Riparian Riches - Part the First

According to the big leaf maples, it was already fall when Duncan the Dog and I took a leisurely stroll down the small creekside road near our home a few days back. I wanted to see what was available for propagation, in some areas where I have the property owners' permission to gather seeds and other materials (this is the CYA statement!). Duncan has gotten very good at pausing while I take photos or gather small amounts of seeds (at most 10% of what's there) or other material for propagation.

Along the creek are tall redwoods...

and above the creek in places, coast live oaks...

And also all along the creek are willows and big leaf maples and madrones and hazels and dogwood and - etc wonderful etc. So many wonderful trees and shrubs. I need to give them more attention.

When people think about California natives, they sometimes limit themselves to the chaparral and other drought-tolerant natives used for xeriscaping, thus saving money on the water bill. But in a fireprone area like we are in, it's good to irrigate the first thirty feet around your home, so on the shady side of the house, some riparian plants would be very appropriate. They are gardenworthy in other settings too. Some homes are in the woods or have recreated a woodland in a shady spot. So it's worth considering these riparian lovelies for your garden.

I was totally thrilled to find some western azalea, Rhododendron occidentale close to the road. Not in bloom right now of course.

The only area I had seen it before was down a steep bank full of poison oak and across the creek. I have a photo - from a respectful distance - of the lovely large white blooms last June:

No seeds to be found, but it's a good time to grow from cuttings. So, seizing the moment, and my clippers, I snipped just a couple small branches here and there, pruning the shrubs for good form - not hacking. Ingrowing, downturning, crossing branches, taken cleanly at a good node or side branch. I put them in a plastic bag I had brought along with a wet paper towel in the bottom.

When I got home, I prepared the cuttings right away, and put them in the mini greenhouse with the ceanothus and manzanita cuttings.

(For more on the mix I used - and those other cuttings - see this post.) I wonder if the heat from the heating mat is maintaining the mini greenhouse at a hot enough temperature (it's set to 72 F ) to keep fungus at bay - I was interested to find out (in a greenhouse management class last year) that fungus grows when it's cool and damp - which is why you should not water your greenhouse at night.

Oh, please keep your fingers and toes crossed for these cuttings! I'll do my part and keep them moist.

I'll post again later this week about other some wonderful finds in this riparian zone - and propagation challenges the likes of which I have never attempted before...


Timeless said…
What did you use to sterilize your potting soil ? I see what appears to be a lot of Vermiculite in your mix which makes aeration good which in turn is bad for fungus.

I've used a water mixture with Hydrogen Peroxide at 4 to 1 dilution from the common store brands. I've also used food grade powdered H2O2 Hydrogen Peroxide to pretreat the soil mix before planting.

I've touched on it here.

Seed Germination & Old School Ideology vrs How Nature Actually Works

Country Mouse said…
Hi Timeless - I read your post with interest. I'm also interested in more nature-based ways to propagate. The nursery industry of course takes nature into account, but must make modifications for getting product to market when consumers want to plant. I'll update my post - I forgot to add a link back to my previous post where I explain the mix - it's mostly perlite with a little vermiculite. I have never thought about sterilizing the mix. I assume that the fungal spores are in the air anyway - but I'll try your idea - especially if these cuttings fail! I'm guessing you mean the generally available 3% hydrogen peroxide, diluted 1:4 with water? I admire your attention to the plants' needs in your propagation of Tecate cypress - and congratulate you on your great success! My next post is about this topic of complex propagation protocols too - I hope you'll check back in a few days.
Timeless said…
Yes I was referring to the 3% H2O2 that you can over the counter at any Pharmacy. But I pretreat as I stated. I don't water with it.

On my other blog I get into the techniques of Desert plant seed germination from the Pea or Leguminous family like Palo Verde, Mesquite, Acacia, etc. I find it a lot of fun.

One of the reasons I went looking for something to rid soil of pathogens is that in my Ornamental Horticulture classes at school, we used a highly poisonous gas to destroy pathogens and make a sterile soil media. That spooked me and I looked for better natural solutions.

One note on your Manzanitas, they have no root like most other plants and are extremely dependent on ecto-mycorrhizal associations to make it. Many folks fail with Manzanita. I always got mine from Mike Amaranthus' company Mycorrhizal Applications Inc up above you there in Grant Pass Oregon.

Good Luck

I've never seen Rhododendron occidentale growing in this area, although I'm sure it would be happy growing here, I just don't see it. I hope your cuttings take!