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".

Monday, 16 February 2015

New year and new part of the garden

It is already the middle of Feb so this is probably the latest new year post on record, but those that have been following for a while will know I tend to hybernate over winter and loose all interest in plants.  The plants have been left to get on with it, the greenhouse all shut up and those inside the house watered once just to keep them going.

Then a few sunny, warmer days and it starts to feel like there may be an end to winter and the interest in plants returns again. It is a strange time, on the one front starting to thing of warmer days while knowing that it could and probably will go back to being cold with lots more frosts. On warm day though you have to get out and start exploring the garden again, looking at how the plants are doing and starting to make plants for the coming year.

This is year along side the spikie stuff, the rest of the garden needs to be sorted including the shade area. Strangely the first purcaseof the year was therefore not spikie at all but these. These were partly presents from friends and family who over the last year have been giving me I.O.Us and put together they added up to a fair amount of mystery package.

I am guessing most people may be able to guess they are tree fern trunks.  In the UK it is so much cheaper to buy unrooted trunks like this. A lot of frequent watering and they should soon send out their new fronds, assuming we don't have an extended cold period that is.

It is going to be interesting working on a whole different type of rockery, creating a shade area with lush greenery and hopefully som einteresting underplanting.

I'll save the unwrapping on here, until I start on the planting. But don't worry, while there will be the posts on the other parts of the garden, there are no plans to stop the succulent developements as well. I have a whole front garden to play with!

Thursday, 16 October 2014

Bulbine latifolia really coming good.

These have been out of danger for a few year now, it was just a waiting game until they started to live up to their potential. The original post (found here) explained that one of the reasons I love them is the constant stream of flowers.  Last year they produced their first flowers but these were small and short lived.

This year they have started to come into their own. The first plant flowered in June sending up two flower spikes. The flowers were much better but are not very long lived, they get through those flowers at an amazing rate.

The second saved itself until the end of the summer with a good flower spike starting about a month ago. This is a much stronger plant, it was probably the one kept in a warm location last winter. It has been out on the bank for the summer soaking up the sun and seems to have enjoyed it.

The plant is quite aloe like in appearance, although the leaves are a little more fleshy.

The flowers are very delicate

As if I wasn't happy enough with a good plant and flowers, it got better when looking at the plant over the weekend I noticed another flower stalk starting.

The plant was brought inside where it can be admired over winter and the new stalk has continued to grow strongely.  At kew they seem to flower constantly, I am hopig this is the sign of the things to come.  It would be great to have one plant in flower most of the year, even if swapping between the two. 

Now I just need to sort out a nice pot and pursuade the OH that they look great in front of the patio doors. Surely that is why we built the lovely bright kitchen diner with lots of glass to let the sun in.

Sunday, 12 October 2014

It couldn't last forever.

Autumn is here and with it, the knowledge that the succulents need to be got ready for winter.  It has been so mild that it is tempting not to do anything yet, but this has caught people out before when a sudden cold spell appeared from nowhere.

The main succulent bed is looking great, things still in flower and everything looking like it has enjoyed the summer.  I am not going to protect much at all this year at least until forecasts confirm it will be a bad winter.

Can you spot the winter protection in the photo?  You need to look closely.  Maybe a close up.

This is one of the cloches I made a few years, back.  I can't believe how perfectly it fits there and not only that it looks like it will be bale to protect the agave parrasana for a few years yet. It is always a worry planting a new succulent bed up and getting it through the first winter.  It has been the perfect summer to get it settled so most of the plants should be fine.  If we have any cold weather forecast then I'll throw some fleece over everything, especially to keep snow off.

I have yet to decide if I am going to put the usual cold frame up, or where to put it up in the new garden.  It would be great on the patio by the kitchen wall, lots of extra heat but will be in the way.  In the mean time I have put a little greenhouse in the greenhouse. The main greenhouse is not at all insulated or warm it is mainly just to keep things dry, this will give a bit more protection.

There is still so much flowering in there it is lovely spend time cleaning up.  Currently these are plants that are either cold hardy if dry, or seeing if space will appear somewhere warmer. The lucky plants have been brought in.  It has still to be decided how to use the new bits of the house, plants wise that is.  Amazingly my lovely OH has agreed I can put this light frame up and put some more plants in front of the of the patio doors.

The lights allow me to store more echeverias inside, they tend to get leggy if not careful and the lights avoid that.  All of this looks very amateur compared to everyone else's amazing winter storage solutions and the amazing amounts they cram in your houses.

It's not to say there are not plants in the house, the windowsills are al full

One of the best things about the new build is that the windowsills are all extra deep.  This means I can get much bigger pots on them.  Mind you don't tell the OH that, not sure she would agree it was the best thing.

No doubt there will be a few changes between the different locations as the final set of plants get located.  There are always some that get missed and need more protection. Now all we need is a mild winter.