Wednesday, 29 September 2010

They're big up north

I have just returned from visiting another succulent fan (mentioned, or blamed here as a fellow addict).  It is always a pleasure to see his garden and I am always amazed at how much growth he gets from his plants in one summer, given that he is not exactly in the warmest part of the UK.
This trip was no exception and it was great to visit at the end of summer for a change as I usually visit in Spring before things get going. The beds are full of large clumps of echeverias and he has not put away all the pots yet so there are rows of aeoniums which are getting to be some size!  Aeoniums are something we both struggle with, not because they are hard to grow quite the contrary in fact, but because they almost without fail can not cope below -4 and so have to be overwintered either in a heated greenhouse or inside.  This is fine when small, but when they get to this size of these they take up a lot of space.  I have cut my selection down to 3 or 4 which are small enough to be brought in and interesting enough to warrant the space. I am hoping he doesn't cut his down too much as I want to see how big these get!

The other good/bad thing about going up to visit him is seeing the different plants in person instead of on a websites. It is very easy to avoid buying plants when you don't know they exist, but wondering around his greenhouse I always find a few new plants that I didn't know I needed until then and have to be added to my list of plants to find. Often he has offered me an offset in the past which I have turned down because the pictures on the web didn't look that special.

Then there are the offsets that I have been eagerly waiting to be big enough for him to remove. This trip two were ready and so I can a couple more off my list.  I have had my eye on this little haworthia attenuata variegate for a couple of years, but the pups have been painfully slow to develop.  So it is very exciting to finally get one to the size where it was allowed to be taken off and come home with me.  The second one, agave titonata variegate was a bit of a surprise.  I will admit that I have been coveting his main plant since he got it,  so letting me have the offset is probably as much self preservation as anything else. Both plants are now happily in their new homes and will be pampered over this winter.

Unfortunately he keeps far too close an eye on me while I am there, and so I have yet to be able to smuggle any plants out without him knowing. But there is always next time!

Sunday, 26 September 2010

Little rays of sunshine

Agave Parviflora
I spend a lot of time just pottering in the garden,  watching the bees trying to get in the echeveria and aloe flowers and generally just admiring the plants.  I can do this for hours and I tend to get more enjoyment out of the detail in individual plants than from looking at the garden as a whole. Most of the time this is probably because the garden is going through a re-design so there is not much to look at in the ground and it is a mess, but on sunny days the plants can literally shine.

I love the way the light catches the edges of this agave and causes the thin strip between the leaf and the spines to glow.

Mind you looking at the rest of the photo perhaps I need to spend less time admiring the plants and more time cleaning some windows!

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Order please

Visited RHS Wisley at the weekend and I got to wander through their lovely little apline houses.  I love these, with their brick beds and pots surrounded by sand, they are so neat and ordered.  One of the nice things is the rotation of plants, so with every visit the plants are different. Of course this means that for every perfectly formed alpine house there is probably a large dis-ordered storage green house full of  plants waiting for their chance to star.

I am not the only one who likes this area,  there is the famous cat that has caused so much trouble digging things up through the years.

But who can blame it for when there are such sunny, if a little spiky, places to relax the days away.

Friday, 3 September 2010

What came first the pup or the pot?

I mentioned in an earlier post how exciting it is when you find a pup on a plant, so was a good day again today when I found a pup on my agave filifera cross.

The pup is a long way from being ready to take off and I am determined to actually show some restraint for once. (Usually I take the pup off too early as I get impatient).  I am not sure if it is the challenge, wanting spares, or part of the obsession, but I tend to get carried away and propagate more than I need.  Even with plants I already have spares for, each time a leaf falls off I put it to one side to see if it will root.

I have never noticed how many plants I actually propagate, until looking at my empty pots pile I noticed I only had 10.  This may not seem very significant, but I bought 200 pots at the start of july, and I am not sure how or where but I have filled 190 of them, mostly by propagating. Admittedly I am very pleased with my little nursery area, watching them grow and there is something very satisfactory about how neat they all are.

My OH will laugh very loudly when she reads this, but I don't like mess and it is one of the reasons I like succulents, their very neat symmetrical form.  Strangely I don't find pots messy, especially not when they can be lined up like this.  But I am starting to worry that I have more varieties of plant each year, and this means more propagation opportunity, so if I managed 190 this year how many next year?

I am still not sure if I propagate plants because I have spare pots, or I buy pots to allow me to propagate, but maybe you can have too many pots.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

The joys of a dyslexic mind

I might as well admit to being very dyslexic, as it will not be too long before everyone spots it anyway. I am lucky in that it only really affects my spelling, ability to write coherently and to recall names. So I apologise now for all the spelling and grammatical mistakes I will make here. In fact thinking about it,  this blog was a really stupid idea.
Out of the three, the names issue is the most embarrassing.  Many people have trouble with names, and so tend to forgive you if your forget their name if you have just met.  Much more embarrassing is not being able to recall names that you know but may not use all the time. It never looks good if you can't think of a friend or colleague's name having known them for years.  Strangely certain names seem worse than others, there are people who almost every time I have to think of their name it is just not there, thankfully my wife's name is not one of them  and I have only not been able to recall it once, and that was not long after we had started going out! (although we had known each other for about 6 years by then.)  Yes, I'm as surprised as anyone that she continued to go out with me. Most of the time there are ways around it, just never ask me to describe an episode of a soap as you end up with a lengthy description of  "that woman, who is dating the guy who works in the garage. You know the one that is friends with the guy that is the son of the women who used to be in the carry on films".
This does of course impact on my love of succulents and partly explain why all my plants are labelled.  I think most visitors to my garden have got used to me pausing for a while when they ask the name of a plant.  Sometimes I manage to dig it out and when I can't there is the label to fall back on. Unfortunately there is no getting around the names, botanical or not, that people decide to give plant. I mean agave Guadalajarana, how many As does one name need! And as if the names weren't hard enough in the first place you then have constant name changes and reclassifications to cope with.
One thing that always surprises me is how worked up people get about names in the succulent field (I am sure it is the same else where, I just don't notice) I agree getting names correct is important, but given most nurseries often sell plants under old names (let along wrong names) it doesn't seem to me the end of the world if someone says agave celsii instead of the new (or original name depending on how you look at it) agave mitis. Given that the BCSS seems in need of recruiting young people, it hardly encourages even someone like myself to join if instead of concentrating on the plants all the fuss is on spelling.
Speaking personally the interesting bit is the plants, I don't really care what it is called. Something tells me a job in botany is not for me.