Gemini

P80617Astrology is an interesting concept. It is amazing how accurate the various zodiacs are. In fact, they are so accurate, that all twelve of the zodiacs can apply to just about anyone, regardless of their respective birthday.

For example, Gemini people are gentle, affectionate, curious and adaptable. Well, who isn’t? If I told you that these traits applied to Leo, Aquarius or Sagittarius, would you believe me? The weaknesses of Gemini are nervousness, inconsistency and indecisiveness. We all of us experience these weaknesses at one time or another. Gemini people like music, books, magazines and strolling about town. What about Aries, Capricorn and Taurus? Don’t they? Are Gemini people unique in their dislike for loneliness, confinement or repetition? Probably not.

June 20 will be the end of Gemini. It will then be time for Cancer, with its set of distinctive traits, strengths and weaknesses.

Gardening according to astrology might seem to be just as ‘accurate’, but there is a bit more science to justify it. Back before calenders were commonly in use, the seasons were identified by the weather. Since weather changes like . . . well, like the weather, astrology provided another level of accuracy based on the time of year rather than on variable weather. For years when warm weather lingered into autumn, astrology dictated when cool season vegetables needed to be planted, even if the weather suggested that it was too early. Astrology was also used to forecast the last frost date, even while winter was still cold. It might have taken decades to compile enough data for the system to work, but it really was, and continues to be effective. After all, the calendars that we use now are based on the position of the Earth within the Solar System, or in other words, astrology.

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Gemini

P80617Astrology is an interesting concept. It is amazing how accurate the various zodiacs are. In fact, they are so accurate, that all twelve of the zodiacs can apply to just about anyone, regardless of their respective birthday.

For example, Gemini people are gentle, affectionate, curious and adaptable. Well, who isn’t? If I told you that these traits applied to Leo, Aquarius or Sagittarius, would you believe me? The weaknesses of Gemini are nervousness, inconsistency and indecisiveness. We all of us experience these weaknesses at one time or another. Gemini people like music, books, magazines and strolling about town. What about Aries, Capricorn and Taurus? Don’t they? Are Gemini people unique in their dislike for loneliness, confinement or repetition? Probably not.

June 20 will be the end of Gemini. It will then be time for Cancer, with its set of distinctive traits, strengths and weaknesses.

Gardening according to astrology might seem to be just as ‘accurate’, but there is a bit more science to justify it. Back before calenders were commonly in use, the seasons were identified by the weather. Since weather changes like . . . well, like the weather, astrology provided another level of accuracy based on the time of year rather than on variable weather. For years when warm weather lingered into autumn, astrology dictated when cool season vegetables needed to be planted, even if the weather suggested that it was too early. Astrology was also used to forecast the last frost date, even while winter was still cold. It might have taken decades to compile enough data for the system to work, but it really was, and continues to be effective. After all, the calendars that we use now are based on the position of the Earth within the Solar System, or in other words, astrology.

The Good Weed

P80616KOnce in a while, a stray seed of a plant that would normally be considered to be an invasive exotic species happens to grow in a spot where it happens to fit. Those of us who regularly pull up unwanted feral seedlings, are typically skeptical. We probably pull up many such seedlings merely because we do not trust them, or because we do not want them broadcasting their seeds elsewhere in the neighborhood. In our region, Acacia dealbata, blue gum eucalyptus, black locust, pampas grass, broom, poke berry and Himalayan blackberry get no consideration; and their seedlings should be removed as promptly as they are discovered. English ivy does not get much more consideration, but every once in a while, it happens to wander into a situation where it is allowed to stay.

Catalpa is one that we are not quite sure about. It is an exotic species that happens to disperse unwanted seed at times, but is not invasive enough to warrant prompt removal of all seedlings. Many seedlings appeared in the area several years ago, and most were removed because of where they were. However, if any other seedlings have appeared since then, they have been discreet enough to remain unnoticed. It was as if there was a very specific mating season. Catalpa had not been invasive prior to that, and has not been invasive since.

