Saturday, 20 April 2019

Moving the agave salmiana

It was not possible to put it off any longer time to clear this section ready to expand the rockery.

The aloe striatula, large agave salmiana and the covered agave ferox all needed digging out.  The right side of the railway sleeper was cleared yesterday and the lower palm fronds removed to make access a bit easier. Given the size of the plants, and the length of the terminal spines, time for a little protection.

The aloe striatula came out nice and easily. As there are others in the garden they were just cut up. The little agave ferox also came quickly.  The soil is 50% gravel so the roots pull out without requiring too much force.

It is funny to think this was exactly the same size of the agave salmiana when they were planted, especially given that the full name is agave salmiana var ferox. Then onto the big one.  Digging the roots out was easy, getting it out of the spot was not.  In the end it was manhandled into a big sheet.
This could then be dragged / carried from the back of the house to the front where it would be replanted.  So the first section of the extension to the rockery is complete.

In the front, space had to be cleared in the central bed. I haven't shown much of the front as it's a bit more mixed. The central bed is a large oval, which is the perfect spot to let the agave get to its full size.

Once some space had been created, the agave was lifted into position and slipped almost perfectly into place.  It was nice that it went without issue and too many more stabs.

It's a little sad how small the agave looks in its new home.  It will grow and no doubt given a few years will swamp the other plants in there. Currently the best view is from above.

Not a bad start to the weekend. Sadly the rockery stone is not going to be here until next week, so I'll continue removing the plants from the main rockery. 

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

A short visit with plants. Part 1.

Last weekend I finally got to the island of Madeira. It was only for a few days and with the in-laws, so there was limited time to visit gardens.  We did manage to sneak in a few gardens though. I had been warned in advance that Madeira is not famous for succulents; a lot of rain and no frosts make it perfect climate for too many other plants.  So the next few posts will contain lots of photos, but very few succulents, hopefully the gardens will be of interest, just for something different.

First morning we went to one of the orchid nurseries,

This is pretty much in the centre of Funchal, only 1km from the front. However it is all up hill, and in Madeira that really means up hill.  So having recovered, it was a pleasure to be greated by this set of aloes inside the gate.

This was the only larger aloe I saw on the whole trip. In the garden you get the advantage of those steep hills.

The outside area did have some lovely other plants. I expected the tropical flowers, but didn't expect to see so many different trees.

Anyway you don't visit for the trees, and as soon as you get into the nursery it is clear why you are there.

It would be pretty amazing if that was the whole place, but it wouldn't be Madeira if it was. No you have this:

The photo shows two of the main sections, turn around and you get even more:

I loved that they use tree ferns to create deeper shade. You can see the whole site is on slope, there is no flat land anywhere. There is another section the same size on top of this.  It was an amazing collection and if the orchids were not enough you can look up and notice that the vine above the main path is a jade vine.

The flowers are such a stunning colour, and if possile the buds are even better.

It takes some getting used to, having so many spectacular plants everywhere you look.

You could spend hours there photographing every flower, and smelling them to find out where the different scents were from.  When you do finally leave you are greated by the owners other interest which is bromeliads. Initially it is just the odd pot

Then you are out into the path between the shade houses.

There was a little spanish moss starter wall,

It is such a simple idea to form balls or boxes with a little bit of spanish moss inside and then in a few years you have your full waterfall.

 It doesn't matter what they look like, they will be hidden before you know it. I did try a few years ago, and forgot to water so lost my little clump.  I am tempted to try again.

There were some nice clumps of tillandsias as well. If only mine would grow into clumps like this.

As an introduction to Madeira it was perfect, such plant extravagance you simply don't know where to look.

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Planning changes to the succulent rockery

The cold continues, so time to think about the planned changes to the main rockery.  It has filled out so much over the last year.

So some changes needed over the summer. First a few of these plants need to be removed.  The aloe striatula has got too big, so will be removed. This will also allow a better view of the garden from the house.  few of the small or medium sized agaves will most likely be repositioned to allow for the continued growth.

Then the rockery will be extended. Currently it changes just before the large railway sleeper. The other side of the sleeper has been empty or storage while the garage was removed.

The orginal idea in the garden plan was for this to be more traditional planting. The succuelnt rockery has worked so well it will now be continued the whole way along the bed. It will mean ordering more stone, but will be worth it as it will give a lot more space.

Linked to the extension, is sorting out the more jungle section. This was a bit of fun to see how the plants would cope if just left to fight it out.  There was one clear winner: the agave salmiana.

It is already over 1.5m across so action needs to be taken before it's too late.  That whole section will be dug up, very carefully, and the plants relocated to the front garden.  There is a large circular bed in the front and it will be planted in the centre of that and can take over there instead.  Hopefully as the front gets less sun, it will be little slower.

It is amazing how much everything has all grown, especially in the last couple of years. This photo is from March 2017.

Anyone who says agaves and yuccas don't grow should take note.

So that is going to keep me active for a bit. Once the rock arrives I can get started, assuming that we do finally move into spring and summer. I don't like damging roots / plants when there are still frosts.

There will probaly be photos of who gets lets damaged when it comes to digging the agave salmiana up. I know who my money's on.

Monday, 8 April 2019

It's back to winter and shopping

The last post was all about things warming up and starting to get the plants out of the greenhouse.  Then this week it is back to winter again and all the plants are back inside again.  Such is the joy of UK springs.

