Thursday, 29 May 2014

Some goodies from the greenhouse

It has been horrible weather over the last few days, so it was nice to spend a bit of time in the greenhouse after work. Most things are fully into growth and starting to look good.  My replacement aloe suprafoliata is now in full juvenile form.

It will stay in this form until it flowers for the first time at which point it will start to spiral and will end up looking like my original plant.

I'm still upset to have lost the original plant, it will be years before my current one gets anywhere near as nice.  It seems to divide opinion: a lot of people prefer the juvenile form and are upset when it spirals, I much prefer the adult form. 

The miniature aloes tend to go a little wild at this time of year.  My clump of aloe viper is a decent size now. It's not the best for keeping its colour in the UK, probably needs stronger light.

I am undecided if I want to keep it as a single plant or clump, no doubt it will be a spur of the moment decision next time it gets repotted.

Last but by no means least is the largest pot of echeveria 'Compton Carousel'.  Having got leggy last winter, it produced lots of pups on the stem and for once I was able to restrain from cutting them off.  The plan is to find a nice pot and plant it in a mini landscape. I will probably cut the parent plant off at the same time, unless it would work grown up a rock.

Now we are a bit more settled in the house, I will hopefully be able to split my time between working on the garden and taking care of the plants in pots.

Monday, 26 May 2014

Let the garden fun begin

Yes the builders are gone! Well technically they have a couple of jobs in the front garden and to touch up paintwork, but the back garden it totally clear so we can actually start thinking about it being a garden again. Forget the shiny new kitchen, heating and all the other stuff, I can get to the greenhouse and water the pots.

After they left on Friday, this is what we were left with.

After the shock of actually having a garden that wasn't full of rubbish, or having builders everywhere a weekend of fencing was planned.  It was a bank holiday in the UK, so three days to get it all done, protected and maybe start loosening the soil. 

Saturday morning, it was clear that it was going to be a typical UK bank holiday with lots of rain. Between showers we only managed two panels on the neighbours side, not quite the first day we had planned.

Sunday was better and it was due to be clear, so we went for it.

Road side done, onto finishing the one with the neighbours. Legally I can build fences up to about 2.4m high, but always feel it is rude not to take the neighbours views into account. Lets face it as gardeners, light is extremely important to most of us, so can I really take all the light form someone's garden. We agreed privacy by the house would be good, but that they would prefer lower fences with trellis for the rest. 

Ideally I would have continued the high fences another panel, especially given the cherry tree (don't get me started on that one).

Sadly that was it for the garden as on Monday it rained, and rained .......

Not quite as productive as I would have liked, but to have the whole garden fenced, to be able to see the size and how it works with the new bits is a start.  My thoughts for the design are getting there and everything is looking good for a summer of gardening. Even I would struggle to make the garden look worse than it does at the moment.

Although one full day of shifting piles of fencing, hammering and garden clearing was probably not the most gentle way back into gardening after a year off.

Tuesday, 20 May 2014

A day in the green house

I had a great time in the green house over the weekend starting the job of re-potting. I did a lot last year, so not everything needs doing, but there are still quite a few plants that need more space or that I want to combine into planters. Starting with a couple of the agaves. This one is a compact form of agave parrasana. It has the word "minor" in the name but I'm not sure if that is official or just to say it stays smaller.

One of the variegated filiferas, the two offsets appeared last year and have done really well. This was potted into a larger bowl with the hope of creating a more natural looking landscape clump. 

The problem is what to add to make it stand out. I had a look through my small rocks and can not find a nice one. Where do you find get really good rocks from, maybe a bit of volcanic pumice or something a little different.

The main focus for the day were the haworthias I bought on my last tip and those that have been sitting around since last year. I have quite a few now and thought I would try a haworthia bowl. Originally this was going to be purely the dwarf haworthias, but  thought it needed a bit of height.

I don't like the gravel, like the agave it needs something to make the plants really stand out. The two forms of H. parksiana (if they are really different), are cute little things and I can't wait to see how they develop.

Does anyone else notice that the plants they buy tend to cluster around certain looks. As the potting continued I noticed a certain trend in the type of plant. This is aloe harworthioides, I love the almost furry look to it.

Then aloe haworthioides x descoingsii, slightly more spiny this time

I think I am going to have to change the gravel in this one, the plant has vanished. It is even worse from above.

There are two or three other plants with a very similar look. Thankfully the the next one was at least slightly different, haworthia acuminata "white ghost".

I am not a massive fan of this form of haworthia, I know people go mad for them and there are a lot of different varieties.  The variegation on this one was too nice to pass up, so it managed to sneak in.

