Monday, 1 September 2014

This aloe grows like a weed.

It seems to be an unspoken rule that plants you want to branch or offset don't, while those that you are less interested in spread quickly.  Aloes seem no different, and a. spinosissima variegata is definitely in the weed category.

This was it when purchased a couple of years ago, interesting but doesn't really stand out.  I hoped the variegation would get stronger in time, instead the plant offset.

And offset.

By now it was such a mess, even if any of the plants did have good variegation you couldn't tell.  So time to cut it up.

I couldn't decide how many to leave, in the end I went for the two largest plants and we'll see what happens.  Looking at it now, it probably would have been better as a single plant.

Cutting it up also provided a few spares.

The best variegated plant was pulled out as well, hopefully this one will continue to develop variegation where the others have failed.

If you need more proof of its weed-like status looking at the large plants today:

They could be roots, but looking closely the largest are already facing up and split to show what I think are the first leaves.

Now if only I could get my aloe purple flush to offset like this.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

The echeveria blues (and whites)

There is such a range of colours available in leaves, the stand out has to be the blue / white you get when bloom covers the leaves. In some plants it is more subtle

This echeveria Lau 165 is one of my favourites right now, it has formed such a tight clump that the size of the individual plants is much smaller than you would normally find. It has been repotted as it was overflowing the last one.  Hopefully it should fill the new pot in no time and has deliberately been planted slightly off centre to allow it to continue to grow over the edge.

Another pale echeveria is e. cuspidata var zaragoza.

It has been painfully slow to get going  but has finally started to form a good clump.

It is a very delicate little echeveria, the combination of the pale blue leaves with pink tips is great.

Then there are the very white plants which require "Do not touch" signs hung all around them.  The best are plants like e. cante, e. laui. One you see less often is e. John Catlin. 

Sadly you never see this plant for sale any more. Instead some of the American plants are making it over. This one is e. Mexican Giant

It is one of the new purchases this year. It is just getting started and looks really promising, the colour and leaf shape are great and if it lives up to its "giant" name then it may well become my favourite white echeverias.

Some of the other blue/white echeverias proving interesting at the moment are the cristates. 

This echeveria FO48 cristate is the more commonly seen crest shape. There are a few non-cristate heads on the left hand side which I really ought to remove to keep it growing properly.

A much more dramatic plant is the echeveria runyonii cv ' Topsy Turvy'  cristate.

It is not the best white colour, but the shape make it stand out.  It is rare to find cristate plants that are domed. This one is not perfect yet, but it is getting there.  I have left the normal heads on in some places and cut off others to encourage growth. I also have it growing where one side is dark to get different growth rates. So far it seems to be working and who knows I may manage to get my perfect dome cristate plant.

You can never have too many white plants in your collection, just keep those grubbing fingers off.

Sunday, 24 August 2014

Things not going according to plan with aloe ramosissima

A small branching aloe for people without space for the larger tree aloes. Although small is a relative term, this is not a dwarf aloe, it can get big. It first made the wants list having seen a lovely one at Kew Gardens.

You know that "small" term, it is not a big for this aloe being only about 1.5m across.  Having seen Kew's plant, it was only a matter of time until I bought it.

It all started well, with the plant branching nicely and showing real promise. At this point I thought I would plant it in a bonsai pot in the hope of keeping it small and displaying it nicely.

It looked great and for a short time everything was going according to plan. Looking back planting it in such a small pot, knowing my lack of watering, was a mistake and where everything went wrong.  Instead of getting the lovely branching bushy plant, it got leggy with few leaves. Today I decided to sort it out and think about what next. The old leaves were stripped off and while not an attractive plant it is interesting.

The lack of leaves is probably due to drying out, most likely with better watering and some food, these will return to being more leafy.  What was most interesting was how smooth the trunks are.

With the old leaves removed, the trunks are silky smooth and have an almost translucent look.

In the end the trunk made me hesitant to reach for the scissors.  No doubt I could cut off each head and plant them up to start again. Normally I would not have hesitated, but the plant looks so odd, it is almost appealing.

Ok so maybe not appealing, more of an oddity, I now want to see what happens with a bit of care. Ultimately it will probably end up being cut up, but there is no rush, lets wait and see what happens.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Aloe purple flush is my favourite plant in the garden this week

It was going to be another plant, photos taken all ready and then in the green house this evening the aloe purple flush was glowing.  It has been shouting for attention over the last few weeks and just keeps getting better. It seemed cruel to keep it waiting any longer. Sadly it is not one I know much about at all, if anyone reading this knows anything about it please comment as I would love to know more.

The photos don't do the colour justice, for part of the year is a great purple. Not the hint of purple some plants do, but full on purple.  This year for some reason instead of going back to green it has held the colour since spring.

The other thing that makes the plant stand out are the teeth along the leaf edge. There is a fine line of teeth along the edge, often these are doubles. They are bright red and look surprisingly good against the purple.  The leaves themselves are quite thick and stand out proud to the plant. The whole plant has a good robust look to it.

Sadly it is not a big offsetter, mine has produced one offset in 5 years, which could explain why you rarely see it for sale. Give the lack of spares I haven't test its hardiness yet and it is brought inside over winter. I am guessing it wont be at all hardy.

So there there you have aloe purple flush, my favourite plant this week, if you see one snap it up, you may not find it again.  

To see other peoples selection head over to Danger Garden blog to see what Loree and others have selected.

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

Time to cut up some plants.

It has been a summer of two halves weather wise; June & July were lovely and hot, then August arrived and it has been much colder and wetter.  So with wetter weather over the weekend it was time to rectify some of the neglect and get in the greenhouse.  With all the work going on with planting the succulent rockeries everything else has taken a back seat. First job to sort out some of the more unkempt plants.

