Wednesday 27 April 2011

Is this the end for plant number 1?

I have been posting updates of my echeveria adonis blue hybrid as they develop (the hybrid, the flower). I have been wondering how much flowering will spoil the look of the plant and what will happen to it once the flowers have finished.  As you can see below is still going strong a month after it started flowering.

There are two types of echeveria flowers, those that flower off the stem in which case the plant just continues growing from the growth point, or flowers that form from the growth point meaning the plant has to branch or offset to continue growth. The parents fall into both groups, e. pulidonis flowers off the stem (although it can put so much energy into flowering that it puts out offsets to survive) while e. rosea branches with each stem eventually becoming the flower.  The initial signs were that this hybrid would flower off the stem, but looking now the growth point also seems to be a flower stalk with no new leaves forming.  I am not sure if you can make it out in this photo.

If this is the case I can only guess what will happen next, I am assuming the main plant will slowly be taken over by pups (of which there are plenty).

In some respects I am pleased; I preferred it's more compact rosette form before flowering anyway, all the pups are doing well and growing away (I have already removed 8 and there are another 8 growing now).  It will also mean I have seen its entire life cycle from seed through to clumping in a 3 year period. It will be a shame to loose this first plant though, as it was this one that started all the fuss.

I probably need to start thinking about what to do next; do I leave the plant to see what happens, or top cut it to force more offsets? Who knows it may even continue growing in some weird way once the flowering has finally finished.  I have enough offsets now not to worry about the next generation (although not enough to meet demand) so maybe I should leave it to a natural outcome, something I very rarely do with my plants.

Normally when you get a plant you know what to expect, or can at least look it up.  It has been great fun not knowing what to expect and documenting everything for the very first time. With the next generation all planted out in different locations I am looking forward to learning more as they grow and who knows mum may have one or two more surprises left for me yet.

Monday 25 April 2011

After a bad Winter, a very good Spring.

This year showed that even the hardiest of aloes struggle with a bad UK winter. So I am always on the look out for aloes that may survive. A few years back I found a cross between the two hardy aloes; a. striatula and a. aristrata. This was it in August of 2009.

I heard that sadly it was not as hardy as either of its parents, but thought I would try anyway. The first winter it went in the cold frame and came through without any problems. Over the summer of 2010 it got very leggy and as the main plant could no longer support its self, I removed the offset for backup, allowing me to test the main plant a bit further.

Typically we had a terrible winter and almost all the plants suffered, so it was no surprise that the main plant did not look great having been left under a simple rain cover.  This was it this morning:

At first glance things do not look good, but actually there are lots of little bits of good news when you look closely:

Yes there are one or two new pups, which given how often I get asked if I have a pup going, will please a lot of people. However it does need cleaning up and checking the main stem I found a bit of rot starting in the middle which had to be removed as soon as possible.  Even without the top, the pups will grow quicker  left where there are for a little while longer.  So it was a simple case of cutting the top off and removing all the lower leaves and fnally checking there was no rot left.

I will leave the top part to stand for a few days to dry off and ensure there is no sign of rot.  I don't really have many tips for growing succulents, but this is one I do use. When potting up top cuts do not water them.  There is a temptation when potting up to water, but resist, leave the plant to settle in for a couple of weeks and then give a little water, increasing each time you water. 

Sadly even though all the plants suffered this winter, I doubt this would survive our normal winters totally unprotected. Although on the plus side,  it will come back strongly from the roots so at least you will have lots of plants to swap for something that may be winter hardy.

Monday 18 April 2011


In yesterdays post I showed pictures of ludwigia sedoides  and commented on how mathematical they looked.

I have said many times before how much I like structure in my plants, so I guess it is no surprise that I noticed them everywhere I looked on Sunday.  The softness of these cycads unfurling fronds seems a long way from their toughened look one fully grown and hardened.

Ferns can look messy, but underneath the spores are much more ordered:

Even the flowers seemed to be structures on Sunday, with this beehive ginger flower showing exactly how it got its name.

