After the remnants of Hurricane Michael knocked down a couple of our neighbors’ trees (see picture #6), they generously offered us some of the wood. It’s not every day that I have access to such big, beautiful oak logs, so I decided to use them for something more fun than firewood.
1. The wood
2. The mushrooms
3. The guide book
4. The location
5. The procedure
6. The log garden
For more Six on Saturday, head on over to The Propagator. After viewing his Six, check out the comments for links from other participants.
This week, I traveled to San Diego, California for a scientific conference. It was my first trip to San Diego–my first trip to anywhere in California, actually–so it was exciting to see a new part of the country. Even the flower beds around my hotel and the convention center were full of new and interesting things.
The meeting didn’t leave much time for sightseeing, but I managed to slip away one morning and take a bus up to Balboa Park, which houses the San Diego Zoo and a variety of gardens. I considered just wandering around the free areas of the park but eventually decided that I couldn’t miss the world famous zoo. That turned out to be the correct choice. In addition to being an amazing collection of endangered species (the zoo is famous for its captive breeding successes), the grounds are also a very fine botanical garden. The weather was cool, so the animals were active, and there were hardly any visitors. I had a good long visit with the pandas (red and giant), koalas, Tasmanian devils, komodo dragon, giant tortoises, okapis, elephants, jaguars, and many other animals, but I took more pictures of the plants.
Today being Saturday, here are six things that caught my eye in San Diego–garden related, of course.
1. Flowering trees.
November is clearly not the best time of year for blooming trees, but nevertheless, I saw some beautiful tropical and subtropical flowers.
2. Bird of Paradise flowers
Strelitzia reginae (bird of paradise) and Strelitzia nicolai (white bird of paradise) were growing (and blooming) all over town. S. reginae is my wife’s favorite flower, so when we were first married I tried growing some from seed. After fifteen years, I managed to get a only single flower from an enormous clump that took up a lot of real estate in the greenhouse, so I gave up. Clearly, flowering is not a problem when they are grown outside in San Diego.
3. The Botanical Building
The Botanical Building is a Balboa Park landmark that was originally built for the 1915-1916 Panama-California Exposition. Before seeing it, I had assumed it was some sort of greenhouse or conservatory, but there is no glass involved. Instead, the Botanical Building is a giant lathe house, built of wooden strips that provide the perfect amount of shade and wind protection for palms, tree ferns, and other tropical/subtropical understory plants.
4. Australian plants
Callistemon ‘Woodlanders Hardy’ and one or two eucalyptus are the only Australian plants I know of that can be grown in North Carolina, and even those are marginal outside of the coastal plain. The climate of southern California is more similar to parts of Australia, so I wasn’t surprised to see a wider variety of plants from Down Under.
5. African and Malagasy plants
The zoo has a really impressive collection of succulents from Madagascar and southern Africa.
6. Hawaiian plants
I suppose the climate of Hawaii, particularly on the drier leeward side of the islands, must be not entirely unlike that of coastal San Diego County.
For more Six on Saturday, click over to The Propagator, where you will find his Six and links to other participants.
Here are some more plants on their way to my greenhouse for the winter. I previously photographed some of my Pachypodium plants and gave cultural suggestions in Six on Saturday #3. Those photos, taken in July of last year, showed leafy plants. Here in October, most of my pachypodiums have already shed their leaves and are dormant. Flower buds will start to emerge in late winter to early spring, and fresh new leaves will follow.
All of the species shown here are from Madagascar
1. Pachypodium eburneum
Pachypodium eburneum is a very compact species with strongly compressed branches and relatively short inflorescences. In that sense, it is somewhat like a less extreme version of P. brevicaule. While P. brevicaule has soft spines, however, the thick spines of P. eburneum are hard and sharp. Very old P. eburneum have a lumpy, irregular form, but this plant (eleven years old, grown from seed) is still nicely symmetrical. The flowers of P. eburneum are white or pale yellow.
