Growing violets from seed was a new endeavor me since I usually propagate from cuttings. But a stray bee in the house gave me a rare opportunity to do it the sloooowww way. This is real mill of the gods stuff. They went from green fuzz (at 8 weeks), to identifiable plants (at 1 year), and now to full grown, blooming African violets (at 2 years). Here is what the last 24 months looked like. The two plants with large leaves in the middle picture are plants started from cuttings. They are eight weeks old. Compare them to the fuzz on the left. Still, it was fun since I didn’t know what plants had been cross pollinated. Nature’s serendipitous accident gave me lovely pink, ruffled violets.
My garden is growing caterpillars with a very specific diet. They like passionflower vines. Not red passion flower vines– only white or purple. This isn’t something new. I had caterpillars in the late spring. But it suddenly dawned on me that this is October. That my caterpillars would soon be…
and butterflies that need nectar from flowers– which are getting scarce. So I dashed off to the nursery and restocked the patio with blooming plants. There wasn’t a huge variety but it will do. And the fritillary can withstand temps down to 22*F which we shouldn’t see in an El Nino year.
But just in case, I also decided to do a bit of research about my guests who are eating me out of passionflower leaves and vines and found out that they are actually very special. Most winter-over in Florida, but they have been in CA since the late 19th century. They reached my neck of the woods by 1908 and seemed to do well until 1971 when they were thought to be extinct. But then in 2009 Gulf Fritillary appeared around Sacramento. Apparently they have been on the move because here they are in Sonoma County :-).
So the Gulf Fritillary is a comeback kid. Does anyone else have them in their gardens? If so, where are you?
Plant layering is a means of propagation using the stems or canes from plants without taking cuttings. The benefit is that the parent plants root system supplies the new plant with water and food until it can grow roots of its own. The soil must be kept moist until roots are established and it can take several weeks for the plants to root sufficiently that a new plant may be severed from the parent if you desire to transplant it somewhere else in your yard.
Ground layering occurs naturally with plants like ivy, strawberries and spider plants that produce runners (stolons) without any outside encouragement.
1) Simple layers— in the spring, bend a low growing stem close to the ground and cover part of it with soil. Stems can be anchored with U shaped pins if they are resistant to bending. Be sure that the stem stays covered and moist. This works well with climbing roses and honeysuckle.
2) Tip layering—insert the tip of a plant (new growth) into a shallow pit in the soil (or pot) and cover with dirt. This method works well with raspberries and blackberries. In fact, just try to stop blackberries from doing this on their own.
3) Compound or serpentine layers—this where the stem is bent to make contact with the ground as in example 1 above, but where it is woven in and out of the soil two or three times. The stem or cane will likely need to be pinned with U shaped anchors. This works well with wisteria, clematis and grape vines.
Dividing flowering bulbs and tubers
Another of the pleasure or late summer and early autumn is digging up and dividing your bulbs and tubers to aid their spread and also to share with friends and family. It can also revitalize plots that have begun to bloom sparsely because of overcrowding.
To begin with, let’s review the difference between bulbs, rhizomes, tubers and corms.
1) True bulbs (like daffodils or tulips) have papery skin like an onion and a basal plate (the spidery looking root thing on the bottom of the bulb). They divide easily by hand. Carefully break away the smaller bulb from the parents. These new bulbs may look more like giant cloves of garlic than a parent bulb which is teardrop shaped. Don’t worry, these will grow in size with time.
2) Tubers (like dahlias) increase in size every year but don’t usually form separate bodies. To divide a tuber you need to make sure that each section has a growing point (the pointy thing at the top that will become a stem) and you will likely need a clean knife to assist in the division.
3) Rhizomes (like cannas, bearded iris and ginger) run along the surface of the soil and produce new plants along their sides that can usually be broken apart by hand. In the case of some plants use of a knife may be necessary. Make sure that the blade is clean so as to not spread and diseases to new plants. Be sure that each division has at least one growing point.
4) Corms (like gladiolus, freesia, shamrock and crocus) look like small bulbs. They often produce more corms either above or beside or on the bottom of the parent corm which is sometimes wholly used up by the flower it produces. These are easily broken apart from one another. They should be stored in a cool, dry place for the winter, and replanted in the spring if there is any danger of them rotting because of standing water in pots or poorly drained soil. In many places they will naturalize and it will not be necessary to dig them up except when dividing is necessary.
5) Tuberous roots (like daylilies and peonies) are usually easily pulled apart. I do not however recommend dividing peonies until one absolutely has to—like once a century. Peonies prefer to stay in one place once they have found an ideal location. Any division should have at least three and preferably five ‘eyes’ on it. Daylilies, on the other hand, may be abused freely as they are very hardy and an excellent choice for a novice gardener since they will grow even in poor soil.
Dividing bulbs, tubers, rhizomes, corms or tuberous roots can be done any time after the foliage has died back naturally. It is best to wait until then so that the plant has extracted the greatest amount of benefit from its greenery and produced the strongest possible bulbs and tubers which are where they store their energy. It is also best not to disturb the roots of other annual or perennial plants that they may share a bed with until the growing season is through and plants are dying back or going dormant for the winter.
Some plants grown from bulbs, tubers and rhizomes will also produce seedpods. This can take energy away from the tubers and most gardeners prefer to remove them.