Search This Blog


Sunday, March 15, 2015

Luma apiculata - Chilean Luma

This beautiful small tree from Chile is known as the Chilean Luma, Orange-Bark Myrtle or the Chilean Myrtle due to its resemblance to Myrtle trees. I guess I see it, but not really. Luma grows quite large in its native forests, but in our climate I think they will likely top out at 25-30'. They form an upright slightly arching habit with multiple trunks, which is great because the bark is beautiful. I can't say I have seen any others besides the one at the Civic Auditorium but my hope is there are others.

This is the clump of trees next to the fire station and the Civic. Used to be 3 trees, but one was cut down…...

Here is a single tree in SLO.

Leaves are opposite, simple, evergreen, leathery textured, dark green, 1" long, ovate, spicy fragrant with a distinct point at the tip of the leaf which is where it gets its name apiculata. Leaves are fragrant.

Flowering in the summer, in what appears to be an umbel of a dozen flowers, they are about 3/4" in diameter, white or pinkish, with four petals and lots of long stamens.

Fruit looks like a blueberry, develops late summer, Edible.

Bark is attractive, reddish - cinnamon when young and flaking off in small bits. At an older age it seems to develop patches of white.

Older tree at the SF arboretum.

I think the foliage resembles Azara microphylla if you only look closely. Luma has opposite leaves and a distinct pointed tip, along with nice bark.

Santa Cruz
Center St between the Civic Auditorium and the Fire Station.

Azara microphylla - Boxleaf Azara

The boxleaf Azara is a small evergreen tree with an upright to arching habit reaching 15- 20' tall. Most of the time you will see them growing as multi-stemmed specimens or pruned flat against walls. I have seen plants in landscapes and have not been impressed with the shape, often leggy, too open and a bit stiff. The variegated selection is more popular.

Foliage is alternate, simple, obovate, about an inch long, margins more or less smooth but you may find some small teeth. The foliage is borne on a flattened branching pattern.

I mentioned that the leaves are alternate, but they appear to be opposite or close. They develop a leaf like stipule at each leaf that is smaller than the true leaf.

Flowers are yellow, borne in the spring or late winter in the axils of the leaves. Fragrant, smelling of chocolate or vanilla, easy to miss if not looking for them, and I don't ever seem to be looking for them.

Luma apiculata foliage is similar, especially the foliage appearing to be opposite, but its not.

Santa Cruz
160 or so Sylvar St. across from the Mission Park, up against the wall.

Paraserianthes lophantha lophantha - Plume Albizia

I rarely see Plume albizia used intentionally as a landscape plant. Most of the specimens I see are along the highway as escaped specimens growing with Acacia. These are small trees growing to 15' with a slightly narrower spread, with greenish yellow flowers. Most commonly seen on Highway 1 heading south between Larkin Valley Rd and Buena Vista Rd in the medium. This name is new to me. I was taught the old name, Albizia distachya.

Leaves are deciduous to partly evergreen, alternate, bipinnately compound, 6-12" long, containing 7-14 pairs of compound leaflets, each leaflet with up to 40 or so tiny 3/8" long, linear to oblong leaflets with entire margins, and a small pointed tip. There is a gland on the petiole. Leaves usually glabrous, but occasionally with some small hairs.

Leaflets are about 3/8" long.

Flowers early winter to mid winter around SC. Numerous greenish yellow flowers are grouped in 4-6" long elongated clusters.  Most of the show are the stamens.

Fruit is a pod, 3-4" long, flat, drying reddish brown. Shiny black flattened seeds.

Stems slightly hairy.

Albizia distachya
Albizia lophantha

Albiza julibrissin is similar in foliage but the flower color and arrangement of the flowers is very different.

Highway 1 heading south between Larkin Valley Rd and Buena Vista Rd in the medium.

Santa Cruz
802 Fair St on the Handley St. side of the house.

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Cantua buxifolia 'Hot Lips' - Sacred Flower of the Andes

The Sacred Flower of the Andes is a beautiful but not commonly planted small tree or large shrub growing to 10' tall with a vase or spreading habit. They have a stiff branching pattern with an occasional long branch heading off in some random direction. This cultivar has larger flowers. 

