Monday 27 April 2015

Spring Alpines: part 1.

This is a great time of year for the alpines; lots of flowers and the sempervivums are waking up. Over the last few years I have been adding named forms to my collection and have been keeping track of how they perform. Some

Some like S.'Titania' look great right now and make you think they have grown loads. (Photo below taken yesterday)

Until you look back at the summer photos and see that they have actually lost lots of leaves and actually look their best later in the summer. (Photo below taken last August)

Often you buy the at this time of year and they look spectacular, like S. 'Rosie' (photo taken yesterday)

So lush and a great colour, sadly it doesn't last and being alpines they may not like summer sun and lack of water. (Next photo taken last August)

Then you have the ones those that look good in summer, like S. 'Virgil' (next photo taken last august)

You think they look good all year only to see their spring colour, which really blows you away (next photo taken yesterday).

Finally you have the ones that look good all year and just keep growing. S.'Lion King' was slow to get going but has settled in now.

No matter which group they fit in, at this time of year they are all sending out runners with new plants on. Some snake out long distances, S. 'Lively Bug' sends out some of the longest. These are just getting started and will be two to three times as long in the end.

Others cluster their offsets forming tighter and tighter clumps. S. 'Green Dragon', is one of my favourite clumps right now.

And sometimes it is just good to look at them. This is S. 'Ohio Burgundy'

Friday 24 April 2015

Cleaning up the aloe viper.

This is one of my favourite aloes, it has such good colour and texture to the leaves.  One of Kelly Griffin's hybrids and he was going for bumpy with this one. Originally I thought it was one of the small clump forming group. It has kept growing and has to be re-potted every year.

Thinking what to do this year, the decision was made to split it up see what happens.  It offsets quite freely, so if the single plants don't work out, it wont be long before it clumps again.

Turned out to be quite a few plants, all with good roots.

The largest three were potted up to keep.

At least one of these will be spoilt this year, a big feature plant would look good out on display. Another may be added to the vertical pot wall to colour up.

The other plants potted up and will go into my supply for trades and friends.  May use a couple to expiriment with over feeding vs not.

With so many plants to play with  it seems an ideal oppertunity to be the first person to have one planted outside in the UK.  I always get jealous of the US blogs that show plants collectors here go made for, buying them for their gardens. 

I wonder how it will cope in a UK succulent bed. Mind you this may be taking my aim to have every plant as something special a litte too far.

Tuesday 21 April 2015

First proper work in the greenhouse.

The plants overwintered in greenhouse are the ones that have the toughest time.  They are left to get on with it and not watered from about the end of October until March. They are watered a little bit at the start of March and then watered properly at the start of April. This is usually when I know there will be no more proper frosts. Waking them slowly like this avoid rot issues if we do have any late frosts.

It will be another few weeks before the pampered plants are brought out of the house, so those in the greenhouse are only put out in temporary spots, some will be moved outside once woken up. They are all a little de-hydrated but not looking too bad. This is the echeveria bench.

Did you spot the variegated aloe saponaria? Will have to move that.

It is also time to start re-potting. I've mentioned before the type of potting dance that goes on, trying to figure out how to give plants bigger pots without taking up any more space.  There is going to be a little cull in the collection, any plants that are no longer in favour and are unlikely to ever do well for me are going. Some of the plant need much larger pots and this is the only way for now at least.

First to be given more space was a collection of the echeveria 'compton carousel'.

I am amazed the white ones are still going, they have done much better than expected.  The others had got very leggy so were top cut and spread out.  Hopefully by the end of the summer they will fill this bowl, although this form can be fussy over re-rooting. I figure the plant is nice enough to make a real feature of it, so fingers crossed.

Another plant doing well is my little aloe suprafoliata.  It was the plant the most appreciated the greenhouse last summer.

I am trialling a new potting mix this year combining it with new feed, so it will be interesting to see how this one responds. Especially if I can actually sort the watering out for once. It is taking a lot of getting used to actually having to water the plants once a week when it is warm.

Another group I want to give more attention to are the haworthia miniatures.

The two front ones are different forms of haworthis parksiana.  I'm not sure I can tell the difference, see if you can fro the close ups.

I love the texture to the leaves.  It is a shame they are so slow and tiny, a pot full of these would look amazing.

So the fun has started. I am guessing the plants inside will be allowed another week or so before my better half puts her foot down and says it is warm enough for them to be outside.  The green house will have to be fully converted into summer mode ready for then.

Sunday 19 April 2015

The echeveria agavoides bowls

It is one of the more variable echervias, with the usual normal, variegates and cristates all being avaiable. Perhaps what sets it apart more is the number of different forms of e. agavoides and it is easy to becoe obsessed with them all.  I posted about my collection of different forms back in August, here.

The red edged forms are mainly planted in the ground, but one is on a mixed bowl of some of the best forms. 

Looking at them you would not guess the two red forms where e. agavoides. 'Sirus' is on the left and 'Romeo' on the right. The best thing about them is that they hold their colour and look this good all year.

The most sort after of the lot is e. agavoides ebony.  Most of mine are now in one bowl which is filling out nicely now.

I am torn about the second largest of these, to me it looks more like red edge than ebony. Given how in demand it is you often see them sold as ebony when they are not.  I had doubts when purchasing it, but the seller was really respected and so assumed it would grow into the colour.  Sadly it looks wrong and may have to be removed from the pot when the next set of offsets turn up. 

It could have been a genuine mistake. Most of mine came from seed and while most come true, some do not. Which leeds onto the pale green one.  There is no doubt it is a mutated form of ebony, something has just changed to stop the dark pigment from being around the edge. Instead it is developing spots.

It is much slower growing than the normal form, it actually came for the same seed group as the largest in the bowl.  There will be updates as it develops.

