From the UC Blogosphere...
By Lee Oliphant, Master Gardener
Now is the time that all “good gardeners” start thinking about pruning. Start with roses. They are tolerant of mistakes and you can apply the principles of pruning to larger shrubs and trees, without getting out your ladder. Roses should be pruned around the time of the last frost and before they start putting out new growth
It helps in pruning if you know the types of roses you have.
Hybrid Teas produce large, single flowers on plants that can grow two to four feet. Prune four to six canes to one to three feet depending on the size of shrub you desire.
- Floribunda roses produce many flowers on each stem. Floribundas are generally smaller than hybrid teas and are pruned by heading back the canes to about 1/3 of their length.
- Shrub and old roses have a twiggy growth habit. Minimum pruning is desirable as they flower on old wood.
- Climbing roses and ramblers are best left to climb and ramble the first few years after planting. Limit the number of canes to about four to six. When mature, prune the lateral shoots that develop from the main cane back to two or three growth buds.
- Tree roses need only to be pruned on the grafted bushy head. Prune it according to the type of rose that has been grafted at the top, following the directions above.
If all of this seems too complicated, just use your instincts. Take out weak or damaged wood. Don’t worry too much about “five leaflet leaf sets”, etc. Too many rules will frustrate you. Keep it simple. As a rule of thumb, don’t reduce the height of a rose more than 1/3. If you planted a tall rose in a space where you’d like a short one, move it and plant one that is the appropriate size.
Approach rose pruning with confidence. It’s hard to make a mistake. A rose is forgiving and roses grow back quickly. Get out your gloves and clippers and get started.
For more details on pruning roses visit www.ucanr.edu and search for “rose pruning”. You’ll find tips on pruning roses of all types.
Extension apiculturist Eric Mussen of the UC Davis Department of Entomology and Nematology recognized it right away. He's seen or heard of many a wood duck box taken over by honey bees looking for a suitable home.
It's enough to drive the duck enthusiasts quackers.
The question came up again this week, as it periodically does. Someone asked him: "How do you keep wood duck boxes for their intended purpose?" Mussen's observations are worth repeating.
"Years ago I spent some time with a UC Davis student trying to find ways to dissuade honey bees from nesting in wood duck boxes," Mussen recalled. "They had found one box in which the female duck refused to go, so the bees built their combs right down over and around her, killing her. We tried to prevent the bees from being able to grip the top of the box, where they connect their downward-hanging combs. The Teflon tape that we used prevented them from starting at the top and building down. But, they started on the wall at a corner, build some comb up against the Teflon--yes, beeswax sticks to Teflon--then built the combs down. The stickum on the Teflon tape wasn’t good enough to keep the combs stuck to the top, so the whole thing eventually collapsed in a heap."
"We tried Insectape strips (produced by Rainbow Technology) that were supposed to repel bees and wasps from building in electric boxes. We poured the artificial 'swarms' into the boxes to see if they would be driven out by the pesticide strip. It killed them--they didn’t leave. The strips might repel a real swarm under natural conditions, but that is not how we tested it."
"It would be pretty hard to determine where the swarms originate. Right around swarm time is when many beekeepers are looking for suitable locations to build up their colonies and make 'splits.' The bees need a good supply of food for building up, and beekeepers may be moving their bees close to wood duck nesting areas for the spring nectar and pollens."
One option is placing bee boxes near the wood duck boxes to trap honey bee swarms, "especially of the boxes contain some previously used combs."
"There also is a honey bee attractant--pheromone--that can be purchased from beekeeping supply companies to entice the bees into the trap box," Mussen says. "For whatever reason, the trap hives work best at about nine feet off the ground. Some of the beekeeping supply companies also offer what look like really large flower pots with a cover. They are made of some sort of wood pulp--so they don’t really look like bee boxes. By opening a quarter-sized hole in the narrow end, the pots can be put out as trap hives and work pretty well. Despite your best intentions, however, some of the swarms just ignore the trap hives and go somewhere else. So, some will end up in the duck boxes, anyway."
What to do? Visit the wood duck boxes frequently to remove the bees before they accomplish much. "Unfortunately, once they have built some comb in the box," Mussen says, "the odor makes the box much more attractive to the next swarm."
Another issue: some folks troubled by the declining bee population insist on letting honey bees be. "We have become 'blessed' with an increasing number of individuals who believe that honey bees should be left to their own devices, to do whatever happens," he says.
So, to all those folks wanting to retain wood duck boxes for ducks, Mussen says to engage in periodic monitoring to help out their feathered, webbed buddies. That includes removing the bees.
Mussen didn't say this, but I think he meant that you don't have to get up at the "quack of dawn" to do it.
This wood duck box is being used as a bee hive in The Bee Sanctuary on the UC Davis campus. Examining it is Derek Downey who directs The Bee Collective and The Bee Sanctuary. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
It's rather troubling trying to rear subtropical butterflies, Gulf Fritillaries (Agraulis vanillae), in late autumn.
