Apologies for the lapse of posting articles as typically scheduled at midnight here for this morning and yesterday morning. The article that had been scheduled for yesterday morning posted an hour earlier, at 11:00 p.m. on Sunday night. The article that had been scheduled for this morning posted an hour earlier, at 11:00 p.m. last night. I neglected to adjust the schedule on Sunday for Daylight Saving Time.
January 1, 2020! The first day of the Twenties!
The flora in our gardens north of the Tropics must think we are crazy for making such a fuss about it while they are trying to sleep. Even flora south of the tropics does not understand. All flora everywhere is more concerned with how the seasons change according to the position of the Earth around the Sun. Precise dates, times and numbers are meaningless.
It sort of seems odd to me that within each time zone, it is the same time and date both north and south of the Equator, but the seasons of each side are opposite. Today started in sparsely populated regions of the Pacific Ocean, worked its way through Australia earlier, and is somehow still the same ‘today’ that is here now. Yet it is winter here, and summer to the south.
Now, if January can be in the cool time of year here, and the warm time of year in Australia, it seems to me that winter could be both the cool season here, and the warm season in Australia. If the dates are the same, it seems like the seasons should be too. Alternatively, if the seasons are half a year early or late in opposite Hemispheres, it seems like dates should be too.
According to such logic, it could be either winter or July 1 in Australia and elsewhere south of the Equator right now! . . . But would that be July 1 of 2019 or 2021? Too many technicalities!
Well, it is more than the flora in the garden is concerned about anyway. It is winter here now, and summer south of the Equator. It is the beginning of January everywhere that the Gregorian calendar is used, north and south.
HAPPY NEW YEAR!
Note: ‘Horridculture’ will resume next Wednesday. It did not seem appropriate for the first day of 2020.
‘Tis the season for seasonal potted plants. These are not well established houseplant or potted plants that live out on porches and patios through the year. Seasonal potted plants are those that are purchased at their prime, allowed to live in our homes and offices while they continue to bloom or maintain their foliage, and then most likely get discarded when no longer visually appealing.
Poinsettia epitomizes winter seasonal potted plants. Florists’ cyclamen, azalea, holly, amaryllis, Christmas cactus and small living Christmas trees are other overly popular choices. All are grown in very synthetic environments designed to force optimal performance, with no regard to survival afterward. They are like cut flowers that are not yet dead. They are true aberrations of horticulture.
Technically, any of them can survive as potted plants, or out in the garden after they serve their purpose as appealing seasonal potted plants. Their main difficulty is that it is not so easy for them to recover from their prior cultivation, and adapt to more realistic environmental conditions. For now, it is best to enjoy them at their best, and try to maintain them at their best for as long as possible.
Eventually, they all experience a phase in which their original growth deteriorates to some extent, while they start to generate new growth that is adapted to the situation that they are in at the time. Christmas cactus are probably the most proficient at adapting, and becoming delightful houseplants. They are even likely to bloom occasionally, although not on any particular schedule for winter.
Holly, azalea and cyclamen can eventually get planted out in the garden. Most hollies grow into large evergreen shrubbery, but do not produce as many berries as they originally did. Azaleas are cultivars that were developed to be seasonal potted plants, so are a bit more finicky than those developed more for landscapes. Cyclamen can be added to pots of mixed annuals and perennials.
Living Christmas trees are not so easy to accommodate. Most are pines that need their space.
Most of us here agree that the minimal bit of precipitation that fell from the sky on Thursday was not real rain. There are a few different theories about what it actually was though. It could be considered to have been drizzle. It alternatively could have been heavy fog or mist. Some of us make up silly names for what it was, such as fine rain, dusting, spritzes, sprinkles or mizzle.
Is it just me, or do those last three sound like inane kitten names? ‘Dusting’, sounds dirty and dry, which it was not.
Whatever it was, it was the second occurrence of such precipitation since the rainy season ended last spring. Something similar happened on the last day of September. I wrote about it in my other blog, with a picture of it on the hood of a parked car, rather than the windshield. I think it was more of a surprise then because it was earlier, and the chance of precipitation was slim.
