Six on Saturday: Best For Last

Seed are germinating; and cuttings are rooting. I try to finish my propagation before the end of winter. Some seed appreciate the last bit of chill to maintain their schedule. Some cuttings prefer to start their rooting process while still dormant, so that they are ready to grow by spring. The last and most important of these six pictures is irrelevant to cuttings and seed though. Only the names of those involved are relevant to horticulture; and half of that relevance is merely, although amusingly, coincidental. It will be interesting to see how many can answer the question presented with the last picture. It was difficult to get a reasonably clear picture, and after all the effort, the clarity may not help much.

1. Esperanza seed from Crazy Green Thumbs is finally germinating! Poinciana seed that came with them are still inactive. My rush to sow them prior to spring seems unfounded.

2. Poinciana seed of another kind and from another source is germinating though. Brent thought that I got royal poinciana seed. Rather than disappoint, I procured a few online.

3. Canna seed germination is a surprise. These seed were discarded runts from pods that were still green when deadheaded. I saw them growing from the trash and canned them.

4. Red passion flower vine was a runt also. None of a few other cuttings that got plugged properly took root. This one was too dinky, so was left in its jar of water, where it rooted.

5. Angel’s trumpet cuttings are growing like the red passion flower cuttings should have. They were scraps from pruned out frost damage. Many appeared dead prior to plugging.

6. Lily and Rhody are nearly indistinguishable as they frolic. Their genders are opposite, and their faces are distinct, but they scamper too fast to discern. Can you identify them?

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/

Time For Warm Season Annuals

Sweet alyssum is one of those warm season annuals that is too easy to grow to be taken too seriously.

Nasturtium and sweet alyssum seem to be more than warm season annuals. Like many other warm season annuals, they get established best if added to the garden just after winter, and then grow and bloom mostly during warm spring and summer weather. Then, if allowed to stay in the garden as cooler weather inhibits bloom somewhat , they survive through autumn and winter. By the time the original plants die out, new seedling emerge to replace them.

A potential ‘slight’ problem with allowing these annuals to naturalize (perpetuate naturally by sowing their own seed) is that fancier varieties eventually revert to a more genetically stable state. Sweet alyssum that can be various shades of pink or purple as well as white eventually blooms almost exclusively white after a few generations. Nasturtium that might start out with all sorts of shades of yellow, orange, red or brownish red eventually blooms with only basic bright yellow, bright orange and perhaps rarely, cherry red.

The reason that this is only a potential problem is that most of us are totally pleased with white sweet alyssum, and yellow and orange nasturtium! Another slightly more realistic potential problem with naturalization of sweet alyssum or nasturtium is that it leaves us no excuse to try different varieties. Anyone who doubts this should take a quick look through the online catalog of Renee’s Garden!

Nasturtium is easier to grow from seed than from small plants in cell pack, since small plants take time to recover from transplant. Besides only two or perhaps three of the multitude of varieties available as seed can be found in cell packs. Sweet alyssum can either be grown from cell pack or from seed, but like nasturtium, more varieties are available as seed. Although they grow throughout the year, both are still considered to be warm season annuals.

Busy Lizzy (impatiens), petunia, marigold, lobelia, cosmos and zinnia are some of the other popular warm season bedding annuals this time of year. Statice, cockscomb, verbena, moss rose and pincushion flower are also in season. Statice, tall varieties of cosmos and some varieties of zinnias make good cut flowers. Verbena, moss rose and pincushion flower are more often grown in mixed planting rather than as homogenous bedding. Although many more varieties are available as seed, cell packs of any of these warm season annuals provide more immediate results, especially this late in the season.

Six on Saturday: Crazy Green Thumbs

Esperanza and poinciana seed sent to me by Crazy Green Thumbs at the end of last year were finally sown! Actually, they were sown two weeks ago, but I somehow deleted their pictures before sharing them here. Consequently, there is not much to see now. After the failure with the esperanza seed that The Shrub Queen sent to me previously, I am intent on growing these properly. Esperanza is more popularly known as yellow bells, and may alternatively be known as yellow elder, yellow trumpetbush or Ginger Thomas. I have no idea who Ginger Thomas is, or why she is relevant. Poinciana is more correctly known as pride of Barbados, and may alternatively be known as Mexican bird of Paradise, red bird of Paradise, peacock flower, dwarf poinciana, flos pavonis, flamboyant de jardin or ‘ohai ali’i. I know it as poinciana only because I have never encountered real poinciana here.