Some like xGraptosedum 'Medterranean Mystery' have suffered from lack of water and low light. 

A hybrid apparently common in Europe it is a lovely little plant and quite tough.  I am trying one outside unprotected this winter as it is been fine under rain covers before.  As they grow they develop woody stalks and at some point they need to be tidied up. I simply cut all the heads off plant root them and bin the old plant.  It helps to keep them fresh and gives me new plants for swaps. I managed to get three pots like this one, so not going to go short next year.

That type of tidying was more common with the lack of care, here is echeveria corrinea x echeveira rosea before

Another branching hybrid with really god hardiness and flowers.  I really must take better care of it as when well looked after it is stunning.

I decided to leave the top section as one, next year will be the year I finally look after it properly. Then it can take a place in the rockery looking like the plant it should be.

In other cases it is more about getting more plants.  I grew a set of ech. subrigida x ech. peacocki from seed a couple of years ago.  The plants grew into several forms and I have been trying to get more of my favourite forms.

I love the red edges to this form and it has a good pale blue/white colour. Having top cut it last year, the offsets are now big enough to be taken off.

I am getting better at not rushing removing offsets, I'll leave the others until next spring and decide then if I want to grow them as a clump or cut them up as well.

It doesn't always go according to plan.  This is echeveria 'rainbow',

I top cut it last year to encourage offsets, which it did, only not quite as planned.

Yes there are lots of offsets, but all have become almost totally white. Looking at them I can't see any that I think would survive in their own.  I guess this one is staying as it is, while we wait and see what happens next. Hopefully they will develop more green and stems so they can be removed.

White offsets seem to be a trend at the moment.  Here is one of my echeveria 'Compton Carousel', I took all the lower leaves of at the end of last year to encourage offsets.

I like to call these pure white plants "ghosts", with no chlorophyll they will not survive on their own as they can not feed themselves.  It will be interesting to see if they do better as they are growing as branches of a plant.  Normally I top cut the plant and let the offsets take over, this one has been left and instead the three largest normal offsets removed and potted up.

I have so far always resisted selling these, I get asked a lot. Instead all the offsets are used as swaps and presents for friends.  I mentioned in the last post how I dread people turning up to my house with plants.  Strangely I have never had anyone look upset when I turn up with one of these as a little present.

Saturday, 16 August 2014

Eucomis vandermerwei is my favourite plant in the garden this week.

I always dread people buying me plants, what with having very specific taste, most of the common plants I want and little space, it doesn't lend itself to friends and family find things I needed. So it was an especially nice surprise when my parents dropped off this eucomis vandermerwei a few years back.  Most people seem to have at least one eucomis in their garden, as I did at the time. I had not heard of this one though, and in fact have yet to see it anywhere else. 

As you can see it is a lovely spotted form with very clear, defined purple spots on the leaves which tend to lie more prone to the ground.  What makes this form different is the size, it is one of the smallest forms and grows to around 10cm tall. My whole clump, which contains 5 plants, is only 15cm across. It really doesn't show up in photos, and needs to be seen in person to see how perfect a dwarf form it is.

It originates from a high rainfall South African mountain plateau, at altitudes of between 1700 and 2275 meters.  This makes is quite used to frosts, although sadly it needs to be kept on the drier side during the very cold weather to do best. Up until now my clump has been in a pot, but I am risking it in the ground where it will get a rain cover to keep the worst of the weather off

It flowers in August for me, with the main plant flowering every year. The offsets have yet to flower, but keeping it restricted in a pot may have slowed their growth.

Being so small, you have to get pretty close to see the flowers properly. It will be interesting to see if it works in the rockery, or if it gets lost.

So there you have eucomis vandermerwei my favourite plant this week.  Head over to Lorees blog Danger Garden to see other selections.

Tuesday, 12 August 2014

Watering by tropical storm

One of the things that makes the UK so strange climate wise is the influence of the jet stream. One of the aspects of this is that tropical storms move from across the Atlantic often end up here. This weekend it was the turn of hurricane Bertha. By the time it reached the UK it was no longer classified as a hurricane but still managed 50mph winds and lots of rain.  This was the first real rain we have had in weeks, so was welcome especially as the keen eyed among you will have noticed that the turf is down on the lawn, changing it from this:

To this:

I know lawns are not to every-ones liking, but for the time being this fills the space and gives the dog something to play on. Then in the future as the garden develops and the garage is pulled down it can slowly be reviewed with the final design.

The planting up has continued with some more sensible plants than the variegated aloe saponaria from the last post (found here). In the end the agave parrasana minor did go in and will just be covered with rain cover over winter.

The echeveria roseas have been removed as they really didn't work, more on that in another post. In their place goes agave ovatifolia.

It is going to be interesting how his one does. There are very few planted out in he UK, mainly because larger plants have not been available.  It should be fine, but the interesting bit is going to be how much damage it suffers or if like a. montana and a. bracteosa it sails though. 

Next up were a couple of echeverias, firstly e. black prince.  This was planted out in the last garden, so is proven to be fine.  The other is a really nice little hybrid sent to me by a lovely echeveria collector who has the most amazing collection.  Echeveria FO48 x echeveria elegans

Not the best photo, it is a small freely clump forming plant with a good white colour.  Apparently it is also proved to be hardy else where.  As it clumps easily, there are spares and this group could go in as a test. It would be amazing if the reports are true and another echeveria can be added to the hardy list.

The first cacti have also been added, there are a couple of planters full that have been left unprotected for the last few years, these seemed obvious contenders for spaces.  This oroya peruviana will stay nice and compact so shouldn't cause problems at the front of the rockery.

Having planted all this up, and done a fair amount of repotting for those staying in pots, everything was left to be watered. It seems appropriate that these plants originating from the other side of the Atlantic, got watered by the remains of a tropical storm.