Sunday, 5 July 2015

Hectic times

It has been busy here, with a trip to Ireland for a wedding, lots of decorating for a visit from the inlaws, and finally a quick visit to the Hamption Court flower show.

The flower show was interesting, I don't normally visit them and we are having a mini heat wave and recorded the hottest June temperature ever on Wednesday. Combine that with thousands of people and you can imagine it was not the nicest place in the world to be. It was far too crowded to get many good photos, but will post a few later.

Again the number of people got in the way of any proper plant shopping, it got too frustrating constanly being nudged by people trying to get to the front and grabbing for plants.  In the end I gave up and settled for the few plants I picked up right at the start of the day.  Luckly this happened to be the only set of plants I really wanted: a set of air plants.  Top of the list was a tillandsia xerographica.


I have been after this for years, having seen it I think on Danger Gardens blog. It's really tough to get hold of in the UK, with only one or two stockists and being out of stock most of the time.  Anything after this was a bonus.

To keep it company, is this Houston Cotton Candy


A little tilandsia ionantha guatemala


And finally these two tilandsia ionantha


Having got the plants, you need something to grow them on.  Very conviently there was a wood stall near by, so I also picked up a few bits of wood to use as stands and also as dressing in pots.  Then the fun starts, what combination to go for?

A few plants on one log?


Perhaps a couple of logs?


What about three?


This is the one I settled for, mainly as it can be displayed as one set or separated out.  All the plants rest on the wood at present, if I continue to like it they may be attached more securely.

Now I just need to keep the alive. I was given strict instructions to dunk them in water and then dry them completly ensuring there is no water in the crown.  I am watering everything each Sunday at the moment in the hope of getting more consistent, so these are now on the watering list.


Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Alpine planters updates

With all the new pots, it is easy to forget about the two larger alpine planters that have been created over the last couple of years.


I can't remember what the plant was that is missing.  Strangely I don't have a photo of it when planted, but I am guessing it has not grown much as two of the plant are known to be slow growers.

The next one was suppose to be quicker.


The little androsace sempervivoides (top right), flowered and then died. I have another else where in the garden and that hasn't done well either.

The orostachys spinosas (centre middle, and top) both struggled last year shrinking right back.  I thought they were gone, but this year they seem to be making a bit of a recovery. For both of these water is probably key and they can't cope with baking.


The two sempervivums have both thrived. I hadn't noticed them growing, but the photos show how much more space they are taking up.  Red devil has got quite big, for something I thought stayed small. The green dragon, is just doing it's thing, slowly creeping out with lots of little plants.

The eagle eyed among you, may have noticed two semps were removed from beside the red devil.  These turned out to be a different form and have been moved.

The other plant, armeria juniperifolia, has done well. Again water is an issue, got to keep an eye on it as it has a tendancy to suddely turn brown in sections, which totally spoils the look.

And what happened to the other sempervivum, it is now all planted up with a semp lilac time.


They look slighty dwarfed at the moment, but it is semp 'lion king' so wont stay that way for long.  Hopefully the two should work well together, as 'Lion King' looks best in spring and then fades a bit, which 'lilac time' gets better as the summer progresses.

The main thing I learnt from last year is not to treat them like succulents in high summer.  They need a bit of shade or more water.  I am determined to get it right this time and actualy take notice of the water needs.

Friday, 12 June 2015

What's in the box?

Whenever a parcel turns up it is always fun, the un-wrapping and first view of the item.  Normally I am not too bothered by the wrapping but this one was different. What was in the box? Two more boxes:


It then started to rain, so a quick move inside to open the final layer. Only to find another two boxes, and I'm starting to get a feeling of deja-vu. This 5th box looks different, maybe this time:


Nope, another box. Have I got caught up in a game of pass the parcel. This one is must be the final one:


No more boxes, but more protection hiding the contents.


Finally the contents are revealed. That was some packing, 6 boxes is going above and beyond to ensure they get there in one piece.

