Monday 21 September 2015

Finally may have some time

Between holidays, work trips and trips to Yorkshire to visit in-laws, there has not been much time to garden let alone post here.  I will have to catch up on what has been going on, especially the trips.  Without doubt the best was a trip to Crete Lodge Exotic Garden in Norfolk.  Here is a teaser.

Expect Dalmatians, statues, and lots and lots of succulents.

Wednesday 2 September 2015

Return to the dasy

You'll have to forgive the lack of posts, another trip to Tanzania for work.  The problem of going away for two weeks is that the other projects build up, so you get back to a desk piled up and then have to slog through everything.

Thankfully the garden looks after itself and is looking great.  The joys of succulent rockeries requiring no maintenance. 

The dasylirion serratifolium flower is now in the cherry tree, but at least it has stopped growing.

The flowers are starting to open and very disappointing.  I would have put more effort into the flowers and less in the stalk. 

The bees however seem to disagree.  The whole stalk buzzes and everywhere you look there are bees. It doesn't seem to smell too strongly and the colour is not super bright, but something is working for them.

Many of them have leg sacks full of pollen.

The garden is full of bees, they are on every succulent that is flowering.

The other plant they are loving is the euphorbia

All these bees are a good thing, and promising for the future. I found at the last house,  that once the bees found a plant they would return in force the following years.  Sadly they will be disappointed to find the Dasy not flowering next year.

The irony of all these bees, is that the only plants go no where near are the flowering plants I bought especially for them! It just goes to show, even the bees think that succulents are the way forward.

Friday 28 August 2015

The wrong flush

There are two cycads in the rockeries; one large and one small.  They tend to flush on alternate years, so there is always something to look at.  Last year it was the tern of the smaller, which was posted here.

This year was the turn of the big cycad and so it has been checked regularly, but nothing.

The centre looks better than it ever has, but not a single sign of a flush. 

Then the small one.

They never do that, there is an order: large - small, large - small.

I'm guessing it has more to do with the state of the leaves than anything else.  Last years flush didn't like the winter and there is a lot of damage.

They say if you want your cycad to flush then cut all the leaves off.  It seems damaging them over winter is just as good.

Tuesday 25 August 2015

More circles

They seem to be appearing all around the garden, from the circular seating area and most recently the moss circles (from the post here.) Can't resist showing the photo again.

The front garden gives more opportunities to bring in circles.  There will be a circular raised bed for a start, and lots of mounding plants in the gravel.  Two that will definitely be added:

This arenaria aurea seems fairly keen to stay in a circle anyway and the white flowers will go well in the white garden.

Gypsophila aretioides may provide a different challenge, to keep it perfectly circular or to let it just grow how it wants.

No surprise here: scleranthus biflorus. The watering is working, now it is just the big winter test.  There is one in a pot and one in the ground, so hopefully that should give an idea of how it copes.  The one in the pot is growing in a perfect circle, the one in the ground is a bit all over the place.  So may need to select the plant carefully and look at how to keep it nice and circular.

This got me thinking about what other plants could be grown in circles, maybe by giving them something to grow in.  Looking through the greenhouse I spotted the copper slug rings.  They come in different sizes and could be half buried in the gravel or rested on top to give slight different heights.

Photo from
Now for plants. Sempervivums form nice clumps and the smaller forms could be contained by the rings.  It just happened there was a good clump of sempervivum arachnoideum cobweb that needed a new home, so time for a test.

Will be interesting to see if it can be kept within the ring.  There needs to be more, whole groups.

I probably have enough small semps to fill a few of these, but it opens up a whole range of small plants. I am thinking of doing a run of them up the centre of the parking space. Need to get a few more and try joining them together to give large sizes, then the fun can start properly next spring.

So what other plants would work well in these?

Saturday 22 August 2015

Aloe polyphylla update

You may remember my post on the non-spiralling aloe polyphylla.   You can see the posts here. It has had a good summer so far, the extra water has meant no brown tips to the leaves, which is a first.

The big news is that there is the first signs of a spiral.

It is like one of the hidden pictures, sometimes it leaps out, other doesn't seem to be there.

It has been a long wait, I'm sure most spiral much earlier than this. As long as it gets there in the end everything is good.

Wednesday 19 August 2015

Progress out front

The front garden has been mentioned a few time over the summer, it was due to be the big project. There has been progress, but no where near what was planned. Other demands have kept me busy, plus it slow.

At the start of spring, it was a weed and blown in plant mess.

First job to clear this mess. Turns out the builders had buried a lot of bricks and flint. The rubble was dug out and that should have been the end.

Or so I thought.

I can almost hear the laughs from the rest of you, and it wont come as a surprise to learn that a little rain later and the whole garden was once again covered in plants.  The seeds were grateful for the nice loose soil and were rampant.

The whole area was then sprayed twice with weed killer, which was far more successful. Not something I had used before, but I was assured that it was quick acting and then degrades and is safe to plant the area up shortly afterwards.

The next stage was to level the whole area and compact the section that will occasionally be used to park on. Gravel was ordered, the next delay. Finally it turned up.

