Concrete And Jungle Can Be Compatible

80620thumbConcrete is one of the most common of landscape materials. There are probably more landscapes that include concrete of one form or another than there are landscapes that include lawn, and most landscapes include lawn. There are more landscapes that lack shade trees than there are without concrete. We do not notice it much because, once it is installed, we do not do much to it.

Concrete gets poured into our gardens as a liquid like slurry of cement and sand and gravel aggregates that cures into a stone-like solid. It is not ‘cement’, but cement is the component that binds it all together. Almost all modern concrete is reinforced with steel of some sort to prevent it from breaking as easily as old unreinforced pavement does. It can be as permanent as we want it to be.

Concrete is used to pave patios, driveways and sidewalks, and gets molded into stairs, curbs, and the foundations and slabs for our homes and garages. The visible surfaces of concrete can be colored, textured or outfitted with stone to look better in the landscape than simple bare concrete. It is relatively ‘low-maintenance’, but should sometimes get swept or blown if debris accumulates.

Concrete is a versatile and durable material, but is no more perfect than anything else in the garden. It inhibits percolation of moisture and gas exchange in the soil below. Because it is inflexible, it fractures if displaced by roots or settling soil. Glare from paved surfaces can enhance sun exposure enough to roast sensitive foliage and exposed bark. Certain foliar debris can stain concrete.

Concrete limits plant selection. Conversely, the presence of mature trees limits the location and quantity (surface area) of concrete to be installed. Trees with aggressive roots or big trunks should not be planted so close to concrete that they will have no choice but to displace it. Root barriers help with mid sized trees, but are not always effective forever. Dogwoods,Japanese maples and other plants with sensitive foliage or bark, are more vulnerable to exposure if concrete around them is also exposed.

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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/

Western Azalea

70607We think of rhododendrons and azaleas as being from cooler and moister climates. After all, that is where they do best. Yet, there does happen to be a native western azalea, Rhododendron occidentale, that lives in the Sierra Nevada and coastal ranges from San Diego County to just southwest of Portland, Oregon. (Azalea and Rhododendron are varied specie of the same genus.)

Bloom is mostly white, with pink, pale yellow or golden orange. Some of the fancier garden varieties bloom clear white, or with more vibrant color. The lightly fragrant, two inch wide flowers bloom in groups of two or three on open conical trusses. Each truss produces as many as a dozen flowers in sequence, so a new flower replaces a fading flower for a bit more than a week each spring.

Western azaleas plants are unfortunately not much to look at after bloom. They grow somewhat slowly and irregularly to about three to five feet tall. The two or three inch long deciduous leaves that can turn yellow and orange where autumn is cooler are more likely to turn an unimpressive grayish brown here. Foliage can fade prematurely if the weather gets too hot and arid through summer.

Watering Starts Where Rain Finishes

70607thumbFor a while last winter, it seemed like the rain would never stop. Obviously, it did. The warm spring weather that followed helped plants to take advantage of the rare surplus of moisture. Desert wildflowers were more colorful than they had been in many years, and maybe since 1983 in some areas. Now the weather is back to normal for here, and we must water our gardens accordingly.

There is nothing natural about irrigation (watering); but then, there is nothing natural about gardening or landscaping. Most of the plants in common landscapes are not native. They were imported from vastly diverse regions with very different climates. Because this happens to be a semi-arid ‘chaparral’ climate, most plants want more moisture than they would get here naturally from rain.

Adapting unnatural irrigation to unnatural landscaping sounds easy enough. The problem is that the many different types of plants from so many different climates each want something different. Also, some plants need unnaturally frequent irrigation to sustain unnatural behavior. For example, lawn grass that would naturally go dormant after a dry summer needs water to stay green all year.

Lawn grasses have finely textured roots near the surface of the soil, so want frequent irrigation. Trees within lawns might want larger volumes of water to reach lower roots, but do not like frequent irrigation that keeps the surface of the soil moist. The sort of regular irrigation that is good for lawn promotes shallow tree roots that ruin lawns and pavement, and are not exactly ideal for stability.

Automated irrigation is usually set to operate very early in the morning, and finish before anyone in the home is likely to be outside, or using much water inside. (Other water use can compromise pressure.) Less water evaporates before the sun comes up. Watering before midnight might seem like a better idea, but keeps foliage wetter longer, so might promote fungal diseases such as mildew. Frequency and duration (volume) of irrigation require occasional adjustments to adapt to the weather.

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.

Verbena

80613This is one of those warm season annuals that we do not hear much about. Verbena looks something like lantana, but rather than maturing into a nice shallow ground cover or low mounding shrub with a bit of staying power, verbena lasts only until frost next autumn. The blooms are a bit larger. The leaves are a bit greener. They stay lower than a foot, and get only a few inches wider than tall.

Floral color was already impressive decades ago when it was limited to white and rich hues of blue, red, purple and pink. Even more hues and shades are available now, as well as peach, rose, lavender and many bicolored varieties. The tiny flowers are arranged in small and dense trusses, with the outer flowers opening and fading to lighter hues before the inner flowers opening darker.

Bloom is best in full sun exposure. A bit of partial shade should not be a problem for those that cascade from planter boxes up against a wall, or pots that hang from eaves. Verbena is popularly grown as a cascading component of mixed plantings in large pots, urns and elevated planters, often in conjunction with more upright plants. Verbena works nicely for small scale bedding as well.

The Birds And The Bees

80613thumbThere is so much more to gardening than mere horticulture. There is so much more to horticulture than mere plant life. Plants get eaten by insects and animals, and also take advantage of insects and animals for pollination and dispersion of seed. Some of us who enjoy gardening also like to attract some types of animals and insects to our gardens because they are nice to have around.

The birds and the bees, as well as butterflies, squirrels, lizards, snakes and other small animals add color, motion and vibrancy to the garden. Destructive animals like gophers, rats and deer, and cumbersomely big animals like moose and bears, are not so popular. Mosquitoes and flies are the sorts of insects that we would like to repel with aromatic herbs. Some but not all are welcome.

‘Pollinator’ flowers have become a fad recently, not only to attract bees, but also to provide them with more of what some believe they are lacking out in the wild. There is certainly nothing wrong with attracting bees. Those who are enslaved in honey production are best! Children learn as much about nature from bees as from other wildlife. The soft hum of big herds of bees is quite nice.

Beyond that, we should think outside the box of our home gardens. The unnatural disruption of local ecology can not be repaired by throwing more unnatural resources at it. Honeybees who were imported to make honey are not native, but displaced and interbred with natives enough to interfere with their natural pollinating behavior, as well as their resistance and susceptibility to disease.

Almost all plants in urban as well as agricultural areas were imported too. They were perpetuated until they dominated the localized ecosystems. There is now much more flora in places like the Los Angeles Basin and the Santa Clara Valley than there has ever been before! There is no shortage of bloom for bees. In fact, there is an overabundance of bloom potentially distracting bees from pollinating native specie who need them. Invasive exotic eucalypti might enjoy their popularity at the expense of California poppy.

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.