Thankfully this weekend was the first cactus mart of the year, so time for a quick trip to the Kent coast with another succulent fan. Some chapters of the British Cactus and Succulent Society hold these sales every year, and the main sellers turn up to kick their year off in style.  The trick is to arrive before they open to ensure you are at the front of the line, that way you stand more chance of picking up that one rare plant someone has brought along. Saturday was no exception and the place was packed so it was pretty much impossible to take photos while there.  Instead just some pictures of the purchases.

It is strange that there are always one or two plants that everyone has, then next year you can't find them anywhere.  This year in the succulents it was the echeveria agavoides forms that were found on every stand. You were lucky if there was one echeveria ebony in previous years, then this year not only did everyone have them, but there were hybrids, and different forms.

This one was just labelled as a cross, so we'll see how it turns out. Then there were lots of other agavoides forms including: bordeaux, red leaf, red edge, Taurus, etc. I'm torn about all the different names to the red ones, especially when they are small, but they seemed to be the plant of the show. Next year it will be something else.

There are always a few new aloes, usually from the KG stable.  I stopped buying them a few years back but thought this one was a little different, so aloe gargoyle made it into my basket.

Recently I have been adding gasteraloes as they seem to been quite cold hardy for me. You often find gasteraloe flow at these sales but no others, One of the sellers had two different ones and no one else seemed interested so I snapped them up.  First up gasteraloe de Tige.

The second is gasteraloe d' due

Much greener and slimmer leaves on this one.  I can't find the name online anywhere so not sure if it is correct or not. Both had 3 or 4 pups, so those were removed and potted up ready for trades.

The other group of plants that has been sneaking in to my greenhouse are the haworthias.  There are always a lot of haworthias at these sales, it is one of the larger groups of succulents. I tend to like either the compact forms, so limited myself to two haworthia parksiana, one normal form and one hybrid (shown below)

Then the agaves, more have been sneaking into sales in recent years, but here there were very few and they were almost all americana or something common.  There was however one that stood out, agave shrevei ssp. magna.

It has really dark almost black terminal spines and a great leaf shape.  Looking forward to seeing it develop. It's not hardy for me, but should be ok if kept dry, so a pot one, which will also help limit its size.

I didn't manage to get the main plant I was after; an aloe erincaea. No one had them this year, having been one of the big plants last year. I already have a nice one I want to top cut, which should work, but just in case I want to find a reserve. Apart from that quite a successful day and a good way to take my mind of the return to cold weather.

Friday, 29 March 2019

Another ceramic pot experiment

I am sure many of us are constantly on the look out for unusal plant pots for our succulents. Back in January, just happened to pop into a shop and found this one.

It really reminded me of a clump of sea anemones.

Back home and time to think what to plant in it. The planting holes are not large, and potting was going to be difficult. So slow growing and perhaps something that could just be planted and left to get on with it. Mulling over ideas my pot of deuterocohnia brevifolia came to mind. This little bromilaid, also known as Abromeitiella brevifolia f. chlorantha, forms nice mounds over time. My pot had put on a growth spurt over last summer and was looking good.

Wouldn't it be amazing to have each hole planted with these; over time they would envelop the pot forming a multitude of little mounds.  I considered splitting mine, but it was too perfect, so one project led to another and a second pot was purchases.

Doesn't it look good in its new home, It is bigger than it looks, the pot is 22cm.  

Now just the problem of finding another plant with enough heads to fill the 20 holes.  It took a while to track down a large enough plant, and it arrived yesterday.  It was straight down to seeing how many plants with roots it could be split into.

6 good plants straight away. A few more delicate splits, some with roots and some without, resulted in 14 plants.  Next job to decide which holes to fill.  I though it would look better initially to leave some empty, to allow watering and to give something different while the plants establish.

It took quite a few attempts to settle on this one. Then time to fill it, and the realisation that this was a really stupid idea. The holes were between 1 - 2cm and with a plant, many with root, getting soil in was going to be difficult.  How any times in succulent gardening do we use unusual tools.  Todays a teaspoon.

It took about 30 minutes to spoon the soil mix into the holes, shaking the whole thing to get it spred evening through the pot.  Another 15 minutes to top it up around the plants.   The the real fun started; how to get the gravel around the base of each plant.  I tried the teaspoon, my hand and finally resorted to a pair of tweezers and placing 2 or 3 small pieces of gravel at a time.  Yep 1.5 hours later and the pot was finished!

Should be fun as it fills out, initially forming individual mounds and then as these join together into one amorphous blob. It was a lot more work than expected, but should be worth it.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

Wheeling out the first pots

To free up some space int eh greenhouse, or more correctly to move the pots that were on the floor stoping access, the first pots have been moved out. Nothing sensitive at the moment, so it ia mainly the echeveria agavoides forms.

From left to right: bordeaux, ebony, red edge and finally my seed grown ebony without coloured tips. They have really taken to their pots. I'm planning on taking the offsets off these to keep them as single plants, there are other pots with clumps in.

One of the other pots, is the Tonka truck.

To think i spent years trying to grow this orostachys spinosa, loosing it every winter as I thought it as a hardy alpine. Simply moving it under cover over winter was all it needed.  Now I have a truck full.