Two of the feral catalpa seedlings appeared on the edge of the parking lot at the Felton Presbyterian Church. One became disfigured and distressed, and finally died before being removed. The other just happened to be in the middle of a parkstrip, and in a location where a good sized shade tree had room to grow. Because no one could find a good reason for removal, it stayed. After only a few years, it is now a good sized and very well structured shade tree that blooms nicely this time of year. It may not last long, since catalpas are short lived, but for now, it is a nice component to the landscape. This weed gets a happy ending.

 

Six on Saturday: ROCK ON!

 

This might be the very first post in the history of Six on Saturday that lacks any plant material! There are certainly plenty of flowers blooming out there, but that was not what I was working with this week. The first two pictures were at a site where I was working earlier in the week. The other four pictures were at a larger landscape that is in the process of being renovated. Until this week, I had not seen much of the site, but heard about it daily. The work is behind schedule, so a whole bunch of us went to the site to help. Although we were very grateful for the help, and everyone was genuinely pleased to be of service, I can not help feeling guilty about my esteemed colleagues engaged in the unpleasantries of such dusty and dirty work, especially when they have so much of their own work to tend to.

1. The soil at the first job site is of exceptional quality, but is only about a foot deep! This now broken mudstone is what lurks below, but it is not broken down under. It is only broken in the picture because it needed to be pried up so that larger plants could go into the ground. It took all morning just to install a few #5 plants. The smaller #1 plants were planted much more easily on top of the mudstone.P806162. This sometimes happens when prying up mudstone.P80616+3. At the second and much larger landscape, the irrigation system and lighting needed to be installed before the rest of the landscape. There is now irrigation pipe and electrical conduit everywhere! It took some serious digging. Because so much excavation had already been done at the site for the installation of big wide walkways, much of the soil was being moved a second time. The soil is so loose and sandy that much of it needed to be dug a few more times from the ditches as the irrigation system was installed.P80616++4. A few big boulders were installed on the site. To avoid driving the heavy machinery on the new concrete, the boulders were installed early in the renovation process, before the new concrete was installed. Consequently, they were buried by the soil that came from all the ditches for the irrigation and lighting systems. They reappeared as the ditches were filled. I still do not understand the appeal of stone and boulders in landscapes. The mudstone that was encountered earlier in the week was not much fun.P80616+++5. Plant material has not yet been installed, so the landscape features only a few dogwood trees that were already there, and these few boulders scattered about in the dusty soil. It really is dusty! I cannot figure out why the dogwoods are so happy there. I can not figure out why the boulders are so happy either, . . . or if they are happy . . . or if they really care at all. I just do not know.P80616++++6. One of our soil science professors at school was emphatic about soil being ‘soil’. We were not allowed to refer to soil as ‘dirt’. Well, this soil happens to be better than it looks, and it is good enough for dogwoods, but it really is very dirty soil.P80616+++++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/

Horridculture – Satellite Dish

P80613

Satellite dishes, tater tots, fish sticks, soldiers, flat tops, gobstoppers, corks, oil tanks and trip hazards are just some of the many but less objectionable names that my colleague down south and I have developed for what should be good shrubbery, trees, vines or whatever that so-called gardeners got to with their hedge shears. Tater tots are usually Heavenly bamboo shorn into stout cylinders. Fish sticks are the same, but taller, narrower, and often composed of Podocarpus macrophyllus. Corks are commonly breath of Heaven, but could be just about anything shorn to be somewhat cylindrical, but narrower down low, and wider on top. Trip hazards are ground cover plants like creeping California lilac or creeping cotoneaster, shorn into absurd low hedges next to sidewalks. Gobstoppers could be just about anything, but tend to hang over the curbs in parking lots, ready to impale a radiator grill with a gnarly stub. You can use your imagination for soldiers, flat tops and oil tanks. You probably can not conceive anything more absurd than what my colleague and I see on our job sites.

‘Garage sales’ are probably the worst. They are a variety of plants that were probably intended to function as a practical landscape, but instead got shorn collectively into a large thicket of mixed foliage that rarely gets the chance to bloom. Bougainvillea, New Zealand flax, jade plant, pampas grass, wisteria, fruit trees and even the occasional century plant; anything goes! If the so-called gardeners can reach it, they will shear it.

