Thursday 28 July 2011

Late flowering echeverias

There is a common view that echeverias are only spring / early summer flowerers. I am guessing this tends to be because the most available forms mainly flower early.  There are however echeverias for all seasons and right now the second wave of plants are flowering away.  The mid-summer varieties are often the blue forms (I did a post on them back in May), These are three of the best coloured varieties, from left to right: e. subsessilis, e. john catlin and e. peacockii.

It can be hard to show the flowers as they can get very octopus like. The other common factor of the blue varieties are the types of flower as they are all of the shepherds crook form. You can see why on this photo of e. peacockii.

Then as these ones past their best the next batch will just be starting. I hope to have at least one form in flower for 10 months of the year (although the winter ones need some protection in the UK). Maybe it would make a good future post to do the complete year in echeveria flowers for anyone who wants to find a variety that flowers at any particular point. So no more using the "they only flower in Spring" excuse for not owning lots!

Monday 18 July 2011

Is there such a thing as too low maintenance?

It is often mentioned how succulent gardens are low maintenance and there is no doubt that this can be true.  With my dry bed the sole work is cutting off flower stalks and picking up leaves that blow in from other gardens. That's it; no pruning,  no digging in organic material, weeding, watering or any of the other stuff you normally associate with gardening.  In fact I sometimes wonder if it has gone too far in its lack of requirements; I am obsolete, it can survive and look good if I am there or not. 

Is this a case of  "be careful what you wish for" ? After all I always wanted a garden that looked good all year but didn't need much care, allowing me to just sit back and enjoy it. I thought this was the ideal garden, no real work,  just lots of enjoying. So I got what I wanted. As many of you will know, the real joy of gardens is not just sitting in them but getting your hands dirty, getting in among the plants. So what to do in a garden that needs no care? I ensure my plants look their best, removing ANY dead leaves, make sure the gravel is all tidy, check for bugs and basically anything else that keeps me in among the plants.  Sadly that doesn't keep me busy for long so I resort to my pots which ultimately ends up in propagating more plants.

One echeveria that kept me busy for a little bit today was e. carnicolor.  I posted this picture of it earlier in the year.

The flowers have finished and I hadn't bothered removing them. They have taken on a life of their own and the plants are a mess. 

I have mentioned before that if you leave echeveria flower stalks then new plants will form and this one has taken it too the extreme.

So cleaned the plants up and re-potted them, strangely into a smaller pot as they had too much space. They looked much better afterwards and can be put out in public again.

In a month or so the young plants will have filled out to nicely to fill the pot and no doubt it will be even more of a medusa when it flowers next year. I couldn't resist tidying up a few of the flower stalks:

Most of these will be given away, but I am wondering if I can't do something with one of the stems. Maybe another one to try to bonsai, it's a good colour, has a good structure (it you don't let it run wild) so may look good as a miniature.

So while the dry bed may be no maintenance at least the pots give me something to do.

Tuesday 12 July 2011

Planting: part 2

Having got part way through the planting on Sunday, I thought it best to carry on can get it all finished. So to recap; so far the bottom third of the picture is planted up with agave parryi cream spike, graptosedum 'Mediterranean Mystery' , and a saxifage. Next in were a few sempervivum ciliosum and a small agave utahensis.

This was about the half ay mark and I was starting to worry I would not have enough plants, so it was time to raid the dry bed for some echeveria elegans.

That didn't take us as much space as I hoped so back to the sempervivums, this time s. lively bug, but again running out of plants, so time to cut up a nice little sedeveria lutescens. The name is almost right,  but I can never find it referanced anywhere, another for my list of names to be confirmed. Anyway it is a nice plant, that has pretty white flowers in spring.

Really on the home stretch now just one little space to fill.  Back out to the dry bed for a bit of inspiration and I spotted this lovely plant that I suspect is a graptopetalum or one of the crosses.  As it has been bone hardy for me I thought it had earned the last spot, so in it went.  That was it, all planted up (although no doubt I will add a few more saxifrages to help it fill out quicker)  and I am really pleased with it

One of the things I like about it, is it is surprisingly 3D,  as it sat on the table it looked like a proper mini landscape.

I will leave it flat for the rest of July to give it time to settle in and the plants to take root properly.  Then slowly move it up to vertical, probably increasing the angle a bit every few days.  It has been fun putting it together and I will enjoy watching it fill out.

So how many plants did it take, well here is the full list: 1 x agave paryyi cream spike, 1 x agave utahensis, 2 graptosedum 'Mediterranean Mystery' , 3 x sedeveria lutescens, 6 x echeveria elegans, 3 x unknown graptopetalum, 8 x sempervivum virgils, 20 x sempervivum lively bug, 26 x sempervivum ciliosum and 145 saxifrages. So by my reckoning that's 225 plants, admittedly the saxifrages are a bit of a cheat, as it was 5 plants cut up,  but as I had to plant each bit using my faithful needle nose tweezers I feel justified in counting them as individual plants!

Overall I am really happy, but sitting back, looking at it I noticed the pile of pots still full of plants. I realised I hadn't used the 15 echeverias FO-48 I had propped especially for the picture.  I guess that explains why my collection of plants in pots never gets smaller. Anyone want a not hardy echeveria offset?

