Thursday, 19 July 2018

Cycad envy

So I have just got back from a work trip to Uganda and I am now thinking my cycad flush is not that impressive.

Everywhere you looked there were lovely cycads.

Sadly there were not a lot of interesting agaves or aloes around,  this was about the most interesting agave I saw during the week.

Notice it has been de-clawed for the guests safety.

Entebbe is a nice and relaxed place, right on Lake Victoria. So you are surrounded by water on most sides.

It was a little strange, London is going through a heat wave and we haven't seen any rain at all for months. Then Entebbe is suppose to be in the dry season and yet it rained almost every day. Apparently they have noticed over the last few years that the weather is less predictable and the whole dry / rainy season descriptions no longer fit.

There was not much else to report plant wise,   I didnt have time to visit the botanic gardens (one day I will), but for the first time I did make it out onto the lake for a quick sunset bird watching trip.


Local fishermen, setting their nets for the night.
Some of the other local fishers.

 It is hard to be anything but relaxed when this is your view.

Friday, 6 July 2018

The soft and fluffy cycads

There are two cycads in the rockeries and while they both flush every year, the smaller one flushes at the end of the summer and so the fronds get damaged over winter. The results in them having to be removed come spring. Finally they are both flushing now so there is more chance of the fronds surviving.

They grow at an amazing rate, and have now reached my favourite period for the flush.

The larger one looks amazing in the early evening sun, and the new fronds gleam. A really good flush this year.

They are great at this stage, unclurling and still soft. I want to stroke it every time I walk past.

Sunday, 1 July 2018

The curious taste of bees

It has been mentioned before, that bees in the garden seem to have very definite tastes.  It doesn't matter how bright the flowers, how large, if they smother the plant, or if there is just one.  It seems bees like what bees like.

In some cases this is understandable; complex flowers, no nectar or flowering when it is too cold.  In the case of aloe striatula the lack of bees never made sense.  If you have ever looked at A. striatula flowers they drip with nectar, the flowers are covered, the top leaves are covered.  If there was ever a plant that provides a perfect bee filling station it should be this one.

There is the issue that the flowers are not form the UK, they are not designed for bees, but the amount of liquid dripping onto the leaves makes easy pickings.  It has been observed that bees tend to stay away from plants they have not come across before and it's only when a bee finds them, perhaps by accident, then reports back that others identify the flowers as a food source. This seems to have been the case in the garden a couple of days ago.  From no bees, to bees all over the flowers.

20 minutes trying to get a photo, and that I end up with is a blur

No wings

and more blurs. 

So while no amazing photos, it is great to actually hear the plants buzzing as more bees arrive each day. Maybe they taste is not so curious afterall.

Friday, 22 June 2018

Taming the echeveria stream

The stream of echeveria elegans has grown slightly since it was first planted.

When is was planted back in 2014 it was almost just individual plants.  Then the great things about echeveria are the rate the spred.

It now takes up the whole space, and come spring it flowers more each year.  The plants also change colour over winter to add a bit more colour.

While the stream is now overflowing, it does mean all the rocks have been obscured.  So it was time to do a bit of clean up.  Here is is before:

The nice things about echeveria, is to sculpt the shape require, simply pull the unwanted plants away form the clump.

I would love to have another echeveria on the lower level, but the E. agavoides keeps rotting as this area is not covered at all.  I am toying filling it with aloe aristata. there would be some variation in colour and the flower season would be extended as just as the echeverias finish the aloes start.

Then there is the bonus of one or two spare plants.

I mayhave to extend the clump in the front to create a new stream where there is more space.

Sunday, 17 June 2018

The hardy aloes starting to flower

There are very few aloes that are hardy in the UK. A. striatula and A. Aristata are the two that seem hardy across larger parts of the Uk without needing any protection. Then A. polyphylla and A. saponaria in the warmer parts, or if given protection from the snow and rain. There are a few more people grow, but they seem to be much more variable.

So I grow all 4 in the garden and have had them all flower at different points, A. Polyphylla for the first time last year, but sadly not this year.  The rest are flowering better than ever. 

The photo above shows the largest clump of A. striatula. There are three clumps around the garden, all flowering and two, for once, aphid free.  You can see that it is rampant, and has turned my ordered, tidy succulent bed into more of a jungle.

