Six on Saturday: Off Schedule

 

Every year is different. The weather is different. Bloom times are different. Growth rates are different.

1. Asiatic lily. This is one of five that were planted late enough last winter to be blooming right now, after others have finished. I would not have planted them so late, but that was when one of the neighbors shared them. They are a different color of the same sort of lily as the rose lily that was also blooming late last week.P90608

2. Peruvian lily. It seems to me that they were only beginning to bloom by this time last year. This year, they started blooming sparsely more than a month ago, and were blooming as profusely as they are now more than two weeks ago. There are pink and peach Peruvian lilies here too. I showed them off last years. (A peach flower can be seen out of focus at the bottom of the picture. A pink flower can be seen out of focus at the lower left corner of the previous picture #1 of Asiatic lily.P90608+

3. Rhododendron. Some bloom early and get battered by winter weather. Some bloom late and might get slightly roasted in the arid air of late spring. This one always bloom late like this, and has no problem with the weather. I do not know what cultivar it is. It certainly seems happy.P90608++

4. Dahlia. #1 Asiatic lily bloomed late. #2 Peruvian lily bloomed early. #3 rhododendron bloomed late. This dahlia did both. Dahlias typically only begin to bloom late in June. As you can see, this one already bloomed. I would not have shared this bad picture of a deteriorating early bloom, but was impressed that it bloomed at all. You see, it was dug and stored TWO winters ago, and then forgotten about. It somehow survived in storage through last year. I found it late last winter, and after determining that part of it was actually still viable, buried it right behind the lilies #1. It grew as if nothing had ever happened, and bloomed a year late and a month early. It has nice buds on in, so should resume bloom right on schedule, and continue to frost.P90608+++

5. Boston ivy. Four were planted over winter to climb a concrete retaining wall and a pair of concrete pillars supporting a bridge. The plan is to remove the Algerian ivy that hangs down over the retaining wall as it is replaced by the Boston ivy climbing up from below. I do not want to remove the Algerian ivy until necessary. I just want to keep it out of the way. I did not expect the Boston ivy to start growing like a weed so early. I cut the Algerian ivy farther to the left after getting this picture.P90608++++

6. Flowering cherry. Two plants; above were early. Two were late. One was both early and late. Well, this one won’t break the tie. These flowering cherries bloomed on time and are well foliated as they should be. In fact, they are better foliated and healthier than they have been in several years. They were so unhealthy last year that we had planned to cut them down and replace them by now. We just have not done so because we have not found replacements for them yet. Therefore, we are late; but it is not their fault. If it were at all possible, I would not remove them.P90608+++++

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/

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Way Beyond Last Frost Date

90410thumbScheduling of gardening chores is as important now as it ever was. We plant warm season vegetables and annuals in time for spring and summer. We plant cool season vegetables and annuals for autumn and winter. We pick flowers as they bloom. We harvest fruits and vegetables as they ripen. We watch the seasons change on our calendars, as well as in the locally specific weather.

Yet, the one scheduling tool that we do not hear as much about as we did when agriculture was more common in the region is the ‘last frost date’. It refers to the average date of the last potentially damaging frost for a specific region. The last of such frosts might actually be earlier or later, but the last frost date remains a standardized time to plan particular procedures and planting around.

There are likely a few reasons why we do not talk about the last frost date much. The most relevant reason is likely the timing. Around here, the last frost date is sometime in January. It is earlier in some spots, and later in others, but it is sometime between January 1 and 30. It is simply too early to limit much of what we do in the garden in early spring, and is irrelevant to most winter chores.

It might seem to be just as irrelevant now, since the last frost was so long ago. Seed for warm season vegetables and annuals is sown as the weather gets warmer only because it would grow too slowly while the weather is too cool in winter, not because of a threat of frost. There really is quite a bit of time between the last frost and warm spring weather, while the weather is still rather cool.

However, pruning of plants that were damaged by frost should have been delayed at least until after the last frost date, and perhaps as late as spring. Although unsightly, damaged growth shelters inner growth from subsequent frost. Besides, premature pruning stimulates new growth that is more sensitive to subsequent frost. Most of such pruning is delayed until just after the last frost date.

If delayed longer, fresh new growth will show how far back damaged stems must get pruned.

