Category Archives: shrubs

Progating Heirloom Veggies, Fruit Trees & Christmas trees

‘Tis the season. No, not that season but the time to propagate and increase the number or your plants. Maybe you want to save seed from your heirloom vegetables or start more shrubs inexpensively. How about getting more fruit trees or even trying your hand at starting your own Christmas tree?

Let’s start with saving seed. When your vegetables start to produce this summer, you may want to save some of the seed of plants that produced the best-tasting, earliest ripening fruits. These will be strains that are particularly adapted to our climate.

You can only save seed from open-pollinated varieties– those vegetables that are bee or wind pollinated. All . You cannot save seed from F1 hybrids as their unique traits, such as specific disease resistance and early maturity, are uniform only in the first generation of seed. Seed saved from hybrids they will not come true when replanted.

Hybrids have their place in the garden especially if you have a very short or cool season, not many hours of sunlight as you’d like or a serious nematode problem.

If you enjoy saving seed, it’s fun to identify your best plants to save and use every season. Become a backyard breeder and develop your own unique cultivars for your garden.

Propagating fruit trees involves more than saving seed because 99% of all seedling trees bear fruit inferior to that produced by the parent. It may be the same species but it is unlike that of the parent in flavor, color and date of ripening. To obtain a true-to-type fruit tree that is a clone of the parent tree, it is necessary to graft or bud on a desired rootstock. The graft wood, called a scion, should be collected in January so you have lots of time to ask the neighbor for a small, pencil-thin branch of their peach tree to add to yours or to get a branch grafted onto your tree that would pollinate your cherry, apple or whatever you might need. You can even graft different trees together if they are compatible such as an apricot on plum rootstock or almond on peach.

Mid-July to early September is the best time to propagate broadleaf evergreen shrubs. The growth flush is complete, the wood is firm and the leaves have matured. Using cuttings 3-6" long and rooting hormone they will root in 4-6 weeks. Ceanothus, manzanita and camellia are just a few of the shrubs that can be rooted this way.

And what about those visions of starting your own Christmas tree? It’s difficult to start a tree from a cuttings unless it’s a very fresh cut tree and the cutting is taken from currents seasons growth near the base of the plant. Most evergreen trees used for cut Christmas trees start their lives from seeds. These seedlings grow 1-2 ft in a year or two. After transplanting, they become 6 footers in 5-8 years. So if you are patient you can grow your own from one of those started seedlings. Doug fir, Scotch pine and Noble fir are popular varieties.

There are so many types of plants and methods to increase your collection. Perennials, houseplants, berries and grapes all lend themselves to propagation. I f you have a favorite plant or just want to increase your plants inexpensively there’s a way to do it. 

Great Shrubs-not the ‘usual suspects’

Everybody has them. Some are burgundy, while some are variegated with fragrant flowers. I’m talking about shrubs that provide reliable good looks without a lot of work. Plants that have high impact, are low maintenance and contribute year-round interest should be the stars of your garden. Perennials are pretty but shrubs provide long term beauty without all the work. Here are some shrubs that I use often in designs. Shrubs I couldn’t live without.

Shrubs can be problem solvers. Let’s say you have a bare spot between you and the neighbor next door. The neighbor is nice and all but still you’d rather they didn’t look right into your kitchen window. You want a shrub with some pizazz as you will see it daily when you’re doing dishes. You’d like something different than the usual suspects for screening.

A wonderful plant for this spot would be Lophomyrtus Sundae. This evergreen, myrtle relative grows in full sun or partial shade and requires only moderate watering. Showy, creamy variegated leaves on burgundy stems make this narrow 8-12 ft tall by 4-8 ft wide shrub really stand out in the border. Small white summer flowers are an added bonus.

Need a fast growing, deer resistant, drought tolerant evergreen shrub for a sunny spot? Luma apiculata reaches 6-8 ft tall in no time and can even be trained as a small tree. Dense, deep green leaves, beautiful smooth bark and white to pinkish late summer flowers all make this plant valuable in the landscape. Birds will like the blue-black, half inch fruits although they are not especially tasty to us.

What tolerates considerable shade, blooms with fluffy yellow flowers that smell like chocolate or vanilla and is dense enough to make a good screen or informal hedge?  Azare dentata grows to 15 ft tall, 12 feet wide and can also be trained as a small tree if you want. It would combine well with other tall shrubs in the shady border like Lily-of-the-Valley shrub, podocarpus Maki, hydrangea, Japanese aucuba, mahonia and rhododendron.

Another shrub to ignite a border with smoldering shades of burgundy and purple is the Royal Purple smoke bush. Their stems grow straight up which makes them a useful addition to any border in need of diverse forms. Growing up to 15 ft tall and wide, you can keep this drought tolerant plant in check by cutting back hard each spring after the first leaves break out. They will send up new growth year after year. If left unpruned, wispy, smoky flower clusters appear in spring. Even the youngest specimens turn a striking burnished orange-red in fall. They grow in full sun or partial shade.

There are so many  interesting, easy to grow shrubs. Any one of these will earn its keep with good foliage, interesting form and low maintenance.