Friday 31 May 2013

A little work

Seems to make no difference in the new garden. We can't properly start on the garden until the plans for the extension are accepted and we know where the new bits are going.  Although they say you should live with a garden for a least a year before making major changes. I guess it allows time to get used to the sun, shade, wind and how you use the space.  It is very frustrating.

In the mean time, all we can do is slowly clear the flower beds. Strangely the more we do the worse the garden looks.  It seems even badly planted flower beds are better than empty ones. Normally this would mean no photos of the garden, but there are only so many post on pots you can do before you have to show what else is going on.  Besides this is a much a record for us on how the garden develops over time, so this mucky middle stage should be recorded as well.

So remember the lovely feature wall?

You can see the grass besides it is mainly weeds. The wall has to go, so to look at the foundations and provide some space for pots, we dug a little trench along the far side. The grass/weeds were removed along with the stones, which were used on the surface to give something for pots to sit on.

It's no better is it. But on the plus side, it is perfect for the pots which get sun all day and are loving it. We ran out of stones to do the rest of that side, so will have to finish it later.

Next up was the secret garden, the optimistic name we have given the bit that you can't really get to behind the garage. This is it from the street.

Again nothing we can do here as the garage has to be pulled down, and may be moved into this patch. So just clearing the mess for now.  It turns out this was a fruit garden at some point, we have left the raspberry and gooseberry bushes.

You can see how dry it is. The soil seems to be more stone than soil and despite the fence and wall it gets the sun a lot of the day, so has a bit of a micro-climate. The fruit bushes will be left to fruit while we find out how best to bring them back to full health.  It seems a waste to just get rid of them; longer term we may be able to find space for them somewhere. It is amazing what you find in a part of the garden like this, the black barrel shaped object on the right hand side of the photo seems to be a masive lump of tar!

Apart from that it has simply been setting up areas away for the house for the pots


I'm sure that space is going to fill up very quickly. I'll do another post on the agaves, they have done very well.  

Lots going on, but nothing that is making the garden look any better. There are several ideas rolling around for the garden. Next stage will be to do some sketches of options, first up will be deciding were to put the garage or workshop.

Wednesday 29 May 2013

The sempervivums are getting going.

Part of the old dry bed was a little alpine trench full of sempervivums. They were mainly named varieties that were selected as my favourite forms.  If they different perform or turn out as expected they were replaced with another. Such was life in a small garden.

Were possible a few of each were potted up for the move which has had mixed results.  Some have responded well to the move and bulked up nicely, these s. parkardians are getting bigger now and have a really strong colour. They done much better than in the ground, and it is still very early in the year.

Some flowered and the pups have taken over the pot.  This is s. arachnoideum x nevadense before it flowered:

and now, can't wait to see this pot when the pups grow into their adult form.

The next two were put together as they are both compact forms, one green and one red. The hope they would form a nice half and half pot. As it turns out s. green dragon (on the right) has done really well and is taking over, s. jet stream has struggled and not done anything. You win, some you loose some.

S. green dragon is interesting as it seems to offset from the base almost coming up from under the gravel, resulting in these very tight clumps.  At this time of year it is pink, but in a month or so it will be a very bright green.

I added a couple more this spring, s. pink puff so far doesn't live up to the name.  It is much more purple than pink.

S. apple blossom is more true to the name, it has that apple feel to it (or it does to me anyway).

The good thing is there are always new varieties to add if space opens up. 

Monday 27 May 2013

The best of both: Sedevaria letizia

Hybrids are always an unknown entity, and when the parents are from two different families the outcome is even more uncertain.  Too often the result is the worst attributes of both so it is good to find plants that take the best attributes instead.

This sedum / echeveria hybrid, sedevaria letizia, must rank as one of my favourite plants: it ticks so many boxes.  It's a pretty plant and while it does form trunks these are easily controlled. It offsets nicely forming either small clusters, or nicely branched "trees". It flowers well, with almost pure white flowers. Finally it is cold tolerant and with rain protection gets through our winters without problems.

I have a few of these ready for planting out when there is a dry bed to put them in. The plant above is my favourite, I can't help but think it would make a spectacular bonsai plant. Wouldn't it look amazing clinging to the side of a rock, with its roots hanging down into the soil below. It does form aerial roots, which seem stable, so it should be possible. I just have to be brave enough to to risk the pant.

