Wednesday 25 March 2015


For the first time since I started growing succulents there is a problem that worries me.  Some of the the agaves have taken a turn for the worse. At first it was those I didn't realy care about: spares, or small plants that can be replaced. These are left in the worst place, unprotected before they are ready and so often struggle. I don't mind loosing them and so I didn't really think much about it, we all loose plants over winter.

At the same time, coming out of winter, I noticed some of the lower leaves on a couple of the larger agaves in the main dry bed.  The main plants are the set of agave montanas

Winter damage on lower leaves is quite common, so it didn't worry me, what made me look more closely was the agave nigras.

These photos were taken today and it really brought home how bad the probem has got. It's no longer just the lower leaves, but half the plant and that has changed in only a few weeks.

Looking closely you can see round patches in the dead leave, on the less damaged leaves these show up as black spots. Looking closely there are clear raise patches.

I did a little searching online and it seems this is a fungal infection. That's about as far as I have got, so if anyone recognises it please leave a comment.  I am going to have to figure out how to treat it as at the rate it's going it will go through my agaves before the end of spring. 

My plan is to cut off as much of the infected growth as I can and then see if there is a fungicide in the UK that is stronge enough to treat the rest of the plant.  Having never had a problem before I am not sure if this is the correct course of action or not.  I am guessing if it is a fungus it will have already spread to the other agaves and everything is going to have to be treated. The mild wet winter, and wet spring have to a lot to answer for..

It is a shame that the dead leaves are going to have to be distroyed, they are quite pretty, and remind me of contour maps.

Fingers crossed it at least stays restricted to the agaves.

So if anyone has any advice please leave a comment, any information will be a great help. Especially if is news that this can be easily treated and is not something to worry about.

Friday 20 March 2015

The advantages of cold.

There is not a lot to like about winter, but if the plants do get through the stress creates some great colour. One plant that is putting on a particular good show this year is the sedeveria letizia. You may remember one was planted out as a test and the main rosettes got through and have coloured up perfectly.

Good to see it is going to flower as well. It has very pretty pure white flowers and is one of my favourite flowers for this group of plants. 

The main plant was in the green house over winter, so not only got cold but was not watered. The double stress has made the colour even stronger.

The whole plant is a real feature at the moment and as the colour fades, the mutltiple flower stalks will take over to keep it looking good. 

Really need to give it a nicer pot and make more of a feature of it. I must find somewhere in London that sells really nice terracotta pots.

Tuesday 17 March 2015

A little time in the garden

At this time of year it is about sneaking hours in the garden when the weather permits.  We have warmer spring days, then it's winter again and the rain moves in.  At the moment time is spent between the front and back gardens.

In the back it is simply watching as the garden gets into growth.  I have covered the eremurus to keep the worst of the weather of.  I believe extra warmth also helps them flower.

There are now two shoots on the e. oase and they are growing at a good rate.  The e. stenophyllus have also shown up as well, On Saturday there was one little shoot.

I checked again today and there were three shoots, which is the same as last year.  It will be a great addition to the dry bed if these flower and there are fox-tail flowers scattered throughout it.

There are also signs that at least one of the hardy orchids survived.  The orchid trial was more about how they would cope with a dry gravel bed, than the cold. If they do come back then more will be scattered around to give something a little different in flower and leaf.

The wrongly named yucca aliofolia purpurea is looking a bit tatty, but the new growth is all good. I know it is not really hardy, but with the mild winter it was fine.  It is going to be tough to decide what to do if we do have a bad winter in the future. The first pup is starting to grow properly.  There have been a few false starts on pups, but this one finally seems to be sending out leaves.

This is not the most surprising survivor though, I'll do another post on that soon.

In the front the neighbours have been busy. Both sides have had their front gardens redone, mainly replacing walls and driving spaces, but they have cleaned up the beds and put out pots.  Ours now stands out as being decidedly scruffy.  As it was always the plan to do something about it this year we made a start on digging up the weeds and removing the builders rubble.

It was great to have my better half out there with me, although I think she regretted selecting the digging as the thing to help with.  As with the back, the so called "cleared" garden turned up a man-hole cover, lots of whole bricks, bits of ply-wood. All conveniently buried a few cms below the surface.

Having finished that bit, we turned to admire our hard work, only to see the rest of the garden still un-dug and mocking us. You see I told you it was scruffy and needed to be sorted.  I have no idea where the foxgloves came from, there were none in the garden before or in any of the gardens around, but they obviously liked the free run.

We don't really have a plan yet, probably a mixture of gravel garden, orchard, and bee friendly planting. As we dig it over, we are looking through books and pictures online, pulling out plants we like and ideas.

The butlers sink is a gift from next door.  During the clearing up they found it and offered it to me to plant up.  This is the second one I have, the first was going to be placed on the gravel section, but with two I may have to do something in one of the other sections.

The rocks are left overs from the main rockery.  They are to be used to form the shade rockery in the back, another project that needs to be completed, or should be started, once the weather settles.

Saturday 7 March 2015

Reasons to be cheerful

One, two, three..

1........ The first of the eremurus are showing.

I tend to loose interst in plants (and the internet) over winter.  It seems to be a way to avoid getting depressed by the cold and short days. Then as the days get longer and hotter, suddenly the garden and plants start to look interesting again.  Time is spent in the green house, the garden, and waking plants up with their first water of the year.  At this time the Eremurus wake up, poking above ground after staying hidden over winter. E. oase is the first up this year.

In the last garden E. stenophyllus was planted in the dry bed and came back reliably every year.  Both e. stenophyllus and e. oase were planted in the new succulent rockery last summer, hoping that they would cope without problems.  The first winter with any garden is always worrying, so it is great to see E. oase showing.  It is the plant that tells me to get back out in the garden again, if I wan't interested in the garden before, seeing them appear gets me outside again.. Does anyone else have a plant that signals the start of spring?

2.........  Plants looking good.

So far (as it could still turn) it's been an incredibly mild winter, which is a big relief with the plants being in for their first year.  The whole bed looks good.

Many plants like this agave filifera don't have a single mark.

The echeverias have their winter colour, especially the e. elegans

Even some of the trial plants like this sedum mediterranean mystery look like winter never happened.

It is a massive relief to have got through the first winter without loosing any of the big plants or any of the plants I was worried about. 

3...... Determination to survive.

I wouldn't be pushing my plants is everything survived and there wasn't some damage.  Remember my variegated aloe saponaria, shown here at the end of the summer.

This was always going to be a test, even the normal form is very marginal here. It doesn't look quite so good now.

But these plants don't give up without a fight and look closely and there is hope. The main plant may be toast, but the two pups look like they are going to be fine. This seems to be true with most of the damaged plants.  The first view is of the damage, this is my echeveria deresina x agavoides hybrid.

After the damaged section were removed the tip seemed fine and there were undamaged pups growing already.

This could all change if we have a cold end to winter. Unlike the rest of the world the Uk does not move from winter to spring to summer in a nice predictable way. It was lovely today and the forcast for the next few days are suppose to be good as well. Then next week it could snow and we could go back to freezing night until April. 

For now I am happily singing, "reasons to be chearful, one, two, three".