There are two groups of A. aristata just out of the photo and several in pots.  I have them in pots so they can be moved to fill gaps, or placed next to other aloes in flower.

The A. saponaria I have is a variegated clump.  It started off as one plant, and is now a clump of variegated plants, some better than others. I am always surprised it survives each winter and then flowers. 

This years flower is the best to date. The flowers have good colour and are a decent size. In the morning sun it glows, the photo does not do it justice.

The bees are a bit unsure of the aloe flowers, they are finding out how to access them so seed pods have been few to date.  This year with everything flowering so well, it may be time to try some hybrids. I was thinking about which to try and remembered I already owned an A. aristata x A. striatula which is very disappointing in both looks and hardiness.   So it looks like it is going to be A. aristata x A. saponaria and A. strataula x A. saponaria instead.  To try and ensure the best success, I will be getting the paint brush out to help everything along. 

There are lots of other aloes in flower as well, mainly the smaller ones.  The only larger one in flower is no longer strictly an aloe, but kumara plicatilis. The flowers has lasted really well, holding their colour and not just opening and dieing with in a day or so.

Then you have the haworthias and the aloe x haworthis crosses, but that may have to be another year.

Wednesday, 6 June 2018

You know what they say: never throw a succulent away.

So back from the usual winter off-line, a bit later than usual this year. There are good reasons not least an amazing long holiday in Cuba. An actual holiday, not work, or a short break between busy times. That is for another post, as a belated report on winter damage is required.

The London winter was long, wet and with several longer cold spells.  The main succulent bed was relatively unscaved and is already looking good again.

The main damage was not here but in the new mixed bed where I was testing an agave x-nigra and an aloe polyphylla.  I choose a great year to test them and stupidly didn't cover them at all.  The nigra is gone, the centre aloe polyphylla rotted.

The photo above was taken in April, I have been pulling out any loose leaves, and removing any sign of rot.  As you can see bellow, it does not look pretty.

So as the this post title suggests there is a general rule that you never throw a succulent away. I have tried before a propagation method called coring: you cut the growth point out and this forces offsets from the centre.  It tends to be used to propagate rare or variegated plants. Looking at the aloe, the similarities were obvious.

The aloe was not the only plant damaged like this.  The large bowl of variegated agave filifera

The core of the medium sized plant also rotted, so as with the aloe, it was a case of removing rot, damaged leaves and taking the centre back to a clean state.

So a month later and there are already signs of several new plants growing from the core.

As these develop the other leaves will slowly be removed to provide more space. This agave tends to clump, so it will be left to get on with it.

But I know you don't really care about he agave, what about the aloe polyphylla?

There are definitely signs of new growth which is really interesting.  I was kicking myself for not protecting the plant in the forcast bad weather, so a clump of aloe polyphyllas would be a far better result than I deserve. 

So yet again, that basic rule proves to be true.  Never throw a sucuelnt away!

Monday, 16 October 2017

When photo records fail.

It has not been the summer I expected.  Having started well, it got to mid July and the workshop floor was down, so the proper work on the garden restarted. Then I hurt my knee and had to spend 6 weeks not using it, strictly no gardening.  Then I had to go to Uganda for 2 weeks for work, followed by two lovely weeks in Spain (I come back to that in another post). Then got back to the UK and spent every weekend visiting friends or them visitnig us, and suddenly it is October!

So much to catch up on. Today I was cleaning up in the front garden and noticed how much the buttlers sink had filled out.

It was a mixture of left over plants, so a bit of test.  I love the little mound forming alpines and have been looking for some that give me the look I am after. These have grown much quicker than

I thought these were suppose to be slow. In my defence the one on the left was tiny when planted last year.  It will have to be moved next spring, I think I'll re-do the whole planter as I love this end, and the other is to diverse.

So having taken some photos, I come inside to check the plant names and nothing!  Normally when I do a planter like this, or any pot, I take a photo of the whole thing and each plant with the label.  Then if the label vanishes I have the photos for ID.  There is no chance I wouldn't have done it, I just didn't upload the photos.

I hate not knowing plant names. I sense there will be a few weeks of searching in the hope something turns up.