Location – Location -Location!

P80422Speaking of which, this is not the right location!

This unhappy Mexican fan palm may have grown here from seed, as they often do. They are notorious for growing under utility cables because that is where birds drop so many of their seed. Perhaps the seed for this one was dropped by a bird perched on the sign many years ago.

Ironic, isn’t it. Birds tend to perch on utility cables and signs and in trees and everywhere that palms should not be planted. How often do they drop seeds out in the open, where whey will not encroach into something as they grow up? Why can’t they drop palm seeds in places where palm trees would actually be an asset? It happens sometimes, but not as often as palms appear where they are not wanted.

The picture below shows three larger Mexican fan palms that were intentionally planted in the original landscape, with a smaller palm between two of the larger palms. The palm in the first picture is barely visible in front of the sign in the background, and is about the same size as the smaller tree that is more visible between the taller trees.

It is possible and perhaps likely that the two smaller palms were not planted intentionally. It is also possible that someone actually planted them.

It does not matter now. The palm in front of the sign needs to be removed. The removal of all the foliage will not kill it. It will generate new foliage that will again obscure the sign if the tree is not eliminated soon. There is no way to prune the palm to divert growth around the sign. It has only one terminal bud, and is unable to generate another if topped. Palms under utility cables have the same problem. Once they get too close to the cables, they must be removed.

Getting back to the first picture. The shock and awe of the defoliation of the subject Mexican fan palm was likely sufficient distraction to prevent anyone from noticing the queen palm foliage peeking around the right side of the sign. Unlike Mexican fan palms, queen palms rarely grow from seed here, especially in a spot where there are no other queen palms nearby. Yes, someone planted ‘another’ palm in the same spot!P80422+



P80421KHalston, with the help of several friends could make a nice pill box hat. That is the origin of the name; from pill box hate fame. This might help clarify, https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/caution/ . Yes, Halston was a gopher.

Halston was causing some significant damage that was more of a concern than fashion. Halston started by making several large volcanoes under an already distressed ‘Yoshino’ flowering cherry tree right on the edge of the main road. I really did not want any more of the roots to be ruined. I dug into the main tunnels and set traps; but Halston was very elusive, and pushed traps out of the tunnels, and left them unsprung at the surface of the soil.

Halston was very busy last weekend, creating a chain of volcanoes like the volcanic islands of Hawaii. They were right along the edge of a paved walkway, so were both unsightly and messy. Halston had to go.P80421K+

Halston would not go easily though. Excavation into the tunnels was getting to be as damaging as the tunneling had been. I dug to follow the tunnel from the volcanoes for several feet without reaching the main lateral tunnel. I did not want to dig any farther. I had already cut a few small roots, and did not want to cut any more.

Halston compelled me to do something that I had never done before with gopher traps. I was always taught to dig down from the tunnel that comes to the surface, to find the main lateral tunnel, or ‘run’, that continues to the left and right of the tunnel to the surface. Traps should be set in pairs, with one to the left, and one to the right, within the main run. If a gopher perceives a problem in a tunnel to the surface, that tunnel gets abandoned, and the gopher simply excavates a new surface tunnel. However, a gopher is not so likely to bypass a main run. Since I could not find the main run without damaging more roots, I set the first trap in the tunnel that I had dug up for several feet from where it came to the surface, and the second trap in another open tunnel with only a small volcano that was located several feet away.

I really did not expect to catch anything, but to my surprise, all excavation stopped, and Halston was in the first trap when I pulled it up the following morning. Also to my surprise, Halston was quite diminutive! Because of the extend of all the damage, I was expecting a larger gopher. Several more that I would have estimated would be needed for a pill box hat.P80421K++

Six on Saturday: Camellias on Parade


The camellias are STILL blooming! They may not bloom profusely, but they have been blooming for quite a while. I do not know how many different cultivars are here, but there are more than I can fit into just six pictures. There are six more for next week, although two might be the same. They are the dark pink or red camellias. For this week, we have two light pink and four white camellias. I did not get any picture of the sasanqua camellias. I have not seen reticulata camellias or any other specie here.

