Friday 31 July 2015

Alpines loving the rain

July was a month of two halves. The start lovely and warm with the hottest July day on record, the end cold and wet.  It is interesting watching how the plants reacted to these different conditions. Some agaves loved the heat, others stopped growing. Almost all the alpines struggled, with the heat and are loving the colder wetter weather.

There are quite a few sempervivums in different stages of flower,

Sempervivum 'Green Dragon'

Sempervivum 'Lilac Time'

Sempervivum 'Lion King'

Sempervivum 'Engles'

Sempervivum 'Virgil'

Thankfully all have offsets, so no need to replace them.

Those that are not flowering are looking good as well, I'm liking this small form at the moment, such perfect little rosettes.

Sempervivum ciliosum

This trough was only recently planted so they still look a bit un-natural. It's a good offsetter though, so next year should cover that end.

It is not just the semps that are happy, remember my poor little orostachys fimbriata. The foxes dug it up scattering tiny bits around the garden. The original post can be found here. These were planted up in the hope some would survive.

My first flower.  It doesn't look as interesting flowering on its own, but then I am trying to re-build the clumps to fill the entire trough, so good to only loose one. This is much smaller than the normal form, part of the charm, so it's going to be a while before that is filled.

I finally I may have cracked my other nemesis, scleranthus biflorus. I think I killed three of these in the last garden, then found out the problem was treating them like succulents and not watering them.  These now get watered and so far so good.

I've just spotted the label is still there, sorry Loree. These are usually either buried or removed once I have photos and can place what is where. Anyway, it has doubled in size since being planted a few months back, and has already filled the space nicely. If the success carries on and it survives winter, I have plans to use them more widely in the front garden.

While the alpines may be enjoying the cooler weather, we could do with getting the sun back again now. It is meant to be summer not Autumn.

Friday 24 July 2015

The blooming echeverias

I haven't posted about the echeverias much recently and thought it was time for this years post on the blue / white ones.  The colour is created by the fine powder or bloom on the leaves.  It is this powder that makes people reach out to touch them much to my horror. In last years post, found here, I focused ore on the pale green / blue ones. This year there are a few new ones for you.

First up echeveria subsessili

This is a good plant, apart from the lovely pink tinge to the edge of the leaves it offsets freely.  It can get a bit leggy if your not careful, but then you just top cut and you have new plants to give to friends.

A more structural variety is e. cante. 

My original plant was stunning, but suffered with the move.  The great thing about echeverias is that you can usually refresh plants, by top cutting. You have a year while the plant re-roots and settles, then they get into growth and you have a whole new plant. 

The white and blue plants are some of my favourites, so it is not surprise they turned up in hybrid attempts.  The most successful is the echeveria lilacina x deresina.

It falls about half way between the two in leaf shape, but has the strongest white.  Sadly the bloom does not stick to the leaves and it marks really easily.

One of the best echeverias in my view is e. subrigida. It is large, structural with good flowers. What is not to like. It is no surprise that is has been use in several hybrids around the world.  A few years ago I got some seeds from the US of e. subrigida x e. peacockii. 

There was a fair amount of varition in the resulting seedlings, both in form and colour.  This one has the strongest colour, but a weaker shape.  It is still a lovely plant though.

A more recent purchase is this echeveria 'Brinks Blue'.

It seems to be along the e. cante forms, the colour is even better and is bigger as well. The problem with all these white plants is watering and re-potting.  There is always the dilemma of over-potting to give space to water, or using the correct pot size and risk marking the lower leaves. This plant is a prime example, having just been re-potted and having limited space to water from above.

Now onto the really white plants.  The most common is e. lauii

This has to be one of the iconic echeverias. More than any other echeveria, I think it needs to be grown well.  Healthy well cared for plants are simply stunning. Mine isn't too bad, the colour is good and the leaves are good and healthy, sadly it does lean slightly and isn't perfectly symmetrical.

Now for a little mystery, e. 'John Catlin'

Firstly the mystery, I can not find anything on this plant.  It was bought from a British Cactus and Succulent Society show years ago.  At the time I hadn't been collecting for long and didn't know it was unusual.  Years later and now everyone asks about it, and no one sells it.  Add to this that it doesn't seem to prop, or should that be I haven't managed.  Top cutting didn't work, leaves didn't work and so far no offsets.  It has turned into a strange plant, getting taller all the time. 

Last but not least is E. mexican giant.

When purchased I was assured it would become my favourite echeveria.  It is turning into something special, with the almost pure white colour that e. laui has. Plus it's going to be big, and very structural.  You have to keep an eye on the watering. As you can see the leaves can shrivel and they never totally recover. 

