Sunday, 20 July 2014

The return of Sempervivum Sundays

One of the groups of plants I have most been looking forward to getting back in the ground are the sempervivums.  With the alpine section of the first rockery planted (you can find the post here), some of my favourites were given their new homes. Most have settled in better than I could have hoped, even though this is a low time of year for growth as it is a little hot.


The s. virgil has coloured up perfectly and is gunning to be top semp in the bed.  I'm expecting it to fill in those gaps quickly as it was one of the best all-round performers at the last house. The only problem with it, are it can over pup creating an unruly clump. Not a bad problem to have I'm sure you'll agree.

I have also started planting some semps into gaps in the main succulent bed.


This little one is s. arachnoideum x nevadense. It has never quite looked as good as when I first bought it.  The clump is good, but they are not growing to their full potential as shown below.


I'm not sure if it needs more heat or what. Hopefully the new location will suit it better and it can flourish and give me rosettes like that again.

Some are showing their contentment by flowering.


S. packardian is a strange one.  I understood it was one of the larger forms and yet I have never got them to grow beyond about 7cm.  They have a good colour, just disappoint in their size.  Again I am hoping the new location will give better results.

With a bit of luck all the semps will bulk up nicely and will be a major feature in the garden come spring.  I have quite a few more ideas for using them around the garden, so unlike many of my succulents, I can continue to search out good varieties to increase my collection. 

Friday, 18 July 2014

Orostachys fimbriata is my favourite plant in the garden this week

With plants in the ground and settled in I am finally able to take plant in Loree's (Danger Garden) "my favourite plant in the garden this week". You can see Loree's selection here.  There are a few plants shouting for attention but in the end I decided on one of the smallest plant in my garden orostachys fimbriata.  It part of the Crassulaceae family, although looks very much like a sempervivum at this stage. It forms neat little rosettes and tight clumps over time.  Mine is much more compact that my orostachys spinosa, although this could be unusual.


It looks very fragile in the alpine rockery, hopefully it will be hardy for me.  If it carries on looking this good I'll probably end up finding a rain cover to keep the worst of the weather off.

No flowers yet, which I am sort of pleased about. It is monocarpic so the flowering head will die afterwards. At the same time the flowers are what the family are known for and it seems to offset readily so the next generation will take over. I can wait a year for flower though, in the mean time I will just enjoy it hiding among the gravel.

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Continuing a family garden tradition

With the back garden starting to take shape, time spent outside is getting back to a more normal routine.  Walking around this evening I couldn't help but think of one of the early memories of my parents in their garden.  My dad would get back form work, and after greeting my mum with a hug and a kiss, saying hello us kids, the two of them would head out to walk around their garden.  I never really understood what they did, it seemed to involve a glass of wine, a slow wonder pointing out plants that are doing well and usually being followed by at least one of the family cats and dogs. They still do this to this day, only now they are no longer interrupted by the kids.

View from seats in the side garden
What struck me was how I now continue this tradition. Getting back from work, I say hello to my OH and head out to look around the garden.  If the weather is fine, my OH may join me with a glass of wine, and while she is not really interested in plants, she doesn't mind me pointing out the odd plant doing well and we catch up on events of the day.

Main succulents rockery in the evening sun
When I was young I didn't really understand why they did it, in fact I didn't really understand until I properly got into my succulents about 10 years ago. Now it seems the most natural thing in the world and something I look forward to throughout the day. I am guessing this evening stole is quite common among gardeners around the world, with or without a drink and family pets.  What better way to relax after a day at work, especially in the long UK summer evenings.

Tonight as I looked around the plants all seemed to be settling in, if I needed a sign of this I found several not least the smallest cycad revoluta sending out a new flush.


Normally I would cut the old fronds off at around this point, the winter was so mild that this set have very little damage.  They have relaxed slightly, so once the new flush is completed I'll decide how it all looks and decide then.


So have have you carried on any family traditions in the garden, or have you come up with your own new ones?

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Echeveria agavoides ebony update.

Back in the middle of May I posted that one of the first jobs getting back in to the greenhouse was to chop up my largest echeveria agavoides ebony, the original post can be found here.   At the end of the last post the main head looked like this:


Time for an update.

The plants have been sitting on a tray developing roots since the last post.  This is probably a bit extreme, normally I would wait until the first roots stared to show and then rest very lightly cover in slightly damp soil.  I know it is bad, but with everything else going on it kept getting put off. While the plants are behind where they would normally be, it is an ideal opportunity to  see how the good root development:


As the stem rotting was an issue, it also means I can be sure that was no longer a problem. Good roots and no sign of rot means it was time to pot up. 

I have been looking for a plant to put in a large bowl as a real feature.  I figure echeveria agavoides ebony would make quite a bowl. There was another plant waiting to be homed as well, so it made sense.


The new plant has a very different look to my main plants, it came form really reliable source so it will be interesting to see how it develops. 

