Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Time to cut up some plants.

It has been a summer of two halves weather wise; June & July were lovely and hot, then August arrived and it has been much colder and wetter.  So with wetter weather over the weekend it was time to rectify some of the neglect and get in the greenhouse.  With all the work going on with planting the succulent rockeries everything else has taken a back seat. First job to sort out some of the more unkempt plants.

Some like xGraptosedum 'Medterranean Mystery' have suffered from lack of water and low light. 


A hybrid apparently common in Europe it is a lovely little plant and quite tough.  I am trying one outside unprotected this winter as it is been fine under rain covers before.  As they grow they develop woody stalks and at some point they need to be tidied up. I simply cut all the heads off plant root them and bin the old plant.  It helps to keep them fresh and gives me new plants for swaps. I managed to get three pots like this one, so not going to go short next year.

That type of tidying was more common with the lack of care, here is echeveria corrinea x echeveira rosea before


Another branching hybrid with really god hardiness and flowers.  I really must take better care of it as when well looked after it is stunning.


I decided to leave the top section as one, next year will be the year I finally look after it properly. Then it can take a place in the rockery looking like the plant it should be.

In other cases it is more about getting more plants.  I grew a set of ech. subrigida x ech. peacocki from seed a couple of years ago.  The plants grew into several forms and I have been trying to get more of my favourite forms.


I love the red edges to this form and it has a good pale blue/white colour. Having top cut it last year, the offsets are now big enough to be taken off.


I am getting better at not rushing removing offsets, I'll leave the others until next spring and decide then if I want to grow them as a clump or cut them up as well.

It doesn't always go according to plan.  This is echeveria 'rainbow',


I top cut it last year to encourage offsets, which it did, only not quite as planned.


Yes there are lots of offsets, but all have become almost totally white. Looking at them I can't see any that I think would survive in their own.  I guess this one is staying as it is, while we wait and see what happens next. Hopefully they will develop more green and stems so they can be removed.

White offsets seem to be a trend at the moment.  Here is one of my echeveria 'Compton Carousel', I took all the lower leaves of at the end of last year to encourage offsets.


I like to call these pure white plants "ghosts", with no chlorophyll they will not survive on their own as they can not feed themselves.  It will be interesting to see if they do better as they are growing as branches of a plant.  Normally I top cut the plant and let the offsets take over, this one has been left and instead the three largest normal offsets removed and potted up.

I have so far always resisted selling these, I get asked a lot. Instead all the offsets are used as swaps and presents for friends.  I mentioned in the last post how I dread people turning up to my house with plants.  Strangely I have never had anyone look upset when I turn up with one of these as a little present.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Eucomis vandermerwei is my favourite plant in the garden this week.

I always dread people buying me plants, what with having very specific taste, most of the common plants I want and little space, it doesn't lend itself to friends and family find things I needed. So it was an especially nice surprise when my parents dropped off this eucomis vandermerwei a few years back.  Most people seem to have at least one eucomis in their garden, as I did at the time. I had not heard of this one though, and in fact have yet to see it anywhere else. 


As you can see it is a lovely spotted form with very clear, defined purple spots on the leaves which tend to lie more prone to the ground.  What makes this form different is the size, it is one of the smallest forms and grows to around 10cm tall. My whole clump, which contains 5 plants, is only 15cm across. It really doesn't show up in photos, and needs to be seen in person to see how perfect a dwarf form it is.


It originates from a high rainfall South African mountain plateau, at altitudes of between 1700 and 2275 meters.  This makes is quite used to frosts, although sadly it needs to be kept on the drier side during the very cold weather to do best. Up until now my clump has been in a pot, but I am risking it in the ground where it will get a rain cover to keep the worst of the weather off

It flowers in August for me, with the main plant flowering every year. The offsets have yet to flower, but keeping it restricted in a pot may have slowed their growth.


Being so small, you have to get pretty close to see the flowers properly. It will be interesting to see if it works in the rockery, or if it gets lost.

So there you have eucomis vandermerwei my favourite plant this week.  Head over to Lorees blog Danger Garden to see other selections.


Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Watering by tropical storm

One of the things that makes the UK so strange climate wise is the influence of the jet stream. One of the aspects of this is that tropical storms move from across the Atlantic often end up here. This weekend it was the turn of hurricane Bertha. By the time it reached the UK it was no longer classified as a hurricane but still managed 50mph winds and lots of rain.  This was the first real rain we have had in weeks, so was welcome especially as the keen eyed among you will have noticed that the turf is down on the lawn, changing it from this:


To this:


I know lawns are not to every-ones liking, but for the time being this fills the space and gives the dog something to play on. Then in the future as the garden develops and the garage is pulled down it can slowly be reviewed with the final design.

The planting up has continued with some more sensible plants than the variegated aloe saponaria from the last post (found here). In the end the agave parrasana minor did go in and will just be covered with rain cover over winter.


The echeveria roseas have been removed as they really didn't work, more on that in another post. In their place goes agave ovatifolia.