Leaves are evergreen, simple, alternate, oval shaped to obovate, 1" long, appearing to be in clusters, where the lateral bud breaks but only produces a few leaves.

Flowers are very attractive, 3" long trumpet shaped, borne in large clusters of a dozen or so. These were blooming in January…..

Can't think of anything. My guess is that lots of Cantua specimens are not 'Hot Lips', as the corolla is supposed to be orangish. Leaves are boxwood like, Buxus sempervirens.

Santa Cruz
San Lorenzo Garden Center

Acacia longifolia - Sydney Golden Wattle

Sydney Golden Wattle is more likely a large shrub but we will consider it a small tree commonly used as a utility tree along freeways. These evergreen trees grow really fast to 20' x 20' with a rounded habit, dense canopy with branches to the ground. The end result is nondescript evergreen screen. Trees become visible as soon as they bloom. Most commonly seen along the freeway.

Leaves are alternate, evergreen, simple, oblanceolate, thick, bright green, no distinct upper or lower surface, more or less 4" long, sometimes slightly curved. Like all simple Acacia leaves, these are phyllodes or flattened petioles.

Stems are thin, green with small rounded vegetative buds.

Older stems are sort of cool looking, nice color and lines on the stems from the buds.

Flowers in mid winter.  Flowers are small, yellow, rounded balls of flowers in elongated clusters, fragrant. Bright yellow.

Fruit is a pod, usually twisted.

In bloom, not as likely, the flowers are super bright yellow on an elongated inflorescence.

Most commonly seen on the freeway.
Just below the railroad overpass closest to Rio Del Mar Exit

Santa Cruz
Along the highway at the old drive in movies, now the swap meet.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Acacia retinodes - Water Waddle

The Water Waddle is a fast growing evergreen tree or large shrub reaching 20 x 20' forming a rounded to oval shape, if growing alone, but these seem to be in groves. Makes a nice fine textured screen. Reportedly blooms throughout the season, and called Ever-blooming Acacia.

Leaves are evergreen, alternate, simple, narrowly lanceolate to oblanceolate, slightly curved, dull gray green, no distinct upper or lower surface, slightly enlarged area near the base of the petiole.

Flowers are pale yellow or cream colored, fragrant, in clusters. Clusters (heads) are arranged in racemes with 5-9 heads per inflorescence. Other sites call this the ever-blooming wattle as it may bloom sporadically year round. My pictures are from winter, and only a few branches had flowers.

Fruit is a pod with some restrictions between the seeds. 4-5" long.

Young stems are bright red-mahogony eventually turning gray.

Trunk reportedly scaly at maturity but these trees are pretty young and smooth.

Wirilda Wattle is another common name.
There are two botanical varieties, but they seem to look alike, one preferring wetter soils.

While taking pictures of the flowers one day a neighbor wanted to know what I was doing. After informing him he told me the tree was a black acacia and since he worked for a tree company for 30 years he was sure. But if you step back and look at the leaves, and flowers, he was not far off.

Odd Acacias are tough, helps to see the flowers, pods and leaves.

Santa Cruz
Harper St. at the east end, past the sign that says private road (oops) across from Daniva Ct. and above all the trash cans.

Dwarf and Weeping Conifers

No doubt about it, I love conifers. I can't have enough, but like most city dwellers, I don't have enough room. So, what does a conifer lover do? Collect dwarf and weeping cultivars. Growth habits available include tiny round balls, low ground covers, upright narrow spires or weeping. Throw in some color variations, yellow, blue or variegated and you have an unlimited assortment available. Collectors can have hundreds of plants in a small amount of space. But you really can't beat the species if you have 10 acres. But that's what botanic gardens are for.

Many people might not have know that the ubiquitous Juniper of the 60's and 70's landscapes is a dwarf form of Juniperus chinensis. Many a front yards were covered with "low" growing Juniperus chinensis 'Pfitzeriana' that eventually out grew their allotted space along the walkways and sidewalks only to be sheered and cursed. We had one across the street that ate our baseballs, and when we are out I had to crawl under the plants looking for a season worth of balls. (I did a quick google street view and they are gone.) This plant was responsible for the dislike of any Juniper by horticulturist, which is to bad. It also has an interesting history and is now recognized as a hybrid, Juniperus xpfitzeriana ‘Wilhelm Pfitzer’.