Friday 24 May 2013

What do you get the succulent cycling fan who has every?

A bike plant pot of course.
Image from
These cute plant pots are by Colleen Jordan (Here website). Found them while searching for present ideas, and as they were perfectly planted up with a collection of succulents they had to be shown here.

I am now eyeing my OH's bike for when the greenhouse fills up.

Wednesday 22 May 2013

Lets talk about conifers

Ok so not something I expected to be blogging about. Mention them and most people tend to think of the horrible Laylandii that got planted as screening all over the UK. This tainted the term for years, but slowly there seems to be a revival.  Holidaying in Greece every year when I was young, means the smell of pine forests always bring back good memories. A few years ago Kew Gardens replanted their Mediterranean garden and included a row of stone pines.  These have grown into lovely trees and if I had the space I would have a row of them in my garden.

They keep a compact ball shape and that great blue colour. In Europe these are the pines that pine nuts come from.  Apparently it takes 4 years for the cones to ripen, and they say agaves are slow. With the lack of space for big versions, bonsai was something I had thought about.  I love Japanese gardens and may try to incorporate something into the new garden, but that is for another post.  The problem with Bonsai is the skill required to create something special. This ruled it out for me.

Then at Savill Gardens a few weeks back they had this pinus parviflora masami planted in the alpine bed.  A lovely little plant, which doesn't seem to need anything to keep it small. The option of using them in a rockery is something I had overlooked. It is easy to forget that they come in all shapes and sizes, including dwarfs.  Having done a bit of searching there seems to be a thriving market of new introductions including colourful dwarf varieties.

I'm not sure they would work with agaves, but there must be a way to incorporate them into a rockery somewhere. Looks like another set of pants to look into while planning the new garden.

Sunday 19 May 2013

A new addition to the greenhouse

The clean up has continued and the main echeverias are in place.

The empty spots are for the echeverias that were top cut and are currently in the shame while they root. I like all the miniature varieties which are coming into flower

I am half tempted when the final greenhouse is in place to build a small planting area for them as a permanent display.

So what's the new addition?  I have been spending so much time out there that our little mutt has decided she needs some space as well.

She is very much a people dog and hates not being around us when we are in.  She kept coming to find me, so I thought I would see what happened if I put a bed in there for her.  It didn't take long for her to settle in and she now spends more time in there than I do. 

I would say she is guarding the plants, but you can see that is not true.

Thursday 16 May 2013

Propagation update.

Having posted about my favourite propagation trick (here) I thought I would show how the plants are doing. So here is the plant on the 23rd of April, just after top cutting.

The three heads were potting up and have now started to root.  And the new plants are forming nicely on the stems of the bases.

I tend to strip the leaves off around the new plants, but leave the rest.  This seems to give me the best results and quickest growth.  It looks like I'll get about 8 plants from that stem. On one of the others it has given a boost to the plants that were already forming, as well creating some new ones.

So along with the three original heads, there should be about 20 new plants. Not bad for one little pot.

Tuesday 14 May 2013

Echeveria 'Compton Carousel'

This is one of the most sort after echeverias in the UK, and understandably so. It looks great when in top condition, the problem is keeping it that way.

Sadly it is a right pain to keep in the UK; being prone to rot and also winter growth.  More often than not you end up with a dead plant or one that looks like this:

Thankfully with a bit of luck it will offset for you.

They are not visible in this photo, but there are another 3 pups around the base of the trunk. I am guessing at some point I will top cut it, letting the pups form a clump.  A cluster of these in a nice pot will look good, especially if they are not allowed to get leggy.

If you feel the need to experiment, the leaves also seem to take, but most likely the plants will revert to normal and not be variegated.  Time will tell.

I am hoping this means I have at least solved the rot problem, but if not then I should have a backup.

Sunday 12 May 2013

Savill gardens plant fair

The first (ish) Saturday of May is the Savill Gardens plant fair. It is a chance to meet up with some plant friends, do a little shopping and then look around the gardens. The trick with these fairs is to get there before they open. Usually you can jump the gun and start your purchasing before many other people arrive.  The nurseries are usually not very spiky orientated, but there is usually something there that will fit in the garden. Lately it has been named varieties of sempervivum and it was no different on Saturday. By the time we were finished the fair was packed, a few coach parties turned up, which is always good for the fairs.