Warm Weather Confuses Dormant Plants

60217thumbClimate is what makes gardening so excellent here. It is just warm enough in summer for plants that like a bit of heat, but not too unbearably hot for too long. It is just cool enough in winter for plants that like a chill, but not cold enough for hard frost or heavy snow. The climate is also comfortable for us while out in the garden! Yet, even local climate is neither perfect nor predictable.

El Nino is still out there, and likely to deliver an abundance of rain. The rain last month was great while it lasted. This presently dry and warm weather in between has been excellent, but is likely to cause serious consequences. Some deciduous plants that are normally bare through winter are being deprived of adequate dormancy. Some are blooming prematurely, and may foliate soon.

When the rain resumes, it will ruin some of the premature bloom. This is generally harmless for most fruitless flowering trees like the various acacias, flowering plums and saucer magnolias, but compromises their most alluring feature. It can be more dangerous to flowering pears (including evergreen pear) and flowering crabapples, because wet blossoms can be infected with fire blight.

The more serious problem is that rain ruins blossoms and juvenile fruit of various deciduous fruit trees. Stone fruits such as almonds, apricots, cherries, plums, prunes, peaches and nectarines bloom first, and do so with delicate blossoms. If the blossoms do not get knocked off by rain, the juvenile fruit will rot if it stays damp too long. Many fruit trees are likely to lose all fruit this year.

Apple and pear trees should be safer because they bloom later, and bloom with more substantial flowers. (However, like their fruitless relatives, their wet blossoms are very susceptible to fire blight.) Persimmons and pomegranates bloom even later, and with even tougher flowers, so should be safe. Figs are in a league of their own, and should be fine if summer is warm.

Fortunately, destruction of bloom and fruit, although disappointing to us, is harmless to the affected trees.

Winter

P80110We are now two days into it. Is it any different than three days ago, the last day of autumn? Not really. Even in harsher climates, the changes from one season to the next are gradual. Like the phases of the moon, the seasons are constantly phasing out of the previous, and into the next. The dates of the first and last days of each season, which are determined by the position of the Earth within its orbit around the sun, are technicalities.
Seasons in the Southern Hemisphere are of course opposite of what they are here. That seems odd to me. The calendar is the same there as here. It seems obvious to me that winter and all seasons should be determined by the same dates there that they are determined by here. If winter began last Friday here, it should have done the same there, on the the same date. Longer days and warmer weather are consequences of location, south of the Equator. It is hard to imagine that January and February are summer there.
It also seems odd to me that all maps are oriented with North directed towards the top. Shouldn’t South be at the top South of the Equator? Must Australia be the ‘land down under’ to those who live there? Things would be so much simpler if Columbus has just stayed home, and the World was still flat.
Anyway, we do not get much winter here. The weather gets a bit cooler, and we will eventually get more rain. When I went to Oklahoma six years ago, I thought that I would finally get to experience a real winter, but we left just before New Year’s Day, while the weather was still somewhat mild. This little bit of snow was about all we got.

Neither Here Nor There

P81103KIs it coming or going? Autumn that is. It normally gets here last. We are typically only beginning to see the first foliar color of autumn while other parts of America get their first snow. We typically get a few more tomatoes out of our vegetable gardens long after most everyone else has pulled out their frosted tomato plants.
Well, we still got it. Tomatoes that is. The plant that produces these bright orange cherry tomatoes is looking a bit tired and pale, but the tomatoes are as good as ever. It probably will not last until frost. The plant might get pulled out when the tomatoes run out. Without bloom, that could be pretty soon. Frost does not happen until well into winter. Regardless, tired tomato plants say that autumn is coming.
We got foliar color too. This Japanese maple turned this nice garnet red quite some time ago. Sweetgum trees all over town are also well colored. They seem to be ahead of schedule, as if winter is on the way. Defoliating black oak trees say that autumn is going.
While the days are still pleasantly warm, with temperatures into the 80s, the nights get cool enough to color deciduous foliage. Warm days are quite normal for this time of year. So are cool nights. However, the two typically do not happen together for more than a few days. Warm days typically alternate with mild nights. Cool nights typically alternate with cool days.
Well, even in our mild climate, the weather is always full of surprises. We will enjoy it while it lasts. Autumn has always been a mere in-between season anyway. In the chaparral and desert climates of California, winter and the rain that comes with it will be welcome when they arrive.P81103K+

Six on Saturday: Expect The Unexpected

 

There will be no more bragging about how late the nice summer weather continued into autumn here. Foliage and berries are already coloring for autumn. During this past week, there were a few other unexpected discoveries in the garden, and one that was not in the garden.