I hadn't realised how many white plants I now have.  At this rate no one else is going to be allowed in the greenhouse incase they touch any of them.

Thursday 23 July 2015

Trust in the plan.

Before starting the garden, we sat down and did a design, which we got friends to comment on. Thank you Mel and Darran. Since then it has been converting the paper plan into reality.

In a recent post (found here), I showed the cycad rockery. This and the main succulent rockery haven't changed much. The odd plant has been added and things have grown, some quicker than others. But it was quite easy to move these sections from design to reality.

This year the work has been in the other parts of the garden, moving through the rest of the plan.

In the side section we are trying to create more shade.  The whole garden is in full sun pretty much all day. With the exception of a little bit of shade along on the fence, the first real shade is created by the house at around 3pm. 

The tree ferns and planting along the fence will ultimately create more shade, even in their first year they have done well.  It is not quite enough for the under-planting though and I think we will end up putting a shade sail over that section at least for the first few years. It would also make a nice feature for when we have friends around.

The other end of the garden is more problematic. At some point the garage will be knocked down and replaced, but we can't afford to do it at the moment. The greenhouse will also be moving at that point. As the design revolves around these larger changes, it can result in things looking at bit strange at the moment; like the path ending at the greenhouse not at the gate.  No doubt the design will evolve as all gardens do, but I have to trust the main aspect will work.

The latest project is one of those times to trust everything will work out. I want to continue the planting from the end of the main succulent rockery.  The first bit was easy, plant the chamaerops humilis.

Next up the hammock posts. Ultimately there will be 4 railway sleepers used as posts for our hammocks.  We don't want to wait for years until the garage is moved to be able to use the hammocks. So yesterday two of the posts turned up.

The first was simple, going next to the new chamerops.

It was surprisingly quick to dig the hole and concrete it in.   Now it's there I can plant around it.

The second sleeper will ultimately be in a border where the garage currently is.  I know where it is suppose to go and what the area should ultimately look like. As most of the bed does not exist yet and can not be set out, it was a simple case of trusting the plans.

You see, looks a bit strange at the moment.

I find myself saying, it will work,  trust in the plan.  I just hope it's true.

Monday 20 July 2015

Crassula sarcocaulis are suddenly everywhere.

I had been looking for something to bonsai for years. I wanted a plant with small leaves, that would form a nice tree shape.  At a plant fair in May I found my little Crassula sarcocaulis which was perfect. 

It has been in the cycad rockery since then and has pretty much doubled in size already, plus it is flowering nicely.

The outside of the flowers are pink which is what you notice, then when looking closely the open flowers can be seen as white.

Showing this photo elsewhere a friend commented that they had the same plant, but it had different leaves.  A few photos were exchanged and it was different. Then today in my local garden centre what should be sitting there but a pallet of crassula sarcocaulis. At first it was shock that having looked for so long they turn up everywhere this year, don't you hate that! Looking closely I noticed the leaf was different.

You can see the leaf is much wider than my original plant.  So did a bit of searching and there are apparently two forms, white and pink flowering.  Strangely the flower colour is the only difference mentioned in the descriptions, although there is mention of difference in hardiness.

This one is staying in a pot to be played with over the next few years.  The internet search showed they are good for bonsai, being easy to train, and to take cuttings from. It is going to be fun watching them both develop and seeing which form I like best.

No doubt it wont be long until there are a whole series of them scattered around the garden.

Thursday 16 July 2015

A quick trip to the Palm Centre

I am fortunate to live close to Kew Gardens and RHS Wisely so there is always something to see if I want a plant fix.  Interesting nurseries however are a bit rarer. There is however one good local one, The Palm Centre which usually has a good mixture of exotics.  Not having visit for a while, it seemed time to pop down and see what was new.

As the name suggests it specialises in palms, and they always have a massive amount of different size.

I do plan to get one of these trachys at some point in the future, but it is destined for further down the garden where the garage currently is.  So for now time to move on.

Next up where the chaemaerops humilis. There were quite a few of these, of various shades of green/blue.  One of these was going to come home with me.

Then it was on to see the yuccas, there was a big table of yucca rostratas.

It had cacti on one side and cycads the other.  There were some lovely yucca rostratas, including a few double headers.

This was one of the plants on my list, so I spent a good amount of time going though every plant and selecting the best.  They were on special offer as well.

You don't have to limit yourself to these small sizes.

The puyas were interesting, very blue in colour.

It is puya coerulea and there were a few of different sizes.  The problem with puyas is they are just so vicious with teeth all along the edge which have a nasty habit of catching you. So far I have managed to avoid any in the garden, but these were seriously tempting.