The original satellite dish was a carob tree in Westchester. I first saw it in the early 1990s, when some homes that had a bit of space to spare were still outfitted with huge parabolic satellite dishes, before the much smaller ones that can be mounted on roofs were invented. This tree had a normal trunk that went up into a remarkably flat ceiling under which no foliage was allowed to hang. This ceiling was only about seven feet above the lawn below. Above that, there was a remarkably symmetrical but low dome of very tightly shorn foliage that looked something like a downward facing satellite dish. This dome was perhaps twenty feet wide, but less than four feet from top to bottom. So, with seven feet of clearance above the lawn, the entire tree was no more than twelve feet tall, barely higher than the eaves of the home behind it. I really wish I had a picture to share. Who puts so much work into ruining a tree?! Maintaining it properly would have been much less effort.

Earlier, we discussed renovating overgrown shrubbery as small trees. https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2018/05/21/overgrown-shrubbery-becomes-small-trees/ . The satellite dish was the exact opposite of such useful procedures. What is the point of planting trees and then not allowing them to develop as anything more than abused shrubbery?

The pair of satellite dishes in the picture above are Japanese maples. Their canopies are about the same depth as that of the carob tree in Westchester, but are only about half as broad. What is the point of planting Japanese maples if they are not allowed to look like Japanese maples? They look ridiculous. What is worse is that someone puts significant effort into making them look so ridiculous. They would be so much prettier if pruned only very rarely, and only for clearance above the driveway and away from the building behind. Such pruning would have been less work than shearing these disgraced trees just once.

Even more effort goes into humiliating the plants in the picture below. The fish stick to the upper right is a wisteria vine that is not allowed to bloom or climb onto the trellis that was built for it (which is not visible in the picture). The trip hazard to the lower left is some sort of lavender that is not allowed to spread out over the bare soil as it was intended to do. The cork in the middle is a New Zealand tea tree that can never develop the gracefully irregular canopy and sculptural trunks that it would be pleased to display. It is just a cork.

P80613+

Halston Junior

P80610Apparently, the warnings were effective. https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2018/01/27/caution/ . They managed to avoid the traps and survive to perpetuate another generation under the lawn of Felton Covered Bridge Park. It is impossible to know if they are directly related to the now deceased Halston https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2018/04/21/halston/ who infested a landscape only about two miles away. It is unimportant. They all are intent on conquest.

Halston Junior, a baby gopher who may or may not be a descendant of the famed Halston, was found wet and shivering on the surface of the ridiculously perforated lawn. Rhody wanted to play, but was restrained from consorting with the enemy. The prisoner was detained, dried and put in one of Rhody’s blankets to recover. There was no formal interrogation, but the detainee was found to be well armed.

It is impossible to imagine what sort of damage such sharp and strong claws could inflict!P80610+

It is equally as impossible to imagine how dangerous such nasty fangs could be!P80610++

The purpose of this formidable weapon is unknown, but it is undoubtedly very dangerous!P80610+++However, the most effective weapons of all were mind control techniques. Halston Junior used them merely for self defense, by convincing his captors that he was too cute to be euthanized. It could have been much worse if he had not been so mentally compromised from his ordeal.

We knew that Halston Junior could not be released back into the lawn from which he came, but we also knew that relocating him somewhere else would disrupt the ecosystem slightly, and that Halston Junior would likely migrate back to where he came from. Ultimately, he did get released into a nearby meadow. We can only hope that the rest of the ecosystem will not notice.

Halston Junior won this battle, but not the war.

 

Souvenir

P80609KNurseries are full of plants for sale. That is their business. They sell plants, and whatever plants need. With a bit of money, it is easy to purchase plants to compose an exquisite landscape. That is important to landscape professionals who make a business of composing landscapes to beautify the environments in which they work.

Those of us who enjoy home gardening might also purchase plants that we want for our garden. Yet, our home gardens are more than mere landscapes that are designed to simply beautify. The might also produce flowers for cutting, fruits and vegetables. Some might produce firewood. Gardens are usable spaces for active lifestyles. They are spaces for us to grow whatever we want to grow.

