Friday, 23 September 2011

Another first: Dykia marnier-lapostollei

Dyckias are an unusual group of plants, most with lethal rows of teeth along the leaf margins.  I have had dyckia 'morris hobbs' for a few years now and I get more cuts from this one plant than almost all my others put together. A garden full of these really would be a dangerous place!  For me the true stars of the are the silver varieties. Unlike the agaves and echeverias, the silver colour is not due to a powder that washes off, so the plants can be handled without spoiling the look. Which is lucky given the number of grubby fingers that seem unable to resist reaching out to touch them. Probably the best (at least of the available plants) is dyckia marnier-lapostollei, a beautiful silver star. Sadly there is a large demand for the few plants available in the UK and they tend to go for stupid money. It took me a couple of years to finally get one, I was kindly given it as an un-rooted offset last year and have been nurturing it ever since.  This was it at the start of the summer:

This year it has grown at a good rate and is now showing the traits that make this plant stand out form the crowd.

I would have been happy with just the amount of growth from this year.  I kept it in the shed in full sun, and it obviously appreciated the extra warmth. We can do that in the UK as our temperatures are not too hot  and the sun is not as strong.  It is suppose to burn in stronger sun, something to watch out for. This one has done so well it has produced its first offset. These come out from between the leaves,  so can not be removed without taking the plant out of the pot.  I don't want to risk this one so I will leave it on until at least spring, something I am finally getting better at doing.

It is amazing to think that these beautiful plants are a totally natural species, it would be amazing to see them in their natural habit in Brazil.  But for now, this one in London will continue to be pampered, at least for another year.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

New offsets: variegated aloe spaonaria

Todays plant is my variegated aloe saponaria, another of my favourites and first time off-setters. The mum has been getting better every year and is a beautiful lopsided plant.

The non-variegated plant is considered one of the more hardy aloes and pups nicely.  I have not been brave enough to test the variegated version, but who knows with spares I may be tempted. It would be nice if they would at least survive in an unheated greenhouse, as it is getting a bit big to bring in.  

The pups on this one were not really a surprise as the shoots were there when I re-potted it earlier in the year.  The only question was going to be the level of variegation as it should reflect the side of the plant they come off.  Typically the first one to appear is off the all white side, so like the last post, this one may not be able to survive on its own.  There is hope though as the pup seems more yellow and I am hoping that as new leaves develop they will have a little more green.

Time will tell and if it doesn't develop more green, then there is plan B, as there are at least 3 more coming off different sides. At least one of them must have the level of variegation I am after.  It's good to have a back up plan!

Sunday, 18 September 2011

It's pupping season: agave kissho kan

It is that time of year again, looking around the pots at the end of the summer, checking for problems and looking for signs of new offsets.  While I know summer is almost over, finding new pups is one of the highlights of the year and helps to extend that summer feeling for as long as possible.  For some plants this is a regular occurance, for others it is a first and these are extra special.  Instead of tryign to cram them all into one post, I thought I would show them one by one, giving each plant an chance to star.

Today it is agave potatorum 'kissho kan'  a plant I have raved about before.  This year both the variegated and normal plant have produced offsets for the first time. The pups on the normal form are not that interesting to look at, but the mum is quite something.  I mentioned in the last post how quickly they grow and this summer has been no exception, despite the lack of any real warmth.  

Now the variegated form is a different matter.  The rate of growth is the same, but its first pup has decided to turn up totally white. As variegation is the absence of chlorophyl the more variegated the plant the slower the growth.  Plants without any green at all can not feed themselves and so have to stay connected to the mother and even then I have heard they hardly ever survive for long. Sometimes the pup will be yellow, which means it has a chance, but a totally white one is probably not going to last long. So seeing this is mixed feelings.

It's only chnace is if I leave it, but the longer it grows the slower the mum will be.  It will also spoil the symetrical look of the pot, which is one of the good things about these plants.  On the other hand if it survived for a little while, enough time to take on the form of the adult plant, an all white plant would be something to see.

Given it is coming up to winter, thankfully there is no rush to decide.  It may all work itself out by spring and so until then I will just enjoy the plant maybe giving it the name agave potatorum 'kissho kan ghost'.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Spikies from out of the blue

I have been absent for a couple of weeks, enjoying my summer holiday on a beautiful Greek island. If there is one thing that could get me more obsessed than my plants, it's the oceon. I have always loved it, the sounds, the smells. Being on it, under it doesn't really matter.  For me there is nothing like it.  The sea in Paxos was crystal clear and while there was sadly not a huge amount of fish, being able to see so far in into the depths made snorkling every day a pleasure.

But even in this underwater world there were spikies to attract me, in the form of sea urchins.  Finding there shells was like looking for treasure as a kid.  Each one you saw and dove down to collect was a treat.  In many respects they mirror what I love in my plants; the symetry, and structure to each one.  Even the lines formed as the urchin grows are perfect geometric shapes.  We collected almost 100 shells in the end (all empty when we found them, we left the harvesting as a delicacy to the locals) and have a few project planned for them.

But now it is back to the plants and I need a good look around at how they have coped without me.  So it will be back to the more normal spikies for the next post.