Sunday, June 26, 2011

Sally Holmes: She Shines in the Shade

Clusters of tight pointy buds emerging in creamy-apricot color.

I am currently traveling in Colombia with my family.  Colombia is such a botanical paradise and as soon as I get home and finish putting away the suitcases, I will share some of my experiences in this blog.
In the meantime, I reflect on the beautiful 'Sally Holmes' rose in my own backyard.  This is a shade tolerant rose.  It is vigorous, drought tolerant, and resistant to pest and diseases. 

A perfect bouquet on a single stem.

Buds open one after the other - creating an assortment of creamy flowers on one stem. The colors of individual flowers range from creamy-apricot pink to creamy white.  Flowers in the shade seem to retain their pinkish blush longer than those that are in the sun. 

Rambling on top of patio cover.

'Sally Holmes' makes a great country garden rose.  It sends out tall healthy canes that  require a lot of room to ramble.  In my garden, 'Sally Holmes' rambles on top of a 10-ft tall patio cover.   Other than occasional pruning to keep the pathways clear, the rose requires very little maintenance.

'Sally Holmes' rose has flowers that form a perfect bouquet on a single stem.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Front Yard in June

Every year is different.  We have had a lot of rain this year. Normally in the month of June my garden is somewhat starting to wear out the chlorophyll effect.  In other word, our place starts to get really hot in May.  So far, I have not seen a sign of global warming in my garden this year - or else it came camouflaged in low temperatures and high precipitation.

Since this has been an unusual year, I thought that I'd take pictures of the front yard before the blazing light intensity and soil-cracking low relative humidity turn the greenery into gray or golden brown.

So I stood in the middle of the driveway and took pictures of plants that surrounded me.


Forgotten corner...

Trees in need of pruning.

Northwest - my neighbors carpet roses.

Eastern side...

Western side...

Roses in front of the house.

 Erigeron karvinskianus ('Santa Barbara' daisy)

Have a great summer everyone!

Monday, June 13, 2011

Madame Isaac Periere: Volunteer from a Root

Rosa 'Madame Isaac Pereire'

One of the joys or curses of having a relatively mature garden is that plants tend to grow voluntarily at random places.  I have a story of a joyful phenomenon in my garden.

When I transferred 'Madame Isaac Pereire' to a more sunny location in the garden, some roots were unintentionally left in the ground.  The following year I found a two new roses growing from the same place.  They had the same flowers and intense fragrance as the plant that was taken out.   This means that I had cloned my 'Madame Isaac Periere' rose without even trying!  The original plant was growing from its own roots (not grafted) and that the new roses grew from the roots that remained in the ground. 


A pink rose bud.

Today, I have three plants of this variety growing in three different spots of my garden. I had spread them so that I can have more places where I can enjoy them.

 'Madame Isaac Pereire' intermingled with the grape vine

Plant roots spread far and wide in search of water.  As a result when we try to contain or move them, there is a greater chance of leaving something behind.  If the plant that grows is prized for one reason or another, this is a pleasant occurrence.  On the other hand this can also be considered a curse if we do not value the new "volunteer".

Have you ever had some "valuable volunteers" in your garden?

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Hummingbirds: Domesticating the Wild

A place to watch the birds.

With the addition of two hummingbird feeders on both ends of the arbor, we have attracted more hummingbirds to reside in the garden.  The arbor provides a shady place for us to observe them. 

Perched on a tiny branch in between feedings.

Feeling content with a bountiful supply of food.

Hummingbirds are territorial - they drive each other away

Sign of victory:  Feathers on the beak after a fight.

Insecure - still watching over the feeder. Why can't they share? 

Hummingbird formula = 1 part sugar + 4 parts water

Monday, June 6, 2011

Epiphyllums in Bloom

A year ago I received a box of flat broad succulent plant parts from one of my relatives living near Santa Barbara, California.  I did what I thought was right but I had little hope on their survival under the care of my amateur hands.  It was my first time to raise this type of plants. 

Flowers resemble the shape of a pinwheel.

Epiphyllums are known by many names: Epiphyllum phyllantus;Phyllocactus phyllantus; cactus orchids; Epi; Epiphyllum Hort; etc.   The accurate name is a highly debated topic among enthusiasts and scientists around the world.  However, until an internationally accepted name is published, I will use the name epiphyllum (lower-case e and un-italicized), which is the one adapted by the San Diego Epiphyllum Society.  

A close-up on the flowers:  White colored pistil and cream-colored stamens against the pink petals. 
Some of my epiphyllums are now blooming and they look stunning.  The flowers were supposed to last only a day or so and longer in cooler temperatures.  Since our weather has been staying below sixty degrees F, I noticed that the pink flowers have remained more than a week while those with orange flowers remained for two weeks.  Fading of the flowers is signaled by the closing of flowers. Even when the flowers are closed their sharp colors remained.  I'm still waiting to see whether or not fruits will develop.
Spent flower droops down.

My next plan is to experiment on bringing some of them inside as houseplants.  In as much as they are shade-loving plants, the limited light indoors might be sufficient for them.  Furthermore, the stems do not change that much and there are no leaves that would wilt when I forget to water them.

Orange-colored flowers.

Most of the epiphyllums we know today are hybrids from species that originated from the jungles of the Americas.  

