Saturday, November 13, 2010

Saturday gardening chores

It was a beautiful fall day today with temperatures in the low 70s. I’m enjoying this weather so much, especially knowing that it won’t last. The list of gardening chores for today was short so I got them done pretty quickly.

First order of business was tying up the Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha) that was flattened by last week’s winds. I ended up breaking a few stems when wrestling with the plant but I noticed that there’s quite a bit of basal growth already (i.e. new growth from the base of the plant). That means that even after I cut down the existing growth after the first frost, the plant will recover very quickly.

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Mexican bush sage after I tied it to the fence

The next project was to move a small variegated bamboo, Sasaella masamuneana 'Albostriata', to a larger container. I bought this plant at the spring sale of the Northern California Chapter of the America Bamboo Society. The leaves were perfect then but now, at the end of a long summer and fall, they look a bit ratty. I will prune the plant in late January to stimulate new growth so it should look beautiful again in just a few months.

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Sasaella masamuneana 'Albostriata' before, in smaller pot

I had expected to find the existing pot filled with roots and rhizomes but when I removed the plant, I saw very little new growth, just some extra feeder roots. The root ball looked to be the same size as when I planted it in May. That surprised me a little, considering that this particularly bamboo is considered to be a vigorous spreader. In any case, it will have room to grow in its new home. Provided I cut it back every winter, it should never grow taller than 2-3 feet—perfect for this large shallow bowl.

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After, in a large clay bowl
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Here you can see how much room for expansion there is

While puttering around, I noticed that the culms of our black bamboo, Phyllostachys nigra, had gotten noticeably darker in the last few weeks. I wonder if it’s from the recent rains, or from the lower temperatures, especially at night? The black bamboo at my in-laws’ house in the mountains seems to turn black much faster than ours here in the Sacramento Valley, so temperature could definitely be a factor.

(All culms on black bamboo start out green then gradually change color, first to a mottled brown and eventually to jet black. This process can take anywhere between 9 months and a couple of years. There are some varieties who turn black faster than others, and one variety called leopard or snakeskin bamboo, Phyllostachys nigra ‘Bory’, whose color remains a mottled brown.)

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Culms of our black bamboo in various stages of darkening
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At ground level, the culms seem to turn solid black faster than higher up

In the afternoon, my wife and I picked up two 2x2x6 ft. galvanized steel stock tanks from a farm supply store. They will go under the bay trees in our back yard where it’s impossible to plant in the ground because of the trees’ dense mat of roots close to the surface. I’m still working out which bamboos will go in these troughs so this project will take a while yet. More in a separate post.

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