It was lovely to be out pottering around the green house again.  The plants are starting to be moved into their summer locations, even if those going outside are only somewhere temporary. A few more days should see all the potting up done for this year, then I just need to find some nicer top dressing and some good stones to set the plants off.

Monday, 19 May 2014

The cacti are back

Many of my cacti flower early and this year has been particularly good. Last years star shows signs of being even better this year.  I must try and dig out a name for it.

I seem to remember that last year the colour got stronger as they opened. It is also good as the flowers last for almost a week, instead of a day or so.

The next one is a first for me, oroya peruviana, delicate waxy flowers on this one. 

Then the mass of flowers which are the rebutias, this one is rebutia x aylostera

The only problem with rebutias is that while they always flower well, sadly the flowers don't last long, only a day or so, so there is a short period when they look this good.

It is good to be out in the green house again.

Saturday, 17 May 2014

Straight in at the deep end.

Having not been able to garden so far, I finally got into the greenhouse and started the re-potting.  It is typical that we had an early spring and it is only now I have been able to even start on the pots.  There was to be no gentle break in, the first job was to sort the largest echeveria agavoides ebony. 

I spotted that a couple of the lowers leaves did not look great a month or so ago. I treated them but it has got much worse and there was no choice but to operate.  Top cutting should stop the spread and while it will set the plant back this year, at least there will still be a plant.  First stage was to remove the lower leaves.

It gives a chance to remove the pups I guess, these will still be kept as a group, as I want a large clump of these.  Having exposed the stem and felt that it seemed solid, it was time to cut the top off.

The stem seems good, so it will be rested on the bench for a few days and then potted up with the  pups.  If all goes according to plan it should be rooted and back into growth in a couple of months giving it time to have put on a bit size ready for next winter.

It is never nice cutting up a prized plant, but sometimes it can't be helped.

Wednesday, 14 May 2014

A major case of plant and gaden envy

One of the main reasons for the weekend in Norwich was to visit Keith and Melissa's garden.  I have posted about it a few times before, mainly here and here. Melissa makes my obsession look like a passing interest, there are succulents EVERYWHERE. Mind you it helps when you have so much space to plant them out not to mention one or two greenhouses.

This is not exactly the best time to visit her garden, the covers have only just come off, and the jungle and fern areas have yet to fill out.  Given the mild winter and early spring it was however looking the best I have seen it on these early tips.

So starting in the cactus house. Lots of very happy plants in here.  It has filled out a bit since the last visit, but there is still space for a few more plants.

This aeonium looks really strange, it seems to be forming new heads, but the rosettes are not opening. I don't think it is a weird flower. 

I have a massive soft spot on this form of agave titonata.  It has a great colour and lots of good teeth and who wouldn't want one that size! Sadly they are not at all hardy and space limits what I can bring inside.

This variegated aloe arborescens is one of the plants that got me totally hooked.  Years ago now, she posted a picture of it and it was love at first sight.   It should have formed an amazing clump by the end of the summer. The cacti on the right  reminds me of "cousin it" from the adams family.

She has recently started planting up unusual pots to enter into her local cactus and succulent society meetings. Apparently no one else does, so she always wins.  This tea cup is one of her larger ones. Her latest was an tiny snail shell.

The cactus house is on the edge of sunken garden.  Both were finished last summer and the mild winter was a welcome break to allow the plants more chance to settle.

The dalmatian puppies are all grown up, but still have their puppy energy. Apparently they are not ones for sticking to the paths and have formed their own tracks through the undergrowth.  Thankfully the sunken garden is mainly dog proof. There are so many lovely plants there including this aloe polyphylla.  It is strange that some spiral young and others take a lot longer (mine seem to be taking their time as well).

The cycad corner still looks great. I can't wait to get my cycads in the ground like this, almost more than anything they add an exotic look.

One of her larger agave parrasana which is almost perfect. It is a good combination with the ice plant and looks really blue against the bright green.

Typically Melissa got there first on the pines, although we have spoken about them before, so maybe I can claim she stole my idea. This dwarf blue one looks great, there are a few around the garden, explaining why Urban Jungle didn't have any when I was looking for them.

The other greenhouses are still in winter mode, so it would be unfair to post any photos in there, instead moving onto the main succulent plantings. Melissa has been trying to convert me to having some cacti outside and this one shows why. It is amazing what you can grow with a simple rain cover for protection.

At this time of year there is a lot of colour, from the alpines.

I am so jealous of these mounds, there are a few scattered around which are all doing well. I keep killing mine, maybe they don't cope with my flood or drought type watering.

Onto the bank and some of the agaves are a really decent size now.  Last summer and the mild winter means there are all in good shape. I am certain it makes a massive difference to hardiness if plants have a good summer to put on some growth and then a gradual led into the cold giving them a chance to shut down.

