A Plant A Day Till Spring – Day 55 – Elderberry

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“In Flight – Elderberry” – Summer 2013 – Frick Park – Pittsburgh, PA – Not bad for a $90 camera…

“A Plant a Day till Spring” will highlight one plant a day, starting on the winter solstice (December 21, 2013)… And ending on the vernal equinox (March 20, 2014)… If all goes to plan I will be starting with old Snowdrop photos from 2013… And ending with new photos of Snowdrops in 2014…

So… My first experience with Sambucus was in the form of wine… Manischewitz to be exact… I was young and a friend had stolen it from his parents bar… It is not a great memory… In fact… I wouldn’t actually call it a memory… I just know it happened… My stomach still turns at the mere thought of the stuff…

So flash forward 15 years… I have become obsessed with Elderberry… I have studied the plant in books… And observed it in the wild… Last Summer I felt comfortable enough in my ability to propagate the plant successfully… I harvested some berries from a nearby park… I planted them last fall behind an abandoned house in the neighborhood… If the snow ever melts and Spring gets to getting on with its self… I will have a better idea if my method was successful…

Often times when dealing with wildflowers… The seeds require the cold of winter to germinate… This is known as stratification… It is a requirement of many temperate climate seeds and is a natural safety measure to insure the seed does not germinate right before the ground freezes… The result of which would be a dead seedling… Oftentimes the best way to germinate seeds harvested from the wild is to immediately plant them in your own garden before the ground freezes… This mimics what would happen in nature and will offer the highest success rates… Don’t complicate this stuff… Do as nature would do…

Elderberry is a very common plant in my part of the world… In some places it could even border on being a weed… I highly disagree with that concept… But I am just one guy in a country of approximately 317,518,000 people… In other words… I don’t matter… If you do find yourself having to remove one… Good luck… The roots grow deep and the wood is very hard… The roots are like wire and they don’t cut easily… There is honestly not an easy way to remove it without the use of machinery…

Elderberry is on the short list of plants that I think will one day be named a “super-food” like Goji or Acai berries… I am not a nutritionist… Hell… I am not even a healthy eater… But I can predict a scam… And I personally see Elderberry being the next Noni juice… It has the type of health benefits that can be easily blown out of proportion… Now I am not trying to say it is unhealthy or doesn’t deserve attention as a natural food and medicine… Because it does… I just hate when medicines that have been in use for thousands of years suddenly becomes trendy… The resulting exploitation leaves a bad taste in every ones mouth and the result is the plant disappearing into obscurity for another thousand years…

Elderberry is not just known for its berries… The wood is used to make flutes… And the plant as a whole is a staple in folklore… I believe some of the best wands are made of elderberry… If you are into that kind of thing… I actually have a thing with wood that has been struck by lightning… Think about it… How often can you hold something that has been touched by the sky… I haven’t found much of it… But I plan on stepping up the search this summer… Anyway… I dream of finding an elderberry that has been struck by lightning… A sacred plant touched by a sacred event… A guy can dream…

Another post got away from me… I could ramble on about this plant for a few hours… I guess I will just have to save it for a summer evening around the fire…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

If you want some science – http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elderberry

These “Plant a Day Till Spring” posts are simply intended to kill time until spring when I start writing more… My source (where applicable) is Wikipedia.org… The photography is all my own… And I am adding my own information…

This website and all of the information presented within is provided free by the author… Me… It is my sole opinion and is not representative of anyone other than myself… You can contact me directly with questions at – c.condello@hotmail.com

Remember to tip… My Bitcoin digital wallet address is… 1JsKwa3vYgy4LZjNk4YmPEHFJNjPt2wDJj

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A Plant A Day Till Spring – Day 3 – Hellebores

SAM_0075

“Lenten Rose” – Spring 2013 – Hutchinson Avenue – Edgewood, PA

“A Plant a Day till Spring” will highlight one plant a day, starting on the winter solstice (December 21, 2013)… And ending on the vernal equinox (March 20, 2014)… If all goes to plan I will be starting with old Snowdrop photos from 2013… And ending with new photos of Snowdrops in 2014…

There are around 20 species of Helleborus… They are herbaceous or evergreen perennial flowering plants in the family Ranunculaceae… Many species are poisonous… Despite common names such as “Christmas Rose” and “Lenten Rose”… Hellebores are not closely related to the rose family…