1. Tecoma stans and Caesalpinia pulcherrima seed were sent from Texas during the last few days of last year by Crazy Green Thumbs. I finally put them out only two weeks ago.

2. Tecoma stans seed are not much to look at while under a thin layer of damp media. Of course, they look totally awesome to me. There were too many seed for separate cells.

3. Caesalpinia pulcherrima seed are about as fascinating after getting sown. Since there are not as many seed, they got separate cells, which are almost discernible in the picture.

4. Darla the kitty has mistaken seeded flats for litter boxes in the past. Boundless forests are apparently inadequate. Upside down flats should protect the freshly sown seed flats.

5. Callicarpa americana seedlings from Woodland Gnome of Our Forest Garden arrived last September. There were nine in six cells. I separated these three ‘subdued’ seedlings.

6. Darla hates me. I can not get close enough to get a good picture of her. This picture is zoomed in from a safe distance. She needs to keep her distance from the seeded flats. 

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/

My niece loves Reneesgarden.com!

My neice finds seeds for most of her favorite vegetables, flowers and herbs, like this prolific chamomile, at Renee’s Garden.

Even after a few years of trying most of the seeds available from Renee’s Garden Seed catalog, my niece still wants to grow them all every year. Sadly, her compact garden and landscape designer father who thinks he owns it can not accommodate all the seeds that she wants. She is therefore forced to limit selection to her favorites and those that she has not yet tried.

‘Cupani’s Original’ and ‘Perfume Delight’ are still her favorite sweet peas because they are so very fragrant. The big softly blushed pale yellow flowers of ‘April in Paris’ are a close second. Although not as fragrant, I wanted her to try ‘Electric Blue’ for its shaggier darker green foliage and smaller but refined deep blue flowers.

Perhaps as a strategy for an alliance, my niece’s oppressive father planted ‘Buttercream’ nasturtiums, which was a new variety with semi-double cream colored flowers. She rebelled with the brilliant red shades of ‘Copper Sunset’. The softer orange shades of ‘Creamsicle’ was a diplomatic compromise.

Both could agree on the soft lavender and pink shades and white of ‘Gulf Winds’ alyssum, the rich deep pinks of ‘Mountain Garland’ clarkia, and the traditional ‘Mrs. Scott Elliot’ columbine, since all three are so complaisant with mixed annuals and perennials. Taller and more vigorous cosmos got their own space. ‘Dancing Petticoats’ provided a mixture of cheery pink shades. ‘White Seashells’ looked sharp against the deep green privet hedge.

Since utilitarian vegetable plants are inconsistent with such a designer landscape, my niece grew vegetables that are as flashy as foliage plants. I suggested richly colored ‘Scarlet Charlotte’ chard, with a bit of ‘Italian Silver’ that exhibits distinctive white petioles and veins. She went for the more colorful ‘Garden Rainbow’, ‘Neon Glow’ and ‘Bright Lights’.

Some (but not all) of Renee’s Garden vegetable seed mixes have a distinct advantage of color coding. The various seeds withing these mixes are dyed with different colors so they can be planted separately if desired. Since seed packets usually contain more seeds than are actually needed, vegetable seed mixes are a practical way to get fewer but enough of a few different types of seed in single packets.

More varieties of seeds are available from the online catalog of Renee’s Garden Seed at www.reneesgarden.com than at retail nurseries. Yet with so many fun varieties to try, the retail seed racks certainly have more selection than any garden really needs. If it were at all possible to try them all, my neice would have figured out how to do it already.

Six on Saturday: Isolation

I seem to have flunked my Covid test. Nonetheless, I felt that I was sick with ‘something’ that, regardless of how minor, should not be shared. I would have ignored it a few years ago. That is no longer an option. I isolated at home for the past week, avoided work, and did not venture out much. Consequently, I did not take pictures for this Six on Saturday. Half were taken here at the last minute. Half were taken prior to last week.