1. This clear pink camellia is probably my least favorite of these six, only because it is a bit too casual for my taste.P80421
2. This clear pink camellia looks more refined. I really like this form.P80421+
3. Now we have white, my favorite color, but the bright yellow stamens in the middle make this casual camellia look like a fried egg.P80421++
4. I happen to prefer this fluffier white, with less prominent stamens.P80421+++
5. Wow! This one really looks yummy!P80421++++
6. Now my favorite; so simple, and so white, although, the camellia in the previous pictures actually looks yummier!4bd5
This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:


English Daisy

70419Once it gets into a lawn, English daisy, Bellis perennis, can be very difficult to get rid of without leaving bald spots. The thin but tough rhizomes creep along the ground, producing rounded leaves that get no longer than two inches. Mowers barely scratch the surface. English daisy seems to prefer partly shaded areas to drier sunny spots. Although invasive, it can be pretty in informal lawns.

The inch wide white flowers with yellow centers bloom in phases throughout the year. They are least abundant during cool winter weather, and most abundant about now, as weather gets warmer in spring. Garden varieties have more clumping growth, and slightly larger white, pink or rosy red flowers, all with yellow centers. Some have plumply double flowers. They are grown as flowering annuals, but can perform for a few years as light duty perennials.

The Lawn Is Always Greener

70419thumbTurf grasses are the ultimate in groundcover. They are very durable, and useful for covering large areas in a very user friendly manner. The toughest varieties are used for athletic fields because they withstand the wear and tear. In home gardens, all sorts of varieties are grown as lawns. Like other groundcovers, lawns limit erosion, and are cleaner than bare summer dust and winter mud.

Yes, turf grasses and lawns are the most useful of plant materials; but they are also the most demanding. They require more water than almost anything else, except only aquatic plants and some bedding plants. A healthy lawn must be mown and edged regularly, and as often as weekly in warm weather. Weeds are difficult to control once established. Gophers can cause serious damage.

Regardless, for all sorts of landscapes ranging from athletic fields to home gardens, a lawn is worth the work it takes to grow it. Only Trona High School has a dirt athletic field; and only because the soil is too saline and the weather is too scorching for turf grass. At least home garden lawns are more modest than they were years ago, with larger patios and decks, and other groundcover.

Artificial turf still has a bad reputation. The first AstroTurf of the late 1960s was nothing like real turf grass. It had a coarse texture, and eventually faded and deteriorated. Its main problem was that it was so regularly compared to real turf grass instead of recognized for its own attributes as an alternative to lawn, like carpeting for outdoor spaces. Yet, it was popular for certain applications.

Modern artificial turf looks and feels a bit more convincing, and is more resistant to wear and weathering. It might be more convincing if it were not so perfectly uniform. It is already more popular than old fashioned AstroTurf was, even for playgrounds and athletic fields. Artificial turf is expensive to purchase and install, but not as expensive as the maintenance and watering of real grass.

Compared to the installation of real turf grass that needs irrigation and soil amendment, the installation of artificial turf necessitates less excavation. It is therefore less invasive to the shallow roots of established trees and shrubs that are already in the landscape. However, plants that are accustomed to generous lawn irrigation might need to be watered through newly installed artificial turf.

Prelude to Dogwood

P80481My weekly gardening column does not have much space for everything that should be said about the various topics and featured specie. I just try to fit the most basic of information into the space available, but usually would like to fit more in.

Sometimes, I would like to fit more pictures in too. It can be difficult to select just one camellia, or just one rhododendron. I typically select those that have the best contrast for black and white pictures, just in case some newspapers must deprive them of their color. That often means that I get to select my favorite white flowers rather than their more colorful counterparts. Regardless, there are so many good pictures that do not get seen. Then, there are also many qualities of the subjects that are difficult or impossible to show in pictures.

The dogwood picture that will get posted on Tuesday is pretty good, and happens to be white, but does not show how spectacular the tree that produced the bloom is. I selected a picture that was a close up of the same flowers in the picture below. Unfortunately, even if I had room for another picture, I could not get one that adequately represented the splendor of the tree. The best I could get is the picture above. I might try to get more pictures of pink and red dogwoods in the next few days, but pictures are nothing like the real thing. I had the same difficulty with the flowering cherries. The bloom was spectacular close up, but the trees looked like pink clouds on trunks from a distance.

