Sunday, 29 July 2012

Branching Plumeria

 Usually you expect a Plumeria to branch following flowering. But this second year seedling decided to branch now. This is a very good thing because if your plumeria only starts to flower in its fourth year than you are left with one hell of a lanky plant. Some people encourage branching without flowering by making a V shaped incision at the growing point but that was not necessary here.

Funnily enough this is one of the least impressive seedlings in size. Below it is the plumeria on the left next to my biggest second year seedling. They probably both Plumeria 'Polynesian sunset' but there is also a small chance that the big one is a unnamed Plumeria rubra that is a couple months older.

Gloriosa In Flower

Finally the Gloriosa Rothchildiana opened some flowers after a period of warmth and sun. I bought a plant that had finished flowering on sale last year and treated it with some fertiliser and a place in the sun. Then after a month of so I stopped watering and waited till the foliage died. The big fat tubers were wrapped in some kitchen paper and put away in a dry dark place. The tubers kept very well and even grow in slightly colder circumstances but this will slow their growth. This is the pot I kept inside for the first month which has kick started the growth.

The buds start out devoid of colour and they only develop the oranges and reds when the flower is fully open and in the sun. All in all they add a good hit of tropical extravaganza in summer and are remarkably easy to grow.

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Growing Ulluco In A Container

I originally planned on growing the Ulluco tuberosum (also known as Papalisa) in the allotment. However the mole cricket infestation caused me to have a bit of a rethink. So I decided to grow this popular crop from the Andes in a container on the balcony to make sure they won't be nibbled by those miscreants. I am using a sturdy plastic compost ring as a container and it is filled up with about a hundred litres of fertilised garden soil. The advantage of growing tuberous crops in a container is that harvesting is rather easy and you are unlikely to miss any of the tubers.

Here are the plants, not all have sprouted yet and some have been damaged by the near apocalyptic number of slugs and snails we have at the moment. I am growing three different varieties.

This is Ulluco 'Beet Red' with red tubers.

This is Ulluco 'Yellow', indeed with yellow tubers.

And here is Ulluco 'Tiger' which is a mixture of the two.

So I have six Ulluco plants (two of each variety) and in the middle I planted a Crosne which also produces edible tubers.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Euphorbia Bupleurifolia In Flower

Euphorbia Bupleurifolia is in full flower now and also still sprouting many new leaves. The flowers are less than spectacular but it still good to see. I understand they are not able to self polinate so I won't be getting any seed, which is a shame. All in all this plant has proved quite easy, the fact that it is in 100% pumice seems to protect it really well against too much moisture and the plant also seems ok with a less than fantastic fertilizer regime. Now I would just really like it to pup.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

Begonia Schultzei

At the moment the star of the vivarium is Begonia schultzei. Where the orchids have not flowered yet this plant has been in flower almost continually, only taking a break to grow. When I bought this it was a smallish cutting about 5 centimetres long with three leaves. It stayed this way for months but in that time it has been in flower for a long time. Then it took a break from flowering to quadruple in size. It has now grown up into the tree fern root background and is now in flower again.

Funnily enough I do not like regular begonia's at all. I don't like their leaves or their flowers. However even though the flower of Begonia schultzei is unmistakeably a begonia flower it works well because it is so simple and small. A big plus is also that the leaves start out with a typical begonia shape but they soon transform into glaucous waxy ovate leaves that look especially good when wet.

All in all I would really recommend this plant for a vivarium or terrarium.

Friday, 20 July 2012

New Introductions On The Allotment

The monsoon like weather conditions have not made gardening very easy the last couple of weeks. To get to the allotment you have to wade through ankle deep water and the soil is transformed into a (smelly) muddy soup. So I had to wait until conditions were a tiny bit better before planting out some new plants. These are a mixed bag of left overs from Vreekens which are for the most part quite unusual plants. 

First up is the Yacón (Smallanthus sonchifolius, Syn.:Polymnia edulis, P. sonchifolia) or apple root. This is a plant from the Andes (this seems to be theme with this shipment) and produces crisp sweet edible tubers. Growing style is not dissimilar from the Jerusalem artichoke. Once the foliage has been damaged by the first frost you can harvest the tubers. It is not very cold hardy so any left over bulbs in the ground probably won't survive. However to keep it over winter I will just put a couple of left over tubers in some moist sand and keep that in the fridge.

