Summer Dormancy Is No Mystery

90821thumbCalifornia 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.

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Workday

P90728Without 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.

Six on Saturday: Presbyterian Horticulture

 

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.P90323

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.P90323+

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!P90323++

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.P90323+++

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.P90323++++

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.P90323+++++

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:

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

Six on Saturday: Picture Dump

 

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.P90316

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.P90316+

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.P90316++

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.P90316+++

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.P90316++++

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.P90316+++++

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: Another Day At The Office

 

There is no rush to leave the office and shop when the weather is cold and rainy. We have been getting quite a few of the inside chores done. When we do go out in the rain, I do not like to take the camera out from under my rain gear; so I do not take many pictures. Besides, since most of my work involves pruning right now, I have not been working much around what is blooming or other interesting subjects.

1. Sitka spruce brought back from near Smith River within their native range are now happily canned in the recovery nursery at our shop. They look as if they were grown here, or are on a bench in a production nursery. They will eventually go out into the landscapes.P90302

2. Staghorn fern that the same colleague with the Sitka spruce brought back from his grandparents’ home in Orange County are not so happy. They were desiccated on arrival. Now that they are getting much more rain then then need, they are just rotting. The specimen that is still attached to the plywood on the left is probably beyond salvage. The specimen that broke its wire and fell onto the deck to the right is only partially viable. The viable portion will probably be separated from most of the rotting necrotic portion when it is attached to a new slab.P90302+

3. Colorado blue spruce and a young coast live oak are adjacent to the deck where the Sitka spruce and staghorn fern reside. This is not a good picture, but shows how the young oak to the left is crowding the older spruce to the right. Their main trunks are only about two feet apart at grade. The spruce was planted back in the middle of the 1980s, and would be a more desirable tree, but is very distressed, and is not likely worthy of salvage. The native oak grew from seed within only the past several years, and is not particularly remarkable, but happens to be quite healthy and well structured. It is not easy to decide which tree to cut down. I sort of suspect that the oak will win, and the spruce will need to go. Those are cruddy box elders in the background.P90302++

4. Bucket of rain water is impressively full next to the spruce and oak . . . and other spruces and staghorn ferns. There is an open recycle bin nearby that is also full. It must have been somewhat dark rather early in the morning for the flash to operate when I took this picture. I do not know if it ruined my selfie or just made it more artistic.P90302+++

5. Wild plum is still blooming in some spots. These survived all the rain rather well by delaying their bloom somehow. It will be raining again by the time you see this after midnight on Saturday morning, so this bloom will not last long. There may be others that bloom even later though, and with one exception, the flowering cherries have not started their bloom yet. That darkness in the background is the trunk of a big redwood tree.P90302++++

6. Wild plum close up shows the detail of the blossoms, and the unfocused silhouette of the redwood trunk in the background.P90302+++++

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: Above and Below

 

All that rain was excellent! Now it is cold. There was snow in Malibu in Southern California. It has not been this cold in quite a while. Nonetheless, the weather is grand, and not so cold in the middle of the day. The first three of these six pictures prove it.

1. This was just about sunrise on the first day in a while that did not start with rain. It was cold, and the sky was clear. The trees to the left are Douglas fir. The tree just to the right of center is a ponderosa pine. The tree in the right corner is a coast live oak. This is in one of those spots where different ecosystems collide. The firs merge into redwoods to the left. Ponderosa pines mixed with a few coast live oaks continue to the right, with more pines farther back. All are native.P90223

2. Now it is raining again. I would not say it was real rain, but merely a brief rain shower, with really big and soggy raindrops. Since it lasted only a few minutes, I would still classify this as a sunny day. Unfortunately, the raindrops are not visible in the picture; but the light duty clouds in an otherwise clear sky are. It was sunny when this picture was taken, which means that from some other vantage, this spot was at the end of a rainbow. Those trees are native (coastal) redwoods.P90223+

3. While looking up, I noticed that the exotic (nonnative) sweetgum is mostly defoliated. Rain tends to dislodge the colorful foliage in winter. The two leaning redwood trunks in the middle of the picture are a concern because, although they (and palms) are the most stable trees that I work with, redwoods do not accommodate structural deficiency very well. The asymmetrical distribution of the weight of the trunks above the curves exerts lateral tension on the trunk.P90223++

4. Below all these tall trees, we have a pile of nice madrone firewood that is ready to be split for next year. The native madrone is notorious for instability. Big trees often blow over, or just fall over because they are really bored. The tree that produced all this firewood was cut down because the lower trunk was so very rotten. Yet, as you can see, the firewood from upper limbs is in good condition. Madrone firewood is quite desirable, so this wood is expected to be gone soon.P90223+++

