Friday 30 August 2013

The benefit of space

It is often natural experiments that highlight points better than anything we could plan.  Things that happen not deliberately, but by chance.  In my garden these tests of hardiness or growth rates, usually start with plans to sell or give plants away.  This was the case here.

Last spring I had to decide what to do with all the offsets from the echeveria "Adonis Blue".  There were a lot. The plan was to plant one large bowl, which would be kept. Then have a second small bowl for the rest, these would be given to friends as I saw them. Moving house got in the way and instead both pots were placed next to each other and left to get on with it.  Given they were placed side by side, and treated identically the growth should have been similar. Here are the pots today.

You wouldn't know they were the same plant, let alone that a year ago they were the same size.  This confirms what I have found before, many succulents do better with more root space.  It could be for many reasons: better control of water, more roots, less cold. Whatever the reason, I'm in the camp that it is fine to keep succulents in small pots if you want less growth, other wise, give them big pots or put them in the ground.  Of course no rule is perfect, there are those that do better when pot bound.

Tuesday 27 August 2013

Are agave hybrids the future?

It is has been a while since a longer post on the agaves, so thought it was time to rectify that.  Looking around the plants I realised how many agave hybrids had found their way in. It seems recently 50% of the agaves I buy are hybrids. I guess with more coming on the market all the time it is no surprise.

My first, as with many people was x nigra (or 'Sharkskin' as they call it in the US).

Very pleased with the little offset forming on this as well. It isn't growing as quickly as when it was planted, but hopefully will have it back in the ground next year.

Next up was A. 'Blue Glow'.  (thought to be A. ocahui x  attenuata), this is still small, but that is the size they come in the UK, it is almost, if not impossible to get any bigger.

A. 'Red Margin' (A. attenuata x shawii) is a sort of poor cousin to the 'Blue Glow'

Another common on is A. 'Royal Spine' (A. macroacantha x victoriae-reginae), this one doesn't seem to grow at all.  It has done better in the greenhouse though, so one day it will be the plant the photos promise.

Then last of the official ones so to speak was the A. Mateo (suspected to be A. bracteosa x lophantha)

Then the fun started with new plants randomly found or from seeds a friend had been sent.

A. macroacantha x applanata has amazing colour to it. This should be stunning in a few years.

A. isthemensis x colimana

One of my favourites is A. filifera x isthmensis (there were obviously lots of isthmensis in flower a few years back). It was tiny when it arrived and has taken 3 years to get to this size. 

Another that has really come into its own this summer is  A. victoria reginae x polyacantha var xalapensis.

I'm sure there are more in the garden hiding, but that's enough for now. We need to move on to the hybrids with manfredas giving mangaves. The most common being what is usually called 'Bloodspot' (suspected to be an A. macroacantha hybrid x M. maculosa)

Of course with manfredas flowering every year there are more and more of these, one of my favourites at the moment is M. maculosa x A. polyacantha var xalapensis

Right that is it for now.  Hopefully I got all the parents right (not to mention the spelling). I am sure there will be many more in the future, hopefully maybe even my own at some point.  It is good enough producing a hybrid from fast growing plants, to get hybrids from plants that take so long to flower would be even better.

So do you have any agave hybrids?

Sunday 25 August 2013

Sempervivum Sunday: S. 'Packardian'

To be honest this Sundays selection alternates between being a great plant and not living up to expectations. Sempervivum 'Packardian' is another hybrid, with red leaves that are described as velvet looking.  On the good days there is no doubt its a very hansom form. The leaves are covered in fine hairs which combined with the dark red colour really does make it look like velvet.

Size wise, it should fit into the large group, and was purchased in the quest for the largest sempervivum. Sadly it has never quite lived up to the size promise and mine seem to stick around 7-10cm.

It could be the size thing, is a reflection that it's fussy for a sempervivum and can be difficult to settle. Strangely unlike some that fade away when they are unhappy, this one just stops growing, although it still offsets and goes on to flower. They tend to produce 2 or 3 offsets on mixed length stolons, it hasn't really formed a decent clump.

So far they haven't flowered for me, so can't describe them in detail, but photos on the internet suggest pink.  Given that I have owned the plant for 3 years, it's a surprise to have had no flowers.

They're fine over winter with little die back, but are one of the least colour-fast forms I own. The deep red is only their spring colour and if fades through the summer until they end up green/grey with only a hint purple for winter.

This is probably the first form I've highlighted here, that while it's worth a place in a collection, it is not always a stand out plant. So unlike some forms, this is one to move out into view for spring while it looks great and then move out of sight for the rest of the time.

The stats:

  • Cultivar
  • Size: Should be large, but mine seem to stay medium, 6 - 10cm
  • Summer Colour: dark red, winter colour green/grey.
  • Rosette: Neat
  • Offsets: Few, on medium length stolons
  • Clump: Slow to clump, but lives for a long time.
  • Flower: Pink
  • Winter hardiness: Good.

