Sunday, 28 April 2013

Look alikes

This is one of my favourite agaves.  I've had it for a few years now and it was sold as a suspected a. filifera cross, given it came out of a batch of a. filifera seedlings. There was no point in trying to find out more, so I just left it.

Having put some of the agaves out in the greenhouse (from the last post) I just happened to put one of my other hybrids in front of it. This one is a. victoriae reginae x a. obscura (also known as  a. polyacantha var xalapensis)

I was struck by their similarities, the terminal spines, the shape of margin teeth, and the curve to the leaves.  I also bought them from the same source, so it will be interesting to see if the smaller one continues to grow into a similar form.

Saturday, 27 April 2013

Organising the greenhouse

Making the most of some warmer weather to do some general tidying and potting on after winter.  Most of the plants will be outside again over the summer, but a few will be kept in the greenhouse. I am finally getting over not having the shed and seeing the positives of having more space. It is nice to be able to pot things on inside and to have space for odd plants, and propagation.

First up were the agaves, most don't need re-potting and it was easy to select those that would be given space. They very neatly fitted onto one bench, and with minimal cleaning up are ready for the growing season.  Having them set out allowed me to go through checking for new pups and to photograph them . As always at this time of year new offsets are starting to show, or are discovered when plants are removed from their pots. I was also surprised how many hybrids/crosses I have, it wasn't a concious decision to buy hybrids, but they have been sneaking in.

Next up were the aloes. These needed more re-potting and also deciding what to include.  The bigger plants wouldn't fit on the bench and some of the small clump forming varieties had got a bit messy.  In the end it was obvious there would be space on the bench for other plants, so it became a crassulaceae area.  Given the constant re-classification and renaming of plants between the aloes, haworthias and others it makes that easier as well. 

Next up will be the echeverias which will fill a third bench without needing help. A lot more re-potting needed here as they tend to suffer the most over winter.

The remaining space will be used for the cacti, any plants that didn't fit else where and some free space.

This should be the end, but being in the UK the weather decided we had it too easy with a couple of days around 20C. So the next few days are forecast to be back in single figures and worse a few nights of -3C. While I don't worry about most of the plants, some could be damaged by those lows so have been moved back inside. Just for once it would have been nice to move form winter to spring to summer, not winter to spring and back to winter again!

At least I will be able spend time in the neater greenhouse, even if there are a few gaps.

Friday, 26 April 2013

My favourite propagation trick

Stopping echeverias from growing over winter is not easy if you keep them inside; it is too warm and they just wont go to sleep.  The results in leggy growth, which can totally spoil the look of rosette style plants. Take this little clump, they were lovely compact plants at the end of last summer, and are now all leggy.

Top cutting allows you to re-root the top. It is a simple way to keep plants in check, but it is also an opportunity to produce multiple new plants.  Echeverias especially will produce new plants off the stem if the base is left in the pot.  My favourite trick is to use the legginess to produce a really clean top cut and leave the maximum amount of plant in the pot.  I simply strip the middle section of leaves giving me a nice clean area to cut, which I do just above the leaves in the lower section.

The top sections now have a nice bit of stem, and the base has lots of leaves to encourage offsets.

If you are really keen you can even keep the leave you stripped off the middle, if the echeveria will produce new plants that way. My OH pointed out that we don't really need more plants, but who can resist propagating when they get the chance?

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

First road trip of the year: Part 2

The main reason for the road trip was to go plant shopping. Every year the Norwich branch of the BCSS arrange a trip to a cactus mart and then Southfields Cactus nursery.

Cactus marts are a good way to see the wares from lots of different nurseries in one place and this one usually has a good selection of different plants.

The last few years have been slightly weighted towards the cacti, but this year there was a good mixture of different cacti and succulents.

We got there nice and early so were one of the first groups in which helped get those prize little plants.

It is always fun looking through all the plants, there is only ever one or two of each plant. You often see people with plants in their hand, holding onto them while they make up their mind.

Thankfully we had to leave to get to the next place, as each time I thought I had finished shopping I found something else.

The next stop was Southfields cactus nursery, which as far as I know is the biggest cactus nursery in the UK.

It's as close to the larger European nurseries we get in the UK. So many plants of different sizes, it can be tough to decide if you want a young plant to grow on, or a larger plant that is big enough to display.  It is good seeing plants on mass

The owners have an amazing collection, and have lots of plants out on display

One of the fun things about shopping here, is that plants are sold by pot size. The sneaky people look for plants that haven't been potted up recently, there are some real bargains to be had.

So the question is what purchases came home with me.  You wont be surprised to know that the restraint I showed last weekend didn't carry on, by it wasn't too bad.

The first part of the day was mainly aloes, echeverias and haworthias, the second was very spiky cacti.   Here are the main ones in the green house,

One of my favourites is the variegated aloe brevifolia,

The one that got away was a variegated aloe ferox, they never come up so I don't bother looking for them.  Walking around before we left the cactus mart, I came across this one.

It turns out they brought two to the show, one with striped variegation (which they had sold) and this one.  It is so yellow that it stands almost no chance of surviving. Pointing this out, they let me have it for free with another plant I was buying anyway. Now I just need to figure out how to keep it alive.