If you can imagine, the tree in the picture is about twenty feet tall. It can be seen half a block away, through the adjacent deciduous trees. It looks just like a dogwood in Virginia should look, but happens to be right here on the West Coast, where you would not expect to see such an excellent specimen. Does that help?

I used to grow dogwood trees in the mid 1990s. They are not my favorite spring flowering tree because they do not do so well in the Santa Clara Valley. You would not know that by how well they do here on the coastal side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, just a few miles away. There are many specimens in the neighborhood that are comparable to this one. Some are pink. A few are almost brick red. The foliage probably does not color as well in autumn as it would in Virginia, but by our standards, it colors nicely.

Two very happy pink dogwoods are in front of an elegant home of early American architecture that is located just downhill from the white dogwood in the picture above. Even with redwoods and coast live oaks all around, the dogwood trees and home really look like they could be in the vicinity of Virginia. It is obvious why those from the East are so fond of dogwoods.P80481+

Queen Victoria Agave

80425Although a relatively small agave, the Queen Victoria agave, Agave victoriae-reginae, is also one of the most striking. Mature plants form dense foliar rosettes that are between only a foot, and a foot and a half tall and wide. What is so striking about them is the abundance of stout succulent leaves that can be so densely set that some older plants look like big, round and green pine cones.

Genetic variability within the species is considerable though; so not all plants will be so well rounded. Some resemble dark green aloes while young. All are adorned with distinctive white stripes on leaf margins, and wherever the leaves were touching the margins of other leaves before they unfurled. At least one cultivar is also variegated with white, and another is variegated with yellow.

Queen Victoria agave is bold either in the ground or in a large pot. Wherever it goes, it wants full sun exposure, and should be out of the way. The terminal foliar spines are very sharp! It does not need much water, but prefers occasional watering. Old rosettes might bloom with tiny pale white flowers on dramatic three or four foot tall spikes, but then die as they get replaced by basal pups.

Squash For Summer And Winter

80425thumbConsidering that some of the winter squash can last right through winter and into spring, there really is a squash for every season. By the time the last of the winter squash run out, the first of the summer squash will be ready later in spring. They get an early start here, and continue until frost. By that time, the earliest of the winter squash will be ready for autumn, and will last through winter.

However, they all get planted about now. There is no such thing as cool season squash. They are all warm season vegetables (actually fruits). The vines and foliage all grow like weeds while the weather is warm, and then succumb to frost at the end of their season. They all grow very easily from seed, but because each garden needs only a few plants, they are often planted as seedlings.

The main difference between summer and winter squash is that summer squash plants continue to produce many smaller fruits while the weather is warm, and winter squash plants produce only a few larger and firmer fruits that develop slowly while the weather is warm, and then finish ripening as the vines that produce them die in autumn and winter. One begins where the other finishes.

Zucchini is the most familiar summer squash here. It is most productive if regularly deprived of its tender juvenile fruit, and is notably less productive if the fruit is allowed to get bigger and tougher. Pumpkin is the most familiar winter squash here. It is expected to produce only a few big and firm fruit that take all season to develop. Extra juvenile fruit may get plucked to favor one or two fruits.

Summer squash deserve more prominent locations in the garden because the fruit gets harvested regularly. Zucchini grows as a large plant, but stays somewhat confined. Winter squash want the same sort of rich garden soil and watering, but can be put out of the way. Except for plucking a few extra fruit, not much more needs to be done to them. Some like to climb fences. Pumpkin vines can be directed to the edge or just outside of the garden.

Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day April 15 – My First


There is so much blooming or finishing blooming here in the Santa Cruz Mountains above Los Gatos that it is difficult to select only a few pictures. These flowers are not from my home garden, but are from nearby Mount Hermon, which is located on the coastal side of the Santa Cruz Mountains, a few miles north of Santa Cruz. I enjoy the horticulture of the Santa Clara Valley, where San Jose is located, more than anywhere else in the world. However, there are many flowers that perform better in the cooler and moister climate of the Santa Cruz Mountains that separate the Santa Clara Valley from the Pacific Ocean. Mount Hermon is located in USDA Zone 9.

