Scion Wood is now all gone

As discussed at our grafting demo meeting Saturday morning, we received a ton of wonderful scion wood from Kathy Connell of Orange  County who also brought up wood from the North San Diego Chapter’s exchange.

The Scion Exchange is now over, however, and all wood has been distributed. Unless you specifically and privately organized an Exchange with another member, we are now done until at least tropical fruit grafting season.

Our annual grafting demos 2-13-21; on Zoom this year for closer viewing!

You’ve seen them and admired them at our Culver City events  Now learn grafting from them  in the comfort of your own home.

Experts Bruce Blavin,  Khaled Hassan and Glen Woodmansee will be showing us their dazzling knife work, beginning at 10 a.m.  Each in turn will be doing a demo of his  favorite grafts, with plenty of time to ask questions.  You will receive your Zoom links in your newsletter this week.

And check out Fang’s Amazing Scion Exchange app to lay in plenty of supplies for the event.  New scion wood keeps getting added so if you haven’t found what you wanted yet, try again.


Links to stuff we heard about from Tom Spellman

What a great meeting that was on Saturday!  I am a little snowed under right now trying to get our Scion Exchange app working, but since I’m getting questions, I did want to put up links to the updated R. Sanford Martin  “How to Prune Fruit Trees” that Tom worked on.

Despite Tom’s assurances we could find it anywhere, it seems you have to order it directly from the Walter Anderson Nursery down in San Diego here.    I ordered my copy Saturday and it’s already shipped!

Also, for those of you who couldn’t write fast enough as  Tom rattled off his successes in the Irvine Ranch high-chill apple experiment, you can see a Youtube of the 6th year harvest here.

I write pretty fast but then cannot read my own handwriting, so these are my best guesses of his favorites from the trial:  Mutsu, Dixie Red Delight, King David, Lady Williams,  Red Fuji, and Sundowner. If I got any of that wrong or forgot something, please let me know!

Note Tom was recommending low-N, high P, high K fertilizers for these apples once they reached bearing size.  It does not mean you want low N for everything in your orchard.   Someone mentioned in the Chat a GrowMore product that s/he felt would suit but I didn’t manage to copy the person’s name.  GrowMore mostly sells to commercial growers so it would be interesting to know where their products are available to us layfolks.  Since I am entirely organic and also mostly avoid  animal-byproducts I find Peaceful Valley Farm Supply a reliable source for organic fertilizers and they even have a chart on their site showing the relative NPKs for their products..

January 9th @ 10 a.m. : Tom Spellman on pruning deciduous fruit trees!

What a way to start off the year with a bang!  The irrepressible, irreplaceable and enormously  experienced Tom Spellman of Dave Wilson Nursery will be answering your questions about how to handle this winter’s pruning chores.  First, we will be showing a couple of his videos so you can see exactly how he handles both the pruning of young trees and those of more advanced years (like yours truly).  Then he will be taking the mic to help you resolve your specific issues.

If you have a  particularly unusual problem, take a photo of it and put it on your computer or phone so you can “share” it with us at the appropriate time.

All members will be receiving Zoom links in your newsletter ASAP

Capers! Zoom meeting Saturday, October 10th @ 10 am

The capers you buy in little jars at the grocery store began as flower buds on a caper shrub (capparis spinosa).  If you have a dry, sunny spot – even one that you neglect – a caper would grow there.  Mature caper shrubs are attractive plants that love sun, don’t require much care or water, have very few problems, and put on an abundant show of beautiful flowers all summer long.  If you’re willing to do a little post-harvest processing, they also produce buds and berries that can add a burst of Mediterranean flavor to your salads and cooking.  Cured capers keep for a year!  (Or until your next harvest).

Join us via Zoom for a presentation by Alan Caramatti on his 34 years of experience growing capers.  This will be a live presentation only; it will not be recorded.   Chapter members should have received login information with their newsletter.

If you are not a member but would like to hear Alan’s talk, contact us for access.


Photo by Stefan Johnson on Unsplash

The Great Rhubarb Experiment is On!

