Friday, 24 June 2016

A break form the rain

My friends always laugh when I say that June in the UK is our monsoon month.  They are not laughing this year, as it has been foul, with the last two days being full on thunder storms and flooding. Thankfully the flooding has not been bad as long as you are not trying to camp at a festival.

To get out of the ran it was time to take on one of the re-potting tasks.  The agave filifera variegata has gone a bit pupping mad.


It's never certain how easily pups are going to come off, so it was nice they came away without much problem.


Not a bad collection of pups, only a few without roots.  Those are only the pups, the mum is safely potted up elsewhere.


They'll stay potted up like this for a month or so while I decide what to do with them. It may be anything time for one of my hardiness tests. I probably have a few spare.

My succulent friends are doing well for spares this year.

Tuesday, 31 May 2016

Let's talk echeveria 'Compton Carousel'

One of those stop in your tracks plants, if you have seen one chances are it is on your wish list.

My second plant in May 2013, the first suddenly decided to die.
That is where the fun starts as it is not always easy to come by. In the UK it is fairly simple you can simply go to Southfield Catus (home of cactusland). I always tell people, look there first and find out the price, as if you buy it off ebay you'll pay 2 to 3 times as much. I understand in the USA it is a lot harder to find, although there will be somewhere with a constant supply at more reasonable price.

Right so you have searched and found your plant, you get it home and settle back to enjoy your prize only for it to suddenly up and die.  You are devastated; apart from the money, you're back to trying to track one down again. You treated it the same as your other plants, it is an echeveria after all so shouldn't be that fussy. So what went wrong?

This years flowers, the best to date.
I am always getting asked about how I treat them, so it's time for a post on what I have found works for me.

Firstly and this is important. What works for me may not work for you. The most common mistake with this plant is to think as an echeveria it is simple and will cope with the usual succulent stuff. I find them to be sensitive to light, heat and water.

Light. Mine are grown in the the greenhouse in the UK, this means they do not get direct sunlight.  I have not tried one outside but in full sun I would expect them to burn.  The leaves are not strong at all and do not need an excuse to curl up and die. The same goes for low light, they are prone to get leggy.

Heat. They do not seem to cope with extreme heat and even in the UK on hot days in the green house they can go from nice plant to mess.  It goes without saying that they do not cope with cold, I did leave one in the green house over this winter which went down to -3C. But that was totally dry from November - March.

Water. Where most people go wrong as they are really prone to rot and drying out.  This is especially true as they settle into a new home or when taking offsets.  I tend to give them half the amount of water other plants get, whenever I move them.  Initially you want the soil to be damp not wet and never get water in the crown. If it is hot, keep a eye on the water as they will need to be watered, as hot and too dry will cause you problems as well. Once settled and growing you can go back to a more normal water regime, but still avoid water in the crown.

Linked to all of this is the soil mix. It must be free draining as you do not want plants sitting in any water. It also needs to have some food; they are weak plants and need all the help they can get.  I use blood, fish and bone in the mix and feed them one a month from May - July.

It is vital to work out what is required for your location, it will vary, but watch your plants and they will tell you what is working. Once you work that out, they are easy:

My collection of plants May 2016, all from that one original plant
So you have the basics and your plant is alive. At this point it will start to behave like any other echeveria and will want to offset.  Again there are a few tricks.

Firstly they throw out quite a few white pups.  As amazing as they are, treat them like flowers. Admire while there are around and know they will die.  I have managed to get one through two seasons, most last only one.  Except that and you will enjoy them and save yourself a lot of heartbreak.


There are a few tricks you can use to get offsets. Feed you plants as mentioned before, a strong plant will offset nicely. If things are not happening quick enough, forcing the plant in lower light.  The elongated stem will produce lots of pup.


If you leave the leaves on you will find you get offsets like the one on the left in the photo above.  If you take the leaves off you will get good offsets on the trunk as can be seen as well. Remember this plant is weak, so some transplanted offsets will not root. Do not treat them like you do for other offsets.  A lot less water to start with, then intensive care monitoring the watering building it up little by little over a month.

