Sunday 30 June 2013

Sempervivum Sunday: S. ciliosum

First up, it is one of the earliest varieties to flower for me, sempervivuvm ciliosum.

One of the species sempervivums, it forms compact small rosettes about 2 - 4 cm across.  Mainly green, some can develop a red tinge in summer.  It offsets freely with new plants forming on stolons, which in some cases can be long, giving the clump a messy look.

It can be a quick grower, forming good clumps.  Rosettes seem to only produce one set of new plants, so don't be tempted to remove them, or you'll be left with an empty pot once the plant flowers. For me new offsets establish in the first year, offset themselves in the second, and flower in the third.

They flowers early summer, it is usually one of the first into flower for me. The flower stalks are slim, with pale yellow flowers in a tight cluster.

Not the best sempervivum winter wise,; it is not as wet tolerant as many. They tend to do better protected form the worst of the winter wet, shrinking a fair amount and becoming a pale green. They do recover quickly come spring. 

Overall a good plant, but needs to be left to do its own thing to form the best clumps, which can get a bit wild. Personally I like it much more as a young small clump where I can appreciate the patterns to each rosette and the symmetry to the stolons as they snake out.


  • Species sempervivum
  • Size: Small
  • Summer Colour: Green (some red)
  • Rosette: Neat, very symmetrical
  • Offsets: Lots, on long stolons
  • Clump: Clumps quickly, but can be messy
  • Flower: Yellow on thin unbranched stalks
  • Winter hardiness: Susceptible to winter wet. Some winter die back, changes to pale green.

Thursday 27 June 2013

It's finally here

The wait is over, the first flower stem on the bulbine latifolia is opening.  While not as big as the ones seen at Kew, that is no surprise given these are outside.

The individual flowers are  very delicate, and difficult to photograph.


 Well worth the wait though.

Tuesday 25 June 2013

Never say never

It is common knowledge that certain echeverias can be propagated through leaves, the general opinion is that variegated leaves will produce normal plants.  This is so ingrained I have even posted that myself.  It is apt that this is first post returning to plants; Paul was a firm believer in testing everything as you never know what will happen.  I am not against experiments, so I test every plant I get just to see if it will produce new plants, and if any turn out variegated. 

The latest experiment was with leaves from echeveria 'Compton Carousel' and look what happens:

I am waiting to see if it throws out any more green leaves, otherwise as the old leaf dies it will die to.  It is a lovely oddity though and while it stays almost pure white I think as suitable name is echeveria "Compton Carousel Ghost"

Sunday 23 June 2013

A sad delay to sempervivum Sunday

Today should be the first sempervivum Sunday, but it has been a very sad end to the week with the funeral of one of my friends.  While I already had an interest in agaves and succulents, it was Paul who really helped it develop. Apart for helping me figure out how to grow and propagate plants, he also introduced me to countless new varieties.

When thinking about what to post here, I considered pictures of his new greenhouse, some of his amazing plants, or pictures of him at plant fairs. Nothing seemed quite right, so instead I will post just one photo of a tiny part of his greenhouse with an agave starting to flower. 

I will continue developing my knowledge of agaves, but will miss the visits to see his amazing collection and him pointing out new plants to add to my wish list.

Tuesday 18 June 2013

The 2013 echeveria hybrid strategy

Every year with so many echeverias in flower at the same time it is tough deciding what crosses to try. Do you go for a stronger colour, or in the case of the blue/white plants less colour.  Perhaps try for a larger flower, or my usual aim for more hardiness.  The problem with so many experiments, is remembering what was crossed with what. So this year to simplify everything, I have selected one pollen donor and am using it on all the other plants.  The lucky plant is graptopetalum  tacitus bellus

The flowers are a shocking pink, the plants offset freely and have good tight rosettes which don't get too leggy.  It doesn't matter that it's a graptopetalum, they will hybridise with echeverias producing graptoverias. The other factor than finalised the selection were the heavily pollen covered anthers. These can be removed with tweezers and used directly to apply pollen to the stigmas on the other plant. No pots full of paint brushes this year.

The plants tried so far are: E. 'Crugs Ice'. A more vertical growing form, with strong orange flowers.

E. setosa deminuta, a nice small version of setosa.  Good colour, good offsets, very bright yellow and red flowers.

Finally for the ones tried so far, sedeveria letizia. A great plant and already a hybrid between a sedum and echeveria. I have no idea what you would call any resulting plants "graptosedeveria".

There are lots of echeverias in flower outside the greenhouse, but these are being left to the bees, who have finally worked out how to get to the flowers.  It was the same at the last house, it took a while for them to work out how to treat the various flowers they had never seen. Then once figured out,  news spread and the flowers were always covered in bees. The following years, the they seemed to remember and visited flowers as soon as they came out.