2. Pachypodium rosulatum var. gracilius
Pachypodium rosulatum is a very variable species that some botanists (and many horticulturalists) split into a complex of several closely related species. Here, I’ll follow Dylan Burge  in considering this and the following plants to be variants of one species.
P. rosulatum gracilus is distinguished by its dense, very fine spines. It generally has a bottle-shaped or globular trunk. Flowers are small and bright yellow. This is a seventeen-year old plant, grown from seed.
3. Pachypodium rosulatum (near Tôlanaro)
This P. rosulatum variant, which appears to be undescribed, supposedly comes from the vicinity of Tôlanaro (Ft. Dauphin) in southern Madagascar. It has large yellow flowers and very sharp spines that are stronger than those of var. gracilius. This plant was purchased as a small artificially propagated seedling in 2008.
4. Pachypodium rosulatum var. makayense
Like Pachypodum rosulatum var. bicolor, P. rosulatum var. makayense has bicolored yellow and white flowers. At least under greenhouse conditions, var. makayense seems to be more compact than var. bicolor. It is also more difficult to grow, and I have lost a number of seedlings to root rot. This plant is eleven years old, grown from seed.
5. Pachypodium rosulatum var. cactipes
Pachypodium rosulatum var cactipes has fine, acicular spines, rather like those of var. gracilus, but in var. cactipes they are more widely spaced on long branches. The plant shown above was purchased as a small seedling from Arid Lands in 1999. It has the longest flowering season of any of my pachypodiums, producing yellow flowers successively over more than a month in mid to late spring.
The plant shown below also seems to be var. cactipes. It is the “super branching form” sold for many year by Highland Succulents in Ohio. I bought this plant in 2000.
6. Pachypodium windsorii
Pachypodum windsorii has bright red flowers in the spring. The plant above, a 1997 purchase from Glasshouse Works nursery, is the parent of the seedling below. Shortly after germination, I deliberately damaged the apical meristem of this seedling, and it responded by branching. Usually pachypodiums branch after flowering for the first time, and the trunk is expanded only below the first branch. In this seedling, each of the four basal branches is developing a swollen base, giving it the appearance of four plants fused together. I think it will make a really nice specimen in ten or fifteen years.
Most of the pictures this week are really Six on (last) Saturday, because they were taken a week ago at the autumn open-house of Montrose, Nancy Goodwin’s garden in Hillsborough, North Carolina. See here for my pictures from last autumn.
The final picture was taken yesterday, in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Michael.
1. Costus species
Costus are related to ginger but have been separated out of the Zingiberaceae into their own family, Costaceae. I made a beeline for this plant the past couple of times I visited Montrose, because I have never seen one growing in the NC piedmont before. This time, Nancy let me in on the secret: She digs it up every autumn and stores the rhizome in her house, so it isn’t as hardy as I hoped. Still, our summers are clearly long enough and the soil warm enough for it to get established and flower. Might be worth trying one of these days.
2. Double-flowered Colchicum
This might be Colchicum ‘Waterlily’, but without a tag I can’t be sure. Montrose is famous for its bulb plantings, and two of the three plants that I picked up at the sales table were also bulbs (in the broad sense): a huge Hymenocallis that might be H. ‘Tropical Giant’ and a seedling Cyclamen mirabile. The third plant I bought was Primula sieboldii.
3. Abelmoschus species
A beautiful Hibiscus relative with fuzzy buds. I wish the plants in Montrose Garden were labeled. I suspect this is Abelmoschus manihot, but don’t quote me on that.
4. Brugmansia (angel’s trumpet)
South American Brugmansia are surprisingly hardy in the piedmont. My plant of Brugmansia ‘Betty Marshall’ has survived three or four years outdoors and is currently about seven feet tall. This yellow flowered clone, perhaps ‘Charles Grimaldi’, has been growing below a couple of large eastern red cedars at Montrose for longer than that.