 Next up Alternanthera sessilis or Mukuna Wenna 'Purple threaded'.  This is a bit of a cypher to be honest. It is a tropical perennial that is also sometimes sold as an aquarium plant even though it won't survive long submerged. It likes soggy ground so for now it should be loving its conditions. You can eat the leaves in a salad and they are said to be rather healthy because of high levels of anthocyanins which gives it its colour.

This is Rhubarb 'Valentine' which I planted in the rhubarb patch. None of the rhubarb is looking very good at the moment so here is hoping for next year.

Another slight disappointment, namely a rather sad sprig of bog standard chocolate mint. I just plunked it into the herb department and I don't really care whether it survives because I got a big fat clump of this in a container at home.

This is one I am rather excited about, it is Tropaeolum tuberosum or Mashua 'Ken Aslett'. You can see by the leaves that they are related to garden nasturtium. This is a plant from the Andes that you grow for its tubers. I planted it to climb into the pea fence. It is said to be a really easy plant with high yields and resistant even repellent to pests. As a bonus the flowers are also quite nice.

Clinopodium douglasii or Yerba Buena, it does not look like much now but this is so far my absolute favourite. Though it is not a member of the mint family it has THE best minty fragrance, better than any mint I ever smelled. You can use it in tea or cocktails and should form a good perennial patch. I planted it close to the seating area so you can smell it while on a bit of a break. Seriously this plant smells sooooo good.

Hog Peanut (Amphicarpa bracteata), interestingly if the ground is loose enough the pollinated flower digs itself into the earth and forms a nutty bean like fruit that you can roast and eat as a nut. I don't have the ideal conditions for this (shady woodland) so I am not sure whether it will thrive but it is worth a try.

Garlic chives or Allium tuberosum. This should be a nice replacement for the wild garlic in omelets and with a bit of luck and mild winters it should also be perennial. Which is good because I really want a lot of perennial veg.

I have some more tuberous veg that I will plant out in the next couple of days but because the mole crickets are eating everything in sight I will make a makeshift raised bed to try and protect them.

 Sadly the bad weather has started to be quite detrimental to the sweet peas. There are not many flowers on there now and most of them are damaged by the rain.

The sweet pea plants themselves are turning yellow so that is not a good sign either.

The pumpkins on the other hand are doing very well. Theoretically there could be 6 different varieties but so far I can distinguish two of them. One a flat yellow and the other a rounded orange. It is a bit annoying because I want to grow some for food (keeping them small and tasty) and other just to see how big I can grow them. So I need to make some decisions soon about which vines to trim.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Bane Of The Veg Patch

Meet Gryllotalpa gryllotalpa, also known as the European mole cricket. This alienesque monster is responsible for the death of many a seedling. It gnaws through their young little roots leaving them horribly dead and disfigured. But it is not only the seedlings that fall victim to its crimes against veggies. It appears to also take great great pleasure in taking huge bites out of every single potato leaving none untouched. This horror is considered endangered but it sure as hell is not endangered on the allotment. Digging up potatoes we dug up at least 5 and their little lairs and tunnels are everywhere. I am not expressly gardening organically but everything works fine without any poisons and there is not really any reason other than the mole crickets. However I have a suspicion that using them won't work much. I might try nematodes next year to stop the monsters or maybe do the tuberous vegetables in raised beds (with a barrier between them and the ground).

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Purple and Blue

A record amount of rain has so far not harmed the garden (though I placed my succulents under cover) but the flowers are looking beat down by all the rain. Most of what is in flower is in the purple and blue spectrum. Usually Hosta flowers are not among the prettiest but the small lilac pastel of Hosta halcyon is actually looking pretty and combines well with the Cordyalis craigton blue.

Because the Corydalis combines electric blue with a hint of purple they look really well together.

The Commelina is finally in flower and even though the flowers only last a day they provide good blibs of colour. Funnily enough there are two different colours, a pure sky blue and a blueish purple.
I am not sure whether they are from different bulbs or whether it has to do with the age of the flower.

Agapanthus 'Black Buddha' is also in flower at the moment. The flowers and stems are not particularly large for an Agapanthus but that is made up by the combination of the darker stems and flushes of dark blue on the flowers themselves.

