Horridculture – What’s The Point?

P90403In this situation, the point is that all those pointed tips of the leaves of this awkwardly floppy century plant, Agave americana, are extremely sharp, extremely rigid and EXTREMELY dangerous. Those shorter teeth on the margins of the leaves are just as sharp and rigid, and are curved inward to maximize injury to anyone trying to get away from an initial jab. With tips that impale, and marginal teeth that slash, this is one very hateful perennial!

Another point is that this big and awkwardly obtrusive century plant is on a patio at a Mexican restaurant. Yes, it is in a public place where people get dangerously close to it. On Friday and Saturday nights, this restaurant can get quite crowded. Some within such crowds are inebriated, so are more likely to stumble about and bump into things that are best avoided. Those concrete slabs to the left are benches where people are often seated.

The third point is that the only remedy for this ridiculously bad situation is to remove the century plant. Chopping the leaves like those that were over the bench on the left only removes a few tips and teeth, but does not make the rest of the foliage significantly safer. Nor does folding the leaves inward, like those that are next to those that were chopped. Such abuse only makes the whole mess uglier. Now it is both dangerous AND ugly.

Now, who thought that putting the most dangerous of all perennials available into this public situation was a good idea?! (Cacti with inward curving spines and other plants that are more dangerous are not even available in nurseries.) Century plants are dangerously nasty even when small and young, so even someone who knows nothing about landscape design should have known better than this!


Horridculture – Miss Congeniality

p90109Now, before I commence with my rant and long list of problems with this picture, I should mention that this seemingly abused rose tree does seem to be appreciated. All the roses in this landscape seem to be very healthy, and they bloom constantly between spring and autumn. Their performance suggests that they are regularly fertilized and deadheaded.
The unusually brutal pruning may be an attempt to keep this particular rose tree as compact as possible, within very limited space. It is not how I would do it, but perhaps it helps. The size of the burl suggest that this rose tree has been pruned effectively like this for a few years, although the lack of weathering of the labels indicate that it is not more than several years old. Older canes really do seem to be getting pruned off annually as they should. Even though the remaining canes are stubbed much too short, the end cuts are done properly. I can not help but wonder of pollarding back to the main knuckle would be just as effective, and neater.
The labels seem to be retained intentionally. In fact, the smaller white label to the left is attached to a new cane. Either the label was removed from an older cane that was pruned away, and attached to a new cane intentionally, or the rose tree was planted only last year rather than a few years ago, as mentioned earlier. I do not know why this uninformative label would have been retained; but the other larger label might be there for anyone who wants to know the name of the rose when they see it blooming in season. It happens to be in a very trafficked spot, where people walk by it constantly.
Rather than snivel about the (seemingly) very bad pruning, and the retention of the (trashy looking) labels, I should just say that this apparently appreciated rose tree should have been planted somewhere else in the garden, or not at all. That wheel in the background really is in a parking spot that is bordered by the red curb. A tiny bit of another red curb on the opposite side of this very narrow space is visible in the very lower right corner of the picture. (I can not explain why the curbs are red.) This really is a very narrow spot between a parking space and a walkway! Those mutilated stems to the right are another shrubbier rose. Thorny rose canes could really be a bother for those getting out of or into a parked car, or walking by on the walkway. The seemingly useless stake might be there so that the rose tree does not get yanked over when it grabs onto someone. To make matters worse, this rose is a grandiflora, which wants to grow bigger and wider than most other types of roses. Defoliation during winter dormancy is no asset either. The pathetic marigold on the ground really does not help much.
The point of all this is that more thought should have gone into planting this rose tree here.
Even Miss Congeniality, who so proficiently adapts to the most unfamiliar of situations, has certain limitations; and this situation demonstrates the worst of them.

English Hawthorn

81226The first specie to be imported to North America from Europe were utilitarian plants that produced fruits, vegetables or other horticultural products. English hawthorn, Crataegus laevigata, was likely one of the first ornamental specie to be imported merely because those who were familiar with it appreciated the delightful white spring bloom and the rich red berries in autumn and winter.