I buy almost nothing for my garden. The last item I purchased was a ‘John F. Kennedy’ rose, and I only did so because it was easier than growing one from scratch, and it is my favorite hybrid tea rose. Almost everything else was grown from seed, cutting, division or even as entire plants taken from somewhere else. They all have stories. My figs and quince are from trees that have been producing fruit in the Santa Clara Valley for generations. My great grandfather gave me my first rhubarb before I was in kindergarten. I found one of my pelargoniums in a neighbor’s trash heap when I was in junior high school. I found another in a creek where I grew citrus in Gilroy in the early 1990s.

My iris are from all over. My favorite are still those from the garden of my great grandmother https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/09/10/roots/. Two others came from and ‘incident’ back in college https://tonytomeo.wordpress.com/2017/09/12/the-colors-of-karma/ . I may grow as many a four white iris, not only because they are my favorite color, but because they came from important origins. The short white iris that I do not like much must stay because it came from my grandmother’s garden in Saint Helens. There is another tall iris that is not a pure white, but seems to be somewhat grayish, but it must stay too because it is the only iris I got from the historic home of a friend’s mother in Monterey. One of my favorite whites was supposed to be red, but must stay because it came from a friend’s home in Lompico . . . and because it is one of the prettiest. I have a purplish burgundy iris that I only recently learned was brought from the garden of a colleague’s grandmother in Placentia, a town in Orange County that really should change it’s name. It proliferated and was shared with the Felton Presbyterian Church, where it proliferated again, which is how I found some on a trash heap. They are a keeper now.

When they were all together in the same garden, I grew as many as fourteen bearded iris, with a few other types. Some of the redundant white bearded iris have been relocated to the garden parcel in Brookdale, just to keep the separate from similar cultivars. Not many have been added, although there does happen to be a group of mixed iris from the garden of a former client in Ben Lomond. I think I will keep them mixed because they are easier to keep track of as a single mixed group rahter than as several separate cultivars.

These pictures are a few weeks old, from when the iris were still blooming. The iris in the picture above came from the garden of a friend in the East Hills above San Jose. The flowers are the biggest of all the iris I grow. You can see how distinctive they are. The iris in the picture below, which is not a good picture, is ‘Blueberry Ice’. It was a gift from the Clara B. Rees Iris Society. It has stout stems to support the very wide flowers that are mostly white with a variable blue edge.P80609K+

Six on Saturday: Petunias

 

These were only recently planted, within the past few weeks, so are not completely filled in. That of course is unimportant for pictures of only the flowers close up. I have not grown petunias for many years, but I am getting to like these because they are so colorful in the sunnier spots. There are busy Lizzy in the shadier spots. (I can explain that later.) It is not easy to select a favorite. Although the white petunia should be my favorite, I really like how brightly colorful the first one ‘Dreams Sky Blue’ is on the side of the road. ‘Blue Madness’ and ‘Red Madness’, the second and third pictures, are so reminiscent of petunias that we grew many years ago, and might even be the same. The unknown petunia in the fifth picture is the only one here that I do not like much, and it did not work out as well as hoped anyway. It is planted in hanging pots, but does not cascade. That is why a few ‘Wave Lavender’ in the fourth picture were added in with them. The white petunia happens to be only one of a mix of various colors.

The first three were planted in beds at ground level. The fourth was planted both in an elevated planting bed, and added to hanging baskets with the fifth. The fifth was the first to be planted in the hanging baskets, but is not cascading as expected. The sixth, along with a variety of other colors, is in a few large planter boxes, so will hopefully cascade somewhat, but does not need to.

1. Dreams Sky BlueP80609
2. Midnight MadnessP80609+
3. Red MadnessP80609++
4. Wave LavenderP80609+++
5. This variety is unknownP80609++++
6. This variety is unknown and includes a mix of colors.P80609+++++
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/

Horridculture – Fat Hedges

P80606

This is the first article within the designated ‘rant’ format, that will continue each Wednesday. Articles for the other six days of the week will be more cheerful, or at least less objectionable. These articles may not always be rants, so might alternatively include discussions of particular fad, trends, gimmicks and so on. Perhaps some topics will remain just that; discussions in which the advantages and disadvantages of a particular subject are compared. Categories may develop, so besides ‘Horriduclture’, there could be a category for discussions of fads, for example. This is a new format for me, so I will keep it open to modification, and see how it goes.

Fat hedges are one of my serious peeves!