So this set of pots came from the UK, a father and son team of potters called Erin Pottery.  They specialise in bonsai pots, and have a great set of pots on their website. It took me a while searching through to find ones that were a little deeper. I ended up with a few different forms to play with.


So going from the smallest to largest. One of my favourite miniature aloes, a. descoingsii var descoijngsii.


A very compact little plant and clumps up nice and quickly.  It has tiny pink flowers, which are on a massively long stem. I did try to photograph the whole thing, but had to get so far away you coudn't actually see the flowers. I can highly recomend this little plant to any aloe fan.

The next pot was perfect for one of the new agaves. A. albopilosa is a very recent discovery and up until this year has only really been available through seeds.


Mine were seed grown and this one is hopefully about to develop the tufts that made the categorisation as an agave controversial.  If you have not seen the photos of the adult plants, go and do a quick search they are lovely.  They are just starting to appear as plants for sale if you can't be bothered with seeds. The pot will give it plety of room to grow and should at least last it a couple of years.

The next pot is about the same size, but has a wavey edge which is lower on one side.  I think they are officially known as "freeform pots". It took a while to decide on what to plant it up with; a clumping plant that will flow over the edge or something more bonsai like. In the end it was one of my dudleyas, I think it is D. farinosa but the id has never been certain.


The plant is quite slow to get into growth after winter, so the jury is out as to whether this will work or not, it may be a little heavy for the pot. What do you think?

Finally the largest pot. Originally the dudleya was going to go in this one, but then thought of my crassula buddha's temple.



The flower seems to keep going, I have got used to it now and it doesn't look as wierd.

I am hopeful that some of these plants are going to turn into even better features pots over the summer. I may even be tempted to show a few of them if they develop nicely. At least the pots are up to show standards.

So still not pots for the two plants that need it.  Maybe in the next set. BUt my collection of hand made pots is growing rapidly.

Tuesday, 9 June 2015

It is almost colourful in the succulent rockery.

We actually had an alost sunny weekend at last.  The winter may have been mild, the spring dry, but so far there has not been uch heat.  As soon as the sun comes out my mind and camera turn to the rockery.


I know a lot of people are not fans of lawns, but I love mine for no other reason that I can sit up on and look up into the rockery. It gives you a different set of views.


Starting to get a bit more height in the plants with the aloe striatula and the euphorbia griffithii fireglow.


You can see the eremurus oase in the background is now working up the stem.


I noticed today that the stem leans but strangely the flowers that are open form an exactly horizontal line.  There are more flowers open on one side than the other, and this keeps a level row of flowers despite the lean.

Not as dramatic but the arenaria aurea gets better every day.  Small but quite strongly sented, it took me a while to figure out where it was coming from.


These and all the echeverias in flower means there are probably at the flowering peak now.  As the summer continues, the leaves get into growth and it is the structure that takes over.  I'm going to have to get more balance in the other parts of the garden as the bees are going to be very upset when this lot of flowers is over.

Saturday, 6 June 2015

Time for some drastic action

I have had agave bracteosa 'monterrey frost' for a few years now.


Given how hardy the normal form is, I though I would try it outside over winter.  Given it was in a pot, it was easy to move it if real cold was forcast, or if it started to look ill. This may have been a mistake. 


Almost all the leaves are badly spotted.  Given my experience lately and observation from forums, it seems once plants get this type of spotting it only gets worse. So instead of sitting there waiting to see what happens, I decided to remove it from the pot, remove al the soil and any leaf that had even a slight mark on.

The good thing is was that like the normal form it seems to like to offset; not only did it have the pup visible in the photo above, but 4 under the soil.


Removing the leaves was easy, but drastic


Yep not much left. I have never cut back an agave this much, it has been taken back to the very central core. At the same time, it has been re-potted with a thick layer of gravel to keep the surface dry.  Hopefully with new soil and all the damaged leaves removed it will recover and stay un-spotted. I will probably spray it with a fungicide as well, just to make sure.

