffodil, hyacinth, tulip, freesia, anemone and ranunculus will not bloom until the end of winter and early spring. They are spring bulbs or early bulbs. Crocus and daffodil, including the various narcissus, will be among the first to bloom. The others as well as a few types of iris will bloom a bit later. After they finish, summer bulbs will begin to bloom.

Although they will not bloom for a few months, spring bulbs go into the garden now while they are dormant. Visually, they are still unimpressive. They are even more uninteresting when hidden from view by interment. Their planting season appropriately begins prior to Halloween, and continues as long as they remain dormant and available from nurseries.

Spring bulbs generally bloom earlier within their bloom season after early planting within their planting season. Similarly, later planting delays bloom. Therefore, periodic planting of groups of the same bulbs throughout their planting seasons prolongs their subsequent bloom season. They begin to disperse roots and grow as soon as they are in the ground.

However, growth through the cool and rainy weather of winter remains subdued. Foliage should remain safely below the surface of the soil until warmer weather during the end of winter or beginning of spring. Like so many other plants in the garden, bulbs rely on chill to adjust their respective schedules after dormancy, but do not want to be vulnerable to it.

Winter is so mild here though that some spring bulbs do not experience sufficient chill to perform reliably as perennials. Daffodil, for example, can naturalize where it experiences more chill. Here, it may bloom best for its first spring, with less bloom annually afterward. Extensive breeding has also compromised the reliability of many perennial spring bulbs.

Some spring bulbs are actually corms, rhizomes, tubers or tuberous roots, which function much like bulbs. All are specialized storage structures that contain all that they require to survive through dormancy and then start growth for another season. They replenish their resources through subsequent active seasons to repeat the process perhaps indefinitely.

Six on Saturday: Craigslist

Craigslist is becoming a bad habit for me. It was the source of the overly abundant canna that I featured earlier, as well as seven Mexican fan palms. Last Wednesday, I procured a big pile of surplus purple bearded iris and African iris, free of charge. The bearded iris are ideal for a new ‘iris bed’ that formerly lacked occupancy. The African iris were heeled in and canned for later installation into another landscape that is not yet developed. The acquisition was very fortuitous, but also necessitated a bit of effort to process all the iris. After I either canned or heeled in all of the African iris, I installed all of the bearded iris, fortunately, by yesterday evening.

1. African iris, Morea iridioides, (which is also fortnight lily, Dietes iridioides and Dietes vegeta), could have potentially been divided into more than a hundred individual pups!

2. A few small clumps of pups were either already separated from the primary colony, or were dug from elsewhere in the same garden, so were divided and processed separately.

3. The few divided and processed pups were then heeled into two #5 cans for installation directly into a landscape, preferably prior to resuming foliar growth at the end of winter.

4. The bulky primary colony was merely groomed and divided into four big clumps, and canned into #5 cans, likely to be divided as pups or smaller clumps for later installation.

5. Bearded iris generated more than a hundred rhizomes, which is enough for more than fifty linear feet if installed half a foot apart, and now occupies nearly half of the ‘iris bed’.

6. They might not look like much yet, but after settling in through winter, should bloom well for spring, grow through summer, and bloom spectacularly for the following spring.

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/

Six on Saturday: Canna Diss

Searching online for information regarding Canna can get discouraging for anyone who objects to the idolatry of Cannabis. It does not help that Canna indica is one of the more common species of Canna. Search engines seem to believe that they know more of what I want information about than I do. Well, I happen to enjoy my ten or so Canna. In fact, I grow way too many of them.  Three cultivars are particularly numerous here, even after giving most of them away to friends and neighbors. If installed directly into a landscape, rather than canned, there would be enough for a row almost exactly a hundred feet long! That would be with one foot spacing!

1. Gophers ate almost all of three of the four original Canna here. I canned the surviving rhizomes within only ten #1 cans. All three cultivars are now generating vigorous shoots.

2. Canna rhizomes are so extremely discounted at the end of their season that I violated my rule that forbids the purchase of new plants. It is very late, but they are growing well.

3. ‘Red King Humbert’ rhizomes cost less than a dollar each. Three got canned into each of ten #5 cans. They only need to grow enough before autumn to survive through winter.

4. Canna flaccida, or what I hope might be Canna flaccida, was dug and recycled after it had started growing last spring. New foliage emerged through its damaged older foliage.

5. ‘Wyoming’ was recycled from the same landscape, and at the same inconvenient time. Like the others, it will recover prior to winter dormancy, and then be ready for next year.

6. Canna bloom is about as appealing as the foliage is. Ours bloom bright yellow, orange or red. Others bloom with pastel yellow, pastel orange, pink or very pale yellowish white.

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/


Most cannas have more billowy bloom.

It grows from dormant rhizomes like a few of the popular early spring bulbs do. However, the many garden varieties of Canna are actually late or summer bulbs. They will become available after last frost, at about the time that early bulbs bloom. Also unlike early bulbs that mostly bloom prolifically once, Canna bloom sporadically from late spring until frost.

Canna foliage can be as appealing as the bloom. The big and lush leaves can be green, bronze, striped or irregularly variegated. ‘Australia’ has strikingly dark bronze foliage with red bloom. ‘Tropicana’ is striped green, yellow, bronze red and purplish pink, with orange bloom. ‘Stuttgart’ is irregularly variegated with white, with ribbony peachy orange bloom.