5. The shade under redwood forests is so dark that even these shade tolerant (exotic) gold dust plant want more sunlight. I should have just cut these down, but instead tried to give them a second chance. I pruned out all the dead material, and then pruned out some of the deteriorating stems, hoping that the process would stimulate new grown. That was almost a year ago. Not only has there been no growth or improvement, but the foliage looks even more distressed than it did before!P90223++++

6. Out in a sunnier spot, and after most others have finished, these (exotic) daffodils are still blooming. Actually, they have been blooming for a while. Since there are two different varieties blooming now, I suspect that those that bloomed here earlier were a different variety, or varieties. There is a bit of (exotic) tulip foliage mixed in with them. No bulbs were intentionally planted here on the riverbank, so were likely dumped here in soil that came from a planter or a landscape somewhere.P90223+++++

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: After The Storm

 

Contrary to popular belief, we do get a bit of wintry weather here. It is neither as cold nor as snowy as weather is in most other regions, but it gets sufficiently cool and rainy to let us know it is winter. In fact, here on the western slopes of the Santa Cruz Mountains, we get the little bit of extra weather that does not quite get over the Summit into the Santa Clara Valley. Clouds must unload slightly in order to gain sufficient altitude.

There have been more storms so far this winter than there normally are, and this last week was particularly stormy. It is both a lot of fun, and a lot of work. Storms are innately wet, as well as messy. By the time we catch up from one storm, another arrives. The first few storms are something to be celebrated. The last few start to be rather bothersome.

1. Do you see the well kept shop buildings on the left and right? Neither do I. This is what I found when I got to work on Thursday morning after the electricity was put out by a wicked storm. The lights in the middle are those of a car out on the road. I managed to set up the coffee ‘machine’ to make coffee for the crew when the electricity came back on. I also put the leftover coffee that someone made late the previous night into a pitcher, so that if the electricity did not come back on in time for the crew to make fresh coffee, the first few to arrive could warm up the leftover coffee in the . . . . . . microwave. Okay, perhaps that was not such a good idea. The coffee was just swell cold.P90216

2. Many trees fell during the last few storms. Many more trees lost significant limbs. This unfortunate coast live oak is not as bad as it looks. Once the stub of the fractured limb is removed, it should be just fine. We try to identify potentially hazardous trees, and either work with them to make them less hazardous, or remove them completely. It is nonetheless impossible to predict all hazards. I would have not considered this particular subject to be hazardous prior to the damage seen here.P90216+

3. Artificial poinsettias were removed about a month after Christmas. https://tonytomeo.com/2019/01/26/pseudodendron-falsifolia/ They are no longer seasonal. Besides, this is the stormy season here, when these artificial poinsettias would be likely to get blown about the neighborhood if left out. If they were to survive the storms, they would fade in sunnier weather of spring. But hey; why must I justify their removal? They are tacky! They will stay hanging in the barn until after next Thanksgiving.P90216++

4. Pruning scraps from zonal geraniums that needed to be pruned back earlier in winter were just too tempting. Rather than discard them, I processed them into cuttings. I tried to give most of them away, but ultimately needed to plug some back into the landscape. They get plugged this time of year so that they get soaked by the rain as they disperse roots. Many went into situations where they will be without automated irrigation. If planted too late, they would just desiccate when the rain stops. These are in a neat row along the base of a stone wall separating a few roses from the roadway, so they will get a bit of water from the roses. So far, they ALL are doing well. Propagation can be such a bad habit.P90216+++

5. This was NOT my idea. I am none too keen on Japanese maples. Yet, this one works very nicely for the particular landscape it is in. I am impressed by the vibrant red color because this particular tree is somewhat sheltered and partly shaded. (Exposure to sunlight and cool wintry weather enhances color.) It looks great among the redwoods.P90216++++

6. No, I do NOT grow ANY of the snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, or any of the hybrids. ‘Snowflakes’, Leucojum vernum, are only here because they naturalized on the riverbank, likely from seed or bulbs that washed in from a garden upriver. They are spreading quite nicely, and are pleased to bloom in this unirrigated spot after soaked by a few storms. I could have gotten a picture with more flowers in it, but most are already deteriorating. I got these as a closeup instead. I know they are not really snowdrops, but I can brag about them anyway.P90216+++++

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: Right Here – Right Now

 

There are certainly more impressive flowers at work. I suppose I should have gotten pictures of them. Instead, I just took these six pictures within minimal proximity to a where I happened to be working on Wednesday. I thought they would be more interesting than they are. I wanted to get a picture of the laurustinus #4 because others have been posting pictures of the same as if it is something important. Flowering quince #6 is my favorite here, and the only one that was not planted into the landscape. It grew from the roots of an old specimen that was in front of an old home that was demolished to redevelop the site. Because of it’s resiliency, we want to pull up some of the layered stems (that rooted where they lay on the soil) to plant in elsewhere.