Shopping done, it was time to look around the gardens. For me the best bits of the garden are the woodland areas, especially at this time of year.  One section is full of rhododendrons.

The other area is known for its under planting.  This spring it is way behind where it is usually, it was surprising to see how little the ferns and hostas have grown.  It did mean the trillium were still looking their best though.

The beds were full of wild orchids, sadly they were not in flower yet, but they were everywhere.

I'm not sure which variety this one is, it had longer leaves and was less speckled than the usual Dactylorhiza we find here.

Then it was onto the alpine section. They have been having a bit of a clear out, so it wasn't as colourful as usual.

 One that really caught my eye was this little pinus, I am not sure if you could keep it this small.

The gravel garden was so far behind that only a few of the euphorbias were really putting on a show.

It was a very nice way to spend a blustery Saturday.

Thursday 9 May 2013

It survived

As if winters weren't worrying enough, the first one for each plant seems ten times worse. You have done your research and got your plan on how to get it through. Then it is just a waiting game.  The worst plants are those that loose their leaves or vanish underground and it is not until they re-appear that you know if they survived or not.

My biggest concern this year was my little pachypodium brevicaule (You can find a picture of what it will eventually look at at the bottom of this previous post). It seemed healthy enough, but without any leaves it is impossible to tell. They are also suppose to be one of the harder varieties to keep. Then this weekend the first leaves appeared.

Spectacular isn't it. I'm not sure if it's funny or sad that something so small can cause such concern. At least I can now relax for 6 months, and next winter will be easier now I know the winter storage works.

Wednesday 8 May 2013

A quick Kew drop in

A bank holiday with sunny weather is a rare thing in the UK, so it was always going to involve popping into Kew Gardens at some point.  We went in through a different gate to usual and this meant walking past the roundabout that is planted up with succulents in the summer, it looks a bit different at the moment.

Next was the walled and tropical gardens.  These are at their best at the end of the summer, but it is still interesting to see them at this time of year as I love the new growth, plus it is often closed for wedding once the summer gets going.

I am not normally a tulip fan, but these were striking.

From the walled garden it is a short walk across the grasses section to the alpines.  Normally you can not see between the two due to the grasses and the paths are like a miniature maze. They had just cut them all back for spring, so sorry Scott, not as much to show you as there can be.

The winter is having a knock on effect and the alpines section was not as colourful as I would expect for the time of year. The actual alpines house had a few things in flower including this nice arisaema.

Outside there is a large rock area for mixed planting.

This always catches my eye.

While it's mainly alpines there are a couple of yuccas planted throughout.  You never see this one anywhere, but is looked great up until it flowered two years ago.  It now has two heads and looks like it's fully back into growth, so hopefully by the end of the summer it will be back to its best.

From the alpines section you come to the Princess of Wales greenhouse.  The big clean out last year seems to have done it job and the main succulent bed looks great.

There didn't seem to be as many aloes in flower as I expect, but maybe I am later or earlier than usual. Lots of agave & cacti inspiration.

I had to track down this aloe having seen this one, mine is a lot smaller and I keep forgetting the name to write a label.  It is a lovely plant very blue in colour.

Thee are a few plants in the xeric section that always surprise me including these Echiums

It was only a quick walk through the more tropical section of the greenhouse to see the bromilaids. 

Then a gentle walk past the main Palm House, through the Mediterranean garden, which gets better every year. 

I love the feel and look of cork oak bark

Carrying on with good views of the treetop walkway, before the trees obscure it totally.

Finally looking at the preparation work for the restoration of the Temperate House. This really needs work, not just the glass and iron work, but the actual stone is starting to go.

They are digging up most of the plants and it is wierd seeing them all in pots

You don't normally get clear views in here, and so it was strange seeing so few plants and much more of the structure.

Outside there were huge piles of rocks, waiting for the work before they can be put back.

What I wouldn't give to have that lot in my garden!

It seems we weren't the only ones to have the idea of visiting Kew on a sunny day, on our way out we saw this queue, it went all the way around the corner out the left hand side of the photo.

I'm guessing people had a different sort of Kew in mind