How are dwarfs produced? There is a great article on the Iseli Nursery webpage so I will offer a shorter version. Most of the variations are the result of genetic mutations and are found either in the field as a bud mutation, a witches brooms or in seed beds of large nurseries. I have found several witches brooms (there is one in Scotts Valley) and in the past sent parts to Iseli Nursery for grafting. One was successfully grafted and on a visit to the nursery I saw "my" 5 plants. They were growing weakly in the bullpen, and did not make the "cut". The specimen they gave me died several years later.

This is Pinus mugo 'Mops' with a witches broom, which will likely become a named cultivar.

Dwarf conifers are slow growing cultivars and usually listed by how large they will be at 10 years old. I have seen some dwarf collections get out of control. In fact, I planted one on the campus of Spokane Community College. It was only a fraction of the plants that came out of the garden of a great friend and master gardener Milo Ball. He asked us to pull some plants because he was selling the house and the realtor suggested he make the landscape look a bit more "normal".  We removed over 100 plants and you could not tell!

This is garden after 10 years…. whoops, guess I planted too many in to small of a space.

If you want them to stay small, put them in nice pots, they will stay much smaller than in the ground. Some of the nicest displays I have seen use troughs for pots.

I think I will focus only on those I have seen locally. However, I might throw in some if the species grows successfully here, perhaps to encourage people to try them. They will be arranged alphabetically.

I have created a map of dwarf conifers in Aptos with a link here and on the maps page.

Abies concolor grows very well here, but I have not seen any of the dwarfs planted, or even standard cultivars. Too bad.

Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca Pendula'. Pretty common in SC, this plant is pretty typical, located in Seacliff. Some seem bluer than others. Some nurseries train them upright with twisting stems.

A bit over the top, in Eugene OR. I have seen this approach in several locations, but this one was really well trained.

Chamaecyparis have lots of cultivars, from every species.

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana has produced lots of cultivars, but most of them are color or habit variations of the species and not really dwarfs. Many of the dwarfs are narrow upright growers like 'Ellwoodii' that's pretty common and has its own post.

Chamaecyparis obtusa the Hinoki cypress has developed hundreds of cultivars, many slower growing, some with gold or yellow, some with fern like foliage. In fact I doubt many Hinoki cypress planted in SC are the straight species. One of the more popular cultivars is the yellow foliaged 'Crippsii' seen below lighting up the landscape on a dark rainy day. A bit to the right is another dwarf, but green.

This is Chamaecyparis pisifera filifera 'Aurea Nana'. Long thin thread like branches and all yellow. Might burn in full sun.

Cupressus macrocarpa 'Greenstead Magnificent'
I know of only a few cultivars of our native Monterey cypress and I love this one. Growing 8+ feet wide and at least 2 feet tall, with a blue cast to the foliage and weeping tips. Much of the literature says 6" tall, don't be fooled.

Picea abies 'Pendula' is a great weeping conifer. Several cultivariants here, some growing ever so slightly up and then mostly on the ground…. though I suspect these low growers labeled 'Pendula' but may have come from a cultivar like 'Inversa'. I planted this one to grow over and down this basalt rock. The plant covered an area over 12' x 12' in 8 years.

And then many upright with weeping laterals…… These are from the National Arboretum in DC.

Picea glauca conica is a naturally occurring dwarf form of the white spruce often know as P. glauca albertiana. Many of the them develop shoots that are no longer dwarf and need to be pruned out quickly or they ruin the shape. Most people consider this a cultivar, but I am not sure. Anyway, called the Dwarf Alberta Spruce. There are at least a dozen selections from this that are smaller, bluer, variegated and who knows what else.

Picea omorika 'Pendula Burns', is a wonderful upright weeping tree. Grows beautifully here in SC.

Picea pungens 'Globosa'
Way too many round globes to know for sure, but most likely candidate for the non-serious rare conifer collector. This is at the Missouri Botanic Garden (really nice garden).

