Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Rural Gardens & Bird of Paradise Bush (Caesalpinia gilliesii, pulcherrima, etc)

On the last few days of my visit to San Diego County and traveling on my way here or there, I stumble across a few locations which had beautiful informal rural garden settings especially along the roadsides. One location is on Hwy 67 east of downtown Ramona and the other location is along Hwy 76 in Pauma Valley just west of the Casino drive entrance. The plant in question here is Bird of Paradise Bush (Caesalpinia gilliesii) which I previously wrote about  along with it's other Mexican Bird of Paradise relative which carries the bright orange/yellow/red flowers (Caesalpinia pulcherrima) Here . Now while I was out and about purposely on other missions with my photography, I just could resist stopping and taking these beautiful country rural pics.

Photo Mine

This is along Hwy 76 in Pauma Valley just down the road west of the Pauma Casino and heading towards the Pala Reservation Casino. I believe this is on the property of the old Pauma General Store which would be to the right in the photograph. Lots of traffic and the pic was hard to get with masses of automobiles traveling in both directions. where in the world do people in this lousy economy get money to blow like that ? Anyways, here is the roadside informal hedge of  the (Caesalpinia gilliesii)

Photo: Mine

This is taken from the west bound lane of  Hwy 67 before coming into Ramona. It was  just one too many times that I passed here  back and forth on missions east and north  that I then just had to stop and photograph  this wonderful South American native. Just about the only water it receives is from the  poor annual rainfalls of late.

Photo: Mine

Here is the frontal view of the roadside plants on a picture post card property most will recognize when passing the old Hi-Way Market on Hwy 67 on way to Santa Ysabel or Julian. Very tough little shrub and good selection for dry hot areas. also I like the way it doesn't become an invasive and take over the wild, although I have seen it naturalize by reseeding.

Photo image: Mauro Guanandi

São Paulo Brazil neighbourhood
Caesalpinia mexicana

Top Tropicals

Caesalpinia 'Rosae Pink'
Like Columbines and other flowers with great cross breeding abilities for variety, these shrubs above have similar varietal possibilities. So I thought it would also be kool to share a few of these varieties with regards to members of these wonderful flowering desert subtropical shrubs. Most of the folks in the desert cities southwest are only familiar with the bright red-orange with yellow splash which was introduced probably back in the 1980s, maybe Arizona. Well, at least that's where I first saw these plants when traveling Arizona and how the Arizona Highway department was utilizing them along Freeway landscaping on and off ramp exits. What impressed me most is the care and attention to any artistic detail their Highway Department were determined to create in the aesthetics pof theor roadway infrastructure which in most cases is generally steriles and boring and covered up with water loving landscape if you've got that water available. Arizona is unique in the lack of water has actually forced them to be creative. Take the Mural below which takes in elements of native plants and early cultural designs in art.

The Tucson Murals Project

Image from AAA Landscapes
As far as landscape goes, they've selected some of the most beautidul desert trees and shrubs from around the globe, but especially from the State of Arizona which make a perfect fit not only for the general desert climate with plants that can also withstand higher intensified heat generated by the surrounding concrete and asphalt. This example on the right is from Maricopa County in the city of Chandler. Generally they also incorporate many plants in the pea family of trees and shrubs. Caesalpinia pulcherrima being one of these. The effects over the years has been that such beaty has inspired to public to copy what responsible leadership has done within their landscapes. Odd isn't it ??? Leaders leading by example ??? There are so many areas for improvement here!


Caesalpinia pulcherrima Guadeloupe
However sometimes they can be over used and over whelm an area. This Caesalpinia pulcherrima Guadeloupe is a much more red coloured variety and most of these other variations in colour, I've known about, but have never really seen them in the landscapes around the Southwest. I'm sure someone else creative will one day find just the right hardscape and landscape theme to insert them into. But the rather large selection reminds me also of other flowering plants with  multi-colour selections like for example Tropic Cannas.


Caesalpinia pulcherrima
Guyanese flower

There is just so many kool varieties of things and it's simply a matter of being in the right place and at the right time for discovery and perhaps collecting the seed or cloning from cuttings. I'm glad there are folks out there with the patience for doing such things with a species of plant with which they specialize. Again, I just don't have that type of patience. I sure wish I did though. This world has everyone keyed up and anxious. Stress is everywhere, but the garden is certainly a way of escape. At least that's always the way it was for me. And I suppose still is. Outdoors and discovery though are even better. Still, maybe some have seen some things here they never knew existed as far as availability. 

Image by Maryory Strap - Pinterest
Of course there is one final variety, though it's is an entirely different species and rather large tree of the tropics. It's that picturesque tree often visualized in some romantic colonial era setting of some British or French colony in the Caribbean Islands. 'Poincianna Royal'. The interesting thing about this tree is that it hates the cold. I remember when I first read about this tree while researching Caesalpinia pulcherrina and the name Royal Poincianna came up. By cold, I'm not talking about some frosty mornings, but it hates temps getting down to 45 degrees (7.2 Celsius). This tree and I have something in common. We both dislike cold. So San Diego just might be a good choice for this one. I'm sure Balboa Park has some excellent examples.

Image from  'Royal Poinciana'

Other Posts on this subject.
Utilizing Ornamentals of the Legume Family in Southwest Landscapes

Monday, July 15, 2013

Cottonwoods ? Give me one of those "cottonless" Cottonwoods over a Fremont any day!

