Sunday, 29 April 2012

Aloe Plicatilis Germinates

It does not look like much yet but I am delighted that one of the Aloe Plicatilis germinated. It took three weeks but it felt longer because the Pachypodium saundersii germinated in a week. I was very close to just ordering a tissue culture grown one from this website. I may actually still do that. The Aloe Polyphylla has not germinated yet and I fear it will never do so (has been in situ for 5 months). Besides it will be interesting to compare a seed grown Aloe Plicatilis to one from tissue culture.
Where I quickly potted on the Pachypodium saundersii this little Aloe will probably stay put for quite a while. I gather from the info on the web that it is best to wait moving them on until they have at least 4 leaves so I will try to be as patient as I can. Here is hoping the Cissus will germinate as well.

Update on the seedlings
Growth Report: Aloe Plicatilis

Radish Pickle

You can only eat so many radishes, especially since they go limp so quickly. The radishes are now almost done with many of them splitting so they must be picked as soon as possible.. So instead of leaving them in the ground to grow ginormous I decided to pickle a batch.

I have four different kinds; white, red, white/red and yellow. After cleaning them I trim of the roots and leaves and cut them in half. Then put them in a clean jar. 

I could have picked more of them because the pot is not completely filled but I can do that in the next couple of days. I filled the pot with white vinegar and added a heaped teaspoon of salt and two heaped teaspoons of sugar into the mix. Flavour wise I wanted to keep it simple so I just added a spoon of mustard seed and three long Balinese pepper corns. Almost immediately the red of the radishes bleeds into the vinegar creating a rather pleasing dark pink hue. It should not take too long to pickle but I am quite happy to let the flavours develop for at least a couple of weeks.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Summer Bulbs

Last year I grew a big container with summer bulbs. Not everything thrived but I did really like the Commelina with its sky blue flowers. I also wanted to try growing Gloriosa Rothschildiana that year but the bulbs I ordered were desiccated and did not take. At the end of the season I bought a plant that had finished flowering on sale and kept it in a sunny spot with till it died down. It provided me with lovely big fat bulbs. I just wrapped all these summer bulbs in newspaper and put them in the shed. They have done fine this way and already show nice little growth points. I figured now would be a good time to pot them up.

I filled up four big pots with potting soil. Two of them will be planted with the Gloriosa one with the Commelina and the other with the NOID bulbs. I just planted them a couple of centimetres deep. The Gloriosa bulbs lying on the side and the Commelina with the growth points facing up. Then just firm the soil down a bit and water them in nicely. Should be seeing growth after a couple of weeks of warmer weather.

Update: Summer Bulbs Surface

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Budding Beauties

A flower bud holds a lot of promise. Promise of a favourite flower opening on a sunny day to expose an explosion of garish colour. Or in the case of the photo above (Cypripedium Pueblo) promise of a new exiting beauty you have never seen before. There are several things in bud in the garden at the moment and they are heightening the suspense waiting for them to swell grow and open.

I feared for this little Calceolaria Uniflora darwinii when I first got it. The plant was small and the root system even smaller. It was almost impossible to find good information on how to grow it on line. In many ways I am winging it with this one. But not only is it tentatively starting to grow new rosettes (in the leaf axles) it is actually forming a bud in the heart of the rosette. The flowers of this little plant are of such bizarre strangeness and beauty that I cannot wait for it to open, even though this may take quite a bit of time yet.

Meconopsis punicea has been in bud for a while. Although you cannot see it in this photo, there are already three buds on there and I expect this number to grow. Everyday the central bud seems to grow fatter and the stem that carries it taller. Where the Meconopsis Lingholm and Meconnopsis Betonifolia are still small and putting all their energy in growing their foliage, this little plant is rearing to go.