Hellebores are particularly valued by gardeners for their winter and early spring-flowering period… These plants are surprisingly frost resistant… Many are in fact evergreen… I have been playing with different varieties for the past six years… After all this time I have yet to experience a killing freeze…

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“Hybrid Hellebores” – Spring 2013 – Hutchinson Avenue – Wilkinsburg, PA

Hellebores has a lethal reputation… “Black Hellebore” was at one time used to treat insanity… Black Hellebore is also highly toxic causing a multitude of symptoms that culminates in death… My best advice is to keep this plant away from children…

Propagation is really not necessary as this plant is a self-seeder… Hellebores often expands in a circle with the new plants growing to the outside… All one has to do is carefully dig out the new seedlings in late spring… The entire clump can also be dug up and divided…

I tend to watch my clumps of Hellebores throughout the winter as they will often start bud formation well in advance of actually blooming… Hellebores is a very low-maintenance plant that once established will flourish without human intervention… Even in the most inhospitable environments…

plant petunias and question everything – chriscondello

This website and all of the information presented within is provided free by the author… Me… It is my sole opinion and is not representative of anyone other than myself… Although this website is free… I sell prints of my photography here – www.society6.com/chriscondello – or you can contact me directly with questions at – c.condello@hotmail.com – Although it isn’t a requirement… It helps…

Remember to tip… My Bitcoin digital wallet address is – 1JsKwa3vYgy4LZjNk4YmPEHFJNjPt2wDJj

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Practical Permaculture – Rooting Fig Cuttings

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This fig tree was propagated by cutting, it is roughly 2 years old.

One of my favorite parts of gardening is propagation, very few situations in our lives affords us an opportunity to truly play God. But in gardening, although the plants sometimes tell us what they want to do, for the most part we get the final say. The idea that every plant can be easily reproduced just boggles my mind, gardening truly has the potential to be the ultimate poor mans hobby.

Plants, like humans exist in a world of survival of the fittest, only the strong survive. Most permaculturists, although aware, have no idea how to make these principles work for them. Sometimes, the impending death of a plant can trigger a reproductive response that is unlike anything the plant does in life. In nature, when a living branch falls to the ground, it wants to survive, as a last-ditch effort the plant will redirect all of its energy into “forcing” root production. Just one of the ways plants asexually propagate. I have no intention of giving away all my herbaceous voodoo magic in one post, though I do take requests…

It is safe to say, if I can get my hands on just about any part of a plant, I can, and will propagate it… A very large portion of my garden is made up of plants that I personally propagate in one form or another… Figs happen to be one of my favorite plants to propagate, and probably one of the easiest hardwood cuttings to root.

The purpose of this post is to go through step by step, what goes into preparing a hardwood cutting for rooting. There are two ways plants are propagated, Sexually and asexually…

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Some plants like it when you watch…

Sexual Propagation

Seeds are typically produced from sexual reproduction within a species, because genetic reproduction has occurred, a plant grown from seeds may have many different characteristics from its parents. Some species produce seeds that require special conditions to germinate, such as cold treatment. Seeds from many plants in the American Southwest require fire to germinate, designed to only germinate after a wildfire has prepared the land. Some plant species, including many trees do not produce seeds until they reach maturity, which may take many years. Seeds can be difficult to acquire and some plants do not produce seeds at all.

Asexual Propagation

Plants have a number of mechanisms for asexual or vegetative reproduction. Some of these have been used by gardeners to multiply or clone plants quickly. People also use methods that plants do not use, such as tissue culture and grafting. Plants are produced using material from a single parent, and as such, there is no exchange of genetic material, therefor vegetative propagation methods almost always produce plants that are identical to the parent. Vegetative reproduction uses plant parts such as roots, stems and leaves. In some plants seeds can be produced without fertilization and the seeds contain only the genetic material of the parent plant. Therefore, propagation via asexual seeds or apomixis is asexual reproduction but not vegetative propagation.

Propagating figs

Now that you know a few of the basics, we can get into what this post is all about… Propagating figs, or any plant for that matter, as easily and cheaply as possible. I would like to “destroy” the common misconception that this stuff is difficult to do… Honestly, a monkey could prepare cuttings, the hard part is remaining vigilant in the upkeep of the tender cutting while it is attempting to root.

Materials

Pruning shears, paper towels, water, knife, rooting hormone, growing medium.

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Simple diagram of what the cuttings should look like, all three of the examples are fine for this purpose.