 With these two pictures you can get a sense of the colour change in Rosa Rhapsody in blue. When it first opens it is quite a vivid purple but as it ages it becomes a more slaty colour with more blue tones than when it first opens.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012


Though this summer has been mostly cold and wet, the plants are growing at record speed at the moment. Most noticeable the pumpkin patch which is luxuriating on their layer of manure. There are already several pumpkins on there the size of a big grapefruit. It is a bit of a shame that I did not label the seedlings. I have no idea whether the pumpkins are the decorative and hopefully ginormous 'Atlantic Giant' or the small but plentiful edible Japanese variety.


 The seed grown Marigolds are finally in flower. This is what they were supposed to be, a creamy yellow with double flowers but just as many came up as singles or bright oranges, not that I mind. They are grown more for the insects and pest control than for decorative value.

I am also dealing with a serious cauliflower glut. In very early spring I bought four little plugs and they have become monster heads enough to feed a small army. Two have been transformed into dinner but the other tow need to be harvested soon as well. My only surviving seed grown purple cauliflower might not be as big as the giant whites but it is quite ready to be harvested. I wonder whether it will keep its colour when it is cooked.

The 'Three Sisters' area with the corn, pumpkin and runner beans is doing nicely. The corn has finally stopped sulking and started growing and there is absolutely no way you can stop the pumpkins even if you tried. Next year I might consider a slightly more sturdy support for the runner beans that doesn't blow over every second.

Speaking of runner beans, the flowers are quite glorious. I have them in pure red, red and white and pure white.

The Chenopodium is growing well... giganticum and the single leftover Amaranth is also getting nice and big.

The sweet peas are a great success. I have a continual supply of lovely fragrant flowers and they are getting more and more plentiful. It wouldn't surprise me if I moved up from two to three jam jars full of them pretty soon. In the picture my favourite variety which is naturally the most scarce.

The Brussels Sprouts are getting big and it is almost time to plant out the seedlings of an exciting Brussels sprout cross.

The endive is growing like a trooper and I should probably think up some summery dishes with this veg which I always considered a winter leaf.

The fennel is looking lovely and airy, very decorative must be said.

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Black Hollyhock

The black Hollyhock (Alcea rosea nigra) that I sowed more than a year ago is finally in bloom. It is a shame this is the only surviving plant because the flowers are spectacular. Much darker than the photo suggests, this is one of the best 'black' flowers available. The plant is doing well against the wall in my grandmother's garden. It is in a spot that gets a fair amount of sun but it is also pretty much the driest and poorest soil imaginable. Last year I grew sunflowers along it which appreciate the same conditions.

 I would imagine that these would look great in a border with a lot of airy white flowers making them really pop. As you can see this plant is not short of pollen and now that the Digitalis is about done this will probably a great snack for the insects. If it sets seed I will probably sow them immediately and try and get some more plants.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Fern Mania

My order from arrived. I thought it would be nice to grow some more ferns, not only on the fern stand but I also have some room in the the garden and in my grandmother's garden. I went for plugs as this is a cheap and easy way to grow a large variety. I picked up a couple I really wanted and went with a surprise plug mix which made opening the little packages very exciting. I planted the little plugs over in smallish pots in normal potting soil as per instructions. When the roots come out of the bottom they are ready to be planted out and this could take between a couple of weeks to a couple of months.  Let's have a look at what I got and where (dependant on preferred growing conditions) they are going to end up.

Osmunda regalis, or the royal fern. This fern likes moist soil and probably more light than other ferns. It also gets quite big and will look great both in spring and autumn. Since it likes moist soil I will probably plant it in my border where I have amended the soil with extra sphagnum and leaf mold to get a moist and acid soil to grow the Meconopsis in. I hope it fits in the back there because the room is somewhat limited.

Polystichum setiferum 'Plumosum Densum', the soft shield fern stays quite small (fronds reach 45 centimetres) and feels at home in a hummus rich but well drained soil and can deal with both a bit of sun and shade. It does well in rockeries and is evergreen. I think this is a prime candidate to be potted in a nice terracotta pot and to be placed on the fern stand. The fact that it is evergreen adds interest there when the tree ferns are moved for protection.

Dryopteris marginalis, the marginal wood fern is a very hardy species (it grows in Greenland) and can tolerate both acid and base soils. It can grow in shade and semi shade and prefers some hummus in the soil. I think this is a prime candidate for the little fernery I am planting in my grandmothers garden. She has a spot on a slope that is quite bare at the moment (the only things growing there now are a couple of NOID ferns). It is a slope so it is quite dry and it gets some dappled sunlight. If I add some extra compost or leaf mold I should be able to grow quite a lot of different ferns that can handle some dry soil.