This weather pattern is still within what would be considered normal here. The rainy season typically starts a bit earlier, even if with just a single primary storm passing through, followed by a long pause before more follow. There is no strict schedule though. We know that the rain will eventually start, and that rainy seasons that start late tend to provide significantly more rain.
Rain is likely just as uncomfortable here as it is everywhere else. Perhaps it is even dirtier, because it rinses off dust and crud that has been accumulating since spring. No one wants to work in their garden while it is wet. Nonetheless, because there is no rain for nearly half the year, the first storm of a season is something to be celebrated. The forecast predicts no celebration yet.
Summer really did end here. There was a minimal frostless frost to prove it more than two weeks ago. This climate just happens to lack the more apparent seasonal changes that others get to show off. Except for a bit of drizzle last Thursday, and a bit at the end of September, there has been no rain since last spring. It may seem to be boring, but such weather is normal here.
1. There is typically more foliar color by now. Sweetgums are only beginning to yellow. However, these dogwoods started to defoliate early without much color. This is about as good as it got.
2. Not all of the warm season annuals have been replaced with cool season annuals. These petunias are blooming too happily to be replaced with pansies or violas like we installed elsewhere.
3. Roses continue to bloom. This one looks like ‘Double Delight’ to me. I really do not know what it is. The flowers are rather small, so it must have noticed that nights are longer and cooler.
4. These two look silly to me because both are grafted together onto the same standard (tree rose). I believe they are ‘Iceberg’ and ‘Burgundy Iceberg’. I would not mind them individually.
5. Even by our local standards, roses should be finishing by now, with only a few that are still blooming when they get pruned in winter. I do not know what this one is, but it still looks great.
6. This is my favorite of these six pictures. I do not know what this rose is either. It is in a neighbor’s garden. It did not start to bloom until part was through summer, and is now at its best.
This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:
Halloween is a topic that I could rant about for days. Seriously. I loathe it. I dislike any formerly respectable holiday that has been ruined by excessive commercialization. We all know what happened to Christmas. For me, Halloween, in some regards, is even worse. Christmas is at least pretty. Halloween is intended to be morbid and grotesque and creepy and . . . just plain bad.
This should be about gardening though. Yes, there is always that guy who gets too drunk at the Halloween party down the road, but manages to stagger just far enough to vomit on my lawn. Then, I need to figure out how to get all the toilet paper out of the redwoods. The nasturtiums that get trampled by hasty brats who are too old for trick-or-treating will eventually recover.
The worst, though, are the Halloween ‘decorations’ in the front yard! We put too much work into maintaining our gardens in good condition to make them look so bad. I do not care if it is just for one day out of the year. Seriously, it is just wrong, on so many levels. Why on Earth should I want my garden to look as cheap and trashy as young ladies dressed up as naughty nurses?!
Pumpkins and even Jack-O’-lanterns are tolerable, and even appealing in a traditional sort of way, but spiderwebs make me think that the witches could put their brooms to better use than frequent flier miles. All those angry black cats should more efficiently control all the spiders and bats. Tombstones?! – Corpses in various degrees of decay?! – There goes the neighborhood!!
What about the effigies concealed by white sheets, and the other effigies hanging from trees and porches? Whoever thought those were good ideas?! Perhaps Brent can share some insight.
California buckeye, Aesculus californica, is an enigma. How does it survive while defoliated for so much of the year? Not all are so mysterious. Those that live in sheltered or forested situations behave like normal deciduous trees, by defoliating in autumn, and refoliating in spring, after a brief winter dormancy. Those that are more exposed in warm and windy situations make us wonder.
After their brief winter dormancy, exposed California buckeye trees refoliate early in spring, as they should. Then, only a few month later, they defoliate through the warmest and most arid part of summer, which might be a few months long! As the weather cools and the rain starts, they refoliate briefly for autumn, only to defoliate in time for their winter dormancy. They are ‘twice deciduous’.
How do they photosynthesize enough to survive? It seems like they would consume more resources in this process that they could generate. They obviously know what they are doing, since they survive quite nicely in the wild. Furthermore, they are not the only species that can do this. Sycamores sometimes do it if the weather is just so, or if they get infested with anthracnose too severely.