Monday 11 July 2011

At last some planting

With the frame finished it was finally time to get on with some planting.  Having tried a few different designs on paper and looked at a few more pictures from the internet It seemed that having a few clumps of the same plant interwoven with something creeping would work for what I wanted.

So first in was sempervivum virgil (which if you do not own I highly recommend for its colour, quick offsetting and not dieing back too much over winter). Then an agave parryi cream spike, as a bit of a focal point. 

I was very good and even managed to leave the pup in place, so we shall see what happens to that as the plants settle in.

Next in were a couple of Xgraptosedum 'Mediterranean Mystery' which have pretty little flowers in spring,  and will hopefully snake out of the picture as they grow.  Between these, and this will be consistent through the whole thing, is a little compact saxifrage.

You can't see the variation in colour quite as well in the photos, but so far I am pleased with it. I'm still not sure I have enough plants and it may end up that the sempervivums get repeated to fill up any remaining space, but it is good to actually get the planting underway. No doubt updates will take up the next few posts as I finish off the planting.

Tuesday 5 July 2011

Wierd places to track down that elusive plant

I am always amazed by the lengths plants enthusiasts will go to to find plants.  It's not just the driving huge distances, or the amount of plants that get crammed into cars.  It's also the ingenuity that goes into always managing to fit at least one quick peak into a nursery or garden no matter where. This got me thinking about what was the most unusual place I have found plants.

For me it has to be on a stag do.

Yes I even managed to slip a bit of plant hunting into a stag do a couple years back. This one was in  Bournemouth for a spot of water-skiing and admittedly a lot of drinking. We were staying in this funny little hotel on the edge of town and as I was parking I spotted a couple of green houses tucked away at the back of the car park. Now my friends are not at all interested in plants, and even if they were, there are strict rules about behaviour and plant hunting is not exactly on the list. 

Having bided my time, I finally managed to find a point to sneak off and have a quick look around the green houses.  Not really expecting to find anything of interest I was surprised to find them full of succulents.  It got better when looking closely I started noticing a few less common ones. The owner came over to say hello and it turned out she was a keen succulent collector who spent half the year in warmer climates where most of her plants were, but she couldn't help but keep some in the UK.  It turned out many spares were for sale at 99p although some were more expensive at a whopping cost of £3. 

So I had a really good rummage around the pots,  the plant addicts here will know what I mean, when you search every single pot in the hope of finding that gem in among everything else. Sure enough I found a couple of aloes I had been after,  really decent sized plants and rare, so I didn't really expect her to sell them.  To my amazement she thought about it for a bit and then said OK as they would be going to a good home.  I had to try to control my grin at getting such bargains. 

So here is my little haul form that trip, I did buy a few others to go with the bargains:

The main plant was this aloe karasbergensis which is a form of a. striata.  You just don't find these in the UK so find one this size for £3 was great.

And as it was there I thought I might as well get the normal a. striata as well.

Sadly all subsequent stag weekends have been plant hunting free, and that is still the most unusual place / occasion I have found plants.  So what was yours?

Monday 4 July 2011

Do you notice anything about this plant?

One of my favourite echeverias is e. minima.  It is a very compact little plant which tends to flower well in the middle of summer.  A few of mine are in the flower at the moment,  including this one:

As the name suggests it is never a big plant, and you can keep it small by restricting the roots.  It is a really good plant to play with if you want something unusual in a very small planting space.  I have been playing with it for a while and have quite a few different ones that I have been bonsai-ing over the last years.  This is one of the best so far, I spent ages trying to get a photo in focus but just couldn't get it right.  Hopefully you will forgive me when you see it along side the normal sized plant:

The bonsai plants on the right are the same age as the large plant on the left.  The only difference is that I planted three plants in the small pot and only one in the larger pot (which has now offset). One of the things I like about bonsai succulents is that you don't need to do anything different to grow or care for them.  I never had any luck with other types of bonsai, where you needed to regularly prune the plant and roots to force it to stay small (which is probably lucky as that is something else I could serious obsess about). With succulents you just plant them and then treat them as normal. Plus it helps that it only takes a couple of years for the plants to mature, instead of the decades for other forms.  It is bonsai for the inept.

I don't think the pot does it justice so I have to go in search of something nicer to plant them in. No doubt I will continue to see how much smaller I can get the next generation, I wonder how small I can get the flowers!

Saturday 2 July 2011

Recomend a sedum

There has been some progress on the living picture with the frame now ready to go.  I have made it in two sections, an inner box for the soil,  and an outer frame to look a bit nicer.

These were stained to match the wood that forms the actual front of the frame, and a wire mesh put across the front to hold the soil in.  This is it all ready to go.

 So the frame is done,  I have most of the plants ready,  but still looking for a few things to go in with the echeverias, sempervivums and a little agave utahensis.  I think the final design will be a reef so following up on a comment in the earlier post I thought a sedum or saxifrage may work for flow between the different plants.

I have mentioned before that a lot of my plants come about through people mentioning them or seeing them in other peoples gardens. I thought this may be a good way of finding a suitable plant for the picture. So get your thinking heads on. A bit of red would work well with the other plants,  probably smaller leaves to allow it to weave nicely between the plants (it is not a huge frame only 50 x 35cm).  It needs to spred by not in a way that will need too much pruning.

So any suggestions of a good sedum or something else you love that would fit? I can then have fun looking them up and who knows then trying to track them down.