Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Not what I was expecting

One of my main rituals in spring and again in autumn is looking through the pots at what has offset.  Every now and then something will surprise you and looking around over the weekend I found these. Not the offsets I was expecting:

That is definitely not a cactus!

Neither is that one.  There are two possible explanations; either they were sat next to a plant that set seed, or I re-used the soil from a pot I was using for seeds. Either way it is unlikely I will ever figure out what the plants are.  I am guessing they are echeverias (given those are the only succulents I grow that produce seedlings like that) and that is about as far as I will get.

Whatever the explanation, it's not bad considering these pots have been in my coldest mini green house all winter.  To have germinated in the cold and be growing without any signs of damage should produce nice hardy plants.

Monday, 27 February 2012

New green house

A green house is fairly close to the top of my wish list for my next house. So it was a lovely surprise when my sister in law got me one for my birthday

It has very intricate metal panels.

All put together it is very grand

What to put in it?  I am thinking either a dwarf echeveria, or a tilandsia.

Now I just need the full sized version.

Friday, 24 February 2012

Could it be?

This winter has been exceptionally mild ... so far. We have had one cold spell earlier this month and that is it ... so far. It almost doesn't feel like we have had a winter... so far. The last couple of days, have almost matched the hottest February day on record and it feels like spring.  Surely this is good, but it has got me all confused.  The plants all seem to think that is it,  the echeverias are flowering earlier than I have ever seen them. This is echeveria ramillet which still has its water stressed red colour but its flowers are out.

Some of them look better than ever, which is great news at the start of the growing season, this little e. painted thrills hasn't lost anything from last summer and has a couple of offsets forming so is going to need a re-pot.

I love this e. recurvata, it has gone an almost purple colour with all the sun and lack of water.  Can't wait to see the flowers as it is a first for me.

You may have guessed I spent some time outside today doing a quick plant check.  It looks like I am going to have a very busy spring... when it arrives.  Everything needs potting up and if I was lacking space before it is going to much worse when everything is in larger pots. But that is for spring... when it arrives. In the mean time, the plants in the cold frame all survived (well all except for 2 small offsets).  I would normally expect to loose some of the trail plants, or spares, or plants that are simply too small or I didn't have space to give proper protection to.

So what's the problem, no looses, healthy growing plants, the urge to go out plant shopping. You are probably thinking everything is good in the world and from my obsession point of view you are right.  I can feel that rush as I look through on-line sales pages and it takes all my restraint not to click on that tempting Add to cart button. The problem of course is that while I am obsessed my poor OH is not. Normally I can point to all the dead plants (usually spares) as I carry them through the house and say it is one in one out.  This year I can't do that and while I have considered killing some unwanted plants, or looking for dead plants in neighbours gardens and sneaking them in, something tells me she would catch on. It seems if I am going to get my much needed new plants I am going to have to get creative with my ways of sneaking them in.  Not posting here would probably be a good start!

Of course all this may be premature, as the big issue and what is getting me so confused. Is that while it may feel like spring, it is only the end of February and in the  UK the weather seems to has a nasty way of holding something back. So while I figure out ways to sneak plants pasted my OH, I will keep a close eye on the weather forecasts in the hope that this year spring really has started in February.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012

A forced re-pot

A quick update on the echeveria seedlings I posted about here.  The e. agavoides ebony have not grown much as would be expected in winter.  The e. subrigida x peacockii on the other hand have grown at an alarming rate. So much so that the two largest were forcing out the other seedlings. Normally I would avoid doing any re-potting in winter, but in this case there was a chance that leaving them would ruin the plants, so I made an exception and potted them up. These are the two biggest

They are turning into lovely plants and should be a decent size by the end of summer.  The pale one is still going, but is much slower.  The comments from friends suggest there will be no shortage of takers once I decide how many spares I want to get rid of.

Monday, 20 February 2012

The first seed run of the year

There is very little to do in my garden over winter.  The pots are all moved into their winter positions, and plants in the ground go dormant. Generally it is just about clearing up leaves and having the fleece at the ready for mention of snow. On days like yesterday which was lovely and sunny the shed gets warm enough to spend hours in (22 degrees C yesterday). This gives me the opportunity to check on the pots; do they need any water, what is flowering, and most importantly are any of the seed pods ripe. The only real gardening I do at this time of year is powering up the propagator and starting my seeds off.

I have mentioned a before that growing plants from seeds is the way I torture myself (my last attempts can be found here).  I can't resist doing it, but I am not very good and it drives me mad.  I guess that is the thing about obsessions, some parts you have control over and others control you! Growing seeds at this time of year is all about timing; you want to start them off so that when spring starts they are small plants ready to be put somewhere to get the most of a full summers growth. Start them off too early and they can get leggy under lights, start them off too late and you waste some of summer.

Aloe midnight child x donnie seeds
It is not always possible to judge correctly, especially if you have never grown from seed before and some varieties may not confirm to the average growth rates. For me the easiest to judge are the aloes and echeverias.  I have grown many of these from seeds and know that with 2 months most varieties will be ready for more light. This year I have my aloe hybrid seeds I was producing at the end of summer.  I have seed pods on both plants; the aloe midnight child  and aloe donnie so I can see what variation I get between them.  These were the first into the propagator.  I also had some manfreda maculata seeds that I am trying again (for the third time) and some agave potatorum.  These should all be small plants come spring ready to go into the shed where they get a lot more light.

