Sunday, 28 April 2013

Things Finally Start Going

Things are finally starting to happen on the allotment. It is exciting but also a lot of work. Especially because the grass is going completely rampant.

Here we reclaimed some ground from the encroaching grass next to the garlic patch. I planted some left over onion sets I had since the ground is way to rough for sowing.

Speaking of my beloved Alliums we finally laid our hands on some wild garlic plants. It's not easy to find a shady spot for them so I build a little shade guard with some sticks. This way I can finally pick wild garlic without making some funny mistakes.

The maincrop potatoes are in even though they will probably be eaten by the mole crickets. Which is why I planted some earlies back home in a container.

Perhaps a bit prematurely but we put in a couple of artichoke seedlings.

I've expanded the berry collection with some black currant.

Horseradish is still looking good. I guess I'll have to wait a while before they have harvestable root systems and quite frankly I can't hardly wait.

In a bid to beat the weeds we are planting a lot of the plugs into strawberry plastic. This disintegrates in a year or two and should help keep the ground moist, warm and weed free.

The soil beneath last years manure/pumpkin heap is absolutely brilliant. This is probably the best chance at success for crops that needs fine soil so here I sowed Scorzanera (is this the same as Salsify?) and red carrots.

The anemones in the perennial/fruit bed are adding a nice splash of colour.

Finally I dug up last years Dahlia thinking it would have thoroughly rotted after a harsh winter. But no, there were only a couple of mushy bits with the majority of the bulbs nice and firm. I replanted it towards the front of the allotment to make room for the onion sets.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Alpine Show+Spring Event= New Plants!

This has been quite the busy weekend plant wise. Since I'm working on a concrete alpine planter (it curing at the moment) I thought it would be a good idea to visit the renowned alpine show and market at the botanical gardens in Utrecht. A hardened professional remarked to me that the selection was a bit thin this year but  I did not notice and picked up as much as I could carry. First the alpines that may or may not go in my planter. My selection criteria were whether I thought they looked pretty/cool unhampered by any real expertise. These were all quite cheap 1.50 / 2.00 per tiny adorable plant.

First up Sedum reflexum cristatum, it is only about 2 cm high but it is seriously cute. I usually think sedum is a bit meh but I adore anything crested so this was an easy buy. If you google image search it you will see a lot of brainlike growth showing only the succulent leaves. I rather like how you see the stem here, a bit like my aeonium sunburst crest.

Talking about Aeoniums I picked up this little Aeonium Tabuliforme. Eventually this will form an immense saucer clinging tightly to the ground.

For my alpine planter I'm looking for cushion shaped alpines. This is Edraianthus pumilio which pleasingly blooms brilliant blue.

A Saxifraga would also go nicely in the planter and this cuty was already in bloom. Saxifraga Pubescens can form a brilliant cushion covered in white flowers.

Why not another little Primula? Primula Marginata is from the auricula group and I've been able to grow those quite well. As you can see I have more than enough plants to fill my new planter (which actually only has three biggish spots.

There were also a lot of hardy orchids on sale so I went for it and almost doubled my collection.

Cypripedium Formosana, which has brilliant fan shaped leaves and a weird dented cushion like flower.

A new Pleione Piton. The picture suggested it would bloom white. It was not very deeply rooted so I lifted it up and found a spot for it among my other Pleiones.

The last three are going to be interesting. They actually grow int the Netherlands even though they are rare. This is Neotinea ustulata or the burnt tip orchid and it might just flower this year (see the spike forming). For now I'm keeping them in their pots and I'll ask around for tips growing these at the next orchid society meeting.

This spotted number is a Orchis mascula.

And finally an Epipactis palustris which is apparently more common here. It should grow in the dunes so maybe I can spot them in the wild this year.

The final additions from the alpine market belong in the 'Lets Try Again' category. Plants I loved but died that deserve a second shot.

Meconopsis Lingholm, the blue poppy. These fell victim to the chickens. I have a white variety that is looking good this year but I really want the blue form as well.

While the earth is still bare I'll keep this little chicken protection system on top.

One stall was a lady selling fabulous succulents. I bought a Crassula Buddha's Temple. I have wanted this one for some time because of its brilliant symmetry.

 A new Tylecodon wallichii, since my version died due to not observing it strict winter growing schedule. I also bought a little succulent Pelargonium but I forgot to photograph it.

There was also a renowned Hosta nursery represented.

Mum chose this Hosta Fragrant Surprise which should have naturally fragrant flowers.

Sunday, 21 April 2013

Horseradish Galore

The horseradish that I waterrooted is looking pretty good, and I am going to remove the little plantlets and finally plant them out.

I already removed 2 plants a couple of weeks earlier so in total this little piece of root gave me 5 separate plants. I could probably get more if I kept the root in water but 5 should be plenty.