I was charmed last year with the images of big purple globes of firework of the Allium Globemaster. The Chelsea flowershow coverage on the BBC was filled with them so I thought I would try them in the garden. I must say I find the foliage a bit annoying, big floppy leaves that take up lots of space and some of the Alliums seem effected by a pest of some sort because I am sure the leaves are not meant to be that floppy. But this bud holds a lot of promise. The promise of a flower that resembles purple fireworks the size of softball.

This bud feels like cheating since it is from a newly purchased Clematis Armandii 'Snowdrift'. Nevertheless I would like to see its intense white flowers and smell its supposedly almondy perfume.

Update: Cypripedium Pueblo now in flower.

The North Wall Remembers

The Trachelospermum jasminoides did not survive two harsh winters in a row and to be honest I never did grow to like that plant in the position it was in. It is a north wall that you look when you sit outside . Before the remodelling of the garden (when the Trachelospermum jasminoides was planted there) there grew a fantastic honeysuckle. It was old and pretty much spent by the time we got rid of it but I have fond memories of the fantastic fragrance of the flowers. Deciding what we were gonna put instead of the trachelospermum was partially easy namely we definitely wanted a honeysuckle. But variety is the spice of life so we are mixing it up a bit. With a bit of luck Clematis Armandii should be relatively happy here, even though it might prefer a sunnier position the fact that it is evergreen is a bonus. The clematis are in the middle one is a normal  armandii the other a armandii hybrid by the name of Clematic Armandii 'Snowdrift'. It must be said that these might prove just as hardy as the Trachelospermum (IE not) but the delightful flowers at least warrant an experiment.

Choosing the honeysuckle also proved slightly more complicated than I thought. I know honeysuckle can grow in that spot, it grows well even. But to my surprise nearly all the honeysuckles in the garden centre were marked for a sunny position. I picked up two that said half sun and we will see what comes of it. Left it Lonicera henryi, I only found out later that this is a evergreen variety that does not have any noticeable smell and only tiny flowers. However it should prove popular with insects and this is also worth something. On the right is a Lonicera Belgique select it has white flowers that should have a heady fragrance. This is the one closest to the honeysuckle growing here before and I hope it does just as well.

Because the plants are still rather small we had to move the two chairs so at least some light could reach them. This opened up  some space to move the shade containers to the chicken free area. Since they already almost killed the Meconopsis Punicea by digging it up this seemed like a good idea. They get slightly less sun here for now but when the sun gets a bit higher they should still catch some rays.

Another thing the chickens dug up was the Bletilla striata. I inspected the bulb and unfortunately it was mushy and rotten so I threw it out. The winter might have been too harsh for it as well. As a substitute I planted a Hosta Halcyon. The leaves are a lovely shade of blue that contrast really well with the black containers and provides some much needed foliar interest.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

The Allium Mystery

As detailed in a previous post I made a lovely scrambled egg with what I thought to be wild garlic (allium ursicum). The guardian has an article up about wild garlic and everything you can do with it. The picture above the article however looks like a completely different plant than what I picked and ate. I posted in the comments to see if anyone knew if this was a diffrent kind of allium. Commenter RestlessSF suggested it might be Allium scorodoprasum. I went to the allotment today to take some pictures to help with identification. They are almost done and are quickly fading away so I hope there is enough to go on. I will update the post when I know what it is.


We have a winner! As you can see in the comments RestlessSF figured out the mystery. It is indeed Allium Paradoxum. Common name in English: few flowered garlic. If you look on this dutch site you can see that it grows exactly in the area where I am on moist sandy soils near the dunes. Slightly more worrisome is that this site describes it as slightly poisonous (especially for dogs) but paradoxically also describes that the bulbs are commonly used as a garlic substitute. All I know was that the leaves were delicious in the scrambled eggs but I might not eat them again just to be sure. I ordered some Allium ursicum seeds so maybe I will be growing my very own wild garlic very soon.

Sunday, 22 April 2012

Potting On Pachypodium Saundersii

Remember when I said I would wait potting these pachypodium saundersii on till they grew their first true leaves? Yes, well plans have changed. Today I lifted the seedlings to see if I could see good root growth. And as you can see the roots are already hitting the bottom. I could have prevented this by planting the seeds in a deeper container but that ship has sailed and these seedlings are strong enough to carefully transfer.