The pot will be placed in the shade and gradually moved out into full sun. If previous growth is anything to go by they should be well settled and starting to fill the pot by the end of the summer. Hopefully in time the whole pot will be overflowing with plants. Especially if I can learn from the past and actually just leave the plants to get on with it and not meddle. It should make quite a feature in the garden.

Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Planting up the main succulent bank.

Building the main succulent rockery has been a lot of physical lugging or rock, soil and gravel. Monday saw the final large delivery of soil and gravel, time to enlist the family for one final push. In the morning the bed was set out ready, extra blocks had been added over the weekend to build up the end so it was ready to go.


The vertical posts had also been added continuing the wave from the side garden.  It was interesting having both the oldest nephew and niece around, they are really getting into gardening; not just the plants but the design as well and there were several discussions about why things were going in certain locations.

By lunch the plants were going in and the biggest rocks were in place.


Then it was just a matter of selecting the best rocks to create a more terraced look.


The gravel ran out before the entire bed was covered, but as the front row has to be finished it's no disaster.

Now the real fun can begin. With most of the big plants in, I can start to see the gaps and where all the bonus interest can be added. every time I look around it I see crevices in rocks that I can see being filled with some choice alpine.

The backbone is there and will fill out over the next few years, but what will really set everything off is the other plants that are not noticeable at first, or that bring colour at different points of the year.

There are so many good corners, gaps, hidden spots I am going to be able to add a lot more plants than expected. There is no rush to do this; I have some plants ready, other gaps will be an opportunity to buy one of the plants off my must have list. Hopefully I will be able to restrain from planting any old plant, to fill the spaces with those rare or special varieties.


Lots of new views to discover


The agave x nigra didn't seem to mind being in pots, the root balls were really strong and there are pups on each plant.  They look good and blue against the rocks which wasn't planned but one of those happy coincidences.


One of my favourite aspects to the bed is the different view you get when sitting on the wall at the table.  It's nice to look down on the plants while also being able to touch them


Plenty of space in there for some litte (and not so little) gems.


There is still a lot of work to do to get it looking how I want, but the main physical stuff is done with the fun bits to go. 


The area around the patio is almost finished, or at least it's looking like a garden.  At some point I am going to have to buy some non-spikey plants to fill the beds along the fence. I'm not going to have an excuse to delay it much longer.

Saturday, 5 July 2014

Tin snips are my favourite tool of the week

In a blatant spin-off from Dangers Gardens "My favourite plant this week", which is excellent for those that have not seen it (The latest post can be found here), my favourite tools this week are giant tweezers and tin snips. Shown in the photo below with a standard trowel for size.


The giant tweezers look like a joke but are perfect for fishing leaves out of those hard to reach agave and yucca crowns. 

The tin snips, usually used for cutting thin metal sheet, turn out to be perfect for trimming dead leaves off yuccas and dasylirions.  I must admit to being in the "no skirt" group.  Before you get too concerned this is just a term used to describe the ring of dead/old leaves that hang down around the trunk forming a skirt.  Some people think the plants look better in this more natural state, for me though they have to go. Getting in to trim them off you need something with enough power to cut through the fibrous leaves but precise enough to get a good clean look.  Secateurs are often not strong enough, and sheers are messy. The tin snips made light work of a dasylirion serratifolium and I'm amazed I never thought of using them before.


As it happens dasylirion serratifolium would be my favourite plant in the garden this week.  It has been in a pot since I got it, and really needs to get into the soil as it must be chronically root bound by now. It copes with London winters unprotected without any problems at all, and apart from having to watch the serrated leaves needs no care at all. Pop over to Loree's Danger Garden blog to see what others have selected as their favourite plants.

Thursday, 3 July 2014

Yet another day of digging and moving rocks

It seems to be that days in the garden involve hours of digging and sorting soil, or moving rocks. Today did not disappoint, with real progress on the main succulent rockery. The idea was to build a bank up to the top of the patio wall and continue it around along a new wall down the fence line.


The photo above shows the area ready for work.  The plan for the day was to start the bank and see if it would reach the top of the patio wall.  It started ok, but very quickly became clear that there was not going to be any where near enough material to bank all the way to the top.


I have been given strict instructions not to put anything sharp near the top of the wall, it will form a seat for the table, and it would be a shame to spike anyone sitting there.  With the lower height and saving the big agaves for the far corner it should be save.

Sadly even with the reduced height I am going to need to sort out some more ballast; we are down to the last pile of builder rubble and that is almost gone.


That lot is not even going to get me to the fence, so it is time to think of a back up plan.  In the mean time I can plant up the first bit and it will give me an idea of how much soil and gravel I am going to need.

With the first part getting there, the patio end to the garden is starting to pull together.


There is still a way to go, but hopefully I'll meet my deadline of getting the succulent beds built and planted before the end of July. I have strict rule of no planting succulents in the ground after July; it gives them time to settle before winter and they have a better survival rate.

It is good to have the yucca rostratas back again. They have not liked the move and being in pots. Given they drop their roots as soon as you suggest touching them I guess it is no surprise.