1. Esperanza and poinciana (pride of Barbados) seed from Crazy Green Thumbs got here a month ago. Sowing is delayed for frost. I am too ashamed to say what happened to the esperanza seed from The Shrub Queen earlier. I will explain when I sow these after frost. 

2. Pineapple sage grew from five cuttings on a windowsill right in the middle of winter. I had no plan for them when their original stem got in my way at an ATM. It needed to go. 

3. Hottentot fig, which is also known as common freeway iceplant, gets no respect. I was pleased to see it mixing with other succulents for a planter box in town earlier last week.

4. Narcissus bloomed at about the same time that I saw the Hottentot fig in town. It was in our landscapes though. It brings back childhood memories of summering in Montara. 

5. Mistletoe is making a comeback, after an unexplained decline a few years ago. I really wanted to show the unseasonably clear blue sky, but this seemed to be more interesting.

6. This is how the weather should behave at this time of year. There has been no rain for a month or so. It is quite dry. I believe that I recorded this video on Christmas morning.

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/

The Need For Seed

Seed for some pines is easy to collect as their cones open during warm summer weather. However, some pine cones must be dried or even heated to release their seed.

Lily of the Nile is so easy to propagate by division of congested old plants that not many of us bother to grow it from seed. No one wants to leave the prominent but less than appealing seed pods out in the garden long enough to turn brown and ripen after the blue or white flowers are gone anyway. Besides, only the most basic old fashioned varieties reliably produce genetically similar seed, and even these often revert between blue and white. Yet, collecting seed for propagation is still an option for those who do not mind the risk of genetic variation.

The natural variation of flower color among seedlings of some plants can actually make gardening a bit more interesting. No one really knows if naturalized four o’ clocks will bloom white, yellow, pink or red until they actually bloom. The few types of iris that produce viable seed almost always produce seedlings with identical flowers, but oddities sometimes appear. (Most bearded iris have serious potential for genetic variation, but do not often produce viable seed.)

Cannas are likewise likely to produce seedlings that are indistinguishable from the parents. However, seedlings of many of the fancier cultivars are often variable. Their seed are very hard so should be scarified before sowing. However, I find that I get so many canna seeds that even if less than half germinate without scarification, there are too many anyway! (Scarification involves scratching or chipping the hard seed coat to promote germination. It can be as simple as rubbing the seeds on a file or sand paper, but should not be so aggressive that it damages the seed within.) 

African iris are just as easy to divide as lily of the Nile are, and are as easy to grow from seed as naturalized four o’ clocks are. The difference is that they lack genetic variation, so are always indistinguishable from their parents. The only problem is that they are so easy to propagate that they can soon dominate the garden.

If seed capsules have not been groomed from the various perennials and annuals that can be grown from seed, or if they have been left out in the garden intentionally so that they can ripen, this would be a good time to collect them for their seed. (Four o’ clocks should have been collected earlier though.) Seeds from certain trees, such as silk tree, redbud and the many specie of pine, can likewise be collected. Most seeds prefer to be sown about now to chill through winter, since cold winter weather actually promotes germination when weather warms in spring. However, seeds for annuals and frost sensitive perennials, like cannas, that might germinate early and get damaged by frost, should probably wait until the end of winter to get sown.

The Spring Rush Is On

Pittosporum can be pruned aggressively now.

It is safe to say that any remaining frost damage can be pruned away. Frosted foliage and stems were only left through winter to help insulate inner stems from more damage by subsequent frost, and to avoid stimulating new growth that would be even more sensitive to frost. Now that there is no threat of subsequent frost, and surviving but damaged plants are growing anyway, there is no reason to retain unsightly frosted foliage. The few plants that do not regenerate probably did not survive.

Spring is the busiest time of year for most plants. By now, most have either bloomed or will be blooming soon. Early spring bulbs have already finished. Later bulbs will be blooming soon enough. Deciduous plants that were bare through winter are developing new foliage. Evergreen plants are likewise growing new foliage to replace older foliage that will get shed later in the year.