The reason that I am so anxious to move them on is that I want them to form a good straight down taproot because I often water my succulents from below. If I would continue growing  the seedlings in this container I run the risk of getting deformed taproots that are not going to travel to the bottom of the pot. Since all six of the seeds germinated I need six pots. I have four 'normal' sized ones, a tiny one and a slightly bigger one. Maybe we can see whether pot size has much of an effect on first year seedlings. I filled the pots with a simple cactus soil. I made sure to compress the soil slightly to get rid of any air pockets.

Removing these seedlings is very easy. Because the stems are already sturdy they are easily lifted by holding the baby leaves and lifting the earth with , in my case, a little fork.

They have only develloped one root and this makes it even easier to replant. just make a hole in the soil with a pencil (not too deep) and pop the seedlings in. I watered the soil thouroughly  both from the botom and from the top to make sure the roots are settled. Three of the pots are going back into the incubator and the other three are moving up to the orchid table. I expect that it will take some time yet for them to grow their first true leaves. When they do some of the seedlings are going to be exposed to the elements (being treated as my other pachypodiums and adeniums) and the others will be coddled inside probably.

Update June 14th

As you can see the seedlings are not particularly fast growing. The three that I kept in the propagator have grown a set of true leaves and certainly look more robust. Unfortunately one of the seedlings I kept outside dried out too quickly (that should teach me to have a bit of patience). The other one outside of the propagator is still alive but growing even slower than the three in the propagator. I am going to leave all three where they are for now, maybe put another one outside when it growth another set of leaves. All in all this is a slower growing seedling when compared to the Pachypodium rosulatum.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

First Harvest

Finally the time was there to pull something edible from the land, in this case the lovingly obliging radish. Normally not my favoroute veg, this little trooper earns my pure respect for being so so easy. And it must be said that the flavour of a fresh radish is far superior to what you can buy in the supermarket. Esspecially the red pack an intense punch. I still have a whole patch sown so I will probably try to pickle some of them daikon style.

The pear and cherry trees have finally burst into flower. They are visited by the bees from a couple of allotments down the path, buzzing away happily with legs heavy with pollen. The warmer weather also gave an unwelcome boost to the weeds which seem to multiply so fast it is increasingly hard to keep up. Half the time on the allottment is filled with hoeing and getting on your knees pulling up the weedy offenders.

I know I mentioned that I'm not particularly fond of fancy dahlias, but this has not stopped me from growing some in pots last year. I dug these up and left them in the shed not even covered with anything. These seem a good choice to plonk on the edge of the plot providing some ridiculous colour for late summer. I planted them nice in deep so they will survive a mild winter (if we ever get mild winters anymore). 

Lastly I planted out 30 little strawberry plants. I was planning to get some special varieties from the market on the allotment site next month. However my mum picked these up for next to no money so we will see what they do. I designated the space in front of all the berry plants as the strawberry patch since we upturned so many plants there anyway. I am not being particularly fussy about them either just planting them were there is an open space. With a bit of luck there will be a mightly strawberry carpet there. For now I am not yet planning to build a net cage over them. I am happy to share with the birds as long as it does not get out of hand, if it does I will reconsider.

Friday, 20 April 2012

Last Frost?

I think we might have had the last frost of spring a couple days ago. All the weather forecasts are moving in a upward trajectory and there are no sub zero temperatures expected these next two weeks. Of the sensitive plants already outside only the Aeonium 'Velour' sustained a bit of frost damage. As you can see the rosettes have been affected but I am quite sure it will recover in due time. It was a bit of a risk leaving it outside already but I was really curious about the hardiness of this variety. I already have two rooted cuttings so losing it would not be a disaster.

