Bucking the Gardening Rules
By LMG Calla Victoria
As gardeners we hear all of the rules that prevail in the world of horticulture, prune plants when they are dormant (winter time for most plants), dig up your caladium bulbs and replant them in the spring, etc. While rules can be good guidelines sometimes you just have to buck those rules. Remember that God planted the Garden of Eden and there is nothing in the Scriptures about Adam digging up caladium bulbs. Never forget that before humans became involved, plants grew perfectly well on their own, and still do so in the wild. So take some of the rules with a grain of salt. I NEVER dig up my caladiums, and they come back bigger each year because those roots stayed in the ground and got big and strong. What is the point of planting them, digging them up and planting them again?
These are my Caladium 'Florida Red Ruffles' coming back up
after a long snooze in the ground last winter.
So far as pruning, it is good to follow the rule about pruning when the plant is dormant, but what about now when some of your shrubs and trees are so large that they are obstructing the pathway? Do you leave those plants until the winter…certainly not, you prune them now. That is exactly what is happening in my yard right today. My Angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia suaveolens) branches are reaching way out into the walkway, and the same is the case with my lovely iridescent Purple shields (Strobilanthes dyerianus) and my gardenia tree (Gardenia jasminoides ‘August Beauty’). So of course I had to prune them so that I could get down the walk way. Check out my “Gardening Tip of the Week” page to find out what I did with all of the bounty from pruning.
Breaking more rules:
When we hear about propagating we are always instructed to just use the soft new growth of the plant, the cutting should only be a few inches long, then take off all of the leaves except a few at the very top of the cutting, and dip the bottom of the cutting into rooting hormone for the best results. Well…Every now and then I would pass this home that had a beautiful, lush, pink angel’s trumpet tree in front of it. One day I saw a lady in front of the home and asked if I could have a cutting of the tree? I was in the process of snipping off a small 6 inch piece of the tree when the lady said, "No take a BIG piece so you don’t have to wait for the plant to get tall." Then she went all the way down to the bottom of the tree and broke off a long 5 foot piece and gave it to me. Wow, I promptly took the huge stalk home, stuck it in the ground, braced it on both sides to keep it upright, and I did not remove any of the leaves or use rooting hormone and it grew beautifully. That is where I got my first pink trumpet, the one that I used to take a cutting from for my second pink trumpet. ( the one pictured above). So ever since that little escapade, I always make large cuttings if possible, and I rarely use rooting hormone. I got a small jar of rooting hormone in 2012 and I still have most of it.
A word on the botanical names for plants:
Scientifically, each plant is named in Latin and it is always two (binomial) names. The first name identifies the genus of the plant, and that name always starts with a capital letter. The second name is the plant’s species, and always begins in a lower case letter except in the case of a new cultivar. In that case the first letter of the second name is capitalized and an apostrophe comes before and after the name.
When I attended Master Gardener training I was annoyed to have to learn the botanical names for all of the plant material. Why was all of this extra drama necessary? But now I do understand why. As there are so many plant varieties within a genus and more coming almost on a daily thanks to all of the hybridizers, both names are required to correctly identify a plant. For example, earlier on in this article, I mentioned pruning my Angel’s trumpet (Brugmansia suaveolens). I have several varieties of Brugmansia, which is the genus that these plants fall into; including white ones, yellow, orange, and red. However from the description, had you looked up the names, you would know that I was referring to my pink Angel’s Trumpet. Botanical names also show parental crosses that recreate a new hybrid plants. Whenever you see a botanical name with an “X” between two names, you know that plant is a hybrid of the combination of two other plants. For example the name Neoregelia 'Blueberry Muffin' smithii X 'Royal Flush.' By the way this name is written, it means that Neoregelia ‘Blue Muffin’ was created by crossing Neoregelia smithii with Neoregelia ‘Royal Flush.’ Also from the way the name is written we know that smithii was the seed parent and ‘Royal Flush’ was the pollen parent because the name of the seed parent is always written first in the name of a hybrid; and finally we also know that 'Royal Flush' is a hyprid because of the apostrophes before and after the name.
Whenever you see a hybrid plant, please appreciate the process because it is very tedious. Just imagine taking tiny seeds from one plant, then gathering small specks of pollen from another small plant, and combining the seed with the pollen; essentially the hybridizer becomes a human bee. Then planting the seed and hoping something beautiful happens, that takes patience and passion.
Remember, never get too busy to stop and enjoy the beautiful flowers!