It is going to be interesting how his one does. There are very few planted out in he UK, mainly because larger plants have not been available.  It should be fine, but the interesting bit is going to be how much damage it suffers or if like a. montana and a. bracteosa it sails though. 

Next up were a couple of echeverias, firstly e. black prince.  This was planted out in the last garden, so is proven to be fine.  The other is a really nice little hybrid sent to me by a lovely echeveria collector who has the most amazing collection.  Echeveria FO48 x echeveria elegans


Not the best photo, it is a small freely clump forming plant with a good white colour.  Apparently it is also proved to be hardy else where.  As it clumps easily, there are spares and this group could go in as a test. It would be amazing if the reports are true and another echeveria can be added to the hardy list.

The first cacti have also been added, there are a couple of planters full that have been left unprotected for the last few years, these seemed obvious contenders for spaces.  This oroya peruviana will stay nice and compact so shouldn't cause problems at the front of the rockery.


Having planted all this up, and done a fair amount of repotting for those staying in pots, everything was left to be watered. It seems appropriate that these plants originating from the other side of the Atlantic, got watered by the remains of a tropical storm.

Saturday, 9 August 2014

The benefits of propagation

Most succulent fanatics can not help propagating their plants, even when they don't need more.  It could be the challenge of trying a new method, or just the thought that it is a waste to chuck anything away when it can be grown into a new plant.  Whatever the reason, the result is often a lot of spares sitting around waiting for a good home.

I have been dividing my variegated aloe saponaria over the last couple of years and now have a few pots of different sizes and varying degrees of variegation. With empty spots in the succulent rockery I couldn't resist adding one of the less variegated groups.


It probably wont survive this winter, but the advantage of all those spares means I can see what happens.

While doing this I split out the best one to grow on.  They tend to get more variegated as they get bigger often ending up almost totally white or yellow. 


I have high hopes for this one for next year, hopefully it will turn out as well as it's grand mum.


Friday, 8 August 2014

Echeveria agavoides is my favourite group of plants this week.

I have mixed feelings about naming forms of a plant, sometimes it just feels a bit commercial and a way of trying to get people to by the same plant just by giving it a different name.  However this is not the case with echeveria agavoides and there are some truly different forms well worth adding to any collection.

Last year I put a selection of forms into bowl to see how they developed, it highlights how different they can be.


The 4 different forms are 'Lipstick' (front), cv 'Sirius' (left), 'Ebony' (back) and cv 'Romeo'. Each is distinct and can be reactively easily separated.

The most common is 'Lipstick' there is another form called 'red edge', but I find these look pretty much identical and are interchangeable (at least for me).  It has one of the most most agave like shapes with good pointed leaves and very structural rosettes.


Like most forms, the stronger the light levels, the better the colour to the leaf edges.  It can take a while to settle and then produces multiple offsets giving a very tight clump.  I have had mixed results hardiness wise, like many succulents it seems to grow into cold tolerance, so don't leave it out when it is small. However once larger, especially when clumped it copes fine with my -8C winters.

Over the last couple of years new forms have been becoming readily available the most common being e. agavoides cv 'Romeo'.


The leaves are not as pointed as the other forms so it is less agave like.  The colour however is amazing, almost aubergine. When I first got this plant I thought it was stressed or a spring colour, it has held its colour and looks pretty much the same all year.  It doesn't seem to offset easily though, in fact neither of these cultivars do.  I may have a dud of course, and haven't wanted to cut it up to produce more plants.  This one has been kept dry over winter but that is all the protection it gets.

The other cultivar is even better, e. agavoides cv 'Sirius', it has the good agave style shape and a very dark colour. The leaf edges are almost black.


I can't really tell you how this one grows, as it hasn't actually done anything in the 2 years I've had it. No offsets, limited growth (which is probably because I got it fully grown) and no changes to the colour.

Finally by far the most sort after e. agavoides 'Ebony'.  This is the plant that everyone wants and it is the best form for me.  It is the biggest, has the best shape and the very dark leaf edges really make the plant stand out.


This one needs bright light to get any colour.  I have seen a lot of plants for sale claiming to be ebony, but looking distinctly like lipstick. In young plants it is difficult to tell them apart and given the demand it is probably no surprise less scrupulous sellers want to pass off plants as this form.  Once larger the rosettes tend to be flatter and the leaves look different to the other forms,  being a paler green. It actually offsets quite freely, so at some point the market is going to be flooded with them It also takes from leaves, although not as reliably as the other forms.  You can also find seeds and it seems to come true to form in the majority of cases. It is also not quite as hardy and you have to watch out for rot.

So there you have the echeveria agavoides group, which are my favourite plants in the garden this week.  Head over to see Loree at Danger Garden to see my favourites.

Tuesday, 5 August 2014

Should I go big , or go risky?

The front section of the main succulent rockery is finished and stepping back it was good to see what gaps are left for bigger plants.  There are 3 or 4 nice spaces along the front ready for one of the agaves or other feature pants.