1. Pampas grass is an old fashioned cut flower that was popular when I was a kid in the early 1970s. It lost popularity as the style of floral design became less informal and more refined. The pampas grass plants that produce the blooms were beginning to be recognized as seriously invasive exotic specie at about the same time. Those that produce the biggest and most billowy white blooms are not as invasive as those that produce the leaner pinkish tan blooms. Well, I could write another article about pampas grass; but presently, I only need to say is that I did not expect to see these big billowy pampas grass flowers up above and in the background of this big floral display that was left at work from a wedding there last Saturday.P81020

2. Red hydrangea is too modern for my taste. Deep blue or deep purple are no better. I believe that hydrangeas should be white or pastel hues of pink or blue, or perhaps lavender. You can’t improve on perfection. I did not expect to take a liking to this rich maroon hydrangea.P81020+

3. Dogwood foliage, as well as other foliage that colors in autumn, should develop color later here in our mild climate that in most of America. I did not expect to find such bright red foliage on a dogwood tree already.P81020++

4. Cotoneaster berries should likewise develop color as they ripen a bit later than they do elsewhere. I did not expect to find such ripe red cotoneaster berries already.P81020+++

5. Star magnolia was in rough condition after being relocated over summer. It was in an area that was in the process of being landscaped, so the relocation could not have been delayed until after defoliation in autumn or winter. The little magnolia initially seemed to tolerate the process rather well, but about two weeks later, started to wilt and discolor in warm weather. Subsequent defoliation was a slow process that continued into the end of summer. Axillary buds swelled slightly, as if the tree was getting ready for premature autumn dormancy. That was what I was hoping for. I did not expect the now seemingly happy little star magnolia to develop a second phase of new foliage that it will now need to shed later in autumn.P81020++++

6. Apples ripen at various times. Some cultivars finish as early as late July. Others are just finishing now, and might hang on the trees until early November! These apples are from an old tree on a vacant parcel that I do not get to very often. I intend to prune the tree over winter so that it can be renovated and cultivated as such a distinguished old tree should be. I will be recycling this picture tomorrow, and writing more about it. You will understand why if you read that article. Because I do not know what cultivar this tree is, I did know what to expect from it, but after ignoring it for a while, I did not expect that there would be so many apples remaining.P81020+++++

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/

No Rain

P81006KFor the first time since last winter, a few raindrops were heard on the roof early last Monday morning. It was over by the time I realized that the odd and unfamiliar noise really was that of raindrops. By the time the sun came up, everything was dry. I do not even know if these few raindrops could be considered to be the first rain of the season. There were a few similar raindrops on my windshield a while back, but they were dismissed as such; merely a few random raindrops rather than a confirmed rain shower.
That is how our climate works here. The Santa Clara Valley is in a chaparral climate. Much of Southern California is in a desert climate. We do not get much rain, and it is almost exclusive to a limited rainy season that is centered around winter.
Dust and crud that accumulates on foliage through the long dry season tends to stay there until the rain rinses it away. Oddly, many native plants do not mind, and a few seem to appreciate it. Some have tomentum (fuzz) on their leaves that collects dust, particularly during the warmest and driest summer weather when foliage is most sensitive to desiccation and scorch. Others have sticky foliage that does the same. However, such foliage is remarkably efficient at allowing such crud to rinse away in the first rain. Both deciduous foliage that will be shed shortly after the rainy season starts, and evergreen foliage that will be replaced through winter, seem to prefer to start the rainy season clean. Is this just coincidental, or do the plants intentionally collect dust and crud to shade and insulate their foliage through the harshest summer weather, and then wash up for a good sunning at the last minute?

Indian Summer Is The Norm

70920thumbThe popular definition of ‘Indian summer’ suggests that it is unseasonably warm and dry weather in spring or autumn, and that it typically happens after frost. Well, that definition just does not work here. It makes about as much sense as our so-called drought, which is actually the normal weather for our chaparral climate. Weather that repeats annually is neither unseasonable nor abnormal.

There are certainly years with more or less rain, and years with warmer or cooler weather in late summer and early autumn. Weather is naturally variable. It does not work like the thermostats in our homes, or the automated irrigation systems in our gardens. It is impossible to predict precisely how this summer will end, but it will likely have some characteristics of a normal Indian summer.