The string of warm sunny days in late November meant plenty of days for Gulf Frits to mate and reproduce. From eggs to larvae to chrysalids to adults--we watched the life cycle unfold on our passion flower vines (Passiflora).
Now it's freezing cold, with morning temperature dipping below 23 degrees.
No Gulf Frits flying outside.
But there is one Gulf Frit flying inside. It emerged from its chrysalis Friday. It is the sole occupant of our butterfly habitat.
"That butterfly could not have picked a worse time to come out," commented naturalist Greg Kareofelas, a Bohart Museum of Entomology volunteer who rears butterflies, including Gulf Frits.
He's so right. Freezing cold and pouring rain are not conducive to releasing butterflies back into the wild--the wild meaning the Passiflora.
On Sunday afternoon as the mercury rose a bit, I contemplated releasing my Gulf Frit. I asked Siri "How COLD is it in Vacaville, California?"
She answered "It is 49 degrees in Vacaville and I don't find that particularly cold."
What? So, now we're getting editorial comment when we ask a question about the weather?
Siri, as you know, is that "intelligent personal assistant and knowledge navigator" (thanks, Wikipedia) that responds to questions you ask on your iphone. Siri is Norwegian for "beautiful woman who leads you to victory."
Beautiful woman or not, Siri is neither leading ME to victory nor my boy butterfly.
Yes, my Gulf Frit is a male, according to butterfly expert Art Shapiro, distinguished professor of evolution and ecology at the University of California, Davis.
Like many other lepidopterists, Shapiro is concerned about the high pressure from the Arctic, resulting in freezing temperatures here. "The low temperatures we have experienced may be enough to extirpate the Gulf Fritillary butterfly regionally," he said. "This subtropical invader has become very popular with local residents (Yolo, Sacrameno and Solano counties, for instance), and if it is indeed wiped out, many will be sad to see it go."
Today Shapiro visited some of the warm pockets on the UC Davis campus but saw no "Leps" (Lepidoptera) of any kind.
There is, however, one restless male Lep in my butterfly habitat. His release date depends on the outside temperatures.
It does not depend on what Siri says.
Newly emerged Gulf Fritillary butterfly. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
A brief bit of sunlight, and the newly emerged Gulf Frit fluttered its wings. (Photo by Kathy Keatley Garvey)
When spring 2013 passed without a healthy rainy season, ranchers pinned their hopes on good growth in the fall. However rain came late, leaving pastures to wait for warm weather to get grasses growing again, reported Ching Lee in the Sierra Sun Times.
"Things may germinate, but they'll just sit there," said Glenn Nader, UC Cooperative Extension advisor for Yuba, Sutter and Butte counties. "There's not going to be any rapid growth until March — unless we get an unusually warm December."
The state needs successive rain storms this winter to fill the ground with enough moisture to support decent growth next year, Nader said.
In the meantime, ranchers will have to purchase feed, but prices are higher because the drought also pushed down production.
"People can quickly feed themselves into a negative cash flow with today's hay prices," Nader said. "That's why a lot of people are looking at alternative dry matter sources such as corn stover, rice straw and other things, to try and cheapen up those costs."
By Andrea Peck
Today the weather forecast was correct. It is windy. Gale force winds, to be exact. The sheer vigor of today’s windiness blew my original blog idea out into the nether regions of my mind and left my gray matter with blank spaces and one thought: wind. The wind is a peculiar creature; one moment it lies silent, motionless. You are lulled back to harmony – this is the end of it, you think. Then it strikes with a venomous swiftness. Trash cans tumble, unable to withstand the attack. You hear the wind oddly, as if the sound were two beats behind. Tiny fangs of particulate matter sting your eyes. Pollen hastily buries itself in nostril crevices. We are not made for this onslaught, you think. This is why man built homes.
Ah, but what about the poor, wind-whipped garden? What will become of those bending branches? Trees and plants take a beating when subjected to high winds. Some fare better than others, but wind sucks the moisture from your plants in short order. Transpiration, or the evaporative loss of water vapor from plant leaves, is a natural occurrence, but during high winds, the problem is compounded. A plant that is well-hydrated is more pliable and better able to withstand nature’s abuse.
Wind is not just a sensory annoyance; nor does it simply dehydrate. Wind is capable of transporting insects and pathogens on air currents. Spider mites are carried long distances by this method and even enter homes through windows and doors. Newborn scale insects are lightweight and easily blown or lifted on the feet of birds. It is a critical factor in the spread of pathogens that cause infectious disease. However, it may also act as a deterrent to disease by creating a dry, inhospitable environment.
The wind, in its fury, often bears strange gifts. Seeds, liberated, are free to settle in strange lands. That would explain how my window box sprouted quinoa one year – my neighbor had planted it months earlier in her own yard. Wind brings weed seeds also – not a pleasant thought. But the surprise of something new, such as fledgling pine, makes it worthwhile.