Looking at the available agaves raised the two issues I have been avoiding: do I risk the marginal, or favourite plants and how much space to allow for the future.

This agave parrasana fits perfectly next to the a. parryi group. 


There is a much smaller one planted elsewhere, but I am not sure I want to risk this one.  They have scrapped through in my old dry bed, but with damage and never really thrived. I suspect this is due to the small size of previous plants, but the only way to find out for sure is to plant this larger one. Do I risk it?

Another space is perfect for this agave franzonsinii


The colour is great and the plant has room to grow to around 1m.  Seems fine until you check on the stats and find that they can grow to 3m. Even 2m would swamp that location.

Maybe the agave mitis albicans would be a good substitute.


Much better size wise, but I've never seen one of these tested for hardiness. The normal form is fine for me, but white versions of plants never seem to do as well.  Besides such a nice plant and hard to get hold of, is it worth the risk?

Agave weberi latifolia then.


Apparently around 2m this one, which is on the large size. Plus it is the wide leaf version which is such a good plant. This one manages to fit into both categories.

From the wide leaf to the narrow, agave utahensis


The size is good, and it can take cold if kept bone dry.  I wonder if a cloche would be dry enough given it would be grown in almost pure gravel. It is so slow though, any damage really would take for ever to grow out. Probably not worth the risk.

Agave 'Cream Spike' would look great planted, especially as it is getting to a decent size now.  I think the plant has now been moved from agave parryi to agave applanata. They have been talking about it for ages.


No one in the Uk plants these out. It has been fine in the cold frame and even just left under rain covers in a pot, but again there is something final about planting it.  Does anyone know how these would cope?

I do have two agave gentryi waiting to go somewhere. This is the larger of the two.


No problem with hardiness if protected from the worst of any snow.  Again they can get really big, but I am guessing here would probably settle at around 2m. The other one is much smaller currently and is the 'Jaws' form with nice big gums and teeth.  I think I'll keep that one in a pot as a feature.

Apart from the immediate problem of finding plants to fill the gaps, it is going to make for a very interesting garden in 10 - 15 years time.  On top of large plants here, there are the 4 agave montanas, 2 agave salmianas, and a few variegated agave americanas. That is a lot of agave for a small garden, but when do we ever really think about the ultimate size our plants could get to.

While I decide, some of the remaining pots have been used to fill the gaps.



Moving the pots has freed up the old storage area for the next stage.


This is the area earmarked for more lush planting. Up until now the plants have been spred out and all succulents. The cycad on the left of this photo marks the start of the shift, the idea is to start mixing in other plants and for the everything to be packed together. I am guessing that most of the large agaves from this post will end up in here fighting it out with other plants in my version of a jungle.

But back to the immediate issue, do I risk my prized plants that wont outgrow the spaces, or plant the big ones and either move them later or worry about the overcrowding when it becomes an issue?

Friday, 1 August 2014

Sedeveria letizia is my favourite plant in the garden

Another little Crassulaceae is standing out for me this week.  Sedeveria letizia is a hybrid between sedum cuspidatum x echeveria setosa var. ciliatait, it is a small branching succulent that grows to around 20cm tall, with rosettes of around 5cm. The leaves are green with a red tinge depending on light levels.  In full sun, or when stressed, it is almost totally red, in shade the rosettes are totally green.

I have been trying it in different types of pots and now planted in the succulent rockery, I am interested to see how this one develops over the rest of the summer. Will it grow up or hang down?


The colour is great and it has already started to send out new branches from the base, which is one of the unusual things about this plant.  It doesn't tend to branch from higher up. The older stems can be quite long and skinny, but with new heads forming all the time, it stays nice and bushy.

One of the great things about the plant is that you can simply cut heads off and plant them up to give new plants.  If done at the start of spring, by the end of summer it will have started to branch.  This gives lots of opportunities to sculpt the plant. This is my main plant, sadly having been in the greenhouse it is green, but I love it anyway. Now things are more settled, it has been placed outside in the hope of getting some colour.


It flowers well, with multiple stalks per stem. The flower themselves are almost pure white (I told you I had a thing for white flowers) and like echeveria flowers they last a long time. For me it is usually in flower from April to June.


If you leave it long enough without cutting it up, it will form aerial roots. These can be left to grow, or removed, it doesn't seem to affect the plant either way.  It is possible to leave select roots and these slowly bulk up to give roots that will support the longer stems. 

Sadly it's not perfect, for a start it is not totally hardy.  Apparently it is hardy to -7C (20F) so far it has been fine in my unheated cold frames or greenhouse. It is borderline for my garden, so it will be interesting to see how the planted one copes this winter.  The other thing to be aware of, is it can get leggy if over-fed or grown in lower light levels.  I have fallen foul of this a few times (it is really very easy) and had to cut the plant up and start over again. 

So there you have sedeveria letizia, my favourite plant in the garden this week. Head over to Danger Garden to see Lorees and others selection.