Friday 23 August 2013

Most unusal offset of the week.

Not all offsets turn out as you would expect.

Can you see the offset just below the label in this pot containing agave blue glow?  Maybe a close up will help.

I think it is fair to say that's not an agave blue glow.  In fact these have been popping up in several pots around the garden.  They obviously all sat next to something that self seeded, so could be a sempervivum or an echeveria hybrid. 

If any survive the winter, I'll post what they turn into.

Thursday 22 August 2013

Most exciting offset of the week

Another week, another surprise, this time haworthia limifolia variegata. Without doubt one of my favourite plants, and also one of my slowest plants.  So it is a doubly nice surprise to look at the pot and find not one but two offsets!

The fun part of variegated offsets is wondering what they will end up like.  This is especially true  where the the variegation on the parent is not even.  The basic rule should be that that variegation will match the spot the offset comes from. All fine until the offsets are on runners, and to add to that the plant spirals makes it impossible to work out on this one. 

The good news is that it doesn't matter, it should be good whatever the variegation ends up like.  The other good news is that as I already have a couple of these, they will at some point end up being swapped for something equally as beautiful.  That could be some time away given how slow these are and needing to ensure the plants are big enough to survive on their own. 

I'm enjoying this theme at the moment, so what is your favourite offset of late? Please feel free to join in and either comment here, or better yet blog about your own most exciting offsets.

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Keep single or allow to clump

With all the offsets appearing on plants, come spring as they get repotted there is the choice of removing the pups or allowing them to grow as a clump.  Why do I prefer some to stay as single plants and think others would look good as a clump?

Is it a neatness thing?

This agave stricta 'nana' is constantly producing pups, 7 taken off this spring.  It's quite chaotic as it is, so all pups are removed in the hope of keeping at least some order.

This agave filifera variegata is just as messy looking, but I quite fancy these as a clump. No answer there.

Maybe it's a space thing.

Agave parasana tends to produce offsets directly off the base, these get ripped off as soon as they are big enough to survive.

Likewise, agave romanii is a serial offender on the overcrowding front.  It looks quite natural though and has been potted up to give space to form a clump.  No answer there either.

Maybe more space would help.

Agave arizonica isn't a massive offsetter, and they tend to be a little distance from the mother.

Agave macroacantha x applanata producing its first offset.  A little way from the mother, but not sure it is going to work.  The jury is out with this one, both for the pup and if space is the decider.

Maybe I should accept there is no logic to it and it is a simple case of treating each case on their own merits.  Whatever the outcomes, they are all safe with their mothers for now. This time of year is for exploring and enjoying the new arrivals.

Sunday 18 August 2013

Sempervivum Sunday: S. 'Titania'

Todays pick is a bit of an illusionist; for it seems bigger than it is. S. 'Titania' is a cultivar from the US, apparently created by Ed Skrocki in 1980.  It is a very regal looking plant, with olive/gold leaves with burnt orange tips.

Size wise, it fits into the medium group, being 6 - 10cm across. It always strikes me as bigger though, maybe because it stays in fairly small clumps. It is quite a fast grower, but tends to only produce 2 or 3 offsets on medium length stolons. These root a little way from the parent plant, giving a feeling of a cluster of individual plants instead of a more defined clump. The rosettes are a good structured neat shape and stay that way throughout their life.

Sadly its flowers let it down a bit, being a very pale pink on the end of thin unbranched stems.  Flowers mid summer and have finished by August.

If planted with very good drainage, it is fine over winter, but you do have to watch it doesn't sit in damp soil. Overall it is another one of my favourites.

The stats:

  • Cultivar from US
  • Size: medium, 6 - 10cm
  • Summer Colour: olive/gold with burnt orange tips
  • Rosette: Neat
  • Offsets: Few, on medium length stolons
  • Clump: Doesn't tend to clump, instead new plants settle a little way form the parent
  • Flower: Pink on thin stalks
  • Winter hardiness: Good, although does not like sitting in water.

Thursday 15 August 2013

My favourite offset of the week

At this time of year in the succulent garden it's all about offsets.  What's better than looking amoung the plants each evening, wondering what you will find peaking out from the edge of a pot, or emerging form under the lowest leaves.  It is even better when the offset is the first on one of your prized plants.

There's lots of competition for the top spot, but in the end I opted for this one.

I almost missed it peaking out from under the plant, can you guess what it is?

Yes an echeveria.

Those dark tips are a bit of give away.

Yep, the first offset on the largest of my echeveria agavoides 'Ebony'. What's even better is I think there a couple of them. 

Before you ask, no they are not for sale or swaps. Sorry these ones are staying on the plant I fancy a nice large clump of these, would make a great feature pot.  Mind you, they will need a much bigger pot, given the size of the mother. Who knows I may even splash out and upgrade it form plastic!