This was the usual attitude I found when discussing plants in landscapes up in Anza California by new land owners moving up from the cities. People in general by their very Nature are impatient when it comes to landscaping and they want instant landscapes NOW, not what they perceive as being years or decades on down the road. Species of Populus are widely used in landscapes – especially when fast growth is desired. Most of these are hybrids and most often they are so-called “cottonless” Cottonwoods. These are male clones selected because they do not produce the cottony seeds that become a nuisance. I also believe their origin is from back east as they do not have the same characteristics [bark, leaf, or even silhouette patterns] as the western natives like Fremont. Keep in mind that I'm not saying here that they are a great choice for residential landscapes – they are not. In many ways, I think that are a bad choice because their water requirements are much greater than natives, especially when older. These "cottonless" varieties of  cottonwoods can become very large when grown in or near a perennial water source. When young, they often perform well in irrigated landscapes. This is why they are preferred. Over time, they usually outgrow the irrigation system and begin to die back or succumb to disease. I have rarely seen large cottonwoods that have survived longer than 12 or 15 years in a landscape unless they have a creek, river, or septic system to sustain them. When regularly flood irrigated, they will grow and survive, but most drip systems [typical for Anza] will not provide adequate irrigation. Their roots are also extremely aggressive like the one in my former front yard had roots over 100' away clearly on the other side of the home. So anybody can be successful with them that first decade, but it's that time afterward when these giant trees have much greater water requirements especially in drier climates like Anza CA. 

Photo: Mine

Göteborg Botanical Gardens Spring 2013
But that takes me now to the biggest complaint against the native Fremont Cottonwood which admittedly does have a cottony seed, but only the size of a Dandelion. It's a minor inconvenience to live with for selecting a better choice for cottonwood which will have deeper roots and be a tougher survivor as compare to the back east hybrid which is not really that long lived by comparison. Up in Idyllwild, folks will complain about the Pines dropping pollen everywhere. Seriously no one would suggest getting rid of them in favour of neater choices. ALL Landscapes have maintenance issues. But this brings me to my recent visit a couple of weeks ago the Göteborg Botanical Gardens. There was a tree there that I really never noticed before or paid any attention to it being a Cottonwood. I supposed I always missed it because I came at the wrong time of year before or after it bloom, but here it is below. It is Populus wilsonii and is from central China in Asia.

This was enough to make anyone do a double take.  This stuff was everywhere. It was undeniable what this tree was and reminds me of something I've never forgotten when it comes to plant identity, although while the origin of this saying did have to do with plants, it was used illustratively in identifying the type of person we run across in life. 
 "By their fruits you will recognize them" Matthew 7:16  
Believe it or not, when I'm stumped out in the field and having a difficult time identifying plant which looks familiar, but has familiar shapes or patterns to something else, I actually look for fruits, nuts or other seeds. So the old saying of "by their fruits you will know them" holds an element of field working merit. While there are many type of plants, within the same group there will always be similar characteristics or identifying marks and patterns in the fruit they produce. Of course there are always exceptions, but still it makes things a fun challenge.

Photo: Mine
Here is a view from underneath the Cottonwood's canopy looking up towards the sky. These large cotton balls are so unmistakable and hard to miss. Wonder why I never paid any mind before ? Oh yeah that's right, I was always there in  the middle of deep summer.

Here is a much closer zoomed in shot to give you an idea of the size of these cotton balls. The leaves also are far more bigger than what most folks are use to seeing over in the States with the Native Fremont Cottonwood (Populus fremontii). The size of the cotton balls in this tree were huge and in some cases bigger than any actual cotton boll I've ever encountered in a Texas Farmer's field when I stopped along the roadside for the first time in my life encountering them. It was incredible stand under this tree and gazing up at some so unbelievable. And to think, if I had come at another moment as times past, I would have missed all of things and never paid the tree any mind as I had in the past. Funny, I never once when passing this tree ever glimpsed at the identification sign below it to find out what it was. I'll always pay close attention now and be sire to come back at the right time of year. *smile* 

Photo: Mine
And finally to give a better sense of scale for this trees leaves and the size of those large cotton balls, here is my hand lowering down a branch a bit for a closer shot. Looking at the size of these things, I wondered if anyone historically attempted to utilize these cotton bolls the same way we use the conventional cotton plant.
Photo: Mine
Anyone find this incredibly enlightening and educational ? I did.  Fremont Cottonwoods (Populus fremontii) don't really look half bad now do they ? This photo was taken in middle May 2013 in the San Jacinto Valley just north of the town of San Jacinto on what I presume is State Street or old Hwy 79. That sign is an indication you are approaching the San Jacinto River bridge to the Jct of turning right to Soboba Rd heading towards the Indian Casino or left onto Gilman Springs Rd towards Moreno Valley or north to Beaumont. The entire area was once a massive miles long and wide Cottonwood and California Sycamore Forested Savanna with most likely other trees like Arizona Ash which actually have heavy woodlands further upstream in Bee Canyon which is a tributary to the east. The natural world Juan Bautista de Anza saw in the Spring of 1774 & once again in 1775 must have been at it's peak in pristine condition must have been ever so beautiful.