As a transplanted New Englander, I have always mourned the fact that rhubarb — one of my favorite fruits (well, actually a vegetable but who’s counting?) — cannot be grown as a perennial here in sunny SoCal.  We just don’t get the required chill .  Nonetheless, I knew that over a hundred years ago, Luther  Burbank  — with his typical patience and rigor — developed several varieties that did exactly that.   You can read his research here.  And you can see a breathless description from the Los Angeles Herald of 1904 right here.

Moreover, per an article by David Karp in the March 15, 2013 LA Times: “Farmers harvested rhubarb in winter and spring in coastal Southern California on close to 1,000 acres in the early 1920s…. California’s rhubarb plantings reached 1,323 acres in the 1930 census.”

Well, I thought, I needed to get my hands on some of those Burbank rhubarbs!  Alas, I soon discovered, I couldn’t.  They were gone.

Per Dale Marshall, retired USDA ARS rhubarb researcher: “In response to mixed opinions on the subject of what kind of rhubarb can be grown in Southern California – yes, it grew well until about 1990.

This rhubarb resulted from Luther Burbank’s selections from New Zealand starting in about 1893. He created ‘Crimson Winter’ and later, ‘Burbank Giant’ and ‘New Giant Crimson Winter’.

These great cultivars were grown until about the 1980’s by the Cleugh family. Another man bought the brand name and roots but was bought out in 1992 and the fields became industrial properties with virtually all the roots being destroyed. Such a shame!”

Arggh!  But we Rare Fruit Growers are not easily daunted.  The New Zealand reference was a Very Big Clue.  I began hunting for the Kiwi  Topps’ Winter Rhubarb  — said to be the variety that launched Burbank’s research — but that also seems to have vanished from the earth.

Further Googling, however, took me to the site of French Harvest and the Clayton family in Melbourne, Australia which has been in the rhubarb business for a very long time .   They sell several varieties they’ve developed that they  promised would grow year-round in a Mediterranean climate.  Well,  hey, that’s us!  The game was on.

I quickly  obtained a collection of seeds to trial:  Tina’s NobleSuccess and Ruby Red (a compact variety good for containers);  and managed to persuade several of our more dedicated chapter propagators to try them out in their very different microclimates.   We are also trialing Glaskin’s Perpetual, first grown in Brighton, England in the 1920s since the British began their experiments with Australian rhubarb about the same time as Burbank  and for the price of a $3 packet of seeds, it seemed worth taking a chance.

I still, however, have some seeds, especially of the compact Ruby Red variety and if any of you who prefer to garden in containers would like to take a stab I would be glad to make them available (Chapter members only, please).

I  may also have some Success seedlings since more of those plants came up than I have room for but at the moment, they have just emerged and I have to keep my fingers crossed I won’t kill them off before they’re big enough to transplant.  Stay tuned!!



September 12th – 10 am: Fabulous Zoom field trip to Point Dume Orchard

Exactly two years ago, our chapter made a memorable visit to a member’s huge orchard out at Point Dume.  Attendance was strictly limited and many of you were disappointed not to be able to see the wondrous array of exotic trees and wildlife that Arnie has been patiently tending for years (and brought safely through  the Woolsey Fire that totally surrounded it two months after our visit. )

This year, however, thanks to COVID19, you can see the orchard in all its glory… virtually.

Check your member’s newsletter for the Zoom links.  We are still working on getting an unlimited Zoom license but for the time being our Zoom meetings are restricted to members.  Because we have so many new members since our Plant Sale, our spreadsheet may be a little out of date.  If you don’t receive your newsletter within a few days, please let us know.

RIP Plant Sale

The West LA Chapter plant sale is now over.  It was a success beyond our wildest dreams.  Many thanks to our propagators as well as to our buyers who picked up from all over the state.  We are already growing new plants for next year.

In the meantime, why not join the chapter for early notification of all sales? Plus you will get to participate in our wonderful and informative Zoom lectures and field trips.  Click on Membership up in the Main Menu.  We hope to see you soon.