They will all be fed this year, assuming it is not too wet, so the bowls will look very different by the end of the summer.  Hopefully, apart from faster growth there will be offsets as well.  I look forward to both bowls overflowing with plants.

Wednesday 15 April 2015

Back to the succulents

Today was more like summer than spring, and getting back to the garden there was only one place to spend time.  For all the work in the other parts of the garden, the succulents are still the stars. 

The cycad rockery is getting warmed up for summer. This one should flush this year if it follows the bi-annual pattern it has in the past.  It is being fed and watered in the hope of replicating the amount of water it would expect at this time of year.  We are having a very dry spring this year, which is great for the other succulents, not so good for the cycads and alpines.

It is strange to think it was this time last year that the work on the garden was about to start.  Lots of dirt, rubble and plants in pots. 

Most of the plants have loved having their feet in the ground, plants that I struggled with before like the lampranthus roseus. It was tiny when planted, the photo below shows it last summer.

And now:

That is after a prune as well, it was getting a bit out of control, so it was hacked back. Other plants are looking less pristine as well, androsace sempervivoides always starts off as such a neat little plant,

Then it flowers and starts to spread out and I can never keep it looking this plush.

Hopefully this time the offsets will bulk up properly and it will get back to being lovely lush plants again.  Given how many new plants there are, it would be an amazing group if it does. 

The plants are starting to come out of their winter homes as well, the echeveria agavoides bowl was first. It has been outside for a few weeks now.

It is such a shame the flowers on agavoides are not stronger, but there is no complaining about the colour on these different forms. 

There is so much to do when the sun comes out.  Lets hope this is a sign of things to come this summer.

Friday 10 April 2015

A bit of work on the shade garden

It is fun at the moment, every evening working on a different part of the garden.  Clearing the front, filling gaps in the succulent rockery or getting started on the shade garden.  The area to the side of the new kitchen was a bit of a sun trap last year and it was always the plan to try and create more shade for a slightly cooler place to sit, should the sun decide to show up. Here's the area after the alpine rockery was built last year.

The section on the left with all the rocks was the area selected for a shade section. Unusually for me, instead of planning it was more a spur of the moment deciscion to get on with it.  The original plants had come back with vengence, so that section had to be cleared again.  Then the left over rock was used to form a raised section. It was time to see where the tree ferns would go.

The idea was to raise it as much as possible producing a shade rockery.

It looks strange with just the tree fern trunks, which should hopefully send out their fronds once they are actually planted into place and given copious amounts of water.  The rocks look wrong as well without all the planting to hide them.  There is already a rough planting list, but it needs to be gone through now the space is starting to take shape. Then it is a trip to one of the specialist nurseries with an excuse to buy lots of plants!

Looking from the small seating area, the other reason for the tall plants is more obvious.

The garden is overlooked, it would be nice to have a more private section, hidden away. Not that anyone actually looks in apart from to see how the garden is going.

It is really strange to be enriching the soil, adding lots of organic material instead of gravel and sand to make it suitable for succulents.  That soil just looks rich and wet and so wrong.

Then there's the plants, so soft.

There will most likely be a few different ferns in there, this one is osmunda regalis ' purpurascens'.  It has lovely bronze coloured stems and new leaves.

Hopefully this section of the garden will grow much quicker than the succulent bed, it should be lush and green by the July when hopefully it will be needed for sheltered spot to relax out of the sun.

While that sections settles, it will be back to the front garden and plans are being drawn up for that one.

Tuesday 7 April 2015

Some colour and some planting.

It has been stresfull in the garden with the issues with the succulents, but work hasn't stopped.  I'll come back to the agaves in a later post, but today it's time to focus on what else is going in the succulent rockery.

There are a few flowering plants in amoung the agaves, the aim is ultimately to have bee friendly flowers available for the entire time the bees are around. 

The vertical posts work to give you different views, with the odd splash of colour peaking out form behind them.  This one is pulsatilla vulgaris, it's a delicate little plant which apparently will form little cumps about 20cm across.  Sady the information suggests it's a little fussy, especially about root disturbance.  Hopefully the position is out of the way and in a few years there will be a nice big clump. It would be good to see a group of these flowers filling the space. 

Just noticed the lizard on the rock, a present from my neice, so while not my taste, it's allowed to stay. It gets moved every time the come over, so you never know where it will pop up next.

The next one, was a bit of a test, tulips are not something you probably think in relation to succulent gardens.  Probably not something I ever expected to end up in the rockery. The jury is out, and it didn't help that they flowered on the one weekend we were away.

At least they were the dwarf form they were suppose to be. Other plants are not so well behaved.  The main agave bracteosa has been a bit of a pupping machine since being planted.  One of todays tasks was to take off all the unwanted offsets and decide if they could be re-homed.  Here is mum after the offsets had been removed.

There were three plants all with roots, the largest was re-homed to another part of the rockery. These are so reliable, that they make a good backbone to the other more risky plants.

While planting, I also added an asphodeline lutea. It has been sitting in a pot since last summer. Originally this was going in the front, but a change of plan there required a re-think.  Like the tulips the jury is still out on this one. The blue leaves are lovely and the flower spikes should be good. The question is if it will be too messy for the very structured succulent rockery.

They form clumps, but if it does stay I may be tempted to keep them as individual plants and scatter them about the garden as a repeating feature.  Time will tell if this one makes the grade. There is going to be a more messy/jungly part to that bed, maybe they will end up there.

It was good to spend time in the garden not worrying about the agaves and instead getting on with planting for the second summer.  If you are wondering about the eremurus, they are growing away. The e. oase especially is really strong and it looks like both plants will flower this year.

It is not quite the californian version of flowers and agaves, I am working up to that. There were however lots of bees around, so hopefully as the season progresses and more flowers open they will be happy.