4/02/2007

Monday Night Gardening

The site of tonight's action:

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This was the first bed I planted after I started using the cobblestone path to define the garden. I planted it with three abutilon and suffice it to say, I've done a lot of learning here.

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I don't care what anyone says. Abutilon is difficult to prune well. In the April 1998 issue of Horticulture (which I just happened to be reading last night), Richard Hartlage writes,
"Among the most useful and colorful woody plants for containers are the flowering maples (Abutilon spp.), which are not true maples at all but rather members of the mallow family. In addition to their handsome, maplelike foliage and bell-shaped flowers, they respond well to pruning and thus can be coaxed into whatever shape and dimension the gardener desires."

Abutilon respond well to pruning insofar as the pruning cuts heal and the plant keeps going, but in my experience, ordinary pruning techniques have rarely produced the desired results. This is a plant that does what it wants.

Last fall, after a year and a half of pruning trial-and-error, I resorted to drastic pruning action. And I created a monster.

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It's time for this plant to go.

Still, abutilon is a great plant--flowers all year, does well in sun or shade, not especially thirsty, no pests, frequented by hummers and bees--and, more importantly, I'm a better pruner now than I was two years ago. So I'm starting over with a new abutilon; this time, a white flowering variety.

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White flowers because I feel a bigger commitment to this pink flowering native Ribes sanguineum var. glutinosum, and I don't want two pink flowering plants next to each other.

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Seems like good foliage match, don't you think?

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While I don't want two pink flowering plants next to each to other, I don't think the white flowering Mandevilla laxa growing behind (and on) both the ribes and the abutilon will be a problem.

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It started leafing out a couple weeks ago.

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Also tonight, sowing seeds.

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This flat is far and away my favorite kind of seed sowing container. If you know where I can buy them online, tell me and you will be my favorite blog commenter of all time. I've looked, but I can't find them anywhere.

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It's a nice, compact shape, good for germinating lots of seed, it retains moisture well (but not too well), and two can fit on a standard heating pad.

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Monardella villosa (Coyote Mint)

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Madia elegans (Tarweed)

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Fremontodendron californicum 'California Glory'.

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The first two I bought from Seedhunt, and the Fremontia seeds I collected myself last August from a vigorous stand of trees growing around a faculty parking lot at City College.

I'm starting these for the Botanical Garden, but I'll keep a couple Monardella and Madia for myself.

Madia elegans (Tarweed):
"Tarweed reacheds four to six feet in height. In winter and spring, the young plants from dense tufts of hairy leaves, but as the weather warms, a central stem emerges and elongates. At its summit, a widely branched inflorescence appears carrying dozens of golden yellow daisy-like flowers. These 1-inch-wide flowers are often stained a deep chestnut toward the base of the rays. Each flower head opens shortly after dusk and wilts before noon of the following day, though flowers may remain open during foggy or heavily overcast days." Ref.

I envision a couple of these growing in and around the artichoke bush and tomatoes. It's a weedy but elegant plant that flowers all summer long. I hope it will help blend the vegetable garden into the ornamental natives growing everywhere else. Plus, it's an aster, so bees, etc.

Do you sow in sterile mix? I always wonder if that's really necessary.

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San Francisco gives out these containers to homeowners as part of garbage service. It's a green waste can for your kitchen, but if you put this on the street for collection, someone will steal it, as we learned our first week in the house. The city gave us a replacement and admonished us against ever putting it out again. Apparently, they're very popular items.

I use mine for storing mix.

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The result of my work...

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The other result of my work...a big mess.

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10 comments:

Entangled said...

I think the seed flat you seek is available at homeharvest.com, although it's hard to tell if that one has drain holes or not. Scroll to the bottom of that page.

chuck b. said...

That's it! These are the flats we use at the Botanical garden, but noone could remember where they came from. We put the holes in them ourselves. Entangled, did I ever tell you, you've always been my favorite commenter?

mmw said...

1. Abutilon is prone to big ugly black scale -- at least some of them.
2. I at least semi-sterilize the stuff I use for starting seed. Potting soil out of the bag, no; sand from the pile in the driveway, old flats, yes. If you ever get damping off, you will too.

chuck b. said...

I've never had damping off. Or scale. I guess I've been lucky.

anna maria said...

Hi,
Hank, from a Lake County Point of View, suggested I come over and say hello because I live in San Francisco as well, so here I am.
I love your plants. That pink one is beautiful, but I guess it's the one that had to go, right? I also went back a couple of posts to all the photos of your stroll and think I recognize one of the streets. I used to live on Hancock and I believe one of them is above there. Now I live in a totally different neighborhood, with a very different climate!
Great photographs.

anna maria said...

I'm already back!
I was reading more posts here and there and wanted to ask if by chance you are a volunteer at the Botanical gardens. I just came across their site the other day, noticed they have a plant sale coming up this weekend and that they have volunteer opportunities. Not that I need one more thing to occupy my little spare time, but....

chuck b. said...

Yes, I do volunteer at the Botanical Gardens, and, yes, the big plant sale is coming up the first weekend in May. A. They always need volunteers, especially for the unglamorous stuff. So, if you're interested, drop the folks there a line. Everyone there is great and it's a wonderful place to connect to the community. Unfortunately, I'm not sure I'll be able to work the big sale this year due to other commitments.

chaindropz said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Frances, said...

Hi Chuck, I googled pruning abutilon and found this post of yours. I think I was just a lurker when it was written, but probably did visit you then. Anyway, my abutilon is getting very leggy, in a pot in the greenhouse and nearly ready to go back outside, but still in the pot. Can I prune it now, or when is the best time to shorten it a bit, don't want the tree look in the pot, more of a bushy shrubby look is what is wanted. And very sorry to not recognize a CA native in the baby blue eyes, thanks for the forgiveness! ;->
Frances at Faire Garden
ps, I have the flu and cannot get a post together, just reading and commenting. F

chuck b. said...

Oh, Frances--I'm sorry to hear you're not well. The flu, no less. Get well soon!

I would cut it back now, or soon before the days stay reliably warm.

You want it to send up new growth from the crown--so cut it back hard, especially on the older stems.

New growth from the stems can take a while to get started, and often leads to bad aesthetic results in my experience.

Good luck.