Hedges done properly are very useful landscape features, that provide privacy, obscure undesirable views, muffle outside sound or simply divide a large garden space into smaller garden rooms. Landscape designers know how to use them, and are good at planning their locations and orientations, as well as designating the plant material to be used for particular hedges. Some informal hedges or screens are outside of useful space, where they have plenty of room to grow plump and wild without becoming obtrusive. Formal hedges are those that require shearing for confinement within limited space.

Fat hedges are those that are designed to be contained, typically by formal shearing, but are instead allowed to encroach into the usable space within the landscape that they are designed to enclose. They can be a serious problem in confined garden space, and sometimes occupy most of the space themselves.

Seriously, they are very often several feet deep (from front to rear). Fat hedges on either side of a small garden room that is only about twelve feet wide can easily occupy more than half of the area. Think about it. If each hedge is just three feet deep, and there are two hedges, that means that six feet of the width of the twelve foot wide space is occupied by fat hedge! That is half of the area available! Some fat hedges are even deeper! A fat hedge does nothing more than a properly maintained hedge. Really, a three foot hedge accomplishes no more than the same sort of hedge that is only one foot deep. The interior is only bare twigs.

Fat hedges are mostly the result of inept gardeners who allow the hedges to gain a bit more width with each shearing, without ever renovating overgrown hedges. To make matters worse, they allow the tops of the hedges to get wider, which shades out lower foliage, which becomes sparse. Then the fat hedge becomes a top heavy hedge, leaning into usable space where it should be leaning slightly away. Ends of top heavy hedges often protrude a bit more than the sides of the hedges. If these hedges flank a driveway or walkway that is perpendicular to the sidewalk or a patio, the distended end is particularly obnoxious.

In the picture above, the low hedge seems to be well maintained. If it is a fat hedge, it is in a situation where it is not really crowding much. However, notice the width of the sidewalk. It is quite broad. Then there is a significant constriction where the hedge protrudes over the sidewalk. What is the point of so much concrete and such a wide sidewalk if almost a quarter of the width of it is overwhelmed by vegetation? It is like four lanes of freeway that merge into three, only to merge back into four.

Career Counseling

P71206This is not a sequel to my rant ‘Real Deal’ from yesterday. It is just another rant. I should write more such rants; and I am actually considering designating Wednesday, as the day for discussion of the various hooey in horticulture, from some of the many fads and gimmicks to the lack of professionalism in the horticultural industries. Wednesday is the day between my current gardening column articles and the gardening column articles that are recycled from last year. There is certainly no shortage of hooey to discuss. I have been mostly polite about it so far. I sometimes wonder why I should bother with politeness. I sort of think that some would prefer more honesty than such unfounded pleasantries. Well, I can give more thought to that later. There are still a few more pleasant topics that should be discussed as well. For now, I will continue:

Many years ago, while driving the delivery truck, I took a few orders to various jobs of a particularly annoying ‘landscape designer’ in Contra Costa and Alameda Counties. His orders were never planned. He would come to the nursery and just pick out random plants that he thought were interesting, including many that happened to be on the side of the road waiting to be taken away for disposal. (Overgrown and disfigured rhododendrons that get junked often bloom better than plants of better quality because they are more mature.) His landscape design was planned in the same manner. He just planted things wherever he though they looked good. There was no thought to the preferences of the various cultivars, exposure, irrigation, the trees above . . . or anything. He landscaped right around whatever happened to be in the way, including dead trees, fences overwhelmed with ivy, and dilapidated carcases of old brick barbecue pits that were beyond repair. I really disliked being on his job sites.

During one such deliver, he explained to me that he had been a chiropractor. He got bored with his career, and decided to do something more fun, so decided to become a landscape designer. He enjoyed buying pretty blooming plants in nurseries and wearing khaki shorts and big straw hats to work like all the landscapers with something to prove do.

My comment to him was that my career as a horticulturist was so much hard work and so frustrating at times that maybe I should also consider a career change. Perhaps I should consider becoming a chiropractor. If someone without ANY education or experience in horticulture or design . . . or anything even remotely useful in the landscape design industry can become a landscape designer, than it should be just as easy to become a chiropractor, despite a lack in formal education or experience in the industry.

He did not like that comment.