Friday, June 3, 2011

Rose Growing is No Bed of Roses

Fig. 1   Aphids

When it comes to roses, the peak of flowering in our area is now. During this time, plants have large leaves; the flowers are huge; and their colors are intense.  The weather is optimum for plant growth and even for pests.  As a general rule, I do not use pesticide in my garden.  We live or move around so close to the plants in my yard, that I'd rather have them look a little bit damaged and disease-infected than having to inhale the fumes of chemicals when I smell their flowers.  Pest and diseases attack my plants but since I am not selling the flowers, I don't mind that they show signs of pest damage.  I have tried some practical solutions to the problems that may not necessarily eradicate but slow down the spread of the pests

Young and succulent parts of roses are often very appealing to aphids (Fig. 1).  Early in the spring, a thick blanket of aphids is a common sight on the basal part of flower buds.  Although, there might be varieties that are more resistant or less attractive to aphids than some, I still have not seen a rose that has not been infested by the pest.

Simple Solutions: 
 1.  Feed the finches; they eat aphids in between meals of seeds.
 2.  Buy and release lady bugs in the garden; they are voracious aphid eaters.
 3.  Blast off the aphids with water. 
 4.  Regulate nitrogen application.  Too much nitrogen coupled with excessive water result in fast growing tissues of plants.  Such plant tissues are soft and loved by tiny sucking insects.

Fig. 2     Powdery mildew (Sphaerotheca pannosa)

Fig. 2a   Powdery mildew and aphids on flower buds.

Powdery Mildew

Powdery mildew always starts as spots of scattered powder on the leaves (Fig. 2 and Fig. 2a).  As favorable conditions persist, the powdery spots increase coverage.  Roses that are well watered and growing in a shadier part of the garden tend to be more susceptible to powdery mildew.  In shady areas, leaf surfaces take longer time to get dry that those that are exposed to sunlight. Most fungi thrive on moist spaces.  The spores can be carried by air from one vulnerable leaf to the other.
Practical solutions:
1.  Avoid watering the leaves of plants. 
(This conflicts with my recommended solution for aphids but there's a remedy for that: hose off the aphids in the morning so that the leaves can get dry quickly.)
2.  Prune infected branches to prevent further spread of the disease.
3.  Treat pruners and clippers with a bleach solution. 
4.  Remove all fallen old leaves from under the rose bushes.
5.  Spray a mixture of baking soda (1tsp) and dishwashing soap (2 tsp) and water (1 cup).

 Fig. 3   Black spots (Diplocarpon rosae)
Black Spots

Black spots are really ugly  (Fig. 3).   They start are dark spots on leaf surfaces and eventually the surrounding areas turn chlorotic (yellowish).  Early in the spring when the temperatures are cooler (>75 degrees F) and precipitation is at its peak (here in our area) black spots are prevalent.  They also appear later in the year when the weather gets dry.  It appears to me that roses that are water stressed are vulnerable to infection.  

Just like powdery mildew, black spot is a fungal diseases  .Again, those plants in the shade are more prone to infection because they leaves takes longer to dry up allowing time for the pathogen to grow.  Infected leaves drop off and sometimes roses get denuded.  

Practical Solutions:
1. Avoid watering the foliage of the roses.
 2.  Clean underneath the plants from fallen leaves because they are likely to be carrying the pathogen.
3.  Remove all obviously infected leaves.
4.  If you are not very emotional- discard varieties that are susceptible to black spots and replace them with resistant varieties. 

Final Note:
There are fungicides and insecticides that are recommended for these pests but as I have said earlier - I deliberately avoid using them as a personal preference. 

For more information:

Pests will always be a part of gardening; gardeners have to set their personal tolerance level and adjust management techniques accordingly. 

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Regretful but Joyful

It has been almost two weeks since Mastering Horticulture was updated.  There was a severe lack time on my part; gardening was pushed in the back burner.  My daughter graduated from high school and we had relatives and friends who came share our joys.  It was a reunion of many relatives.  As everyone would know, before any serious celebration can happen preparation has to be done.  Most of my time was spent in making sure that the there was enough food for several days, towels and bed sheets were washed,  the chandeliers were dusted (I missed some cobwebs) and the baseboards were cleaned.

Regrets.  The garden was not spruced up.  And it happened that our guests came and some of them stayed for a couple of days.  As usual, people came into the house, walked towards the kitchen and out into the patio without even stopping by the living room.  People seem to be attracted to the backyard.  There must be something there that pulls them out from the house.  I cringe as I watch them, from inside the house setting the table, see all the weedy parts of the yard, the yellowish unfertilized tomatoes, the roses that needed dead-heading and the annual plants that I was planning to plant.  I regretted that I did not have the chance to make the garden look spiffy. :(


Thoughts.  So I thought...  What are gardens anyway?  A garden is like a canvass where one plays the role of an artist or creator.  A design is made either on a piece of paper or in the mind.  We translate our desire things grow and position them accordingly.  We even manipulate the way they behave and control the resources that they get.  Sometimes we are generous to some plants and hold back on some.  We protect the plants from harm as much as we can and pluck out the caterpillars that threaten them.   Unlike a still art, a garden involves life - and life involves change.  A true garden is a work in progress.  It is a relationship between the three key players:  the gardener, the plants, and the environment.  Unless it is made of plastic and silk plants, a garden is never finished.  It continues to progress and progress require maintenance. 


Conclusion.  The garden looks the way it looks because of the interaction of the three key players.  For example, the roses (plants) bloomed and I (gardener) was supposed to have deadheaded them but it rained (environment) when I had scheduled to do it.  My regret was borne by my twisted idea about a garden and my role as a gardener.  I imagine that a garden should always be picture-perfect like those in magazines.  However, those are highly choreographed and I do not have the time to do that.  I was too busy with real life - celebrating my daughter's graduation...

Regardless of my own regrets, the family has a great time! 

I thank all the relatives and friends who came to celebrate with us.  My daughter will be continuing her education at UC Irvine... Now I am back in circulation! 
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