That's the echeverias, I'll cover aloes and dudleyas in another post.

Sunday 16 June 2013

Sempervivum Sunday

There are quite a few of these dotted around the garden, all neatly in pots waiting for the alpine areas and  I thought it would help keep track to select one each Sunday.  Quite a few were left at the old house, so not sure exactly how many there are, but enough to keep the series going over the summer and into autumn. This is a strange time of year for them, most are well into growth, but still have some of their winter colour. Then you have the ones that are starting to flower.  Given the plant dies afterwards, flowers are a mixed blessing.  In an ideal world, the next generation take over, growing to fill the gaps, and offsetting ready for when they flower in following years.

Sadly sometimes offsets struggle to keep up with the gaps left from the previous generation. A couple of years ago this pot was almost full, the wet summers and lots of flowers has left it looking rather sorry for itself.

Then in the worst case, you get a mass flower where all generations seem to flower at the same time. It is tough to enjoy the flower when you know it is going to decimate the display and you will be left with minimal plants afterwards.

I'll start with the first plant next Sunday, it will give me time to select the first subject and dig out records on how it has done.  

Friday 14 June 2013

Something for the bees

The succulents are putting on quite a show at the moment. In previous years I have focused on the echeverias, but the cacti are the stand out plants at the moment.  It's not that the echeverias are under-performing, the reverse in fact, but the flowers are not really much to shout about.

The cacti on the other hand tend to go a bit over the top on their flowers. The most dramatic so far is the echinocereus melanocentrus I posted last week

While it is the stand out flower it is not the most over the top, this chamaelobivia 'milky whey' is over compensating.

Sadly not all plants have such showy flowers, mammillaria are great plants but you don't grow them for the flowers. This is mammillaria carmenae jewel

Can you spot the flowers?

They still don't stand out, with the white spines. They do come in other colours, mallillaria bombycina.

Thankfully for every dull flower there are more over the tops ones. In terms of flower for your buck, you can do a lot worse than the rubutias. They are a promiscuous lot so you find a lot of hybrids, mine all seem to be x aylostera.  rubutia x aylostera 'Krainzina'

The other buds have opened since I took that photo and there is now a ring of flowers around the plant. When the plants grow and effect is a mass of flowers, this one is rubutia x aylostera 'bo jangles'

My OH is just pleased to have something that doesn't look like a daisy flowering at the moment.

Thursday 6 June 2013

A wall re-imagined.

What do you do with a very strange garden feature?  It's purpose is still unknown, but the wall has been coming down bit by bit.  Here is one last photo as a memorial.

So what to do with the bricks.  Re-cycling / up-cycling are rife in gardening, and the best gardens often have some element of re-used materials.  It's a skill, especially when the supplies are limited. There is also a danger in a small garden that too many materials can do more harm than good.

Thankfully at present everything is temporary, and an opportunity to experiment. So what do you do with an ex-wall?  You make an extra area for pots.

Only about half the bricks were good enough to use, it was enough for this area and a similar one the other end of the decking.  I quite like the randomness of it, and I may use it in the front garden. If nothing else, it has given me an idea of how to make the pathway in the front less separate form the rest of the gravel planting. I know gaps in paths are bad for people in heals, so if I do use it, it will only be the fun path to get to the plants, not the main one to the door. Those gaps cry out for some alpine planting.

In the mean time, it has been covered in pots.

Moving the large agave montana was fun, it was only resting in its last place for about 8 months, but had been doing some exporing.

So much for the idea that agaves don't need root space.

A few more pots in place and it turned out there was space for a couple of cushions. It's a nice place to sit and enjoy the evening sun.

It looks almost respectable.  Sadly as you sit sipping your wine, you look over the other side of the garden which is a mess!

Tuesday 4 June 2013

Look what's cooking.

Moving pots around I noticed the start of flower spikes on my bulbine latifolias. I last posted about them here, at the time they were small plants and I was just pleased to have got them through the seedling stage.  I have not figured out the best way to overwinter them; too much water and they get leggy, and I have gone the other way and not given them enough.  It has kept them small, but at this time of year they have a lot of dry tips to the leaves. 

They are obviously loving the start of summer, it has been lovely for the last week or so.  Today was perfect for all the succulents, and if the forecasts are to be believed it is going to stay like this at least until the end of the week. I will be giving them a bit of food to help with the flower spike. Looking forward to seeing if they last as long as they do at Kew, where they seem to last for ages.

A shame these slipped off my radar for a bit. Does anyone else hunt for plants for ages, only to forget they own them when the next must have comes along?  At least I found them early, and they can be pampered for the rest of the summer.

The plants are really stepping up for the first summer in the new garden.

Sunday 2 June 2013

Ending the week on a high

This cactus has been building to flower for a month, the first one finally opened yesterday.  It was worth the wait.