Plants in bloom
My garden includes numerous Salvias. This genus, the largest in the Sage plant family, is widespread in the world, with 600 species in Central America and South America, 250 species in Central Asia and the Mediterranean, and 90 species in Eastern Asia.
Salvias are good candidates for the garden because of the genus’s diversity in size, blossom color, and bloom season. It grows easily in the Monterey Bay area’s climate and, once established, does not require irrigation. I’ve referred to them as “super shrubs.”
In the late winter or early spring, most Salvias can be cut low, to about 6 inches high or even less, to make space for the new growth. I’ve occasionally let them grow without seasonal pruning for a few years and watched them spread regularly (not too vigorously) and develop larger sizes than work well in the garden.
There are four pruning categories of Salvia, so it is good to know the plants, and perhaps even to group them by their pruning needs. The categories with examples are:
Rosette-growing, herbaceous perennials, e.g., the popular Hummingbird Sage (S. spathecea)
Evergreen, woody species, e.g., the winter-blooming Pink & White Wagner’s Sage (S. wagneriana)
Deciduous, woody-stem varieties, e.g., the popular S. mexicana ‘Limelight’
Deciduous or semi-evergreen types with soft stems, e.g., the widely grown Mexican Bush Sage (S. leucantha)
This year, with helpers, we heavily pruned most of the Salvias, thinned out a few of the spreaders, and scanned the large bed for weeds. The density of the Salvia collection denied weed seeds the sun exposure they require, so there were few weeds to pull.
This pruning reduced the Salvia bed to multi-stemmed stumps, but many of the plants have already created new branches and blossoms. The spring bloomers will continue their displays into the fall, and the summer, fall, and winter bloomers will contribute their displays.
Today’s column includes a sampling of the Salvias now in bloom. There’s more to come!
Pond algae update
Last week’s column included my initial plan to control algae in the small above-ground pond on my patio.
When I noticed underwater clouds of algae in my pond, I reacted to the problem with usual weed control: pull weeds from garden beds before they propagate. That’s not as satisfying with filamentous algae, which looks like green cotton candy and feels like slop.
The next reaction was to find an herbicide that would minimize future algae growth. I soon located two EPA-approved products that claim to be safe for pond plants and fish.
Local garden centers offer AlgaeFix. It claims to be effective in killing algae but urges constant aeration of the pond to replace the oxygen that is produced by the algae.
A mail-order product, Mizzen, also claims to kill algae quite well, warns against use with trout, koi, or catfish (not in my pond), warns against unpermitted use in public waters (not my plan), and reportedly adds oxygen to the water. My very small fish need oxygen, so I ordered a pint of Mizzen.
Algaecide use involves determining the right dosage. AlgaeFix is clear on the measurements: add one-quarter cup (i.e., two ounces) per 600 gallons of pond water. My pond is 6 by 6 feet across, 2 feet deep, and holds about 1,500 gallons of water, so five ounces of AlgaeFix would be correct.
The application of Mizzen was not at all clear, so I followed the AlgaeFix dosage. That was a mistake! Two days later, the Common Minnows in my pond were floating. Apparently, Mizzen also pulls oxygen out of the water. I have been running the fountain to aerate the pond.
I haven’t yet assessed the effect on the algae, but the report of my experience amounts to “Read the instructions” and “Don’t proceed unless the instructions are clear.”
That column prompted comments by a reader, who provided links to helpful online information. After following those links and pursuing additional resources, I have a new perspective on algae control.
The preferred and more natural approach to algae control involves a range of measures, too many to summarize in this column. The bottom line is that ponds, with or without fish, succeed best with regularly scheduled monitoring and adjustment. If you have or plan to have a pond, useful information for maintenance is available at www.conservationtechnology.com. Search for “pond_other_plant” for algae control and “pond_water_biological” for biological controls.
Advance your knowledge
The Cactus and Succulent Society of America will present the webinar, “Cactus Evolution and Hybridization with an Emphasis on Baja California Cacti” at 10 a.m., Saturday. Jon P. Rebman, Ph.D. will review cactus diversity in the Baja California region and discuss the taxonomic challenges of studying opuntioids, especially chollas (Cylindropuntia) and prickly pears (Opuntia). During his talk, Rebman will explain how hybridization and chromosome number play an important role in creating the cactus diversity found in the region.
Jon Rebman has been the Mary and Dallas Clark Endowed Chair/Curator of Botany at the San Diego Natural History Museum since 1996. Rebman is a plant taxonomist and conducts extensive floristic research on the Baja California peninsula and in San Diego and Imperial counties of California. He has extensive field experience, research, and professional service, including currently as the director of the San Diego County Plant Atlas project (www.sdplantatlas.org). To register for this free webinar, browse to cactusandsucculentsociety.org/.
The Pacific Horticulture Society has posted a collection of short video recordings on horticultural topics, grouped under two titles: Landscapes of Change and Pacific Plant People. When you are ready for a break from gardening and open to broadening your knowledge of this absorbing activity, check out these offerings at www.pacifichorticulture.org/videos/.
The Society also has a series of podcasts in the form of conversations with knowledgeable specialists. Review the list of topics at www.pacifichorticulture.org/podcast/
Both the videos and podcasts are well-done and freely available for your information and enjoyment.
Enjoy your garden!
Tom Karwin is past president of Friends of the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum and the Monterey Bay Iris Society, a Lifetime Member of the Monterey Bay Area Cactus & Succulent Society, and a Lifetime UC Master Gardener (Certified 1999–2009). He is now a board member of the Santa Cruz Hostel Society, and active with the Pacific Horticultural Society. To view daily photos from his garden, https://www.facebook.com/ongardeningcom-566511763375123/. For garden coaching info and an archive of previous On Gardening columns, visit http://ongardening.com. https://cactusandsucculentsociety.org/.
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