Saturday, 7 May 2016

Awesome succulent garden visit

I'd recently arranged a plant swap with a local succulent grower Christine (another Facebook contact...yay for Facebook!!), and on Friday past I got the opportunity to drop off the plants with her.
From seeing the pictures that she had shared online I was really looking forward with great anticipation to seeing what she was growing.
Arriving at the front of he lovely red brick house I was greeted by this planter, so I knew things would be good. 
These Echeveria stay out all year, and from what I could see they are also growing in shade which was interesting.

Christine has already started planting out her succulents for the summer, which has meant a bit of covering and uncovering with horticultural fleece to protect from the occasional low temperatures that we can still experience.
It was an incredibly sunny day (quite warm and sheltered in her walled garden) which made taking pictures on my phone difficult.

 Many plants are in the ground, but at least as many if not more are displayed in containers.

I'm not even gonna attempt to name most of the succulents, I'm never going to remember what they're all called, but I'll attempt some of them.

An upcycled display created to show off some of her collection.

Aeonium 'Zwartzkop' is so common these days it's easy to almost overlook it, but it's such a good dooer and a great dark colour.

'scuse my shadow...

Loved this container of Echeveria 'Purle Von Nurnberg'/'Duchess of Nuremberg'

Graptoveria 'Fred Ives', a new favourite of mine! These are a hybrid cross between Graptopetalum and Echeveria, chop the names in half, and stick then them together and you get Graptoveria!

One of the curly leaved Echeverias, stunning.

Rhodiola, a hardy little succulent.


Echeveria 'Black Prince'??

The orange pot and steely blue leaved Echeveria provides an inspired colour combination.

Attached to the house is a covered growing area, in which Christine overwintere plants
including the Jade plant, Crassula, which is enormous, and I'm jealous!
Awesome choice of colour on the rear wall too!

I didn't leave empty handed of course, gardeners are such generous people.
So many young plants that I'm going to have great fun with this summer when thinking up uses and combinations.

I hope to be able to revisit again in late summer to see how the plants which Christine has planted in the ground have grown and flourished. 
I find that they relish getting their roots down into real soil and grow so much more luxuriantly than when confined to a pot.
I can't wait to get back!

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Getting Canna seeds goin'.

Many Cannas, especially those bought as tubers in spring are infected with virus, which cause poor distorted growth, marked leaves and flowers. It'll spread like wildfire to any other Cannas you grow, if you're lucky enough to have uninfected plants. See this earlier post.
One way around this is to grow them from seed, though of course the plants won't be anything like the showy named hybrids, but the species varieties hold a certain charm of their own.

Last autumn I was sent seed of a species Canna from the states by a Facebook contact (what did we ever do before the time when the internet connected us with plant lovers all over the world??)
I held off planting them up until spring was well under wayas I don't have additional heat, seeds are started in the house where light conditions aren't brilliant.
It was supposedly given the name Canna compacta var. cinnabarina by Yuccado Nursery but is actually C. indica var. Maculata.

Canna seeds have incredibly hard outer coats, so tough that they have supposedly been used as shot during the Indian mutiny when the soldiers ran out of bullets. Urban legend? I dunno.
I used nail clippers to nick the seed coat, just enough so that some of the white endosperm can be seen, but not deep enough to cause damage to it.
I then put them in water and place in warm conditions, near the hot water tank in my house. I then change the water daily so ensure that it doesn't get the chance to go stagnant.
Within a couple of days many begin to sprout with a small white radicle (embryonic root) pokes through. 

After another couple of days when over half have sprouted I remove them from the water and plant them in modules

The modular seed tray then goes back into warm conditions for a few days, it's not long before they poke their heads through the soil surface.

It's then time to move them into bright conditions, so far I'd say I've had about 75-80% successful germination with this batch of seed.
A count yesterday showed 48 young seedlings. Plenty to grow on for myself, as well as loads to share with friends and use in plant swaps.

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

In which Benson the destroyer wreaks havoc and other general maintenance takes place

Looking suitably sheepish, as well he should. 

It's self explanatory really, he chews things. 

So far he has got through half a Schefflera aff. brevipediculata, demolished a Pseudopanax lateus, pulled over the winter protection constructed around Musa basjoo, in doing so snapped the overwintered stem cleanly at the base. 
He had munched on Carex 'Everillo' leaving it looking like a balding middle aged rock band roadie. So on Sunday it got a thorough cutting back, not ideal with an evergreen sedge, but needs must.
Yet, he's worth the damage.

You know how it goes, you start one job then notice another that needs done. Astelia 'Red Devil' and the nearby 'Westland' needed a bit of a going over to remove dead growth. I find that it's not immediately apparent that there's much in there but when you start pulling dead leaves then you see more and more that need to be tugged out, along with all the leaves from nearby trees that get caught in the crown.

Increasing numbers of winter weary leaves become apparent to the now critical eye that has been somewhat lacking in focus for some months. The secateurs are fetched and the satisfying slice of blades cutting through succulent fleshy stems of Farfugium and the firm leaf bases of Trachycarpus wagnerianus bring contentedness, work continues and the ever increasing pile of discarded leafage grows.

We are avid composters in our house, (though without being irritatingly evangelical about it) but the volume of material produced on Sunday would have overwhelmed our small composting bin, so off to the municipal composting facility it must go. 
An exotic selection of foliage fills the brown bin and a feeling of something worthwhile achieved fills the gardener.

Monday, 4 April 2016

Succulent stock take

'Grow plants suited to your conditions'. 
That's what we're always told. I get it, it makes sense. I want to grow things that thrive. 
But I make an exception for succulents. 
Green and lush Ireland isn't quite the place that springs to mind when someone mentions succulent gardens. 
It's not the cold, its the wet over winter that does the damage. So religiously dig them up in the autumn and plant them out again in the spring. They enjoy getting their roots down, growing fat and lush.
Over winter they spend their time in my cold greenhouse. Right now they often start to look tired after a cool winter without any water. 
Some have fared better than others, I mean none have died, but a few look a bit wrinkly such as this Agave 'Cream Spike', however it's nothing that a good watering won't fix.


Generally things are looking good.

x Mangave 'Macho Mocha' has overwintered unmarked.

Agave 'Cornelius' doesn't have a mark, I'm happy so far.

Aeoniums are starting to grow.

Looking full and healthy.

As does Agave mitis, currently fighting it out with Tropaeolum.

 Both trays of Echeveria need some fresh soil to kick them into growth.

 But they take on beautiful tints when stressed.

Vertically challenged Aeonium tabuliforme is pristine. This is my first time growing them, and I'm hooked.

The coloured Aeoniums are regaining their purple tints,'Voodoo' in this case.

I wish my this variegated form would produce side shoots so I can propagate it, I know I could take out the centre to induce branching but I'm too scared...

It won't be long now until I'm planting them out for the summer. Excitement grows!