The one characteristic of the popular definition of Indian summer that will be notably absent is frost. That will not happen until after autumn. Locally, Indian summer can either be what seems to be a continuation of summer weather, or a resumption of warm summery weather after a bit of cooler weather. The main difference from earlier warm weather is that the nights are significantly cooler.

That is more important than it sounds. We do not notice the cooler nights as much as the plants that are outside all night do. While the days are as warm as they had been, some deciduous plants will begin to defoliate. Eventually, those that get colorful in autumn will begin to do so. Roses can be fertilized one last time, but even as they continue to bloom, they should not be fertilized again.

Indian summer prolongs the summer growing season significantly, but also has the potential to interfere with the winter growing season. Warm days keep warm season vegetables and flowering annuals performing so nicely that we do not want to remove them to relinquish their space for the cool season plants that will be needing it soon! In other climates, frost ends the summer season for us, and necessitates the transition to cool season crops. Indian summer can be too much of a good thing.

Schedule Adjustment

P80624Something that I neglected to consider about the first year anniversary of this blog is that what was new is now old. The articles from my weekly gardening column that were new when posted last year are now a year old. That necessitates an adjustment to scheduling.
Recent articles get posted on Mondays and Tuesdays. Each article gets split into two separate posts. The first part on Monday is the main article, which is about a specified horticultural topic. The second part on Tuesday is about the featured species. Older articles from the same time a year earlier get posted in the same manner on Thursdays and Fridays. That format worked well until now. Articles that were new in the beginning of September of last year are scheduled to be recycled now, for the beginning of September this year.
Obviously, there is no point in posting the same articles twice. ‘Flowers Might Be Getting Scarce’ and ‘Fernleaf Yarrow’ were already recycled earlier, before I noticed that they were two of the first articles posted a year ago. The simple solution would be to back up a year, to recycle articles from 2016 instead of from 2017. However, those articles were already recycled on Thursdays and Fridays. Therefore, the schedule will be backed up even farther, to recycle articles from the same time in 2015. I am trying to keep this simple. Of course, no one should notice. The articles are appropriate to the season regardless of what year they were written in.
What might get noticed is that a few extra articles will be added to the mix. This will only continue between about now and the beginning of November, which was when I started recycling articles last year. Because the blog started in the beginning of September, and I started recycling year-old articles in the beginning of November, there are articles from September and October (between about September 1 and November 1) of 2016 that have not yet been recycled. I want to use them up just to that none get left out.
This is probably way more explanation than anyone needs, particularly since it is mostly in regard to something that should not get noticed; but it will explain the few extra articles between now and November. If I get a bit of time later today, I might add the first of the superfluous articles tonight.

Flowers For Late Summer Bloom

80905thumbNo mater how much work we put into our roses to sustain bloom all through the season, and not matter how successful we are with that endeavor, the first spring bloom is always the best. Some roses continue to bloom in floriferous phases afterward, while others bloom sporadically but continually; but there is nothing like the first bloom phase. The last blooms are just waiting for autumn.

Of course, concentrating resources into early bloom is very sensible. That is why so many plants bloom only once in spring. It gives them time to get pollinated, develop seed and fruit structures, and finally disperse their seed or fruit structures, all before winter. Plants that bloom in summer or autumn are either from regions where winters are not too harsh, or where summers are harsher.

Because summer weather in most regions tends to be warmer and drier than spring weather, flowers that prefer to bloom in summer tend to be more prolific but smaller and less colorful. By this time of year, they are more reliant on wind for pollination rather than insects anyway. Therefore, they do not need to be big and colorful to attract pollinators, although some are fragrant just in case.

Sunflower, blanket flower, cone flower, zinnia, cosmos, delphinium, dahlia and of course rose, are some of the favorite flowers in the garden as well as for cutting in late summer and into autumn. Cut dahlia flowers should get their water changed daily so that they do not rot and smell bad so soon. Canna blooms about now, but does not last so well as cut flowers. Lily-of-the-Nile is finished.

Believe it or not, lemon bottlebrush is a delightful cut flower for those who are not allergic to it or repelled by the aromatic foliage. So are some of the showier eucalyptus, such as the red flowering gum, Eucalyptus ficifolia. Mexican blue sage that was cut back to the ground over winter blooms a bit in spring, takes a bit of time off through summer, and then starts to bloom as summer ends, ultimately blooming spectacularly early in autumn. A few other sages bloom as late, but few are good for cutting.