Most deciduous plants defoliate only in winter because that is the worst time to try to photosynthesize. There is less sunlight available while the days are shorter, and the weather is cloudier. Frost, wind and snow would cause much more damage if deciduous plants retained their foliage. Defoliation is how they accommodate the weather. It is no different for plants that defoliate in summer.
Much of California is within chaparral or even desert climates. Native plants, as well as plants that are from similar climates, know how to live here. If they happen to be in a hot and dry situation, some may go dormant until the weather improves, even if they do not go dormant through the mild winters. This is why wild arums and some unwatered acanthus have died back to the ground, and why naked lady amaryllis will remain naked until the first rains in autumn.
Without prior notice, I was informed on Friday morning of a workday on Saturday morning at Felton Presbyterian Church. That was yesterday. Since there was no time to get other chores done in advance, I was an hour late. Considering that we only work for four hours between eight and noon, one hour is rather significant. I felt compelled to attend regardless. A few friends who are parishioners of Felton Presbyterian Church appreciate it.
The difficulty of not attending is that there are several other volunteers who do attend, and they all have very different ideas, or no idea at all, about how to accomplish what needs to be done in the landscape. It is amazing how much damage can be done with a few light duty power tools and too much undirected ambition. Even when I am there, it is difficult to convince the others that I know more about horticulture than all of them combined.
For the past several years, I had been pruning a flowering crabapple tree to renovate the branch structure that was mutilated by someone with loppers and power hedge shears. Yes, hedge shears. I had pruned the tree for clearance above a parking lot on one side, and a patio on the other, but with low branches in between to partly obscure the view of parked cars from the patio. Bloom was spectacular, and not compromised by the pruning.
Then I missed a workday. Even though the flowering crabapple tree did not need to be pruned at that time, someone lopped away the lower limbs indiscriminately, and then sheared the top! There were mutilated stubs all over the new exterior of the canopy. Much of the blooming stems for the following season were removed. It was very disappointing to see all of my effort wasted so pointlessly. Now, I need to start the whole process over.
However, when I got there today, a planter box below the crabapple tree was being dismantled and removed. I could not work in the area, so must return to start the process of renovating the crabapple tree. Realistically, it should be done while the tree is dormant in winter, even if it compromises bloom for the following spring somewhat. The tree is so gnarly and congested now that it is unlikely that anyone would notice a few less blossoms.
As frustrating as it can be, we actually get quite a bit done. These lily-of-the-Nile in the picture above were one of our projects many years ago. They were recycled from a garden in Aptos from which they needed to be removed. We split, groomed and plugged them. Most were promptly removed and discarded by someone else who did not realize that we had just installed them. But hey, at least these few survived and continue to bloom.
Subjects for more than just a few of my illustrations are found in the simple landscape of Felton Presbyterian Church. Until the last year or so, I had been able to participate in more of the seasonal work days, when we do most of the maintenance of the landscape, as well as a few other chores. No one seems to mind that I am Catholic.
The biggest and best trees, including the big coast live oak, Quercus agrifolia, out front (which I should have gotten a picture of) are native, and were there before the site was developed. Smaller trees of the same species have appeared since then. Also, a nice big catalpa, Catalpa speciosa, appeared right out front, just to the south of the big coast live oak. Otherwise, most of the landscape is an odd mix of what various parishioners contribute to it.
1. Naked lady, Amaryllis belladonna, bloomed late last summer, just before the foliage started to develop in autumn. They are blooming again! Now I know where fake roses come from.
2. Breath of Heaven, Coleonema pulchrum, has a name that is more appropriate to a Church than ‘naked lady’. The flowers are tiny, and not very impressive, but are pretty against the very finely textured foliage.
3. Pot marigold, Calendula officinalis, has been modestly naturalized here for years. There are just enough to be pretty, without being invasive. Goodness! Naked ladies and pot!
4. Flowering maple, Abutilon spp., was contributed by a parishioner who has many growing wild and blooming in a variety of colors at here home in the same neighborhood where I work. She gave us many of the same.
