Category Archives: Plants

Desperate Decision → Piddly Persimmon

September 15, 2021

No one in their right mind would buy a Persimmon Tree from Home Depot. Or would they … if desperate enough?

We ordered an Izu from a well-known nearby nursery in 2019. We received the bareroot tree in March of 2020 and made a nice home for it along the west fence.

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Oddly, by June, it still had not leafed out. I scratched the bark and there was green cambium so I gave it more time. By mid-June, I could tell the tree was dead. The rootstock lived but the graft did not take. Rats. Lost a year.

I was very anxious to order a replacement tree the following winter. The same nursery shipped one, again bare root, and it arrived February 26, 2021. Bare root indeed! It had no feeder roots whatsoever! Refund.

Here is where the desperation set in. I said to my self, “Self, you have to find a persimmon!”

Nobody had Izu. And, in late spring, most nearby nurseries didn’t have much in the way of persimmon at all … except … Home Depot. Can you believe it? I ordered a Fuyugaki Diospyros kaki from Home Depot. Shipped from Florida to Seattle. We called it the Florida persimmon. It seemed to shiver when we planted it. Well, at least it had roots.

Leafed out fairly quickly! Then, slowly but surely, the piddly persimmon was dead by July. Not that we were really expecting more.

But why did it die? Enter investigator West and investigator Lee. They carefully dug out the failure. At first, it seemed to be very well rooted, as there were large roots holding it down.

“Wait!”, Lee began, “Those sturdy roots don’t belong to the persimmon!” In fact, the roots belonged to the big American Elms nearby.

Lee and West didn’t really have to be careful. Once they cut the persimmon free of its entanglement with the elm roots, the Home Depot special pulled right out.  The tree never really got started. It leafed out based on the carbohydrates already stored in the plant. Clearly the roots were not in great shape because they never really connected with the soil to start any kind of flow.

Roots find water and the Elm roots deliberately jumped the fence and slurped up the available water we had been applying to the new tree.

So, as always, it’s not clear. Could be a combination of, trip from Florida was just too hard on the Fuyagaki and/or the fact that it had severe root and water competition from two 50-foot Elms.

I just picked up a new Maekawa Jiro from Burnt Ridge Nursery. Not an Izu, but we will treat it with the same respect. Once it is in the ground, please come by and speak sweetly to it.


Turn over a new leaf – if you still have one!

sun scald hit fruit that had already colored up

August 22, 2021

Our June heat wave hit just after the summer solstice, precisely when the days are the longest of the year. Double whammy! Record high temperatures in June beat our plants to the max. Ouch! We all witnessed the most obvious punishment, sun scald.

What’s a plant to do? The stomata pores of plant leaves open to welcome carbon dioxide, the start of photosynthesis. At the same time, when those pores are open, water vapor exits the plant (leaf transpiration). When it’s hot, dry and breezy, that loss of water can be deadly for the plant.

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During the three-day period June 26-28, 2021, daytime high temperature averaged 102.5F (normal is 71), daytime low humidity was 26% (normal is 50), and average wind speed was 5.6 mph (normal is 3.3).

The plants strategized by opening those stomatal pores during the cooler mornings, and then button up in the afternoon!

mosquito netting shade cloth

What’s a gardener to do? I am sure you watered like mad. I chose to drape my veggies with shade cloth, to reduce temperature and, to some extent, reduce wind. If plants could walk, I think they would hightail it to shade during those June afternoons.

Well, here we are in August. Due to zero precipitation and additional periods of high temperatures, the soil around all our garden beds and tree guilds is dry. I looked at 2019 and 2020 August photos of the orchard; some green grass is evident. Today I noted, brown, brown, brown, except for plants with long tap roots. In fact, you can slide on the grass!

This lingering hot dry situation this summer brings us back to leaf transpiration and plant water loss. Water has to move up from the soil, to the root hairs, and up the xylem (tiny vertical pipe) to get to the leaf. Leaf transpiration is the main force that pulls the water up this path.

Water loss, through transpiration, has to be balanced by water pulled from the soil. But the soil is so dry! Twist a soil sampler tool into the ground and see for yourself.

So, what’s a gardener to do now? Remember 2015 when we had a drought? Many City trees died, but not until 2016. Prepare for next year!

beer mash, GroCo and chips for lunch…er…for mulch

Now is the time to take good care of your perennial plants, especially those that are still forming fruit. Ideas are extra watering, providing shade, and heavy mulching. You might also avoid heavy pruning.

Come Take a tour of the orchard to see all the different water conservation techniques we use.



Water Plant and Soil Relation under Stress Situations
Filipović , Adrijana
September 16th 2020
DOI: 10.5772/intechopen.93528

Transport of Water and Solutes in Plants
Botany Professor blog, Water Potential Explained, 05/07/2015

From mountain forests to city parks, trees are stressed and dying
Mapes , Lynda V. August 6, 2016 Seattle Times

Average weather by city
Compare weather on two different dates, by area

Pruning Points

July 25, 2021

Last week Ann saw a T-shirt with printed words, “I’m pretty sure I am not going to figure it out.”  Sounds like me and pruning!

I have been watching Ingela masterfully craft the orchard fruit trees for 10 years but, this week, it was I who grasped the pole pruner and reverently approached the William’s Pride apple tree.

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I am grateful for my education from all of the pruning class instructors, pruning book authors and WSU extension pruning experts. However, most of the notes in my notebook are from Ingela. I hope she doesn’t choke if she reads this blog post.


A few rules for pruning fools that I applied this past week:

Apical dominance has critical significance. Each branch is wired to send some growth skyward. Leave some of those antennas on the tree, especially on a vigorous tree.

It’s seducing to practice reducing. Heading a branch back to a lateral, one at least one third to one half the size of the headed branch, opens up space and allows growth energy to be redirected.

Heading is a mode where you cut near a node. The result is a stub and you often can flub. The resulting new growth can push out in all directions, making next year’s pruning challenging. Buds become stimulated for shoot growth, rather than flower (fruit) production.

Thinning is winning. Complete removal of a branch, just to the edge of the collar of the supporting branch or trunk, creates space and air flow. Thinning can also remedy twisting and/or over-loading a branch, causing it to break.

West of the Cascade Mounts, it’s air flow that counts. All pathogens fungal can really keep us humble. The late professor Bob Norton said it best, “Make sure you can throw a softball through the apple tree!”

Local classes on fruit tree pruning: Plant Amnesty, Sky Nursery, Seattle Tree Fruit Society, City Fruit, Lee Harrison-Smith, Seattle Tilth, and the UW Botanical Center


Good tree fruit pruning articles:

The 1-2-3 rule of pruning – Turn wood into fruit on apple and pear trees.
Bas Van Den Ende
Good Fruit Grower. January 15th 2010 Issue

Spur pruning ‘delicious’ apple for improved spur quality and yield
Curt R. Rom, ActaHortic.1992.322.6

William’s Pride before






William’s Pride after