One of her groups of agave montana, I thought mine looked good, these are even better. I am guessing they must be some of the biggest in the UK.

Back towards the sunken garden on the middle path and there are more pines.  Are you seeing how well they work yet?

If you don't like the blue creeping forms, you can go for one of the cone or bush shapes.

Finally my favourite yucca this year. It is strange I usually just walk past this one, but this year have added it to my list of plants to find.

The middle path takes you via the green roof which was already looking good.  The alpines are just getting going here.

It is always worth the drive to visit the garden and Melissa and Keith are great hosts.  My only complaint is the plant and general garden envy I always leave with.

To finish a couple more pictures of the dogs, I know there are a few dog lovers who look in.

Tuesday, 13 May 2014

A little retail therapy

It was time for my annual trip to Norfolk to visit Keith and Melissa and their wonderful garden and to do a bit of plant shopping.  This is always one of the highlights of the year, a lovely garden to look around and visiting a few cactus and independent nurseries. This year more than ever I needed some plant therapy to get to my mind off not being able to get in the garden.

I'll come back to Melissa's garden in another post. Over the weekend we visited the largest cactus mart of the year, Hyde Hall (one of the RHS gardens) and a couple of local nurseries. First up was the cactus mart and most people agreed that the setting was far from ideal. Everyone tends to tun up ready for opening, the hall wasn't large and so it was a bit of a scrum as everyone tried to get the choice pants.

It was much more enjoyable once the rush had died down and there was space to take you time and enjoy each stand.  Many of the sellers had brought multiples of plants, so kept re-filling the empty spaces, and it was worth returning to each stand to see what had been placed out since your last look.

I was quite restrained and didn't buy everything I liked the look of.  Most of plants were small so it was easy to transport them home. Having said "no more white echeverias", I did cave and bought two.  I can never resist when I see them, despite knowing that they are a pain to keep in top condition and need to be inside to keep their colour.

Ask if you want photos of individual plants.

Next up was a trip to Hyde Hall.  It was the wrong day to visit this garden; it is very open and on a windy day was a little blustery.  Most of the garden was not my style, there were a few areas I liked.

In one section a group of flower spikes caught my eye. On close inspection I found they were eremurus robustus, having seen the size of the leaves on mine, I had wondered if the flowers would be a dramatic. They do not disappoint.

The real area of interest was the gravel garden

I haven't visited many RHS gardens, but they seem to have good nurseries.  For some reason their alpine sections have always been well stocked with some choice plants.

It is always good to find a large number of named sempervivum varieties and added a few to my collection, so I will have to revive sempervivum sundays.

That was it for the Saturday, then on Sunday it was time for the local nurseries.  Having visited the local chain, it was off to Urban Jungle . This is one of my favourite nurseries and it gets better every year.  They started, as the name suggests, with a the majority of plants being aimed at exotic garden styles.  With the bad winters they have evolved and now the exotics are mixed in with choice plants from other styles of gardening.

One of the highlights of visiting is seeing the plants in beds, it is a great way to show how good plants are, or how they may be used in the garden, they also have two great green walls.  This is the original one and it continues to do well. The new indoor one is planted with broms

The main greenhouse is lovely to walk around,

You can stop and look at the koi

And if you want to relax you can get a drink and collapse in one of the seating areas.

Liz who runs it, seems good a picking up on trends in both plants and was of gardening. It was great to see a good selection of pines, both dwarf and larger forms.  I will never understand the resistance to these plants, I guess it's fall out from the laylandii hedges that were so popular in the UK until their true size became obvious.  I think they are perfect in gravel beds planted among succulents and the new garden gives me an ideal opportunity to include some.

Then there are the trends in planting, Kokedama seems to increasingly popular.  Liz has them scattered throughout the nursery

Anyone in the UK interested finding out more about Kokedama, UJ are are holding a demonstration on the 1st of June, details can be found here. There is also an edible jungle, but at this time of year it is just being planted and so not worth photographing.

Obviously the true test of a good nursery is if you leave with any purchases,  which I always do.  This time was slightly different as with a whole garden to fill, it was not the usual spikie plants I was after.

The cinodendron hookerianum (chinese lantern tree) was a suggestion for the shade garden.  I have been looking for plants to espalier and someone suggested it may be something different to try.  I also picked up a couple of different arisaemas, again it was great to see several varieties available.

Here is everything, sorry for the elongated line up, my neighbours little girl loves to come over and help when I am in the garden and she decided the plants had to be lined up to display them.

All said, a very successful weekend of shopping, with something for my obsession and a few things ready for when I can get planting in the garden.