The flowers looked like they were dripping with honey, actually when you touched them they smelt really strongly of ginger. The succulents were getting in on the act as well, with one of my favourites being aloe erinacea,  

Not the best photo, but this plant, if you can get past all the spines, is very structural and each time I see it I spend ages trying to get a photo that highlights this. It looks like that will continue. 

Sunday 17 April 2011

The wetter side of Kew

My posts about Kew tend to focus on the succulents, so for a change I thought I would show some of the other plants. One of the little green houses is the water lily house, which has just re-opened after its winter clean.  It is too early for most of the lilies but there was a lovley little plant which I have not seen in there before, ludwigia sedoides.

I love the little regular shaped segments, it has a very mathematical feel.

It was only recently I learnt that they add black die to the water to show the plants off better.  It really works.

Most of the lilies are yet to flower, but this one was luminous

Saturday 16 April 2011

Semi precious plants

The jade vine has got to one one of the most beautiful flowers.  It is not the most elaborate,  or brightly coloured, just simple elegance. Was at Kew today and their vines are flowering, and was particularly pleased with this photo, even blown up.

Thursday 14 April 2011

The work ferns

Having mentioned the tree ferns I purchased for the work garden, they were delivered so I thought I would post a quick picture of the fernery. As you can see there is lots of space so we are going to have to get a few different varieties.

The new fronds on the smaller one are bursting ready to unfurl, so it shouldn't be too long before they create the canopy for the ferns bellow.  The lucky group on the first floor are going to have a great view down into the crowns as they sit and have their meetings.

Wednesday 13 April 2011

First get together of the year

The plants are growing, the weather has been glorious, the evenings are getting longer so there was only one thing left for it to truly be the start of summer and that was a get together with some plant friends.  I mentioned in one of my early  posts how my obsession has been helped a lot over the years by people I met on plant forums, something if I am honest I still find a strange to say out loud. I have made some good friends over the years and every year we get together to visit garden centers and public gardens.  This Sunday a few of us did the rounds of some of our favourite exotic nurseries.

The weather could not have been better and driving through Oxfordshire was as beautiful as ever. The first destination was Cotswold Garden Flowers which has to be one of the best in the country.  Worth visiting for the labels alone, although others like the large parts of the nursery which have been planted so you can see how your purchases will look in the future. For me this is very dangerous; I dread to think how many plants I walked passed without a second look in the actual nursery, only to have spotted them in the planted sections and gone back to buy.  Sadly like the rest of us, the succulents were really badly hit this winter and stocks were very low. For the first time ever I came away without a single succulent!  It was not all bad though as they had a lot of podophyllums in stock and I was also on a shopping trip for a garden at work, so spending someone elses money I bought a few of these my favourite has to be podophyllum delavayi:

I loved the shape of this one,  although I also got spotty dotty and kaleidoscope which probably have more colour.

Next was onto Vale Exotics and it was here I was hoping to do some serious damage to my work plant budget.  No garden in the UK can solely contain succulents, lack or sun,  or the need to fill space means that inevitably you end up with beds full of other plants, even if these are just as exotic.  In my case one side of the garden is in shade most of the day and has a little, or should that be tiny, fernery.  I love tree ferns and would have more if I had space, so it has always been a dream to buy a couple of very large ones. The work garden finally allowed me to do this and I bought a 7foot and 5foot plant.  You will have to forgive the lack of photo,  I managed to save it in black and white by accident, and while some photos look atmospheric this one just looked bad.

Sadly again the nursery had been badly hit this winter and they were waiting for most of their stock to come in,  so no new spikies their either, so off to the last stop Akamba. This is one of the most unusual nurseries you will ever visit, the layout is chaotic and you can feel like you are getting lost, there are little jungle huts with tables everywhere for food and drink among the plants  and everywhere there are pieces of African art and giant metal animals, including life size giraffes and elephants!  Take a look at their website for the full effect. Finally a spikie, at last I hear you say, the new yucca of the moment yucca aloifolia purpurea.