I'm not going to show the pup, it's too distressing to see it hacked back to the very central leaves.  It will be interesting to see how it copes with the stress. Pups off the normal form are as tough as old boots, but who knows how the variegated ones will behave.

It has been a bad start to the year for the agaves and yuccas, one major decision to go, but that is for another post. Hopefully these actions will be an end to it.  Having always had clean plants, it is strange to having to be removing damaged leaves. I'm looking forward to having nice spotless plants again.

Thursday, 4 June 2015

Are pots the new obsession

The problem with finding something you have searched for, is rarely does it seem to end the search.  So having finally found the first pot, you can see the post here, it was already starting to look like the search would continue.

In today's internet driven world, it is amazing how quickly everything becomes an international search.  Those of you in the USA have a big advantage here, there seems to be an established community of suppliers catering to the succulent market.  The UK is a long way off that, although we do have a a few bonsai pot suppliers, more about that in a future post.

So the second set of pots came all the way from Thailand and an Etsy shop called Coffee Morning.


Again they are not large, the biggest about 3" across the smallest only 1". It was only suppose to be two pots, but they very kindly added the smallest as a gift.  They arrived really well packed so there was no need to have worried how they would cope with the long trip.

The idea was originally going to be to fill them with haworthia, but they are too nice to hide away so instead have been planted up with things that can be out on display in the summer. The smallest has a small clump of echeveria minima. The hope is to keep the tiny by constricting the roots.


They tend to form clumps quickly so it should be a good little pot by the end of the summer.  I will probably trim the roots each year to encourage it to stay small.

For the medium pot it was echeveria golden towers.


It is one of the more vertical style of echeverias and can be trained by trimming the branches.  It has been a while since I had one in good enough condition to flower, but I seem to remember the flowers are good as well. This plant has been neglected for a couple of years, due to the move, so it's perfect timing to start again.

Finally the large pot and for this abromeitiella chlorantha had been set aside.


This plant was an offset from a clump split a few weeks back during some re-potting.  It already has new offsets forming, so should fill that pot out nicely over the next few years.

So there you have them, all planted and ready to be put somewhere they can be admired.


I like the little feet on the two larger ones, it helps ensure the pots dry out and stops the surface they sit on from getting that dirty pot mark. 

This is not the only purchase, there are a few more on there way from different locations around the world. Maybe at the end of the summer I'll do an update with all the pots and have a vote on which one works best.

The sad thing is, the whole reason for starting this search was to find two larger pots for specimen plants. A few purchases later, and some nice new pots, but nothing big enough for the plants I am looking for.   It seems like plant buying, often you end up with far more than you set out to look for.

Monday, 1 June 2015

If only.

The two aloes that are more commonly found in UK gardens are a. aristata and a. striatula. You would think a hybrid between them would be interesting.  I have only ever found one and sadly is doesn't look good.


This photo was taken a few years ago, but they haven't changed that much.  Maybe if they continue to grow they may do something.

You would think with those parents hardiness wouldn't be a problem.  Sadly it's not the case and they have proved not to be hardy even in my London garden.  About the only good thing about loosing them over winter is it forces them to offset and you get pups.

Obviously with the new dry bed, it had to be tried once more. Inevitably the result was the same, the stem rotted leaving this:


Not a surprise. Although the top can probably be re-rooted for a change. We only had -3c as the low, so it shows how little it has inherited in hardiness.

There are a good number of pups as well. There is change though, take a closer look at the pups.


Each is variegated to some degree.  Normally I would put this down to lack of light, but that can't be the case here.  It is not unheard of with succulents, they can often start off variegated just to build your hopes, then switch back to fully green.

So what are the chances even one of these will stay variegated.  The normal form may not be very interesting, a variegated one may just make up for that and warrant protecting over winter.