I totally forgot to put a upturned pot on the Cypripedium 'Pueblo'. The instructions that came with this orchid said it is a good idea to protect them from frost the first year (since they are a bit forced when you buy them ). But as you can see it has not suffered at all. The Dicksonia antarctica also did not seem to mind. There are still a few crispy edges on the older fronds but these are from the first frosts of winter before I protected it. The other tree fern  Cyanthea australis is still standing in my room since it did not like the sudden transition from growing in a greenhouse to the cold nights of spring.

Even if the last frost of spring has passed I am not jumping into action yet. The plumeria and adenium and pachypodium are spending the day outside when it is sunny but it is still too cold to have them stay the night outside. Only when it gets approximately 10 degrees outside I will leave them there in a little glass mini greenhouse. That will probably still be about a week and a half away.
The Cyanthea australis is staying nice and cushy in my room till mid May. All the tropical veg are still way too small to plant out (I might have been a little late with the tomatoes and peppers). But it would be a relief to not have every bit of space by the windows cramped with plants.

Update: Cypripedium Pueblo now in flower.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Sun Bonsai

A couple years ago I decided to spice up the pergola a bit with some moss balls. What you do is fill a sock with potting soil and form it into what approaches a spherical form. Then you plant something in it and cover the sock with moss. I have since taken them down because most of them were filled with annuals and replanting was a bit difficult. In one of these balls I had planted a year old sapling I found in my grandma's garden. I think it was either a beech or a maple, we'll find out when it's in leaf. Because of the position of the moss ball the sapling grew nice and crooked. Now I want to try to make it into a non traditional bonsai tree. I removed it from the sock and trimmed the roots back and placed it in a smallish dish. Instead of wiring the branches I'll try to achieve interestingly crooked growth by growing it in strange angles.

Pachypodium Saundersii Germinates Fast

A week ago I soaked six seeds of Pachypodium saundersii and put them in the germinator, now all of them have sprouted. The Cissus and Aloe are not showing any sign of live yet unfortunately. I am a fan of easy germination, there are few things more frustrating than buying interesting seed and getting all excited only for them not to germinate. It is amazing to see that these little things will probably be around the size of the Pachypodium rosulatum next summer. They are allowed to stay where they are for a little while yet. When they are standing tall and maybe making their first true leaves I will transplant them into their little terracotta pots in a mix of cactus soil and maybe a bit of perlite (I should pick some up anyway).

There is also plenty of activity in the other seed tray. These are the little Pachypodium geayi coming up strong. I have one little plant from this batch of seed from last spring but it has failed to thrive quite as much as the rosulatum. I am exited to see whether these seedlings might be slightly more enthusiastic.

Aren't they adorable? These are little cactus seedlings sharing the incubator with the Pachypodium geayii. They are a mix of diffrent species (welcome to NOID hell). I had tried some of these last year but I failed to keep the seedlings moist enough. Apparently cactus need a while before you can start treating them like cactus. I think they are going to be in the incubator for a year (maybe just spacing them out a bit) on a sunny windowsill.

UPDATE: Potting On Pachypodium Saundersii

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Grow Your Own Indonesian Herbs

Today I took a little trip to the Asian supermarket. As always it is filled with exotic delights especially the fruit and veg section. Here you buy lemongrass stalks by the dozen and the pieces of ginger are plump and as big as a large hand. I also picked up some pandan leaves to flavour some black rice with. Ignorantly I thought pandan leaves were just banana leaves but they are actually a completely different genus, the one you flavour your food with is called Pandanus amaryllifolius. What better way to enjoy these goodies than by eating some of it and trying to grow the leftovers (a nice and cheap way to get exotic plants too).

Lemongrass is something I have grown before and is extremely easy. Just stick a couple of stalks in a glass with a layer of water. Change the water daily (or when you remember) and just watch the roots sprout. When you are happy with the root growth just stick it in a pot with some good soil and put in a nice sheltered spot outside (I am anticipating these to root really well within three weeks and after that it should be warm enough outside).