First part done.  This will be the section that will sometimes be parked on.  There are two strips of matting to reinforce the area, with the centre being left clear for planting.  The plan is to plant down this central strip so it does not look like a parking space.

Second part almost done.  Typically there was one tiny bit left as the gravel ran out.  The section to the right of the path, will be planted up with bulbs and other plants to give a different gravel garden to the back.  There will of course be the odd succulent mixed in as well.

These photos were taken at about 7pm, so you can see the garden gets afternoon and evening sun, some is in shade until 3pm, so the plants will not cook as much.

This bit can now be planted up as the bulbs arrive. I have a few large pots, and the two butlers sinks to be placed out here as well. Drains and a man hole cover mean part of the garden can not be planted.

I am going to have to find  better photo point, you can look in from all sides, there is no one point that shows it best. Doesn't look good from this angle, but shows the rocks going in and the first collection of pots.

The whole garden will have a blue, white and silver theme, so the plants like yucca rostrata and pale agaves will fit in well.  The palm in the photos is  chamaerops humilis cerifera which has a lovely silver colour to the fronds.

This agave ovatifolia frosty blue should look right at home with the colour scheme.  It will stay in the pot until next year, then go in the ground once a bit bigger.

The next stage is to build the soil bed sections.  The idea is to have a large raised circular bed as the main feature, with a gravel path around the edge. This will be off to the left of the photo. Leaving two other beds; a small shade one under the bay window, the other at the front.

Still lots to do, but it feels like the main bit is done, and it's good to have plants there again.

Sunday 16 August 2015

Accepting it has to go

There are two large yucca rostratas in the main succulent rockery and while one has settled, the other has being going down hill.

I have been putting it off, hoping more water and food would kick start it. Sadly not and the time has come for it to be dug up.  It didn't take much, there were no roots at all and the first sings of rot.  But you never chuck a yucca away, so it is into intensive care for this one hopefully to re-root and get back to its best.

Doesn't look good does it.  I'll move it to the greenhouse over winter I think anything to give it a bit of a start.  Trunked plants like this a expensive and can't afford to loose it. Plus it was a real feature so need it back.

The problem with removing plants to bring the back to health is they leave a space.  What to do?  It could be left empty under the assumption the plant will back next year. The space is very prominent and it is going to be at least a year until the plant is looking anywhere near healthy again.

So replacement plant it is.  I purchased two smaller yucca rostatas a little while back specifically for this purpose.  Placing one of them into the spot showed it was not going to be as simple as a straight swap.

With no trunk the area is too messy, it just doesn't work with the kniphofia caulescens behind it. I have been unhappy with that kniphofia anyway, it hasn't flowered and continues to get bigger.  I expected it to be smaller, apparently not.  So it was going to be moved anyway. One problem solved, but what to put in its place. I'll solve that one next year, it gives an opportunity to do some end of year sales shopping.

So  yucca planted, with enough time to settle in before winter.  It feels a little strange to already be thinking about winter and if it is ok plant or not. It makes a massive difference though, the last thing succulents need is to be planted and then straight away get frosts or cold and wet.

Now keep you fingers crossed for the sick yucca. It needs all the positive thought it can get.

Wednesday 12 August 2015

It's about time.

As many of you will know, there has never been a major flowering in the the garden, not even the yuccas.  It is almost personal now, with things flowering as soon as they were no longer in the garden: plants taken to the work garden, and plants in the old house garden all flowering.

So on Saturday, sat having lunch and looking around the garden when I see it:

The dasylirion sarratifolium coming into flower. Conveniently the flower was just at the top of the leaves, so it is easy to monitor growth.

2 days later:

So one foot (30cm) growth in two days, not too bad. Already level with the top of the fence, now getting worried about the cherry tree above it.

A day later and another 6inches (15cm) so fairly consistent growth.

Now sure it is going to get up into the cherry. There is only a 3foot gap from top of flower to first branch now. At it's current rate that is only 6 days of growth.  Admittedly that is the lowest branch and the leaves don't start then, but guessing this will carry on up.

So advanced planning: going to pull it away for the fence, the posts gives something to tie to. Most likely the spike will just kink to grown straight up again, but the little adjustment should hopefully be enough. Alternatively, I could let it grow into the cherry and use it to secure the flower spike. It is windy in the garden, so could be helpful.

While I decide, it is just a matter of sitting back and watching it grow. It is all very exciting for someone who hasn't had a major flower before.

Sunday 9 August 2015

One step closer to a moss feature.

I have always liked moss gardens, especially the true Japanese ones, set in sloping woodland.  It may be a strange thing to say, but it is the order that appeals.  This may be just perceived order, with the very relaxing feeling you get walking though them and knowing how many decades it's taken to get them looking that good. Often they are combined with gravel and rock gardens which are works of art. It is the same love of symmetry and order with agaves that is attractive in these gardens and transfers to moss.