5. Salvia oxyphora (fuzzy Bolivian sage)
I hesitated to post this photo, because it is another bright pink/red flower that blows out the sensor of my iPhone camera and is almost always overexposed. But S. oxyphora is so fantastic and furry that I couldn’t resist. My sole attempt to grow this species failed, but perhaps I haven’t found the correct spot for a plant that must surely be right at the edge of its hardiness zone in the piedmont.
6. Fallen oak (Quercus species).
Hurricane Michael hit the Florida panhandle like a bomb. By the time it crossed our area, it was downgraded to a weak tropical storm, but it still did plenty of damage to trees sitting in soil saturated by the remnants of Hurricane Florence just a few weeks ago. This beautiful oak on our neighbors’ property was uprooted and dropped across our lane, blocking access. By the time I got home from work, the neighborhood chain saw gang was hard at work clearing the road.
For more Six on Saturday, head on over to the Propagator’s blog. Take a look at his Six and then see the comments section for links to other blogs.
I just realized it has been seven weeks since I did a Six on Saturday post. It’s getting trickier to find six things that I haven’t already talked about, so today I thought I’d showcase plants that I normally wouldn’t mention at all.
1. Japanese stiltgrass (Microstegium vimineum)
This stuff is the worst. It’s an annual grass with long, jointed stems that can root at the nodes to spread over flat ground or climb and sprawl to smother plants up to about two feet (70 cm) tall. Stiltgrass was apparently introduced into the U.S. about 100 years ago, when dry stems were used as packing material for porcelain shipments. Around here, it can cover large areas of moist open woodland, along creeks and roads, where it completely chokes out native wildflowers. Seeds can survive several years in the soil, so even very careful weeding appears totally ineffective the next spring. According to Nancy Goodwin of Montrose Garden, stiltgrass can be eliminated by thoroughly weeding the same area for five or six years without fail. Mowing has no effect, as shown by the very short stiltgrass that combines with crabgrass to form much of my lawn in late summer. The busy (or lazy) gardener’s approach that seems to work relatively well is to cover all flowerbeds with a couple of inches of hardwood mulch every few years. The mulch stops seeds from germinating and enriches the beds, but it must be renewed as it decays, or stiltgrass will return
2. Poison ivy (Toxicodendron radicans)
The berries of this native vine/shrub are important food for birds, so seedlings often sprout around the bird feeder and bird bath, or under trees where birds like to perch. For small seedlings, I wear disposable nitrile gloves to pull the plant and then peel off the glove to trap the seedling inside. For larger plants, I use glyphosate–that’s the only time I use glyphosate in the garden.
3. Creeping cucumber (Melothria pendula)
This native annual vine is, as its name suggests, a member of the Curcubitaceae (gourd family). The vines are annoying when they form an untidy tangle that smothers tall perennials. The fruit are apparently edible when green but are very effective laxatives when ripe and black. Birds and squirrels eat them and distribute the seed throughout my garden.
4. Mulberry weed, hairy crabweed (Fatoua villosa)
I think this Asian member of the Moraceae (fig and mulberry family) arrived in my garden via some potted plants from a local botanical garden. It is an annual in the garden but invades pots in the greenhouse year round. The foliage of this species closely resembles various members of the mint family (e.g. catnip, lemon balm), but the hairy flower clusters are distinctive.
5. Chamber bitter (Phyllanthus urinaria)
An Asian species that is now distributed widely in the southeastern U.S., chamber bitter produces many seeds in little capsules along the underside of the stems at leaf axils. Chamber bitter is a problem mainly in bare soil, such as in my vegetable garden, or where mulch has decayed.
6. Pokeweed (Phytolacca americana).
I have heard that this piedmont native is sometimes grown as an ornamental perennial in Europe. An 8-foot (2 m) tall specimen with shiny leaves, red stems, and dark purple, almost black berries is definitely impressive, but wildlife spread the seeds all over the place. Even small seedlings have a deep taproot that makes them difficult to completely remove, and like dandelions, they’ll return if you leave the taproot in the soil.
For more Six on Saturday, hopefully including plants that you’d actually like to grow, head over to The Propagator.