Don't know the cultivar on this one but you can find them grafted up high. Not sure what the purpose is, maybe to make the plant look larger in a container? But if I wanted a dwarf, then make it small.

Picea sitchensis 'Papoose'
I have not seen one of these but the species grows well here, keep an eye out for one. We found it marginally hardy in the snow, but you can find full sized specimens in SC.

Pinus densiflora 'Umbraculifera'
The Tanyoso Pine also called the Table Top Pine. Actually gets pretty big, but not for many years. This image is from the Morton Arboretum. Below is one in Aptos.

One of the cool things about this dwarf is the quantify of cones it can produce yearly.

Pinus densi-thunbergii 'Jane Kluis' is an awesome dwarf pine. A hybrid cultivar growing slowly with a flat top and rounded shape. This plant has japanese black pine genes so it grows well here.

Pinus mugo mugo is very commonly in our landscapes, you just have to look down rather than up. Perhaps the most common dwarf conifer besides the junipers. All over the place and all over the place on height and width. There must be 50 cultivars of this plant, P. mugo pumilo is very common. 'Mops' is pretty common. I doubt I could name any of them in the landscape, unless its one of the really odd ones.

There are also many very dwarf selections like my favorite, 'Mitch's Mini'.

Pinus nigra 'Thunderhead' is a great dwarf form of the Austrian Pine. It features slower growth and large white winter buds contrasting with dark green leaves. Can easily be kept below 10' so you can see the buds.

This is Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Pendulum'. Like many cultivars with pendula in the name, this cultivar has pendulous lateral branches but can grow sideways as well.

Thuja orientalis 'Aurea Nana' and its slight variations are everywhere in town.  I have already shown some pictures of this and its assorted cultivars, but I will include them here as well. Old school plant, very common in 70's style landscapes. Pretty classic sight, there is a front door in there somewhere. Dwarf means slow growing…...

Tsuga canadensis 'Pendula' was a shock to see in a garden recently. I have not seen one Hemlock tree in 10 years while living in SC. I do like them, they have a very soft texture, and small leaves like a fir tree. So this is what they can look like, at Wisley Garden, but below is the one I saw……give it 20 years….

One problem identifying dwarf conifer clones is they will look different on different rootstocks. Many are propagated via grafting and propagators use different rootstocks. For example, putting a japanese white pine clone on 4 different white pine species will result in different growth rates and eventually a different looking plant. The former propagation manager at Isley Nursery told me they called them Cultivariants. I recall an article in a conifer periodical showing the results of this situation. The goal of a nursery is to produce the plants via cuttings, which results in almost identical plants.

Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca Pendula'
203 Santa Cruz Ave Aptos

Chamaecyparis pisifera filifera 'Aurea Nana'
409 Semple Ave Aptos

Picea abies 'Pendula'
206 El Camino Del Mar Aptos

Picea glauca conica
111 Thunderbird Aptos

Picea pungens 'Globosa'
206 El Camino Del Mar Aptos

Picea omorika 'Pendula Burns' and Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca Pendula'
49 Pebble Beach Dr Aptos

Pinus densi-thunbergii 'Jean Kluis'
1080 Via Malibu Aptos

Pinus densiflorus 'Umbraculifera' and Pinus mugo cultivars
451 St Andrews Dr. Aptos

Pinus nigra 'Thunderhead'
430 Seaview Drive Aptos

Sequoiadendron giganteum 'Pendulum'
587 St. Andrews Dr. Aptos

Thuja orientalis 'Aurea Nana'
2897 Estates Dr. Aptos

Tsuga canadensis 'Pendula'
141 Wingfoot Way Aptos

Lots of conifers
1025 Sumner Aptos
Pinus mugo, Picea glauca conica, Chamaecypris obtusa Crisppi, Picea pungens glauca, thuja orientalis.

Conifer garden in Capitola
826 Monterey Blvd.

Websites to look at:
Iseli Nursery
Stanley and Son Nursery

A few of my favorite gardens with dwarf conifers
Oregon Garden
Dawes Arboretum
Morton Arboretum
Royal Botanical Garden Edinburg