Pandan on the other hand I haven't grown. The Internet is not very forthcoming with how to grow these cuttings so I am trying two different methods. One plant I stuck in one of the seedling modules and the other in a layer of water (like the lemongrass). Let's hope at least one of them roots. Again if rooted they will be planted in good soil and put in a warm sheltered position in the garden.

I am going to need a piece of ginger tonight so I am not going to be planting the whole rhizome. As you can see there are some good fat growhtpoints at the top. First I will slice of the ginger I need keeping the best growthpoints conserved. 

This is a large enough piece to get off to a good growing start. I am not planting this immediately but first soaking it in water for 24 hours. Not that this piece is particularly dessicated but some supermarkets treat ginger with growth retardants that are naturally better soaked away.

Normally you would plant ginger a bit like you plant bearded iris, letting it lay on it's side exposing the top  of the rhizome. However with this piece I am going to plant it with the growthpoints pointing upwards leaving the very tip of them exposed, this way I can get a clear view at how it is growing.

This way I'll have some lovely fragrant leaves in the garden. I must tell you I probably will not be concerned with keeping these through next winter (maybe the pandan, I am not sure yet). I think it likely I will just harvest the ginger, and dry the lemongrass (pandan leaves freeze really well). So no room will be spend keeping them alive and for a couple of euros you can just restart this process next spring!

Pruning Pachypodium Succulentum

Around this part of the world we have something called 'the ice saints', basically these are the name days of a couple of christian saints that in folklore herald the time to plant out your tender plants seeing as it is very unlikely there will be any night frosts after these dates (May 11/14). To celebrate there is a plant market in Haarlem lasting the whole night. Though filled with a lot of your usual tender bedding plants there are usually a couple of stalls that carry more interesting fare. It is here that I bought my Pachypodium succulentum, which to be honest has been really easy to take care of. In summer it spend it's days outside getting a regular splash of water (it is planted in pumice). In late summer it even flowered with rather charming flowers. It overwintered the same way as the adenium, quite dry and on the heat). It did not go fully dormant keeping a couple of leaves before starting to grow again when the days got longer.

I don't think it is necessary to repot (or simply lift it a bit) yet so this year I have two goals. One is that I want to ensure the caudex gets as big as possible so I will be giving this plenty of water when it is hot and sunny. Secondly I am quite aware the new branches are rather leggy due to lack of sun. The severity of that situation is obvious when you compare it to the photo here (a great site for information as well). To get it to grow more compact I will need a lot of sun. So in the future I will probably be giving this quite the haircut in spring and hope the new growth is nice and grows compact in the summer sun. 
As a bit of a prelude to this I trimmed three of the branches just to see what would happen. Days after the pruning you could see the new buds swelling and now you can see that for each cut branch one or two new ones are going to take it's place. This year we can see whether the new growth will grow compact after a spring pruning and also whether the new growth will flower.


About two months after these pictures above the Pachypodium succulentum  is doing rather well outside in the sun.

The pruned branches have branched nicely but as you can see there is also some spontaneous branching.

The sunshine means that the leaves are growing nice and closely together. Next spring a radical haircut should provide a good compact habit of the new branches.

There was a bit of a scary moment when the top of the caudex felt soft and mushy. I rubbed off all this rotted tissue and then let the plant thoroughly dry for about a week on top of the radiator inside. It is now all nice and calloused over and the plant does not seem to suffer.

Update this year I pruned it really hard

Monday, 16 April 2012

Boom, Pulsatilla In Flower

I was growing more and more annoyed with the fact my Pulsatilla vulgaris was not yet blooming while I saw it bloom in other places (Kew and on the allotment). So I could not resist this little rubra form when I saw it at the spring market. There was still a little space left in the calcium rich alpine trough so I shooed it in there. If both the pulsatillas decide to flower at the same time, then there will be quite the colour clash but for now it brings some much needed colour to the arrangement. 

I actually really like how the deep red is intensified by the black container. 

US                          UK/Netherlands