Of course, the bloom can be quite spectacular atop all that foliage too. Flowers might be pink, red, orange, yellow, creamy white, or a spotty combination of two such colors. Most popular cannas bloom with big and floppy flowers. Some have narrower and wispy floral parts. Bigger cannas can get taller than eight feet. All growth dies back after frost though. New growth regenerates fast in spring.

Bearded Iris

Pastels are perfected by bearded iris.

When there is not an app for that, there is probably a bearded iris that will work just fine. Really, there is just about every shade of yellow, blue, purple, orange, pink and almost-red imaginable, ranging from wildly bright to subdued pastel. There are actually several shades of white, and a few rare flavors of dark purplish black.

It seems that the most popular of the bearded iris bloom with two or more colors. The standards may be very different from the falls. Any part of the flower may be striped, spotted, blotched or bordered with another color. Flowers may be relatively simple or garishly ruffled. Many are fragrant.

Bearded Iris bloom between March and May. Some of the modern varieties bloom again in autumn. Flower stems can be as short as a few inches, or as tall as four feet, with only a few to several flowers. The rubbery and somewhat bluish leaves form flat fans that look neater if groomed of deteriorating older leaves. Each fan dies back after bloom, but is efficiently replaced by about two more new fans. Colonies of fans should be divided over summer every few years, or as they get too crowded to bloom well. Bearded iris likes well drained soil and at least six hours of direct sun exposure daily.

Many Perennials Want Seasonal Grooming

Peacock orchid bloom late, but eventually succumbs to frost and must be groomed.

Here on the west coast, autumn and winter weather is so mild that the native coral bells are already starting to develop new foliage on top of the old foliage from this last year. Technically, they are evergreen, so the old foliage does not need to be shed; but if it is not too much to ask, some types look better with a bit of grooming.

Other perennial plants that are from climates with stronger seasons and colder winters are not quite so evergreen. Many shed all of their foliage and are completely bare for at least part of the winter. Only a few, like cyclamen, are at their best through autumn and winter.

Dried watsonia foliage should be removed now if it has not been removed already. It is not so easy to pluck off like gladiola foliage is, so it should be cut off with shears. Because new foliage for next year develops before the old foliage of this past year is completely brown, it is often necessary to cut the old a few inches above the ground in order to avoid damaging the new.

The so called ‘evergreen’ daylilies can be even messier. New foliage is rather delicate, so it is easily tattered by the removal of old foliage. The ‘deciduous’ types may seem to be less appealing because they are bare for part of autumn and winter, but are so much easier to groom by simply removing all of the deteriorating old foliage as soon as it separates easily from the roots.

Deteriorating flowers can be removed from cannas; but their lush foliage can stay until it starts to deteriorate later in winter. Even if it survives winter, it should eventually be cut to the ground as it gets replaced by new growth in spring.

The many different iris have many different personalities. Most should be groomed sometime between summer and late autumn, although Dutch iris were groomed much earlier. Bearded iris that do not get divided can be groomed simply by plucking off big old leaves to expose smaller new shoots below.

Some dahlias bloom until they get frosted. Most though, are already finished. They do not need to be cut back all at once, but can be cut back in phases as leaves and stems dry and turn brown.

Horridculture – Stinky Flowers

P90807Wednesday is my day to rant. However, I neglected to get out to find a picture or even a topic to rant about. Instead, I found this ugly little . . . what I believe to be a dormant rhizome. It looks more like a tuber or a tuberous root, and very well could be. Someone at work brought it from his home garden, where countless more naturalized and became aggressively invasive.

I do not know for certain what it is. I only know that it is some species of Arum. We refer to it as the ‘death arum’ because, while in bloom, it smells like death. Yet, it seems to be immune to death. It is extremely resilient. All attempts to eradicate any of it have only angered it, and accelerated its migration into other formerly uninfested parts of the garden. Now we have it here.

I am told that the deciduous rhizomes . . . or whatever they are, remain dormant through summer, and then regenerate foliage once the rain starts in autumn. Their visually unimpressive but olfactorily objectionable flowers bloom by late spring or early summer. Foliage and bloom shrivel in warm summer weather, and the remaining seeded stalks collapse shortly afterward.

The thin rubbery leaves are intricately lobed and spotted, which is very distinct from foliage of other arums. Each thin bloom is comprised of a sickly greenish white spathe and a comparably sickly pale tan or yellowish spadix. Seeds are contained in tiny round fruits that resemble capers, that linger briefly on top of the spotted stalks of faded blooms. It all is as weird as it sounds.

I will can (pot) the rhizome . . . (let’s just leave it at that) before autumn, and see what it does. I certainly do not want to plant it into the ground where it can get established and proliferate. Perhaps I will just grow it as a potted foliar oddity, and snip off floral stalks before they bloom. Perhaps I should send it to my colleague in Los Angeles, three hundred and sixty miles away!

Like many of the genera in the family Araceae, what we know as the death arum exhibits an objectionable floral fragrance because it is pollinated by flies. It does what it must to attract the pollinators whom it relies on. The technique is obviously effective, because seeded fruit develops, and the seed within gets dispersed farther and faster than the rhizomes ( . . . ) can migrate.