Five little rooted horseradishes

I planted them in the permanent fruit and veg bed on the allotment. I am not too worried about it becoming invasive. One, I don't mind a good fat clump of this stuff. 2 I enjoy eating it a lot so it will need to suffer a lot of digging up some roots.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Agapanthus Blues

I have not been a good girl protecting my Agapanthus 'Black Buddha  this year. I just left it out shoved against the wall (very dry) and hoped it would be a mild winter. Well, it wasn't a mild winter and I was sure it had completely died. But no! I cleared up allot of the old dead foliage and saw that about a third of the plant was still alive.

Since a large part of the Agapanthus had rotted I bought a new one to fill out the pot for a proper display this year. I had the choice of two different Aggies, One was a named on with some lovely colour but it was a tiny tiny plant. So I decided to go with the unnamed ('blue') big healthy looking plant.

I ripped out as much mushy rhizome as I could. Next winter I will take better care of my Agapanthus, they are a stunning sight in high summer.

ps. I put a little new Pulsatilla in the front for the simple reason that I really really like Pulsatilla but they never come back for me.

Monday, 15 April 2013

New Aloe Polyphylla

The horrible death by rot this winter of my large (i still have a tiny one) Aloe Polyphylla was one of my hardest losses. I has ordered both of them from and they had grown nicely during the summer. However one tiny (really significantly very small) drop of water in the crown during dormancy proved quickly fatal. Imagine my surprise when I found this beauty at the garden centre. It was not named but by now I feel comfortable recognizing them. They are from but the polyphylla is not listed on their website. Anyhow this one is about 50 percent cheaper than similar sized plants at a dutch nursery I spotted online so I am delighted with this find and immediately bought a nice shallow dish for it.

Here it is in its new home, in 50/50 cactus soil perlite. I guess I'll have to figure out a way to water it in winter  without touching the leaves, maybe a funnel or something like that. The roots were not perfect I thought they were coming out of the pot but that was an illusion. Three quarters of the soil was filled with dead roots but there were still a couple of nice bright yellow roots and I don't think root growth should be a problem since my previous Polyphylla purchases came with almost no roots and rooted without a problem.

I can't decide whether it is bigger or smaller than my previous one. So I am using this hightly scientific method of counting the leaves. Here is the new one.

Give or take 20 fully developed leaves.

Strangely the new one feels larger, but the old one obviously had more leaves. I'll count the leaves again at the end of summer.

My other favorite Aloe, Aloe Plicatilis was still looking good in its old pot but I was not happy with how long it took for the soil to dry after watering. I still had some mix left from the Polyphylla so I decided to swap the mix. To my surprise the Plicatilis was actually rather pot bound so I gave it a larger pot to encourage more growth. Here in the picture you can see it is looking rather good and replumbed after being a bit dehydrated in winter. Left is the only surviving seedling which is struggling a bit but I think it might just get a bit of a growth spurt now it is back into the light.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Hardy Orchids: Disappointment and Delight

The Cypripedium cryptically named 'White' ended up flowering much faster than I thought it would. I was hoping for either Cypripedium Reginae or Formosana (dude said it was probably Reginae grrrrrr) but alas it turned out to be something else. I'm not even sure what, maybe a particularly pale Kentucky? So yeah I was pretty disappointed, I really wanted one of the other two. It has been in flower for a week or so and I have mellowed a bit, it might not be the resplendent white Reginae or the deliciously weird Formosana but all in all it is still a pretty cool flower.

Walking past a florist I spotted this little beauty. I had never seen Calanthe, especially for sale at a florist for 10 euros. First of all it is a big big plant, with really cool flowers. The florist also had a darker more pinky purplish one, and said that colour is relatively rare. But I really love this colour, there is pink in there and a hint of blue tempered by some pale yellow. I'll have to do some research on how much protection (if any) it needs in winter but I'm glad to introduce it to my outside orchid selection.

See? This is one sophisticated colour palette.

I intended to buy some more terra cotta dishes to plant the new Cypripedium in. However the garden centre did not have any so as a sort of experiment I'm going to try these ArtStone dishes. These are lightweight recycled plastic planters with a little reservoir at the bottom. This should make watering quite a breeze, extra water will collect in the reservoir and if it gets too much it will overflow into the plug. I think this will be a good fit for many plants ensuring drainage while still having water available. Plus a good layer of water on the bottom might even help cooling the roots.

It took me an embarrassingly long time to find the little plug. If you want to keep the planters inside you just plug it back up again.

I bought two planters to start with (fairly cheap, certainly cheaper than terra cotta). I made up some somewhat improvised mix (orchid soil, garden soil, some moss and a good amount of perlite) and planted the  'White' Cypripedium and the Kentucky maxi. I can't wait till my other Cypripedium start flowering, shouldn't take long since spring seems to have finally sprung.