To be honest I tend to do the reverse of my normal and propagate by top cutting, that way you get lots of plants in the original pot and as can be seen form the photos. The stems on the main plant form roots and stand more chance to re-root, this seems far more successful than trying to remove pups.


Top cutting a plant once it has roots visible, will give a nice new plant. Remember take the watering slow to start with and keep it in the shade.  The plants that remain in the original pot will grow quickly to fill the space and give you a pot full of plants by the end of that season. These will eventually get leggy, offset, and send out their own roots and the process can start again.


Flower stalk with variegated laves as well.
As you can see once you have your routine down, plants will not be a problem. Quite the reverse and you will have the alternate problem: keep or sell.  So far I have not sold a single plant, a lot have been given away to friends. for me this is a plant grown for the pleasure, not money. My OH on the other hand likes to work out what she could buy with the proceeds from a single pot (there are 15 plants in the photo above).

I would like to say I never loose plants, but of course I do. Especially when trying to root offsets. Accept it and keep note of what works and what doesn't.  People who have followed for a while, know I like my experiments and recording my results.  For this plant I physically write down when I water and feed offsets and the outcome.

Finally settle back and enjoy them and the looks of envy you get from any other succulent lovers who see your plants still alive. Just don't tell anyone your secrets!

I hope this helps, please feel free to leave comments, either without or without your name. Let me know if I have missed anything and what works for you.

Friday, 27 May 2016

A bit of colour

Just to keep posts going, the main rockery is starting to look more colourful.


Maybe lucky I didn't paint that wall purple, would have clashed!

Sunday, 22 May 2016

This should make a few people happy

Everyone has at last one plant that in the garden that always gets attention.  You know the one that every visitor comments and lusts after.  I keep meaning to suggest everyone do a post on their attention hogging plants. Maybe I'll get around to it this year.

One of the plants that always gets comments is aloe purple flush.


The colour is amazing, apart from the purple, the leaves have a red edge which glows in the sun.

Friends routinely ask if I have any spares, sadly it didn't seem to be a big off-setter. To add to the problems I have never seen this plant anywhere else or been able to find anything about it.  I am guessing the name is wrong.

Last year I took the plunge and split the one offset, you can see the post here. At the same time I added some blood, fish and bone to the potting mix. The growth rate wasn't much different but they went offset mad.

So today as part of the yearly potting up, the purple flush was next.  The mother still looks great.


But what to do with this lot?


I have been getting stricter on pups and binning them instead of keeping everything.  I noticed that they were either put to the side to plant later and ignored, or potted up and left somewhere to struggle on.  I really don't need multiples of every plant.  However I could just hear the cries from friends so here there are all potted up.


Most had good roots already, which is a relief.  The two in the shared pot don't have roots yet, but I am sure there will be people who will know how to cope with that. the one in the round small round pot is a bit of fun,


I don't think it is going to last the summer in there.

This will be the first of many plants that get split over the next couple of weeks, many of them seem to be on peoples wish list.  Something tells me I am going to be very popular this summer.

Thursday, 19 May 2016

Update on the Sedeveria letizia

I have posted about this little plants a few times before, mainly here.  At this time of year is has not only turned a good red colour but is starting to flower. For the last couple of years there has been one planted in the main rockery as a bit of a test.


It is looking really good.  A few rotted leaves, but all the heads are good.  The flowers are a little behind the main potted pant which has been in the greenhouse. Given our cold spring that is no surprise.  The colour is though, I thought this was purely down to lack of water, but obviously it is general stress.

As for the main plant.


I gave it a little too much water and the red has faded as it's now happy. Time will tell if it survives being cut up for another year.  It does however need to be re-potted. I had hoped to find a really nice hand made pot by now, but will re-pot it into one of the normal pots for the time being.

The purple background is a bit of a test. Remember in a previous post, mention of painting the patio wall. This is one of the colours being considered. Bright, but really sets the plants off. Sadly the OH is not so keen. She is however out during the day this Saturday.

Monday, 16 May 2016

How can you hate cherry blossom?

Next doors cherry tree has been mentioned several time since we moved. My family do not understand why it is such a problem; it only blocks the sun for the first hour or two of the day and then it flowers. Surely that is a good thing.

Well I give you exhibit 1:


Not convinced yet?