Dryopteris dilatata 'Jimmy Dyce', the upright broad buckler fern stays quite low and and is not too fussy about the soil. The fonds are supposed to  gain a blueish green tinge when they are adult. I think I want this one in my woodland garden since it stays quite small and should fit in with some of the other half shade plants.

Dryopteris dilatata 'Lepidota Crispa Cristata' , this Dryopteris has really nice almost parsley like foliage. It loses the foliage if the winter is on the cold side and like the previous fern likes a bit of moisture in the soil. I am a bit conflicted as to where I am going to plant this out. I think it would do best in the woodlandy moist area but quite frankly there is not that much room. The foliage is really nice and even though it might loose it's fronds in winter I think this would look really good in a container on the fern stand. I think I am just going to let it root for a while and decide later.

Dryopteris erythrosora, the autumn fern. This is my first (and only) double since I bought a mature specimen in spring. It is incredibly lovely when the new fronds roll out in a fiery glory. Even though it likes a more woodsy moist soil I think since I have this one double I can experiment a bit and plant it on the fern slope. I will make sure to add plenty of leaf mold and compost to add to the moisture in the soil and will provide some extra water in it's first year. 

Blechnum gibbum ' Silver Lady', this is one of the ferns that I picked myself and it is a bit of a odd one out because this is not a hardy fern at all. It is in fact a small tree fern that is commonly grown as a house plant. I will however keep it outside when the temperature permits. It will probably take a while before it has any sort of trunk. I have two other tree ferns (Dicksonia antarctica and Cyathea australis). The dicksonia is quite nice and hardy and I protect it in winter but I keep it outside in a sheltered spot (unless it is really really cold then I keep it in the shed). The Cyathea is a different story and seems quite sensitive even to above freezing low temperatures. Once it is getting nippy I will get this one inside and I think I will follow the same patterns with the Blechnum.

Dryopteris remota, scaly buckler fern. I am not sure what is going to set this apart from the other Dryopteris ferns but I will plant it out on the slope with some extra hummus and see what it will do.

Dryopteris intermedia or fancy fern needs the same things that the other Dryopteris need. This has really nice fine fronds and I am tempted to plant it out in another part of the garden that it quite shady and can be kept moist. But it will have to prove to be chicken proof so I might keep it in a container until it is of a decent size.

Thelypteris palustris, or marsh fern. Ha ha not a dryopteris! This fern likes it feet wet. Since this has a bit of a sprawling messy habit I think it would be a good plant to but in the back of my quite moist border. There it can fill out the bare bits without overgrowing any statement plants whilst providing a nice backdrop to others.

  Dryopteris tokyoensis, the Tokyo wood fern. This forms a nice almost shuttlecock like tight upright shape which would make it a nice focal point in the garden. Since it is expressly mentioned to be deer proof I think it might also be chicken proof. I think it would look nice in the back of the garden in front of some extremely boring hortensias.

Athyrium 'Ghost', this is another one I specifically picked out because it is so amazing. It is a cross with a Japanese painted fern and has a more upright habit and a very very ghostly colour. Like this the plant looks a bit dead but I trust it will perk up. Since this is so very very pretty I am going to keep it on the fern stand to be admired.

Dryopteris seiboldii, this does not look like any of the other Drypoteris' with its leathery fronds. I have a feeling that this will not get too big and since it is interesting and evergreen should look nice in a container on the fern stand.

Polypodium vulgare 'Bifido-Multifidum', quite a mouthful this one, this tolerates dry shade very well though it can even handle full sun. This makes it a perfect candidate for the fern slope (not that sunny though). 

 Selaginella uncinata, it doesn't look like much yet but in the right conditions it has a amazing bluish sheen. I have actually tried this one before (I picked this one out) for in the terrarium where it quickly died. It should be hardy so now I am trying it outside. I am going to keep it in a container and if it is happy I can take cuttings and see if I can plant it out here and there.

 Athyrium 'Lady in Red'. I picked this one out as well because it has really nice red stems. I am probably going to keep this on the stand until it gets too big.

This is how the fern stand looks now, maybe a bit crowded but in a couple of weeks I should be able to plant a couple out. All in all I am very happy with my order even though it was a bit heavy on the Dryopteris and I might have preferred a couple of different species but the fact that most of these should be quite easy is encouraging.