If necessary, flowering cherry, flowering crabapple, lilac, forsythia and mock orange (Philadelphus) can be pruned as they finish bloom. Flowering cherry should not need much; but flowering crabapple might be in need of aggressive structural pruning. Some of the older canes of lilac, forsythia and mock orange can be pruned to the ground, where their replacement canes are probably already emerging.

Overgrown or disfigured oleander, photinia, bottlebrush, privet, pittosporum and juniper that need restorative pruning can be pruned now. They recover most efficiently in early spring, and have plenty of time to develop plenty of new growth before they slow down again next autumn. If pruned much earlier, they would have stayed bare longer, since they would not have grown much through winter. Besides, almost all pittosporum are susceptible to disease if fresh pruning wounds are exposed to rainy weather.

Seed can be sown for any of the warm season vegetables and flowering annuals, such as zucchini, corn, okra, nasturtium, lupine and sunflower. Tomato, pepper, eggplant, petunia, marigold and busy Lizzie (Impatiens) can likewise be grown from seed, but are easier to grow from small cell pack plants. Cuttings of jade plant, iceplant, sedum and all sorts of succulents, as well as divided pups of aloe, agave and yucca, really get going well this time of year.

Six on Saturday: Do you know the way to San Jose?

Rhody and I needed to go to San Jose for the past three days, and will be going there again at least until April. We had not been there or even into the Santa Clara Valley for a very long time. I did not realize how long we had been gone until I collected my accumulation of mail on the way through town, and found Christmas cards!

1. Tecoma stans is the second most important topic of my Six for this week! The Shrub Queen sent me these seed from wild plants that are native to Southern Florida! It is so rare here that I had seen it only a few times prior. A compact cultivar became available only a few years ago. I wanted the straight species. Embarrassingly, these seed were in my mailbox since December.

2. Camellia japonica is still blooming, with buds that will continue even longer. Technically, it is not late. Some bloom as late as March. I do not remember the name of this particular cultivar.

3. Ribes sanguineum is native to the forests only a few miles from here. This one and another like it were planted here a few years ago. Two others that bloomed white did not last very long.

4. Narcissus pseudonarcissus, or simply ‘daffodil’, bloom sporadically in the oddest of situations. Their bulbs remained where they got planted years ago, as the landscape changed over them.

5. Spirea prunifolia ‘Plena’ is sparsely branched, but perhaps delightfully so. I am surely no expert in regard to aesthetics, but it seems to me that more profuse bloom would be less delicate.

6. Rhody is the most important topic of my Six for this week. This was the moment immediately prior to his realization that I was aiming the camera at him, and his spry reaction to avoid it.

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/

Collecting Seed For Another Season

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From one year to the next.

Seed that is available in hardware stores and nurseries came from somewhere. Plants just like those that such seed grows into produced it. Someone, or many someones, collected all that seed to make it available to others. Similarly, several plants in our own gardens produce seed. Anyone who is interested in collecting seed to grow more of the same plants could make good use of it.

After bloom, most flowers deteriorate and disappear into the landscape. Some leave behind desirable developing fruits or vegetables. Many of the flashiest flowers are too extensively hybridized to produce seed. Many produce some sort of seed structure that typically gets removed, or ‘deadheaded’. This diverts resources from seed production to subsequent bloom or vegetative growth.

If not removed, such seed structures can mature to produce viable seed. Those who enjoy collecting seed often intentionally leave a few seed structures for that purpose, instead of deadheading completely. For plants with long bloom seasons, this technique should involve the latest blooms. The same applies to vegetables that normally do not mature prior to harvest, like summer squash.

Such seed or fruiting structures, including vegetables, must be completely mature before collecting ripened seed from them.

Sunflower, cosmos, calendula, marigold, campion, morning glory, columbine, hollyhock and snapdragon are some of the easiest flowers for collecting seed from. California poppy, alyssum, phlox, and several other annuals are happy to self sow their seed, although collecting seed from them is not so easy. Nasturtium and honesty (money plant) seed is easy to collect, but self sows as well.

Collecting seed is limited only by practicality. Some plants, particularly hybrids and exotics (which are not native and may lack pollinators), produce no viable seed. Extensively bred varieties are likely to produce progeny that are more similar to the basic species than the parent. Once collected, some seed need special treatment in order to germinate. All seed should be sown in season.