Exhibit 2:


Exhibit 3:


Do you get the picture? Not my lovely tidy, spotless rockery.

It is much worse than previous year, normally I manage to wait until the blossom is all down and then go around and clean up. This year I was a bit worried about the amount of rain and problems with the fungus returning.

So what do you do?  Get the vacuum cleaner out of course. I am not sure who was more surprised my OH or the little girl next door who asked why I was vacuuming the plants.

It's not perfect but at least the worst is out of the centre of the main plants.


Thankfully it's now almost over, a couple more days and all the blossom will be off the tree and I can do a final clean up. At that point I remove as much as possible off the gravel and hope the rest degrades quickly.

Next year I will have to net the area for a couple of weeks.

I am not looking forward to cleaning this one up!


In the mean time I am hoping the people here will be more understanding of why I dislike (insert much stronger words) this tree.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

So the front garden: part 1.

This has taken up most of my time whenever it has been dry this spring. I last posted about it back in August last year, the post can be found here. At that point the right hand side was all levelled and the gravel was down.


At that point I optimistically ended that post with the sentence "Still lots to do, but it feels like the main bit is done". How wrong, but I'll come back to that.

The idea for the front is less spiky with a blue, white and silver theme. We will stick to this fairly rigorously with the one exception of the odd splash of orange. So stop reading now if you offended by flowers.

In November a sunny afternoon was spent planting around 300 bulbs into the gravel. It should have been a simple task, but having taken care when laying the gravel there were two layers of weed membrane under it. Each location a bulb was to be planted required moving the gravel, cutting a hole, digging out the hole, refilling with better compost and then moving gravel back.  Very repetitive and sadly the garden looked no different at all after all the work.  The bulbs were selected to give flowers from beginning of March until roughly the end of July.

Come spring and things started to show, the crocuses were first. Very pretty but the planting didn't really work.


The blue crocus were next. They were slightly more blue that this photo.


The irises worked better in the gravel.


They looked good with the rocks.


What is it they say about best laid plans. Either the mild winter, or being their first year but instead of flowering over an extended period everything decided to flower at the same time.  The tulips:


Then the anemones as well, which are now finished but shouldn't have even started yet.  I can't complain though as they gave quite a display.






Sadly the only think that did not come up the size expected was the eremurus. The three rocks in in the above photo at to stop me walking on the tiny little plant. It is going to be a few years until that one flowers.

While this lot were flowering away, we got started on the other side. It seems that while succulents go to sleep over the winter lots of local plants do not and come spring the left hand side of the garden had to be sprayed, dug and levelled once again. I've lost count of the number of times I have dug this garden, succulent gardening is a lot less work.

Finally we were able to set out the beds.


More gravel and laying out the first set of plants.


More digging as lots of manure is dug in. Finally some plants can actually be planted.


I was beginning to find out how big the garden was, the number of plants was racking up, it was good when there were plants available form the back.  Remember the yucca dug up from the back (you can see the post here). They turned out to be two plants not a twin head.  Splitting them was easy once all the soil was shaken off and in the new bed they look much bigger.


As the dog will not be loose in the front we are able to plant I few plants I wouldn't risk in the back, like juniperus squamata 'Blue Star'


It feels like the central bed is coming together. It will be a few years before the plants fill out, no doubt a few plants will be moved during that time.

The other two beds are filling up very slowly. Not only does it take time to find interesting plants that flower at different times, and fit the colour scheme, but it is expensive and is having to be spred out. The garden doesn't looks great yet, it is a bit disjointed. As more plants are repeated in various different locations the garden as a whole will hopefully pull together. Time will tell if it will work, not being succulents is all a bit of an adventure for me.

Then finally this weekend I got to start adding the succulents and alpines to the gravel sections. They are going in slowly and I'll do separate post on that once I have finished it. In the mean time here is a taster as we can't have a post with so few succulents.


It felt a lot more within my comfort zone working in the gravel section. I'm going to try out a few different ideas there is not enough space for in the back. Assuming the rain stops, I'll get to finish this and can post the results.

So a very different post to normal, but hopefully the work will be worth it. Maybe this time it really is safe to say the worst is over, at least in terms of the physical stuff, lots of plant finding still to come.