Monday, 22 April 2013

First road trip of the year: Part 1

Having had the first shopping trip last weekend, this weekend was the first plant road trip; to visit Keith and Melissa's garden and a cactus mart. In part 1, I'll cover Keith and Mels garden. I have posted about their garden before (here) and visit at this point each year. Obviously it is totally the wrong time of year to visit an exotic garden in the UK; nothing is out or growing, and the plants are still showing their winter damage. There is always something new to see though.

It is unfair to show the jungle and pond sections (to the front and left of the house), the ferns are not out and nothing is up, so I am concentrating on the new arid bits which are down the right hand side of the garden. When you come out of the side of the house you see the current project, or one of them, the sunken garden (the house is to the right of this picture). The building in the photo is the new cactus house and will all be planted. Neither of these were built this time last year, just the end wall with the lean-to greenhouse against it. The rest of the area was a sloping lawn / storage area.

Turning slowly left you have the lean to greenhouse against the end wall of the cactus house, then the big greenhouses.

You can see the green roof in the lower left hand corner of the photo, which I'll come back to. Continuing around you can see the new planted bits. If I remember correctly these were laid out last year, but not build or planted.

Then looking at the planted bits from in front of the large greenhouse

I tend to visit this time each year and it is amazing to think that last year, the lean-to and the big greenhouse was up and the there were piles of gravel where the landscaping was roughly going to happen, but that was it. Given they do everything themselves, on top of the general garden maintenance, it is an amazing amount of work.

Looking back towards the greenhouses, you can see the different paths. You can also see the different levels and how much work there has been to create the flat and sloped sections.

and a bit further along, the bank starts to curve around in front of the house.

You can see the various covers placed over plants to keep the snow off. Most of the plants under them seemed fine and hopefully the covers can come down soon. I can't remember every seeing them up this late.

The green roof is a mixture of alpines, aloes, agaves and cacti. They are all looking very healthy given the time of year and the winter they had.

The alpines in the rest of the garden look good as well. I am pleased to see these mounds got through without any protection and almost 2 weeks covered in snow. 

The beds are a bit bare at the moment as everything is still in the green houses, this is the lean to

The cactus house is not planted yet, they haven't been able to move the other plants out to get into it. The view in is still pretty good

Now some of the plants. All the aeoniums where either in flower or just looking good. Her aeonium nobile has got big, just to rub in the fact I lost mine this winter.

There are so many agaves, it is hard to select just one.

This aloe saponaria variegata looks almost identical to mine, they obviously have a tendency to get more variegated as they mature.

The next one is aloe suprafoliata in its juvenile form, we both got seedlings from the same batch so there is always a little competition between us.

There seem to be a lot of gastoveria x aloes around in the UK now the next one is called 'floe'

Finally an aloe I picked up for her a few years back.  She asked for something big with offsets, this is what I found:

Every time I pop over she suggests I re-pot it.  As it was such a lovely day on Sunday, I thought it was time I did. We spent a couple of hours splitting off the pups and cleaning them up. There were 24 plants in all:

They were all packed into a crate to dry for a few days and then some will be planted out, some potted up and I imagine a few given away. One may have come home with me.

Finally one of the signs she has made for the garden, I like both the message and the way a pot has been encased and then planted up. 

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

First shopping trip of the year

With a longer stretch of warmer weather, it finally feels like we may have seen the end of winter.  I have been waking the plants up, and continuing the pot re-shuffle; those in the green house get moved outside and those in the house moved into the green house.

The only thing missing was a plant related trip. On Sunday that was corrected with a trip to one the rare plant fairs. The fairs are never great for succulents, you need the cactus marts for those, but there is usually something there that I can see working in a dry bed. This time I also had the luxury of knowing the new garden will have more to it than just a dry bed. 

I was very good and only got a few plants, first up was ipheion alberto castillo. I am planning several gravel areas through the garden and want to ensure there are flowering plants to bring colour at this time of year.

The second plant from the fair was another eremurus. The one I had planted in the dry bed has done really well, so I was looking for others. The thing about plant fairs is there is often only a few of each plant available, so I was sad when someone literally picked up two pots just as I was reaching over for them.  At least there was another variety this time eremurus robustus, as soon as I saw the size of the initial growth I had to buy it.

Speaking to the stall holder they confirmed the trick is to plant them in well drained soil and ensure they are not crowded by other plants. I guess this explains why they did well in my dry bed and other people have struggled with them.

I'll have to do another post on the other two plants from the fair, as I haven't got photos yet. Moving on, getting to the fair meant driving past Wisley, which just happens to have a great nursery. Their alpine collections have been really good lately, so I thought I would just pop in for a quick look.  straight away they had some trough planters and so one of those went in the trolley, which then required a few plants to put in it.

I'm not sure about the dwarf iris, but there are plenty of places it can go if it doesn't work.  Plus a few spares to take its place.

How restrained was that for the first day of shopping.  I doubt it will continue though as this weekend is the first cactus mart of the year!