Fruit Trees Need Specialized Pruning

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Even almond trees need some pruning.

For centuries, fruit trees have been bred to produce unnaturally abundant and unnaturally big fruit. That has worked out well for those who enjoy the resulting fruit. It is not such an advantage for the exploited trees that must produce it. Without specialized pruning, most of such trees are unable to sustain healthy development of all the fruit they could potentially produce, or support the weight.

Specialized pruning concentrates resources into less excessive fruit of superior quality. It improves structural integrity of limbs that support the weight of all the fruit too. Trees that produce smaller and lighter fruit, such as cherries, may only need to be trimmed occasionally to eliminate structurally deficient growth. Heavier fruit, such as peaches, necessitates much more aggressive pruning.

Almost all deciduous fruit trees should be pruned about now, before they bloom and foliate at the end of winter. Such pruning is too severe to be done while the trees are active in spring. Summer pruning to maximize production within less space is the only practical option to dormant pruning. Evergreen fruit trees, such as citrus and avocado, should not be pruned or groomed during winter.

The main group of deciduous fruit trees that require dormant pruning in winter are stone fruit, of the genus Prunus. This includes peach, nectarine, apricot, plum, prune, cherry, various hybrids and almond. The second main group are pomme fruit, such as apple, pear and quince. Fig, persimmon and grapevines, as well as roses, need specialized and perhaps very aggressive pruning too.

Dormant pruning of deciduous fruit trees, roses and grapevines is too complex to describe adequately here in just a few paragraphs. Nonetheless, those who grow such plants must be aware of how important it is, and ideally, know how to do it. Nowadays, it is nearly impossible to procure services of horticultural professionals who know or care how to execute such procedures properly.

Bare Plants With Bare Roots

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Dormant plants do not miss soil.

Knowing how colorfully bulbs will eventually bloom can initially make planting them disappointing, since there is nothing to see for all the effort. Planting bare root plants is not much more rewarding. The bare stems are a bit more proof of the effort, but will do nothing until they break dormancy in spring. Now that Christmas trees have vacated nurseries, bare root plants will be arriving, and will need to be planted before winter ends.

As the name implies, bare root plants have bare roots, without the soil they were grown in. Better equipped nurseries ‘heel in’ bare root plants in moist sand, which simply means that the roots get buried temporarily. When purchased, the plants get pulled from the sand and wrapped for the trip to their new home garden, where they get planted permanently into real soil.

Alternatively, bare root plants can be prepackaged in bags of moist sawdust. They only need to be removed from their packaging and sawdust before getting planted into the garden. Mail order plants, including plants purchased online, often get packaged even more simply, with a damp bag around the roots, maybe with a bit of gel or damp paper. The plants are safely dormant, so are not even aware of what is going on.

The main advantage of bare root plants is that they cost about a third of what typical nursery stock in heavier cans of media (soil) cost. Because they are so much less cumbersome, several bare root plants can be purchased at a time, and brought home in a small car without much effort. Since they lack the luxury of the soil they were grown in, they immediately disperse their roots directly into the surrounding soil.

Roots of bare root plants should be spread away from each other at planting. Soil amendment is nice, but should not be so copious that roots will not want to disperse outside of the amended soil. Even if rain is expected, newly planted bare root plants should initially get soaked so that soil settles around the roots. Grafted plants should be planted with the graft union above grade.

Fruit trees such as apricot, cherry, plum, prune, peach, nectarine, almond, apple and pear, as well as roses, are the most popular of bare root plants. Flowering crabapple, flowering cherry, poplar, willow, lilac, forsythia, wisteria and grape are also available.

Bare Root Season Has Begun

00108thumbBefore all the Christmas trees were sold and relinquished their space, the smaller types of bare root stock started arriving in local nurseries. Blackberries, raspberries, blueberries, gooseberries, currants, grapes, strawberries, rhubarb and asparagus, may have been available for a while. More substantial bare root stock, such as roses, fruit trees and ornamentals, may already be arriving.

Bare root stock is known as such simply because its roots are bare. It gets dug as dormancy begins in autumn, and separated from the soil it grew in. It remains dormant as it gets transported to nurseries, and then to home gardens where it ultimately gets planted. It is completely unaware of the otherwise unsurvivable processes until it wakes up to resume growth in a new home in spring.

The roots of some of the smaller bare root plants and roses, as well as some fruit trees, are bagged in damp sawdust. Most bare root fruit trees, as well as some of the smaller plants, are merely heeled-in to damp sand, and upon purchase, pulled from the sand and bagged without packing material. Roots can soak in water for a few days prior to planting, but will not survive dry exposure.

There are several advantages to bare root stock. It is significantly less expensive than canned (potted) stock. It is also easier to get from a nursery and into the home garden. Branch structure can develop directly in a garden, rather than adapt from how it developed earlier in a nursery. New roots disperse directly into the soil, so need not recover from former confinement within a can (pot).

The more popular bare root fruit trees that are now becoming available are stone fruits, pomme fruits, persimmons, figs, mulberries and walnuts. Stone fruits are those of the genus Prunus, which contain single large seeds known as stones. These include apricots, cherries, plums, prunes, peaches, nectarines, almonds and their weird hybrids. Apples, pears, and quinces are pomme fruits.

