Monday, January 21, 2013

Winter Entertainment

The roses are sleeping but the birds are not.

A flock of cedar waxwings has been entertaining me these past few days, flying between my and my neighbor's huge privet trees.

The privet trees are full of berries, and I know a million seedlings will come up all over my yard in spring.

But it is fun to see the birds' enthusiasm for them. Some of the clusters were picked clean in just a few hours.

Cedar waxwings are some of the most beautiful birds that come here. They are not easily scared, and moving slowly I could come quite close to them.

So close in fact, that  a half eaten privet berry finally landed right on top of my camera.

That brought the photo session to a quick end :).

Monday, January 14, 2013

It's Cold Here

We haven't quite broken records recently, but we've come close.

The last bloom on Angel Face was frozen solid and never opened

Overnight lows here hit 29F (-2C), unusual for our mild winters. Commercial citrus growers are operating wind machines (giant windmills basically) to blow warmer air into their trees, watering heavily and gloomily predicting fewer and more expensive fruit.

Even birds are cold

My garden has taken a hit too. Most of my pelargoniums have severe dieback (but I hope may still come back).

Nothing kills feverfew :)

A tibouchina urvelliana I have been nursing along looks dead as a doornail despite being covered with a thermal blanket. My lemon and lime trees are dropping leaves (it is still too soon to say how severe the damage is).

California poppies looked briefly unhappy but seemed to have come back

 The sun seems to barely warm up the air. 

Oh well. Looking on the bright side, my shrimp plant (justicia brandegeeana), growing in a protected spot, is unaffected so far....

....and my camellias are cheerfully blooming on.

But the rose season is definitely over :(.

Still dreaming of spring...

Monday, January 7, 2013

Extreme Pruning

Conventional wisdom holds that roses are pruned for rejuvenation. Since the youngest canes are the most vigorous, they are left to bloom, while the old canes, being the least productive, are removed to make room for more new growth. At least, this is what I usually do :)

I leave as many healthy canes on my bushes as possible and don't cut back hard, especially since some of my oldest roses (like Double Delight) have severe cane dieback at the sight of pruning cuts. Young canes have the most color on the bark. Old canes have grey woody bark.

Most people who grow roses have their own ideas on how to prune: some only remove dead and diseased growth and leave the rest alone, some cut all canes back to a uniform height, some strip the leaves off, etc. There are no hard rules that would work for every rose, and for me, the pruning choices are made easier by observing how each rose responds to the amount of pruning I give it.

Notice black colored dead growth, mostly on the left side. On many roses, unproductive twiggy growth dies and should be removed to make room for new canes (not my rose :))

However, it is not often that I see roses pruned as mercilessly as the ones I saw driving past this house today. The front yard has lots of irises, agapanthus, daylilies, camellias, a row of taller tree roses (standards) and some shrub roses in front which you probably can't even see.

The reason you can't see the shrub roses is that they were all cut back to short stubs, and all new canes were removed completely.

The most extreme case of pruning I have seen in a while. I don't think this is the best way to prune a rose

It seems that roses in this yard are pruned to the oldest growth.

This pruning technique looks very much like pollarding, but roses do not seem to respond to it in the same way that trees do.

Pollarded mulberry trees

I think I could guess why the roses are pruned this way. These old canes may be becoming more and more worn out, so the growth they produce is thinner and more sparse every year, so more and more of it is removed. Seems a vicious circle.

I personally tend to go to the other extreme and probably don't prune my roses hard enough :). Some of them still have a few blooms: I found I miss rose blooms too much if I have to go a whole winter without them, so I don't cut them off until they are done blooming.

I wish spring were here already...