Sunday 11 August 2013

Sempervivum Sunday: S. 'Oddity'

Another of the aptly named varieties today, sempervivum 'Oddity' is a US cultivar of S. tectorum and is one of the most distinctive plants around.

It is is very slightly hairy around the edge of the leaves, and is green, with brown tips.  What sets it apart is that the leaves at first glance appear to be tubes. Infact these tubes are formed by the leaves folding back. It makes for an interesting plant.

Size wise, it fits into the medium group, at around 5-8cm.  It is very slow and offset, so do not expect big clumps. On the other hand it does not (as far as I know) seem to flower, so it has time to multiply instead of rushing.

Seems good for winter, although it is so slow I am not sure if it doesn't like it's growing conditions and is sulking, or if this is normal behaviour.

The stats:
  • Cultivar
  • Size: Medium
  • Summer Colour: green with brown tips
  • Rosette: Neat, with unusual tube like leaves.
  • Offsets: Few
  • Clump: Clumps slowly
  • Flower: Does not seem to flower (or has not in the 4 years I have grown them)
  • Winter hardiness: Good, no problems with being wet and cold.

Friday 9 August 2013

Will there be seeds

It's not only in the greenhouse that the aloes have been busy, the two flowering garden aloes also have seed pods ripening. 

Strangely both the aloe aristratas have one seed pod each, from the last flower on the stem.  More exciting is the aloe striatula which has a good collection of seed pods.

I am not sure if these are self fertile, if not they must be hybrids with the a. aristrata. Sadly this doesn't seem to produce the interesting plants you would hope for, taking the less interesting parts of both parents. 

I will just have to try germinating them and see what they turn into.

Monday 5 August 2013

Sempervivum Sunday: S. 'Jet Stream'

Todays subject is one of the slightly frustrating varieties. Sempervivum 'Jet Stream' is another US cultivar. Symmetrical rosettes with very dark red leaves with small hairs around the edge. A really strong colour, which stays for most of the year.

Size wise, it fits into the small group, being only 4 - 5cm across. It is not the biggest clumper, tending to produce only 2 or 3 offsets at most.  This should be fine except that it flowers really quickly and just as a clump starts to form a mass of flowers reduces it back to one or two plants again. 

The flower stalks start of thick, but then branch into slim stems. Flowers early summer and have finished by August.

Seems good for winter, with no noticeable die back, also seems to cope with heat without showing signs of stress.   If it wasn't for the problems with the very quick flowering these would be one of my favourite varieties.  As it is, they are well worth having for their compact shape and strong colour.  You just have to accept they will never really clump and you are going to only ever have a few plants.

The stats:

  • Cultivar from US
  • Size: Small
  • Summer Colour: very dark red
  • Rosette: Neat
  • Offsets: Few, coming from the base of the plant
  • Clump: Clumps slowly, but wiped out by flowering
  • Flower: Pink on thin branched stalks
  • Winter hardiness: Good, no problems with being wet and cold.

Saturday 3 August 2013

Echeveria planter update

It is strange to think that this time last year it was the last couple of days in the old house, where did that go! A big part of the move was digging up the dry bed, deciding which plants to bring and how to plant them up until the new bed could be built.  A few of each kind of echeveria were placed in a long  planter, here it was after planting up

Most of these had been planted out for at least one winter so they did not get any protection at all.  Thankfully the majority coped without problems

This photo was taken in April and shows the e. rosea in full spring flowering colours. The ones back left both went on to flower, with the two smaller ones in front being to small for this years flower.  There was some damage to the e. black prince (right of the e. rosea), and to the e. agavoides red edge (next along).  The other one that was not happy was the e. perle von nernberg. Here they are today.

The hot summer is really helping them put on some good growth after the winter.  Everything has really filled out, except the  e. perle von nernberg, which is slowly recovering. Unless it puts on some growth soon, it will most likely be killed off next winter.

Normally I would prune the e . rosea at this time of year; a close up shows how the plant has continued to grow above each flower stem.  While there is no problem with this, it doesn't look great.  A good trim forces new plants form the base ensuring the clump stays compact and look good. Another advantage to treating them this way, is you can manage it so there is one plant/group in flower each year and one resting.

There are a couple of my own hybrids in there, the poor little e.deresina x agavoides is being a bit obscured by the black princes. I am really pleased this one came through and is now bulking up nicely.

Then there were two of the e. adonis blues.  These have no trouble with the cold, it is always a bit of an uncertainty how they will grow; either getting really big or offsetting like mad. This set seem to have decided to offset.

I don't like it when they madly offset; too messy. As a comparison here is a large bowl full, planted at the same time.

It's great to actually be having some summer heat for once. Apart from the growth, it means plants are much more likely to cope with the next winter, if they've had a good long summer to stock up.