(Almonds are nuts that are actually stones of leathery fruits that dry and separate from the stones as hulls.)

Rose Hips

P91117Chopped dried rose hips can be purchased from a supermarket in town that stocks an impressive variety of useful bulk herbs. They are used as a dietary supplement and remedy for several minor ailments. Although most of the copious vitamin C they contain while fresh is ruined by drying and storage, they are still popularly used as a remedy or preventative for colds and flu.

It would be reasonable to assume that the rose hips that are available in markets would be from a species that has been cultivated and developed for a few centuries. After all, rose hips have been used as an herbal supplement for a very long time. Surprisingly, those that are available in the local market here are from the common and native California wild rose, Rosa californica.

That means that those that grow wild on the outskirts of the landscapes here produce the same rose hips that can be purchased in markets. There are only a few others species of wild rose that grow wild in California, and even fewer that are endemic locally. Those in the picture were actually planted into a landscape composed of natives, but are thought to be Rosa californica.

I normally leave these rose hips for the birds; but because the birds take all my cotoneaster berries, I am not too worried bout them getting enough to eat. I left the rose hips that are pretty where they can be seen, but took quite a few that were out of view on the backside of a riparian thicket of rose bramble. I do not yet know what to do with them, but will figure that out later.

Once dried, these rose hips will be easily pulverized into coarse and seedy ‘grounds’ that can be added to blends of herbal tea.P91117+

Rose Lily

P90601KWhat a delightful surprise! It happens sometimes here in the rose garden. It may not look like much, as a short stemmed single lily floret that is mostly overwhelmed by the English lavender that I held back with my boot for this picture. It should be three feet tall or so, with several florets. The surprise is that no one planted it. Well, at least no one planted it recently. This rose garden has more history than is obvious from what blooms here now.
Old pictures show that it was formerly an extravagant perennial bed, with an abundance of canna, dahlia, penstemon, pelargonium, Shasta daisy, Japanese anemone, various iris, and of course, various lilies. Lower annuals were cycled through the seasons at the front edge. Only a few roses bloomed against the low wall at the rear. Soil was likely regularly amended with compost and fertilizer. Someone put significant effort into maintaining it.
Nearby redwoods appreciated all the effort, and extended their roots into the fertilized, richly amended and regularly irrigated soil. Their growing canopies extended over and shaded the upper portion of the perennial bed so that all but daylilies and Japanese anemone were replaced with ferns. Perennials that got dug and stored for their dormant seasons were later installed elsewhere as it became obvious that they would not be happy here.
Because the few roses did not seem to mind the redwood roots, a few more, as well as English lavender, were added in informal rows to replace deteriorating perennials. Annuals require more effort than they did originally, but are still cycled through the seasons in a narrow row at the front edge. The rose garden now seems to have always been here, as if intentionally planned. Every once in a while, we find reminders of extravagant history.

Six on Saturday: Abbreviated Rose Parade

 

There are a few other roses that I could have gotten pictures of in order to submit a complete set of six, but I wanted to show off just these four that bloom in what is known as the ‘rose bed’. A fifth purple cultivar was not blooming when I got these pictures. What seems to be a sixth cultivar that I did not get a picture of is really suckers of ‘Doctor Huey’ understock that appeared far enough away from the original plant to not be a problem.

There are several rose shrubs and standards (trees) in the rose bed, but they are limited to these five and a half distinct and mostly unidentified cultivars. They are the most prominently located roses that I work with. The other roses are in other landscapes, or at the yard of the maintenance shops. Two of the larger groups of roses are uniform beds of carpet roses, which I am really none too keen on.

1. The few rose standards (trees) seem to be floribundas. This one looks familiar, but not familiar enough for me to guess the name of it.P90525

2. I would guess that this hybrid tea rose that grows in a shrub form is ‘Double Delight’. It does happen to be quite pleasantly fragrant.P90525+

3. This one seems to be a floribunda like the standards (trees) but grows in shrub form like #2 above. I do not believe it is notably fragrant.P90525++

4. I would guess that this one is the common floribunda ‘Iceberg’, growing as a standard. One is a double graft with a purple floribunda.P90525+++

5. Well, that was it. The fifth purple cultivar is not blooming, and ‘Doctor Huey’ bloomed only once for the year. This nearby yellow calla is irrelevant.P90525++++

6. This piece of dead madrone is just as irrelevant, but I though it was amusingly sculptural. I probably should have been more careful while cutting it apart.P90525+++++

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/

Wild Roses

60518Compared to extensively bred garden varieties, wild roses are not much to look at. Their tiny flowers do not get much wider than two inches, and may not get much wider than those of blackberry, with only about five petals. Flower color ranges only between pale luminescent white and pale pink. Bloom is typically rather brief in mid spring. Only a few healthy specimens bloom again later.