The biggest trees should not get much higher than second story eaves, but the handsomely coarse texture of the bark, furrowed trunks and almost oaken foliar texture make these relatively small trees seem rather grand. Unfortunately, the stems, particularly the most vigorous, are quite thorny. The lobed leaves are about one or two inches long and wide, and might turn orange in autumn.

The trusses of small white flowers that bloom in spring resemble those of pear, and like pear bloom, produce a musky fragrance that some might find objectionable. Some cultivars and hybrids bloom with less fragrant pink, double pink or double red flowers. Some produce orange or yellow berries. If birds to not take them too quickly, the pendulous trusses of berries can last into winter.

Drunk Stick

P80516Seriously, I am not making this up. ‘Drunk Stick’ is what the Spanish name of ‘palo borracho’ translates into. It is one of the few common names of the tree I know only as floss silk tree, Chorisia speciosa or Ceiba speciosa. Yes, it sounds crazy, but not as crazy as what the trunk and limbs looks like. One can speculate why it is known as ‘drunk stick’. I am not certain that I want to know.

The trunk in the picture is that of a small tree still in a #5 can. Larger trunks are no better. They are fat and green, and outfitted with these weird conical thorns. The thorns are not too terribly sharp like those of hawthorns or cacti, but they are terribly stout. Seriously! They are like made of wood! As the green trunk grows, it becomes distended, but only makes more thorns to cover the expanding surface of the bark. Even large trees are covered with these horrid things! Only the smallest limbs lack them, and even they have smaller versions. Drunk stick might be endemic to Bedrock, but Bamm-Bamm Rubble would not build his treehouse in one.

Why on Earth would anyone want this aberration of nature in the garden?! Well, it is interesting. After all, it got your attention. Several were planted as street trees in the medians of Santa Monica Boulevard through West Hollywood, to show off their weird trunks. On top of that, over the exteriors of their low and broad canopies, their fluorescent pink bloom matches their lime green trunks about as well as socks that Valley Girls (from the Santa Clara Valley of course) wore in the 1980s. Neither inebriation nor intimidation with a thorny stick is necessary to appreciate the uniqueness of the drunk stick.

Plants Grow Up So Fast

50429thumbShortly after germinating and producing their first few leaves, many seedlings start to produce foliage that is indistinguishable from the foliage that they will produce for the rest of their lives. Other plants might initially be outfitted with leaves that are smaller, thicker, or somehow slightly different from what will appear later. Then there are those that produce juvenile growth that is completely distinct from later adult growth.

There are many reasons for juvenile growth. It might be a competitive advantage for plants that live in dense forests. For others, it might deter grazing animals. Ivy actually has three phases, with juvenile ‘ground cover’ growth that creeps over the forest floor in search of a vertical support, adolescent ‘vine’ growth that climbs the support, and adult ‘tree’ growth that blooms and seeds when it gets to the top of the support.

Eucalyptus trees produce juvenile growth that is more pungently resinous than adult growth, in order to deter animals that would otherwise eat it. Adult growth develops when the main trunks have grown beyond reach of most of the threatening animals. Vigorous new growth that develops in response to breakage or pruning later in life is also outfitted with juvenile foliage so that koalas and other climbers leave it alone.

Avocado trees grown from seed produce no obvious juvenile growth, but without wasting their effort on blooming and fruiting, they grow very fast and lanky to compete with a dense forest canopy, whether real or imagined. For their first several years, they need to be pruned for structure and containment. They eventually produce adult branches, and start to bloom and produce fruit (although the fruit might be variable.)

Avocado trees obtained from nurseries are grafted so that they are genetically identical to a specific cultivar (for conformity of fruit), and so that they can start to produce right away. Their ‘scions’ (upper part of grafted trees) are obtained from adult growth of stock trees, so do not take several years to mature. The same technique works for citrus, which otherwise produce fruitless and wickedly thorny juvenile growth.

Sometimes, juvenile growth is preferred. Ivy gets pruned out of trees and off of walls to preserve the juvenile growth as an appealing and efficient ground cover plant, while also eliminating the potentially destructive climbing vines.51104