Deadheading Conserves Resources

If not deadheaded, roses can put a lot of resources into production of seed and hips.

It takes quite a bit of effort for flowers to bloom. It takes even more effort and resources for pollinated flowers to produce seed and the fruiting structures that contain the seed. If the seed of certain aggressive plants get dispersed, we need to put even more effort into pulling up the seedlings. It just never seems to end!

Removal of deteriorating flowers, commonly known (even by those of us who missed that generation) as ‘deadheading’, can eliminate so much of this extra work. Not many plants benefit from deadheading; but most that do are really grateful for it. Others that do not care one way or the other simply look better without their deteriorating flowers.

It is of course impossible to deadhead large flowering trees or vast areas of ground cover. Regularly shorn hedges should never need deadheading because they never get the opportunity to bloom or develop fruit. Plants that are appreciated for the ornamental quality of their fruit should of course not be deadheaded.

Most roses get deadheaded as they bloom because the development of their fruiting structures, known as ‘hips’, takes enough resources to compromise subsequent bloom. Removal of these hips therefore promotes bloom. Only the few types of roses that are grown for their showy hips should not get deadheaded. Phlox, daisies, zinias, dianthus and all sorts of plants with long continual bloom seasons likewise benefit from deadheading.

Some types of iris that produce seed perform better with deadheading, not because they will bloom again during the same season, but because they can divert resources to vegetative growth (like rhizomes and foliage) that will sustain bloom during the following year. Most bearded iris (that do not produce seed) and lily-of-the-Nile do not seem to care if they get deadheaded, but are generally more appealing without their finished flower trusses.

Four o’ clocks can not be deadheaded without also removing developing flowers, so can only be allowed to bloom and throw their invasive seed all over the garden. It is easier to pull their seedlings later. We have a bit more control over crocosmia. Even though they do not need to be deadheaded, they are less invasive and more appealing without their scraggly brown stalks and seed capsules.

Six on Saturday: No Rhody

Rhody is again absent from my Six on Saturday for this week. Within such an odd mix of six unrelated pictures, I suppose that I should have added at least one picture of Rhody. After all, Rhody is who you are here to see. Well, I thought that some of these, especially #5, are interesting. Both #1 and #2 are Canna, so they are actually not totally unrelated. There might be more of Brent’s pointless pictures for next week; but perhaps one picture will be of Rhody.

1. ‘Wyoming’ canna provided this foliar picture that was too artsy to discard unused, but not compliant enough for my Six on Saturday of last week. All of those six were closeups.

2. ‘Australia’ canna likewise provided this picture that is interesting, but not compatible with the earlier Six on Saturday. It lives in a pond. That is duckweed in the background.

3. Blue elderberry is native here. Unfortunately, some of the most productive specimens are in awkward situations. I canned a few wild seedlings to install into better situations.

4. Poinciana has a complicated explanation. I told Brent that ‘Crazy Green Thumbs’ sent me seed of poinciana and esperanza. What I consider to be poinciana is actually pride of Barbados. After remembering the difference from what Brent considers to be poinciana, I still felt obligated to grow a poinciana tree for Brent, so actually purchased seed online!

5. Esperanza is real! It is not easy to grow though. Only a few seed germinated, and only a few seedlings survive. At this rate, they will still be dinky and need shelter for autumn.

6. Memorial Tree in Felton Covered Bridge Park seems to be happy, but has grown a bit slower than it did by July 12 last year. I have not posted an update for it since December.

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/

Catch Weeds Before They Go To Seed.

Seed pods not only look unkempt and inhibit continued bloom, but can disperse too many seeds of otherwise worthy plants.

It may seem futile to pull certain weeds this late in the season. Those in unrefined parts of the garden that get little or no irrigation might be so dry that they only deteriorate and scatter their abundant seeds when pulled. The soil may be so dry that roots are difficult to extract, especially since the drying foliage now separates from the roots so easily. The only hope is that removal of dying weeds might eliminate at least some of the seeds for the next generation of weeds.

Foxtail and burrclover are not only annoying, but are also dangerous to dogs and cats as their seeds mature and dry. After all, the seeds rely on animals for dispersion, so intentionally stick to fur. The problem is that seeds can get stuck in more than fur, and sometimes get into ears, eyes, nostrils and elsewhere. Seeds from a few other weeds can do the same.

Cheeseweed is not a dangerous weed, and is relatively easy to eradicate. The roots even stay attached to the stems when they get pulled. The problem with leaving them to mature is that they become infested with rust (a fungal disease) that spreads to other desirable plants. Saint John’s wort, snapdragons and roses are particularly susceptible to rust.

Feral Jupiter’s beard and montbretia that grow where they were not intentionally planted are often allowed to bloom before getting pulled. However, after bloom, stems separate so easily from roots that most of the roots remain to regenerate as soon as they are able. If left long enough after bloom, both Jupiter’s beard and montbretia sow seeds to infest even more.

Fortnight lily (or African iris) are not often a weed, but can get that way if their seed capsules are not removed before they mature and pop open. Besides, development of these capsules diverts resources from continued bloom. It is best to remove the capsules before they get floppy, and to remove as much of the finished flower stem as possible without removing stems that have not yet bloomed.

Both dusty miller and coleus are grown for their distinctive foliage but not their bloom. Flowering stems stretch and exhibit inferior foliar color and texture, so can actually get snipped before they bloom.

How To Deceive Smart Seeds

Some seeds need help to germinate.

Plants could not proliferate as they do if they were as unintelligent as they seem to be. Actually, much of their activity would be considered quite ingenious if it could be observed in a more ‘human’ perspective. From their exploitation of pollinators to their aggressive tactics for competition with other plants, the behavior of plants is obviously very deliberate and purposeful.

Because they are so reliant on the weather, pollinators and so many other environmental factors, the life cycles of plants are on strict schedules. They must also adapt to diseases and all sorts of other pathogens. Fires and grazing animals are problems for many, but advantages to most.

Most seeds develop during summer and autumn. When they fall to the ground, they need to know to delay germination until spring to avoid frost and the likelihood of getting eaten. Seeds of many plants, particularly those from more severe climates, germinate only after being ‘stratified’ by a specific duration of cold weather. Such seeds need to be artificially stratified by refrigeration in order to germinate any differently from their natural schedule, or where winters are not sufficiently cold.

Many seeds require ‘scarification’ by digestion by animals that naturally eat them, or by the quick heat of a wildfire, to break or soften a hard outer coating that otherwise inhibits germination. Seeds that need to be digested actually rely on animals for distribution. Seed that need heat want to be the first to regenerate after a wildfire, before competing plants recover.

Goldenrain tree, and many maples and pines produce so many seeds that even if less than one percent germinate in the garden, they seem to be prolific. However, for more reliable germination of a majority of seeds, they should be scarified. The seeds of many pines that crave fire can be heated briefly in an already hot oven to simulate fire, just enough to heat the seed coat without roasting the seeds. Some people actually prefer to spread them on a piece of paper, and then burn the paper. Seeds that only need their hard outer coating to be damaged slightly might need only to be sanded lightly on sandpaper. I actually prefer to rub my canna or Heavenly bamboo (nandina) seeds on a brick or bit of sandstone.

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.