5. Dock, Rumex crispus, has a cool name, but is really just a weed. I have been trying to kill this one for years! It will not die. The root is mixed with tree roots. Now, it looks so fat and happy that I sort of want to leave it.
6. Lichen (which I can not identify with a Latin name) on the limbs of the crape myrtle featured last week got noticed enough for it to get a close up picture this week. I don’t understand the allure. I’m not lichen this one.
Since I did not use any of the pictures of camellias from Nuccios’ Nursery in Altadena that Brent sent to me (that I mentioned last week), I will try to share them next week, even though they finished blooming already.
This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:
No topic. No excuse. I just have these few pictures that I have no other use for. Some are sort of interesting, depending on perspective. Some are weird. #5 is just plain unsightly.
I considered sharing six pictures of camellias from Nuccios’ Nursery in Altadena that Brent sent to me, but I did not want to totally dismiss these pictures. Besides, Brent takes really lame pictures. I might share them next week just so we all can see how lame they are. I believe that most are different from the camellias at work that I shared pictures of last year, but I really do not know.
1. Arum italicum, which is also known simply as Italian arum, is something that I had always dismissed as a naturalized and sometimes invasive exotic species. In other words, I thought of it merely as a weed. Then, I noticed others using the foliage with cut flowers. It never occurred to me how pretty it is. I am not sure if this is the real deal, but it is what grows here. Some of the garden varieties that others have shared pictures of are more intensely variegated. It seems to me that another species that is not variegated might live here too, but I can not remember where I saw it.
2. It never rains in Southern California. This is not Southern California. Besides, contrary to popular belief, it really ‘does’ rain in Southern California. Anyway, the incessant and abundant rain has been damaging a few of the spring blooming flowers, although most are doing quite well. This odd bearded iris bloom seems to be melting. Those that bloomed immediately afterward are doing just fine. The stems seem to me to be unusually slim for bearded iris, but I am no expert.
3. WHAT IS THIS?!? I believe it to be Kerria japonica, which is also known simply as Japanese kerria. . . . sort of like Arum italicum, which is also known simply as Italian arum. I thought it was something completely different until it bloomed. I will not say what I though it was, because my assumption was about as lame as Brent’s camellia pictures, and we can’t have that.
4. Clematis armandii, which is also known simply as Armand clematis (I bet you didn’t see that one coming.) is more popularly know here as evergreen clematis. It grows like the weed that it is, and climbs into the lemon tree that it is next too. It always seems to be very vigorous and healthy, but many of the leaves have crispy tips. Those at the top of the picture are about half dead! The vine does not get any fertilizer, although it probably reaches where other plants are fertilized. The damage is attributed to the water.
5. Lagerstroemia indica, which is NOT also known simply as Indian lagerstroemia, is the familiar crape myrtle. Some might disdainfully spell it without the first ‘e’. I am none to keen on it either. Actually, I am none too keen on its overuse! It is everywhere, and very often in situations that it does not belong in. This one is under larger trees, so does not get enough sunlight to bloom well. Prior to pruning, it was more disfigured than it is now. Since it can not grow as tall as it would like to be, it should be pollarded annually. As it matures and develops knuckles, some of the superfluous stems can be removed. As much as I dislike crape myrtle in bad situations, I want this tree to be pollarded properly. ‘Crape murder’ is unacceptable! There are MANY in the region that are indiscriminately hacked by so-called ‘gardeners’, who leave nasty stubs and unsightly stubble.
6. Eureka lemon originated as a ‘sport’, or mutant growth, of Lisbon lemon. The only difference between the two is that Lisbon lemon produces all fruit within a limited season, while Eureka lemon produces a bit less within the same season, and then continues to produce a few additional fruit sporadically throughout the year. Lisbon lemon works well for orchards that produce lemons for lemon products. Eureka lemon is better for home gardens, where it is always happy to provide lemons whenever they are desired. I got this picture of a single ripening fruit because there are not many others on the tree right now. That means the tree is doing its job; and people who work here are using the lemons.
This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate: