Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The next generation

I thought it was time for an update on my echeveria adonis blue hybrid.  Last summer the original plant flowered it self to death.  I did a post on it at the time (here), and showed this photo with the first offsets ready to be cut off.

Those three were cut off and when it became obvious the main plant was going to die (or look terrible) I top cut it to force more offsets. 

These all made it through winter without any problems and this second generation of plants are now ready to take over. The bowl contains the stem and offsets form the original plant, with the smaller pots being the offsets I have already removed, 16 plants in total.

I wanted to do something with these plants and had this bowl planted up with various echeverias, including one e. adonis blue.  The plants hadn't filled as hoped and I had planned to re-plant it anyway, so this seemed a good opportunity.

I used 9 of the rooted plants as a start.  As all these are established to some degree, the planter will be placed in a sunny position and once I'm 100% sure there will be no more frosts they will be fed to ensure the plants get a good amount of growth this summer. Hopefully if we actually have a summer, the plants should almost fill the planter and be producing offsets of their own in 6 months time. As you can see there is a good range of colours from blue to green depending on where the plants were over wintered.

Along with the rooted plants, there were a few still attached to the old stem.  Having top cut the original plant, these new plants formed at leaf nodes on the stem.   

In some varieties offsets start to form roots, as is the case here. This makes transplanting them easy, but you have to be careful to ensure you cut them off as close to the stem as possible.  If done carefully your offsets should have some roots which will help with the speed they establish.

Normally it is sensible to let cuttings dry off for a day or so.  If cuttings have some roots, I tend not to bother and just pot them straight away.  Having removed all the dead leaves, plant them with soil up to just below the first leaf, then top up with gravel.  The important thing at this stage is to resist from watering. Leave the plants for a week or so and then break in the watering slowly.  During this time, place the pots out of the sun, so that the plants don't get stressed.

If everything goes according to plan, in a couple of months the plants will have a good set of roots and will be ready for potting on.  These were done at the end of last summer and now have a full set of roots.  You can see that the lower leaves have died off leaving a bit of a trunk.  I don't like this and so use the potting on to plant them a bit deeper.  This will result in plants with the rosettes on the soil and new roots will form from the buried stems. 

All potted up these well rooted plants can be watered a little bit straight away.  I still place them out of the sun for a few days just in case, but they should get straight into growth. 

So my original plant has given my 16 babies to play which is a pretty good parting present. If each of these gives me even half as many I should have one or two spares next year. Now all I need is more space to store all these new plants!

Monday, 26 March 2012

When is the official start?

Temperature, length of day, clocks changing, the return of migrating birds, there are many ways of defining the start of spring. For me it starts when it's warm enough to get plants out of their winter storage areas and into the garden again.  The top comes off the cold frame, more cold sensitive plants get put out in the day to start preparing them for full sun, and the pot holders get filled again. 
Given that winter pretty much puts my gardening on hold, spring holds a special place as once again I can do more than just looking at plants in the shed.  For once my OH agrees, although for her it is because she gets her windowsills back and no longer has to worry about getting spiked as she walks around the house.

So what signifies the start of spring for you?

Monday, 19 March 2012

It's too early

For everything to be in flower but it has been such a good and sunny start to the year that all the echeverias are way ahead of where they should be.  Looking around the shed today it is a mass of flowers, not just the spring but early summer flowering varieties.  Normally at this time of year it would just the the echeveria roseas in flower like these, with varieties like e. agavoides just starting to show their flower stalks.

The dry bed is well and truly waking up.  There are signs the agaves are starting to get into growth, but this time of year really belongs to the alpines.  On my wish list of things for a new garden I have: more space, a greenhouse, a south facing slope and a stone wall for alpines. It would be a dry stone wall where every crevice has some interesting little plant to catch your attention. One group of plants that would feature are saxifragaceae. There are so many varieties, the ones I like are the tight clump forming ones.  I have a few in flower at the moment, although they don't look as good in the ground as stuck to a wall.

Thankfully they don't all have yellow flowers, the next one does, but I love the shape of the clump.

Finally a different flower type

This one is so small it tends to go unnoticed in the dry bed for most of the year.  Another good reason for my alpine wall.  If I ever get my wish, part of the fun will be searching for lots of other varieties to complement the few that I currently have.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Emergency surgery

They say you never forget your first love, I think the same goes for those first plants you lust after. I know it is true for me, certain plants in my collection have a special place. Once such plant is this aloe zebrina. It was my second year of more serious succulent collecting  and most of my plants especially my aloes were small seedlings. Then a friend phoned to say that he had just been to a local nursery with a green house full of agaves and aloes. It was too tempting to miss and needless to say when I saw this aloe I knew it had to come home with me (especially as it was a bargain price)

It looked glorious all summer and then autumn arrived, and I suddenly wondered where on earth I was going to store it.  It was too big for the house and the shed, the only option was to build a cold frame and hope it would cope with some harsh treatment.  It did, flowering again next spring which confirmed that many aloes are tougher than we give them credit for.  The next three years were all fine, flowers every spring and looking great all summer.  Then we had the winter of 2010/11 and for the first time it was damaged.  I had got so used to it getting through winters without problems,  that i didn't think much of the damage as it seemed to be growing again.

Then last weekend I found this. All the lower leaves are dead and the plant is only being supported by the cold frame.  It was one of those horrible moments when you reach towards the plant, hoping for the best but knowing perfect well what you are going to find.  I felt under the leaves and sure enough the trunk was soft. Having been caught out once I couldn't leave it again and giving it a gentle tug, the top came away in my hand. 

The trunk had obviously rooted last winter, but the surprise was the roots that had grown through the rot to allow the plant to keep going.

Sadly the rot would only continue if left unchecked, so I had to remove all the dead leaves and get back to health trunk. I had to remove a lot, but finally I got back to good health stem.

Not quite the large, dramatic plant it was a couple of summers back.

What is left has been placed on a wire rack while the base dries off.  in a couple of weeks, if it warms up, I will place it in very light soil, on heat and leave it for another couple of week.  Then i will start to water it, adding a bit more each week.  If everything goes according to plan, it will be well rooted by the end of summer.

I hope it will forgive me for my shocking treatment.  Hopefully this will be the last winter I have limited winter storage space and they will have less of a fight to stay alive from now on.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Tracking progess

Every spring and autumn I take photos of a lot of my plants to see how they are growing. Then on quiet evenings I can look through them to see how things have grown. Variegates work well for this as you can really see the plant come into its own. Some of my favourite series are the experiments or plants that I am shaping. This is echeveria secunda brevifolia, I have posted about it before, as I was trying to shape it into a little tree.  This was it in March 2010:

Then a year later in March 2011, it has filled out nicely:

And finally Last week:

I really like the new plants forming underneath the original growth.  I am now tempted to cut the outside ring off to expose the dome below.  Then again I may leave it and see what happens, after all I can always cut hem off later if leaving doesn't work out.