The main advantage to wild roses is that they are ‘wild’. Once established, they do not need much more water than they get from annual rainfall. Without pruning, canes of larger varieties develop into intimidating thickets that bloom annually. Smaller types stay short, but are intimidatingly thorny nonetheless. The deciduous foliage is not bothered too much by mildew, blackspot or insects.

Some types of wild roses appreciate a bit of pampering that might be offensive to other wild plants and most natives. Winter pruning, occasional summer watering, and perhaps a bit of fertilizer improve bloom. Alternatively, pruning after spring bloom may stimulate a second phase of bloom. Long canes can grow roots where they touch the ground, and grow into new spreading plants.

Roses Can Not Be Neglected

P80602+Roses are not for the meek. They are too demanding, too sensitive, too thorny, and without their flowers, they are not even very attractive. They have no business in a low-maintenance landscape, or in a landscape maintained by mow, blow and go gardeners. Those who want to grow rose plants for their flowers should be ready to give them what they want, and to prune them aggressively.

The most aggressive pruning gets done during winter dormancy. That process alone can be quite intimidating for those who are just getting acquainted with roses. After seeing them grow through the year, it seems counterproductive to prune big plants back to only a few short canes. Yet, by now, those canes should have produced much taller new canes that are already blooming profusely.

Now it is time to prune roses again, or will be time to do so soon. Deteriorating flowers need to be pruned away to promote continued bloom, a process known as ‘deadheading’. Otherwise, the fruiting structures that develop, known as ‘rose hips’, divert resources and inhibit bloom. Of course, blooms taken as cut flowers leave no hips, but they might leave stubs that may need grooming.

The popular technique of pruning back to the fifth leaf below a hip is not necessarily what roses want. It probably originated from the recommendation of pruning back to a low leaf with five leaflets because the buds associated with upper leaves with three or less leaflets are not as likely to develop into productive stems. However, pruning a bit too low is probably better than pruning too high.

When cutting roses to bring in, it is better to cut long stems, and then shorten them later if necessary. Each stem should be cut just above a leaf so that the bud in the leaf axil can develop into a new stem without much of a stub above it. The cut stem left behind on the plant should not be so long that it extends too far above the canes that were pruned over winter, or becomes crowded.

Crowded stems inhibit growth of vigorous blooming canes, and are more susceptible to rust, mildew and blackspot.P80602++

The Seventh On Saturday

P90511KThis is the one that got away; or actually, the one that was never caught. It bloomed after I got the pictures for the ‘Six on Saturday’ post for this morning. It could be the same unopened bud in picture #3 of the Six on Saturday post, as it is now blooming. If not the same bud, it is on the same plant, and now looks even more like the common ‘Simplicity’ rose. It is not my favorite, but I did not select it.
That is how the recovery nursery works. It is where we bring salvageable plants that need to be removed from their landscapes. Some were in the way of other projects. Some were not the right plants for their particular situations. Some were even donated by neighbors who thought we might be able to utilize them somewhere in the landscapes.
Some of plants brought in are not there long. They might get groomed and then moved directly to a more appropriate situation. That happens more during winter, when we dig up dormant plants and relocate them while the weather is still cool and rainy. We did this with a big overgrown forsythia that was dug and divided into five or so new plants before getting relocated into a new landscape. It helps is we can delay relocation until winter.
There are many potentially salvageable plants that must be moved at a particular time, even if it is not while they are dormant. They get groomed and canned (potted), and can take their time to recover before we put them back into the landscapes. Unfortunately, many do not recover adequately. Some end up staying too long because we can not find homes for them. After several years, the roses will finally be going to a new home soon.

Six on Saturday: The Yard

 

This is no home garden. It is the yard outside the various shops of the Maintenance Department where I work part time. It contains some of the salvageable plant material that we try to recycle from some of the landscapes from which it must be removed. Over winter, some plants get dug and relocated directly, rather than come to the yard. Otherwise, plants come here to get canned (potted) to recover, and then find a home.

Because no one sees our yard, we need not maintain it like we maintain the rest of the landscapes. Consequently, it collects a few weeds. Also, because there are other shops in the same buildings, there are a few unexpected odds and ends left strewn about by other types of professionals, such as the electrician. Hence, #6.

1. You know, when I took this picture, I though that the annual grassy weeds somehow looked pretty in front of the wild cucumber vine on the cyclone fence. I’m not the artsy sort; so will not try to explain it.P90511

2. Mixed in with the wild cucumber vine, which incidentally makes not edible cucumbers, this potato vine blooms, but incidentally makes not potatoes. Of course, I never dug it up to confirm that claim.P90511+

3. This rose, which might be ‘Simplicity’, has been here for a few years. No one remembers where it came from. It was supposed to get planted into a landscape while it was still dormant. Too late now.P90511++

4. This rose might be ‘Medallion’, but it is hard to say for certain. It is not as big as it should be. It was supposed to get planted while dormant too. There actually is a landscape that can use both of them.P90511+++

5. Shasta daisy has been blooming for a while now. You would think that it would be easy to find a home for this one, but it is still in the yard. It is big enough to divide into more plants if still here this winter.P90511++++

6. Spring bulbs are done now.P90511+++++

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/