Confessions of an Incompetent Propagator. Oh, fungus!

Note: Turns out Town Mouse and I were busy blogging today at the same time - please be sure to read her much more uplifting posting on a visit to the Strybing arboretum, to cheer you up after reading this post!! - Country mouse.

I don't want to earn the nickname "the incompetent propagator" but it must be confessed my status rests not far above that title at the moment. Cuttings are just not taking for me. I finally called it a day on the holodiscus discolor cuttings, shown above. And the hazelnut cuttings too. They have been clearly dead for a long time, and I have even fewer skills as a necromancer than as a propagator, so that's it on those guys.

I am persistent however and will keep trying. I'll see if I have time this weekend to start some more.

About the thimbleberry I'm not quite so clear:

Sure the leaves are dead but the stems look like they might be fairly healthy. Maybe. If I take more thimbleberry cuttings, I'll cut off the floppy leaves. Lesson learned.

The lupine cuttings that didn't go moldy are remaining green, but somehow they don't look very happy. I think they are just sitting there not doing anything.

Artemisia next to them is rather dead looking but I'm leaving it in while there is a vestige of hope. The madrone cuttings give me the same impression as the lupines: green but just because it hasn't faded yet. There is some brown spotting going on with them too. Have to get them out.

On the seed front, the new trays have produced so far two - count them: two - seedlings:

Here is one of the two - they are both in the Lupine tray:

I decided the seed trays may not be getting enough light so since I'm WFH today, I left the front open. Of course the cuttings down the other end are not totally enclosed now but well - I don't have a lot of hope for them so I'm not soooo worried. I will have to devise a way to close up half of the "duct tape greenhouse" and leave the other half open.

Meanwhile in the cold frame up in the pool area, I might have some bee plant seedlings (Scrophularia californica) - I expected to get some as they appear so freely without any assistance from me in the sunny south and shadier north facing parts of our property.

(The thing in the lower right is some kind of weed I think.)

One thing is growing, however, down in the corral where the duct tape greenhouse is situated -

I haven't keyed them out but they look a lot like the photos of Shaggy Mane (Coprinus comatus) in my reference, which is All That the Rain Promises and More, by David Arora. "A hip guide to western mushrooms." It features a wonderful cover picture of the author grinning in wicked delight, wearing suit and bowtie, holding a trombone and an armful of fungus. And it has a great visual keying graphic that I have actually managed to use before. He says they are edible before they liquify (duh!) and that they can push up through asphalt! Wow, power of nature, even in a squishy thing like a fungus.

Meanwhile I am studying my California Master Gardener Handbook (a wonderful reference given me by Town Mouse a while back) for more tips on propagation by cuttings. I'll let you know if I glean anything that helps me succeed.

Onweird and Sideways!


steph said…
This seems to be The Year of the Fungus. I have more, different mushrooms growing in more, different areas of my yard than in any year prior. And I've been here over 12 years!

I also top-dressed my cabbage plants with blood meal shortly before the rains, scratching it well into the soil, and now it's a sheet of fungus!

Good luck with your propagations!
NellJean said…
I didn't need a tutorial on growing fungus, I'm good at that already, lol. I do commiserate. I don't have to start memorizing fungus names, do I?

Have you tried a little dribble of camomile tea? On the seedlings and cuttings, not on yourself.
Country Mouse said…
I'll try your cammomile tea tip, NellJean - I may even have some in my tea stash - thanks!

I'm looking forward to woodland hikes to see the amazing fungus that grows amungus here. We have a fungus fair in Santa Cruz that I like to attend when I can. Partly to enjoy the pleasant plant-geeky energy of all the jolly fungus lovers.

Now I've started getting some Latin names off pat I find it addicting. I don't know a lot of them yet but they accumulate and with frequent enough use (writing blogs helps!) they seem to stick in my brain. Whereas what I ate for dinner last night is but a vague memory.
Christine said…
Oh, dear. I do appreciate hearing about your trials and tribulations, although I wish you were having better luck. Should you perhaps turn to mushroom farming instead? Sounds effortless!
Country Mouse said…
Meanwhile nature is very successfully propagating all around me! I'm going to have a lot of Miner's Lettuce this year I can tell by their strappy little seedlings.
ryan said…
My condolences. I get fungus sometimes too. Native soil has a lot of bacteria and other diseases in it., never really works for me, so I just use store bought potting soil, for seeds and cuttings. I also feed a fair bit while things are in a pot. Any time I deviate from that I seem to run into trouble. It's not too late in the year for another go.
Country Mouse said…
I thought the fungus explosion was a nice thing. You are all giving me condolences. I don't get it. What do I not know? Will they all march over or send their spore troops to my greenhouse and attack?
I'm really unscientific with taking cuttings. I'm thrilled when they take, but never expect them to have much of a life wish. Fortunately my old greenhouse has a mister (for humidity) which still works all these years later, and a surprising number of things will take when set in the frequent fog. Sometimes I end up with many more takes of large species than I know what to do with, other times I end up with flats of dead sticks. That might explain the occasional things I read in manuals about people taking cuttings during a small, specific window of just a few weeks.
Anonymous said…
Here's a blurb from inside jacket of the book, Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World by Paul Stamets (creator of website,, dedicated mycologist for over 30 years),

'Microscopic cells called "mycelium" --the fruit of which are mushrooms-- recycle carbon, nitrogen and other essential elements as they break down plant and animal debris in the creation of new soil. What Stamets has discovered is that we can capitalize on mycelium's digestive power and target it to decompose toxic wastes and pollutants (mycoremediation), catch and reduce silts from streambeds and pathogens from agricultural watersheds (mycofiltration), control insect populations (mycopesticides), and generally enhance the health of our forests and gardens (mycoforestry and mycogardening).'

There are also amazing health benefits from many different kinds of fungi, some have properties such as: anti-tumor, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, regulates blood pressure and blood sugar, aids immune system, kidney tonic, liver tonic, nerve tonic, stress reducer, sexual potentiator. A majority possessing these health benefits are polypores, which grow on trees or rotting logs and, amazingly, there are no known poisonous polypores, but it's always a good idea to get any fungi identified by an experienced mycophile.

There are trusted identifiers in an online community called, The Shroomery at One can post photos and proper description or send specimens of a mushroom to a "trusted identifier" to have it properly identified under a microscope.

The U.S. Department of Defense BIO Shield Program has tested a polyporous mushroom called, Agarikon, against biological warfare agents, such as anthrax and smallpox, and found that the Agarikon extract was effective in inhibiting smallpox-related viruses under lab conditions.