They had some really nice yucca filiferas.

I love them when they get that big, such structural plants. They also looked great against the brahea armata.

The nursery also has large fern and bamboo sections, but by now I was too distracted with my purchases to explore today. They do mail order as well, so well worth looking them up.

So what did I come home with?

The chaemaerops humilis is staying roughly there, the two yucca rostratas are for else where.

These were some of the bluest I have seen, hopefully they will stay that way.  One is set for the front garden, the other is sadly to replace one of my large trunked ones.  The builders knocked it out of its pot, and just pushed it back in during one of the wettest winters on record.  When I came to plant it there were no roots.  I thought it would be fine and re-root, but sadly was wrong and it has gone downhill this year.

The spear is still good, so I have decided to remove it and plant it up somewhere to be nursed back to health.  Obviously there is a slight difference in size between this one and the replacement, but I can't afford another one that size, and the small one should be interesting in that spot.

At the same time I picked a few pots, one for a plant a friend has given/lent me.  It is a lovely yucca whipplei.

It is staying in a pot and going in the front, so I thought I would re-pot to refresh the soil.

A quick trim showed it already has a bit of a trunk.  It is going to look great out on display. It may well be re-called to the original home when he sees this.

It has been a long time since I have bought any big succulents, so it was fun. They can all stay there until the weekend when I can plant and move everything around. 

Tuesday 14 July 2015

Happy birthday cycad rockery.

The first part of the garden to be worked on was this section of rockery. It is strange to think it was a year ago. The starting point:

It took about two days to get the rocks and plants in.

Then May this year, it was showing hardly any damage, although we did have a very mild winter. You can see the shade area starting to go in as well.

The real growth has come since then, especially in the echeveria elegans.  They were planted having seen all the photos of rivers of succulents.  I didn't have enough for a full river, perhaps a minor stream and even then they needed to fill out a lot.

The coloured up amazingly in Feb, and the first signs of more serious offsets were starting to be visible.

I have been watering and feeding them as it has been so dry here, and it is paying off:

They have done so well, it was possible to remove a few that were wondering and use them to complete the run:

The only change in the rockery, was that the little aloe polyphylla didn't make it, (it was far too small to be planted out unprotected). In its place is the crassula sarcocaulis.

Again it seems to love having it's feet in the ground and is starting to flower.

Sadly the flowers aren't red, and come out white or pale cream.  Luckily it wasn't bought for the flowers. It needs a trim, to get back the good defined shape again.  It will also give me an opportunity to take some cuttings as backup.

So one year down for this part of the garden,  as with many succulent gardens slow but steady progress. Other parts of the garden are changing more quickly, I'll have to do a post on how the shade garden is going.

Wednesday 8 July 2015

Starting the annual pup cull.

Part of the re-potting process is removing offsets.  I used to keep every single one and pot them up for swaps, but noticed they took up space and often suffered if they were not moved on.  Now if the plant is nothing unusual I just take off very young pups (that way I don't feel so bad), as part of the re-potting process.  Today it was the turn of some of the agaves.

First up the un-identified agave filifera hybrid. There is still no formal id on this one, other than it came from a batch of a. filifera seeds.  It's a good solid plant.

The wierd thing about this plant, is that it doesn't seem to actually grow.  It gets new leaves, and old ones die, but it stays the same size. No offsets on this one, it never does, but it always needs a good clean up of the dead leaves. I have tried a slightly bigger pot this year in the hope of maybe getting some growth.

From the non-offsetter, to one of the biggest, agave stricta nana.  It was bought about 3 years ago at a local plant fair.  There was a group of them hidden away on one of the stall, all much bigger than you usually see in the UK.

This is a pupping machine, it's natural habit is to clump. Keeping it as a solitary plant is a full time job.  Thankfully it is not diffiuclt to remove offsets, a simple twist or pull on each one separates it form the mother.  I did save one, which has gone in one of my "victorian" pots.

Funnily enough the little pots came for the same fair as the nana did. A seller this year has a few of them, supposedly all victorian, and I have since seen them sold like that in another nursery, so maybe it's true. Either way they are cute little pots.  I have 5 of them and am playing with the idea of selecting my favourite plants for a series of miniatures.

There are two many plants to show each one, but the final one worth a spot is the manfreda maculosa x agave obscura.  This was from my friend before he died and I have been growing both forms to see how they turn out.  This more triangualar form is doing well.

The spots really come out in the sun.

It seems to offset freely, so took off quite a few and actually saved some of these.

These will make a few people very happy, there has been a waiting list for them so they are all off to good homes. You know who you are.