A Lantana Bonanza

Lantana 'New Gold'

Lantana ‘New Gold’

Familiar plants often show up in unfamiliar places, pleasing you in unexpected ways. Everyone knows that purple, violet or mauve lantana, depending on how you identify the color of its flowers, is a spreading plant that covers the ground, spills over walls or foams out of flower boxes. Yet just the other day, I saw a landscape where it had vined its way to the top of a 4-foot xylosma hedge.
Xylosma, for the uninitiated, is a shrub with shiny, diamond-shaped leaves that is moderately tolerant of drought and cold. This time of year, its new growth is chartreuse to yellowish-green and tipped with scarlet. Xylosma can handle full sun to partial shade and, left unchecked, will develop into a small tree.
Usually, it is kept as a shrub or grown into a hedge that is maintained at a height of four to six feet. It is highly susceptible to attack by the giant whitefly, and so its planting has been curtailed in recent years, especially in shady areas where unevaporated dew and/or sprinkler water droplets on leaf surfaces increase the likelihood of whitefly infestation.
In any case, the site of lantana vining 4 feet up into a shrub and flowering all along the way made me wonder if this could become, entirely by accident, a new wrinkle in garden design. Xylosma does flower but its blooms fall under the category of nondescript, which means that you barely notice them. So here you have a plant combination that provides both shimmering evergreen foliage and nearly constant
You also suddenly appreciate the fact that lantana, given proper encouragement to clamber upwards, will happily do so. In demonstrating this ability, it resembles ivy geraniums and other spreading plants that, with the aid of a chain link or chicken wire fence, will eschew horizontal for vertical growth.
Well-grounded vines
Then again, sometimes you see vines growing along the ground. Once, when visiting an organic farm in western Samaria, between Nablus and Jerusalem, I saw the most remarkable planting of snail vine (Vigna caracalla). It covered an area of a few hundred square feet and presented itself as an ocean of mollusk-shaped lavender flowers. I had grown snail vine in Los Angeles, whose climate is similar to that of Samaria, and fastidiously trained it up a trellis. Now, however, I saw the plant thriving as I had never dreamed it could, sprawling over the ancient ground.
Q: I planted an avocado tree from a container about 3 years ago. About a year after I planted it, we had a windy night and the trunk broke off right at the graft. It has since grown to be about 7 feet tall, but I wonder if it will ever have fruit.
— Bob Delzer,
A: If it broke off above the graft, the tree will produce the variety of fruit written on the label when it was purchased. If it broke off below the graft, the regrowth will eventually produce fruit, albeit of unpredictable characteristics since it comes from a seedling plant.
Nursery grown avocado trees consist of a cloned scion variety (such as black Hass or green Fuerte) that’s grafted on top of an avocado seedling.
The seedling, since its genes are an unknown quantity, will produce “lottery pick” fruit, probably unremarkable. The graft, appearing as a slight bulge in the trunk, is usually about 4 to 8 inches up from the ground.
TIP OF THE WEEK: When planting roses, allow for a minimum of 3 feet between them.
With narrower spacing, pruning becomes more difficult and plants will also grow into each other before you know it, causing the individuality of each to be lost among its neighbors.

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