Now it is just a matter of sitting back and waiting to see what grows! Will this be the time I manage to keep more than 5 plants alive in each group!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Sometimes experiments just don't work.

I like my experiments; hybrids, bonsai and pushing plants to the limits of their cold tolerance. It is usually the poor echeverias that seem to take the brunt of me playing the mad scientist as they are very quick growing for succulents. Most of the time I have a good reason for the experiment, but every now and then I will just try something to see what happens.

One such trial was using echeveria flower stems. On many varieties new plants form on the flower stems once the flowers themselves have died.  I showed this picture of echeveria carnicolor flower stems before.

Normally you just gently twist the new plants off and lay them on soil and they will root and give you lots of new plants.  As I have plenty of plants I thought it would be fun to plant one of the stems vertically to see what happens. A couple of months later and the flower stem now has flower stems of its own.

The flowers a quite pretty, but overall I have to admit that the plant is fairly ugly.  It seems that some experiments are better on paper than in reality.

Thursday, 16 February 2012

A break from the cold

 Myanmar (or Burma) is not somewhere you hear much about aside from the politics, but what I had heard about the people and countryside had always made it somewhere I wanted to go.  So I jumped at the opportunity to spend a couple of weeks there and was not disappointed.  For a start I turned up early evening, opened the curtains in my room to be greeted by this view:

It was not bad in the morning either:

This is Shwedagon pagoda and really has to be seen to be believed. Yangon is a very green town and the palm trees mixed in among the buildings gives it a lovely tropical feel. There are a few parks which seem to be very well looked after, my favourite was the one around the base of the pagoda. These parks are full of young couples sitting under umbrellas in quite spots.

At each corner / end of the park there is an entrance to the pagoda and what entrances. 

If you look closely you can see people on the steps showing how large these were.  The entrances lead to covered stairways up to the platforms where the actual pagoda is. Coming out of the cool covered area into the dazzling sun you are greeted by a mass of gold.

The main stupa is surrounded by a ring of little shrines

The this central area is surrounded by other buildings which would be pretty special on their own let along put all together.

I must have spent over 3 hours just wonderig around enjoying the different views

One of the things I liked was the plants in amongst everything. 

Back in the park again, and I found a lovely spot to sit and relax

Given the climate it is no surprise that there were loads of gingers, bamboos and palms. Sadly very few spikies but you can't have everything.

I had meant to take loads of photos of the plants but had taken so many other photos my camera  battery was flat.  I guess I am going to have to go back to get some better photos for you.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

I should have known.

I have to confess to not being 100% honest with you all.  I have been on another one of my trips this time for 2 weeks in Myanmar (Burma) and scheduled my last few posts to appear throughout my trip. When I left it was lovely and warm and we were having the warmest winter I can remember. The posts during my trip reflected this and I think I jinxed it. If you have seen the news, or live in Europe you will know it is not a mild winter any more! You can imagine my horror when I got this photo of my dry bed from my OH.

I have mentioned before that snow in the UK does all the damage due to being wet and constantly melting and re-freezing. Thankfully my lovely OH had gone out and put down the fleece before it snowed so all the plants were fine and I need not of worried. The snow has gone now, and it has warmed up again. The moral of the story is don't go away in the coldest month of the year, and if you do, definitely do not comment on how warm it has been!

Don't worry I will do a post on my trip with some much warmer photos soon.

Thursday, 9 February 2012

Is it that time of year already?

It seems it was only last week that I was talking about the late summer flowering echeverias. Looking around not only are the winter flowers still going but the first of the spring ones are starting as well.  Ok so not really the spring flowers but echeveria rosea which flowers winter/spring.  I rave about this plant, if you do not own it go and buy it is all I can say. For once it is actually one that is better if you have a proper winter.  Currently the plant looks like this:

The flowers are just starting to form  and the leaves are starting to take on a slight red tinge. This is where the cold comes in,  if it is left out in the cold it turns red and will develop to look like this in a month or so:

I have been developing a clump in my dry bed and last year they coloured up nicely despite the bad winter.

I am hoping that this year with the lack of snow, which did set them back last year, and them having settled in even more that the display with be something special.  I want a large clump which all reach the final flower to look like this:

Mind you, it is still only January and our coldest month is usually February, so who knows what this winter actually has in store for us.  In some respect the lack of cold is almost more nerve-racking than having cold.  I keep think it can't be this mild can it? So to take my mind off it I will continue to picture who good my spring echeveria flowers are going to be.

Monday, 6 February 2012

A work courtyard update

It is the first winter for the garden at my office and we couldn't have wished for a milder one.  The central London effect means that many plants that have been killed even in my mild area are still going and the rockery especially is totally untouched. (I apologise for the quality of the photos they are from my phone).

The plant I am most surprised about is the echeveria mauna loa. The ones in my dry bed have all melted, they don't survive below -1 for me, which shows how warm the work garden is.  There are even some still in flower which has surprised me as well.

The fastest growing agave has been the agave filifera which has sent out a few pups already.

The jungle bed has made the most of the warm weather as well.  We finally cut the gingers back a couple of weeks ago, but the ensete and even more amazingly the colocasia have lost no leaves due to the cold.  Sadly while it has been warm, we have had a lot of storms and the plants that up until recently didn't have a single damaged leaves are now very tatty.

Time will tell if the we continue to get away with not digging things up.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Some eye candy for those into the softer plants

I understand not everyone shares my obsession for the spikier plants.  So just for you here are some of the other plants from the Kew trip.