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Even the Plant Man feels blue sometimes


“Whoever wants to know the heart and mind of America had better

learn baseball ...”

--Jacques Barzun


“In creating, the only hard thing’s to begin ... A grass blade’s

no easier to make than an oak.”

--James Russell Lowell

I sat stunned on my seat, not comprehending what I saw at the


stadium No, the grass didn’t need to be reseeded in the outfield. But

my mood was definitely blue, Dodger Blue that is. The hated Giants

had just clinched the “wildcard.”

I wish someone had been able to bribe the Giants into throwing a

game or two down the stretch. After all, the players could certainly

use the money. Why would they want to spend all that time on the

field, just to be booed for making an error? Oh well, I guess bribes

just aren’t what they used to be ....Meanwhile, let’s get back to the


garden with the Plant Man.

Q. I received a beautiful rose tree for Mother’s day. It has done

well all year, but with winter soon on our doorstep, when should I

prune it?

A. There is no foolproof answer for timing ... generally one

prunes when the threat of the last cold snap has past and/or dormancy

has broken for the rose plant. In Laguna, that could be anytime

between New Year’s Day and Washington’s birthday.


Q. How can I get my potted poinsettia to bloom again?

A. The first of October is generally the last date you may prune

poinsettias and still expect Christmas color. Potted plants should be

placed in a closet each night for 14 hours, then moved into light in

the morning for a maximum of 10 hours. This is continued for 10 weeks

--you’ll have blossoms by Christmas.

Q. Hello. With the start of fall, I have come across some live oak

acorns. I would like to germinate these seeds and would appreciate

information about the best way to do this.

A. Propagation of oak seeds is usually done in the fall,

immediately after they have been gathered. You may germinate the

seeds in four-inch diameter “peat” pots planted in a light mixture of

50% vermiculite combined with a commercial potting soil. Keep the

surface evenly moist during the germination period. Move the

seedling, peat pot included, into a one-gallon container after the

seedling reaches about 6 inches in height. Oaks are not easily moved

except while young, so find a permanent location when you plant.

Q. Dear Plant Man. Why are my climbing rose leaves going yellow

with brown spots and why are some branches dying back?

A. Blackspot is a fungus, which develops rapidly during warm,

rainy weather. The fungus appears as an enlarging black ring on both

sides of leaves. If the problem worsens, leaves will turn yellow. I

recommend the use of Triforine every seven days during rainy weather.

Dieback occurs when rose wood is cut at an incorrect place. The

branch will continue to die until the “correct” pruning spot is

reached. Remove dieback whenever you see it.

Q. After reading your comments concerning the lovely bougainvillea

plant, I have come up with a question. Someone once told me that you

could grow such a plant from a slip. Do you know this to be true?

Kind regards, Kawaratani-san.

A. Bougainvillea is indeed propagated by cuttings (slips). You may

take a soft cutting and dip it in a rooting hormone, place the

cutting in a rooting medium and you’ll have a new plant!

Q. I am in “poison ivy” hell. Last year, I purchased seeds for a

“primula cantata” a greenhouse primula/primrose. They were amazing

plants with large round leaves and spectacular global blooms. But,

more recently I have developed a contact allergy and only discovered

yesterday from a book on container plants that there is a primula

whose leaves cause contact allergies. The plant in the photograph

looked exactly like mine except it was called German primula. The

rash likes to settle between the fingers where one’s skin is very

sensitive. There should have been a warning on the seed packet.

A. German primrose (primula obconica) is slightly covered with

short, sharply pointed hairs. These may cause a poisonous irritation

when handled by some people (unfortunately, you!). With primrose

season soon returning, I will mention the potential for problems with

the “poison primrose” (actually another common name) over the

Internet as well.

Q. My friend has a rose garden and she bought a Graham Thomas

rose. The leaves are not growing right. They are tiny. She was told

that the roses have what is called witches’ broom and that she needed

to destroy all the roses. She wanted a second opinion. What do you


A. Witches’ broom is a condition that develops on the branches of

certain woody trees and shrubs (I don’t know it to be a problem with

roses in Laguna). The foliage that grows on a witches’ broom is

usually smaller and paler than normal. In any event, they are not

usually serious and the best remedy is to cut them out (not destroy

the plant). However, the disease or mite that caused the witches’

broom may kill the plant.

OK, so we didn’t win the championship again, but it was fun

watching the games. As a distraction, I might even consider watching

the Angels this week. Better yet, I’ll spend time considering bulk

and mass and then taking the time to groom my roses. Finally,

Catharine can easily bribe me into going for a long hike to complete

the weekend. See you next time.

* Steve Kawaratani is the owner of Landscapes by Laguna Nursery,

1540 S. Coast Highway in Laguna Beach. He is married to local artist

Catharine Cooper and has three cats. He can be reached at (949) 497

2438, or e-mail to