Locate fig cuttings

Talk to the neighborhood Italian or fellow gardener, although figs at one time were uncommon, they have become popular in recent years and are no longer that difficult to find. A common misconception is that figs will only root before they have broken dormancy in the spring, I have no problems rooting figs in any life cycle. The time when you acquire the cutting is not nearly as important as how you take care of it.

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Notice the bark has been carefully scraped away exposing the cambium layer.

Prepare fig cuttings

With a sharp pair of pruning shears, cut the branch at a minimum of 45 degrees being careful to keep the cut clean and free of tears. The reason the cut is at a 45 degree angle is to expose as much inner surface as possible, this is one of the areas most likely to produce roots. Using a very sharp knife or razor blade, carefully remove strips of bark along the bottom 1 or 2 inches of the cutting, this is to expose the cambium layer and create more places for root formation.

 

Root Hormone

After completion of the first two steps, I recommend placing your cuttings in a glass of water until you are complete with your prep steps. I occasionally use a powder rooting hormone, this stuff is available at any garden center and is highly recommended. Dump some of the rooting hormone onto a piece of paper, and roll the prepared end of the cutting in the powder shaking off any excess. Do not stick a wet cutting into your container of root hormone, it will introduce moisture into the container and ruin it… Never put the powder you have been using back in the container either, this will also ruin it.

Planting

Use a medium-sized pot filled with clean potting mix, make a hole in the soil slightly larger than the cutting, and insert. Try to avoid removing any of the rooting hormone from the cutting when inserting it, that is why the hole is slightly larger than the actual cutting.

Italian brown turkey fig ready to be planted.

All of your hard work to get to this point in the process, now depends on what you do for the next month. The planted cuttings should be kept moist at all times, a greenhouse covering like a plastic bag will help keep moisture contained. If your soil dries out, you will most likely lose your cuttings…

Once normal growth resumes, remove the plastic covering. For the first year of your cuttings life it is important to remember that it is extremely fragile, problems that would normally have no effect on an established fig tree, will have fatal consequences.

Voodoo

Many of the methods and procedures I use are often considered “voodoo” in the permaculture world… Fuck the permaculture world… Permaculture is about using your resources appropriately… Not spending your resources talking shit on other people… I love permaculture, but am growing increasingly wary of many of the people who I meet in the permaculture world…

Fly by nights… Hipsters… Radicals… Everything I strive not to be…

People in my eyes that have no love… Can’t see the forest or heaven above… Sitting in a circle banging a drum… Talking shit on those you think are scum… – Like me… Proudly…

peace – chriscondello

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Desperately Waiting For My Nuts To Freeze

SquirrelTemperate seeds need winters freeze… Three months long and steady… Stratification is the term… Before the seed is ready…

Like a squirrel I hoard my nuts… Then carefully hide and bury… One inch deep and mark your ruts… Winters cold is necessary…

Our records only a hundred years old… But earth is in the billions… A common argument I find bold… But only my opinion…

Without the cold of Winters chill… My seeds will never sprout… Future squirrels won’t get their fill… And that will make me pout…

One of my hobbies is germinating tree seeds, I have been doing this for several years now. It has almost become a hoarding issue for me, I always expect a 50/50 germination rate and end up with more trees than I know what to do with. Recently I located a variety of “rarish” nut trees and was able to collect seed from all of them, they are all planted in pots, and in the ground around the neighborhood.

seedling_30866_mdThe seeds of trees located in temperate climates will remain dormant until it has experienced on average 3 months of cold weather, this is to prevent the seed from germinating in the fall only to be killed in the cold of winter. In horticulture this process is called stratification, we can mimic this by putting the seeds in a refrigerator for 3 months. Usually seeds stratified in a refrigerator will begin showing a tap root before the time is up, as long as you don’t see leaves the seed should be left in the cool for the full 3 months.

If stratification doesn’t occur, the seed will almost always rot in the ground. If this happens often enough, it could interrupt or eliminate natural reproduction in nature. This would be a huge problem causing damage to many native species, although it’s important to note that many trees will propagate by other means… Only the strong survive…

I believe the earth experiences natural warm and cool cycles, I do not believe we can change this… Nor do I believe we want to change it… That could be much worse… I do worry that we are enhancing the effects… I know my multiplication tables… I am realistic… We will one day have more people than our earth can sustain… Whether we all recycle or not… Unless the earth violenty intervenes… Because no being with a soul can fix this crisis…

Maybe Nature… Maybe Gaia… But no human being…

working on a new way – chriscondello

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