It is going to be interesting to see how this one develops, although there are reports it is not as hardy as most which is a same. Kel from Akamba was on-hand to welcome us and explained that they were getting more plants in every week and that the succulents would be arriving next week (not exactly want you wanted to hear when you had just driven 2 hours to visit them). It didn't spoil the visit though and my OH was thrilled by the lack of plants for me to purchase.

Finally it was into the car park to hand over plants we had been saving for each other or wanted to swap.  Whenever a group get together from one of the forums there is also a swaps session in one of the nursery car parks.  It is a bit like a spontaneous car boot sale and the owners of the nursery come out to have a nosy, see what plants we are interested in and often leave with one or two plants themselves. As this was more a gathering of friends most of the plants were reserved for specific people and I handed over all the agave utahensis I had bought for people and in return got a few plants myself.  One of the best is this agave franzosinii pup from D&D.

They had been looking after it for me over winter, which is something I hate doing as it is bad enough worrying about your own plants without worrying about a plant you are holding for someone else! I also collected a new aloe suprafoliata.  As you can see it is going to take some time before it starts to spiral and gets to the stature of the plant I lost, but it is good to have it in my collection again.

Of course this was not all I picked up,  I was given many other lovely plants and the generosity of the people at these get togethers is one of the things that make them so enjoyable. New plants, a day spent with friends and all in glorious sun shine what more could you ask for.

Thursday 7 April 2011

Down but not out

Aloe striatula has been considered one of the very few aloes that would cope with UK winters. Up until this winter that has proved to be true, not only did it get through without damage but flowered.  After a few years you tend to take it for granted that this is one plant you don't need to worry about.  This winter has proved that wrong and like so many plants the early cold and long periods of snow proved too much for it.

I have two large clumps, one planted in the front and one in a pot i the back. Here is the clump in the front during the snow:

At first everything looked good,  but as things warmed up the plant went down hill and now looks like this:

While there are one or two green leaves left, they are on the way out and the plant is pretty much dead.  Anyone who grows succulents in the UK is used to plant collapse like this and knows that you never rule a plant out until you have given it a chance to come back from the roots.  Looking this evening and I found this:

There are between 6 - 8 new shoots starting already, so it is going to be a nice bushy plant in the future. Sadly it is going to take a good few years to get back to its former glory and I doubt I will be seeing any flowers for years as well.  But we have to be thankful for the little things, and at least now I know to cover it during snow!

Tuesday 5 April 2011

A little shot

I mentioned at the start of the year that one of my resolutions was to grow more manfredas and mangaves. There are limited varieties of manfreda you will find in the UK and the only common mangave you find is mangave macho mocha, which is a lovely plant.  At this time of year it tends to be green but as the sun warms up purple spots form giving it a distinctive colour. If you control the water you can get an even better look, this one belongs to the agave nursery:

The variegated version of this plant is mangave espresso and has white edges to the leaves.  I was lucky enough to track one down last year and it is the plant all my friends are desperately watching hoping for pups. How does the saying go, a watched kettle never boils.  It seems that posh coffee makers are not so shy and I was thrilled to find this the other day:

As you may have noticed, I have a tendency to remove pups as soon as I find them and it took all my resolve to leave this one where it was.  I won't remove it until it's a bit bigger,  although there is one very anxious perspective owner waiting for news. Something tells me this little one is going to receive even more attention than its mum.

Sunday 3 April 2011


Looking though my photos and at my plants as they get re-potted, I noticed how drawn I am to texture. Quite a few of the close up photos I have shown here has been because of the texture and often it is the texture that I like as much as anything else. It is only recently that a friend showed be that an important part of identifying agaves is feeling what seem like smooth leaves, showing if it is truly smooth or has a sandpaper finish.

Texture can take several forms; ridges, bumps and filaments that give the plant a hairy look.  One of them in the furry category is echeveria setosa a nice plant commonly found in the UK.  There is a blue form which is perhaps even better.

I find that as well as looking at my plants I like to touch them,  I think all forms of gardening are about all your senses, and it's not enough to just look these beautiful plants, you have to touch them as well.  This one at least is most definitely stroke-able, with others you have been be a lot more careful if you want your hands back undamaged!