Daffodil are probably all done by now. The last to bloom earlier this week were in somewhat shaded spots. This one was looking a bit tired. Daffodils are one of only a few bulbs that will naturalize in our mild climate.4bd1

Forsythia also finished a while ago. This picture was taken at about the same time earlier in the week as the daffodil above. This tired specimen was not actually in the landscape, but was in a small nursery where gardeners stock recycled plants and recently acquired plants that have not yet been installed into the landscape. Forsythia is rare here. There is only one other in the landscaped area that we are aware of.4bd2

Dutch iris is a surprise every year. As I mentioned with the daffodil, there are not many bulbs that naturalize here. Dutch iris is one of those bulbs that needs more of a chill than it can get here. However, this colony blooms reliably every spring!4bd3

Flowering cherry is spectacular against the dark green backdrop of redwoods. A pair of mature ‘Yoshino’ or ‘Akebono’ flowering cherries in downtown Mount Hermon are the most famous in town. They are very old and sadly, must be removed. A few others have been planted nearby. There are at least three ‘Kwanzan’ flowering cherries in other areas. I do not know what cultivar this one is. It might be my favorite because it is so striking white; my favorite color. This picture was taken at about the same time earlier in the week as the daffodil and forsythia. Only the ‘Kwanzan’ flowering cherries continue to bloom now.4bd4

Camellia bloom for quite a while. A few blooms sneak out in midwinter before the main bloom phase, and a few flowers are still blooming now. There are at least a dozen cultivars here. This elegant white camellia might be my favorite.4bd5

Azalea is even more variable than the camellias. Many are of course finished blooming; but a few still have unopened buds that will bloom this week! This is my favorite, obviously because it is white. I used to grow azaleas in the mid 1990s, as our second major crop. Rhododendrons were our primary major crop. We also grew camellias as our fourth major crop.4bd6

Garden Bloggers all over America and in other countries can share what is blooming in their gardens on the fifteenth of each month on “Garden Bloggers’ Bloom Day”, hosted by Carol Michael’s May Dreams Garden at http://www.maydreamsgardens.com

Memorial Tree Update to the Updated Update, etc. – the Sequel to all those other Sequels

P80415KWe can keep this more brief than that long title.

The small and young Memorial Tree, which is also known as the Scofield Tree, in Felton Covered Bridge Park is doing quite well. Nothing unexpected is happening. It just looks too happy to not get a picture of it. It is well foliated and lush like a happy valley oak should be at this time of year. The only improvement it could implement would be to divert more growth to the main vertical trunk. So far, growth is somewhat evenly distributed over all actively growing stems. The little tree is consequently quite fluffy. The main trunk will eventually get bound to a stake to direct growth upward for a straight and vertical trunk. Lateral stems may need to get pruned back so that they do not dominate. They remain for now, to sustain healthy growth and to promote trunk caliper growth. Weeds around the trunk will get pulled so that ‘gardeners’ will hopefully keep a safe distance with their weed whackers. The previous update with links to even more previous updates can be found at https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2018/03/31/scofield-tree-update-spring-2018/ .

Charlie’s Memorial Tree is a healthy sweetgum nearby, just outside of the southwest corner of the same parking lot that the Memorial Tree is in. It is several years older and significantly larger than the Memorial Tree, and is also quite healthy and foliating lushly. However, no matter how diligently it gets correctively pruned, it continues to develop minor structural deficiencies, which are unfortunately normal for the species. The top was broken out while the tree was young, so a lateral branch dominated as a new top, only to get broken as well. Consequently, as the tree matures, the trunk will be somewhat bent and slightly leaning, which is the big picture, is not really a problem. Charlie is the little Boston Terrier depicted in the mural that was mentioned in the article from yesterday at https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2018/04/14/foliage-is-not-always-the-answer/ .P80415K+