So there has always been a plan to use moss somewhere in the garden, but how?  I really don't want something that looks out of place and frankly stupid. The shade garden would be the obvious place, and already there is moss starting to grow between the stones.  I also have the old chimney which has great lichens covering it.  These are good starts, but not the statement feature I would love.

I have been collecting a few different mosses to see which work in my cultivation. One was a type of feather moss. It was spit in half and placed on soil in a bowl.

That was back in May. Like many things there is no obvious change, then suddenly you notice it's grown massively.

It is such a vivid green, and although not perfectly flat that can be worked on. It has not only joined together but formed a nice think layer, so could easily be removed from the pot.

To keep my options open, I did what any succulent fan does naturally and cut it up to propagate more. The trick seems to be to ensure they are fully in contact with the soil and then they settle more quickly with little die back. 

The pieces could probably have been smaller, but this seems a fair start. It will help work out how quickly they take, assuming they all do well, the process can be repeated to give 9 pots. That should be enough to give me something to play with.

The only problem now, is to figure out how to use them.

Friday 7 August 2015

Time for a recount

There has been a fair amount of organising this summer; deciding which plants weren't working, duplicates and struggling plants.  Add this to the fact that many plants went into the succulent rockery and it's looking quite pot light around here.  So much so, for the first time ever I actually have an empty pot pile.

Recently there was a post on the Plant Lust blog (you can find it here) counting their pots and talking about what was a reasonable amount.  I commented that when we moved my niece counted the pots into the cars, or she started to and got bored at 400.  You can see the post on the house move here. So I promised a recount, and at the same time took some photos of them around the garden.

Starting with the vertical planting.

It looks a bit sparse at the moment, I had more on there but every time I watered they dripped onto each other which was not good, so this arrangement means I can water them without worrying.  There is more space to expand into.

Some of the posts still have their holders as well, as the plants go into to create more shade here they will be moved.

There are a few pots scattered around the rockery itself. These are usually where plants have flowered and died, or bulbs that are now dormant.

There are a few on the patio, and wall.

I have become more restrained here. To start with the wall was totally covered, now it's a few discrete groups. The agave stricta nana is one of my current favourite plants, the colour is amazing in the sun. Succulent fans are at a disadvantage as no matter how hard we try it seems impossible to resist propagating more plants. The little pots are all agave cream spike. 

There are an increasing number of troughs and planters appearing in the garden, these alpine ones are a bit out of the way to give them some shade during the hotter weather.

Looking at these photos, shows how much the garden is still in planting and sorting stage.  Most of these groups are in temporary positions, hopefully for the last year. I haven't been bothering with good groups or nice pots. That will change next year as the garden is now starting to look like a garden and not just a collection of pots.

So far it is not looking very good for my pot count, time to up the numbers.

There are two of these pot holding areas in the garden, these are considerable smaller now so many plants have gone into the rockeries.

The numbers are starting to look more respectable now. The green house helps considerably.

Now we are into much more respectable numbers. It does help that almost all my plants are small, so a lot can fit into a small space.  Which also partly explains the lack of good groupings and the more colourful pots you see else where.

Recently as you know I have been using nicer pots, although these are still small.  It did get me thinking that you start looking at everything as a possible pot.  I have two butlers sinks waiting to be planted once the gravel arrives for the front garden. Then you see things in shops;

I was tempted by these, could be fun watching how the metal ages. I have been looking for a pot for my variegated agave filifera group.

This fruit bowl was purchased last year with the idea of filling the frame with moss and planting into that.

The sad thing is I need to propagate more echeverias to fill it, which in turn is going to require more pots!

So what was the final count? 280, and another 60 plastic that are either in the prop area, or ready to be given away.  Still respectable, but a lot less than at it's peak.

I can see this becoming an annual event and a new meme over at Plant Lust.

Thursday 6 August 2015

A tiny landmark weekend

As soon as we moved into the new house and had a proper chance to look around the garden, it was obvious very few if any of the plants would make it into the future plans. Most would have to be dug up as part of the build and many more would simply be trashed by the builders. This turned out to be true, and then this weekend we dug out the last two remaining large shrubs.  There are now no plants remaining from the original garden.

Before going any further, I should add that the nicer ones were saved: given to neighbours or anyone else that wanted them. Just because they were not to my taste does mean someone else wouldn't love them.

I was looking through photos trying to find a picture of the section that has just been cleared, this is the closest I could find.

It is so strange seeing the original garden.  That wall in the middle of the garden really was a little strange. The two bushes that were dug up this weekend are just visible on the right hand side in the middle, the very bright green ones.

The space now looks like this:

The fruit trees have been moved and planted in the front garden, so now the only plant remaining is the bamboo.

The only problem is what to plant there?  That photo looks almost due south, the green house provides some shade in the morning and the fence shade as the day progresses.  I have no idea what my non spiky style will be like, it will be a whole new adventure. The only plant I know is going to be added are a couple of scheffleras, probably one either side of the wooden posts.

Although everything is ready to go, even dug some manure into the soil, I am guessing there will be lots of research and limited planting this year with most stuff going in come spring depending on best time to plant. There are enough other jobs in the front and around the house to keep me going until then.