1. Garrya elliptica – silktassel bloomed with very pendulous light beige blooms quite some time ago. These lasted longer than others in partial shade, but are now turning tan and getting dry. Silktassel is native here.P90202

2. Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Prostratus’ – trailing rosemary seems to bloom continually. I do not remember it without bloom here. Bees, which are active in all but the coolest of weather, like how it always here for them.P90202+

3. Arctostaphylos densiflora ‘Howard McMinn’ – Howard McMinn manzanita is a garden variety or cultivar of a species that is native not far north of here. I sort of think these waxy white flowers are too tiny to impress.P90202++

4. Vibrunum tinus ‘Spring Bouquet’ – laurustinus is actually blooming later here than where winters are colder. It naturalizes here. I suppose that those that grow from seed would not be of the same cultivar as the originals.P90202+++

5. Prunus cerasifera – flowering plum is rather sparse here because of the partial shade of larger trees. I do not know what cultivar this one is. I am not even sure if it is Prunus cerasifera. It does not look familiar to me.P90202++++

6. Chaenomeles speciosa – flowering quince is another one that I can not identify, although it seems to be the most common sort that I see about town.. I guessed the species, but will not even bother to guess a cultivar.P90202+++++

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/

Potted Plants Are Living Things

90109thumbCut Christmas trees really are the way to go. There is no obligation to take care of them after Christmas. They do not need to planted out into a garden that will be too small for them as they grow. They do not need to be maintained in a pot, only to get disfigured or partially defoliated before next Christmas. They simple get removed from the home and composted or otherwise disposed of.

Potted living Christmas trees may seem like a good idea, but they are not as sustainable as they seem to be. Only the smaller and more compact types of conifers can be confined to big pots or planted into compact garden spaces. Rosemary shorn into small cones happens do well either in big pots or out in the garden, and if preferred, can be allowed to assume its natural bushy form.

Many other potted plants that are popularly brought into the home for Christmas decoration are easier to accommodate but take a bit of effort. Poinsettias are the most familiar of these. They can grow as houseplants for years, and might hold their colorful bracts for months. In mild climates, they can be planted in the garden, but will never look like they did originally. Most get discarded.

Hollies and azaleas are more sustainable, but are not as popular. Of these, hollies are the easiest. They can be planted in larger pots or directly into the garden later, when the worst of winter is over. Azaleas will eventually drop their flowers, and will likely look very distressed for a few months, but if watered regularly, can regenerate new foliage that is adapted to their new environments.

Christmas cactus happens to be a delightful houseplant regardless of the season. It will also drop its flowers, but will generate appealing pendulous foliage that cascades nicely from hanging pots. It can bloom annually, although timing of bloom is quite variable. It can do the same outside, if sheltered. Amaryllis also prefers to stay potted. It will replace its tall flower stalks with a few leaves that sustain the bulbs until dormancy next autumn, and can bloom again next winter if given a chance.

Get Perennials Ready For Winter

81212thumbDilemmas are common in gardening. Should summer vegetables that are still producing be removed so that winter vegetables can get started on time? What about replacing summer annuals that are still blooming with winter annuals, and then replacing winter annuals with summer annuals half a year later? Should tender perennials be regarded as annuals, or get a second chance?

Right now, some perennials are looking tired. Many will be going dormant for winter. Many do not get much down time, and will start to develop new growth faster than old growth deteriorates. Not many make their intentions obvious. Deciding how to work with them can be confusing at times. It might take a few years and a few mistakes to get familiar with the habits and lifestyles of some.

If cut back too early, hardy zonal geraniums will not regenerate much until the weather gets warmer at the end of winter. In the interim, they are more likely to be killed by frost without the protection provided by old growth However, some varieties start to grow in winter. If not cut back soon enough, new growth mingles with old, so that they are difficult to separate when they do get cut back.

It is best to observe what hardy geraniums are up to before deciding on when to prune. If they start to develop vigorous new growth down near the ground, the old growth should probably be cut down as far as the new growth. It is likely better to take a chance that they might be damaged by frost. Those that do not start to grow right away can enjoy the insulation of old foliage for a while.

Thoroughly deciduous perennials, like deciduous daylilies, dahlias and some ferns, can be groomed of their deteriorated old growth without risk that they will start to regenerate new growth prematurely. However, cutting back some specie of salvia might actually stimulate development of exposed and frost sensitive new growth. Perennials that get damaged by frost later In winter should not be groomed of damaged growth right away. The damaged material provides a bit of insulation for lower growth, particularly if new growth was stimulated by the damage.