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.

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".