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!

Friday, 1 April 2016


Hibernation over winter has been enjoyable. I've taken an almost complete break from anything plant related, save reading other gardening blogs and books. 
It's not just the blog that has been sleeping for some months, I have done very little in the way of gardening since my last post back in November. 
The winter for what it was has been incredibly mild, but wet. Actually, wet is an understatement. Drenched, everything has been thoroughly drenched, that more accurately describes what's been going on for the last few months.

The recent addition of a new puppy to the household has also got me a bit concerned about how the garden will hold up. He's a chewer. 
As yet, he hasn't been digging but he has munched his way through a Schefflera delavayi and a Pseudopanax laetus. I may be able to salvage what's left of the Scheffy, I'm less certain that the Pseudopanax will resprout.
I'm hoping that when teething has finished that he will quit eating plants. Hopeful, but realistic.
The culprit. 

Sunny weather over Easter week got me thinking ahead, so I thought it an opportune time to try to resurrect my Ensete plants that I'd overwintered. 
I've been trying to keep them just ticking over, not growing, in suspended animation. It's a bit of a balancing act. They have to be very dry otherwise rot can set in at the base but as they're still small they don't have massive amounts of food reserves stored up in the corm so at this size you don't want them to go entirely dormant.
This one managed to keep some leaves, so I just chopped those that had dessicated.

The leaf bases are incredibly fleshy, storing massive amounts of water, they're satisfying to slice through.

The plain green Ensete ventricosum had lost all foliage so had to be drastically pruned, I may have to go lower to ensure any damaged material doesn't start to rot. 

New growth pushing up from the centre, with a bit of heat it should hopefully continue.

This one had lost all roots but I'm hopeful that with careful watering it will quickly produce new ones and power away into growth for the summer.

I took a gamble and didn't lift any Cannas from the ground. It's generally mild so cold temperatures aren't normally the issue, it's the combination of cold and wet that causes rot to set in. 
I decided to dig them up now, in order to start them into growth earlier so it's not the end of summer before they start flowering. This is a new shoot on 'Orange Punch', and there are more so things are looking good. I've potted a few (and will do the rest of my collection over the next couple of weeks) and have moved them indoors so the extra heat will kick them into growth. 

I think my winter hibernation in now officially over.