Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Orthophytum gurkenii

 Orthophytum gurkenii
I have been growing this unusual Bromeliad for a number of years and it seems never to be without one or two flower stems. The 40cm tall arching inflorescence is a striking chartreuse green in colour which contrasts well with the bronze powder coated foliage.
New plantlets appear at the end of these green bracts which have the unfortunate attribute of being edged with razor sharp spines and as they mature these spines can detach and lodge in the fingertips if you handle them without protection.
It is one of those easy care plants however preferring a dry location in sun or semi shade.
Apparently there are quite a number of different forms of this plant including ones with striped leaves.

 From a couple of flower stems I cut more than a dozen new plants though they probably would have been quite happy staying attached to the mother stem for many months to come.
And now comes the tricky part. Underneath these dried razor sharp bracts at the base of the plant tiny nobbly roots are forming and need to be exposed to give them a good start in life. With gloved hand I hold the top and peel away using small flower snips all the while taking in a lung-full of white fluff being shed form the leaves.
I will plant them into small pots using an open bark/Perlite mix and by the end of the year they should be ready for a new home.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

Dracaena deremensis 'Janet Craig Limelight'

 Dracaena deremensis 'Janet Craig Limelight'
The multi-branched garden planted specimen of this plant is now about three metres tall and growing under house eaves in a shady spot. It does not look half as good as the potted specimens I have pictured here which are in a greenhouse and sheltered from the elements.
 A few years back a large branch of the garden one toppled over in a storm so I cut it up into 30 cm lengths so I could propagate some new plants.
Stems cuttings from a mature plant take root quite easily though they require a free draining mix with lots of Perlite as part of the propagation mix. After a couple of years they have now grown to about 120cm in a 200 mm pot and I can almost say they thrive on neglect as they don't seem to mind a low water and fertilizer regime.
 I placed one of these indoors several months ago and though it has lost its very bright yellow leaves it still has attractive shiny pale green foliage.
With a bare trunk it has an elegant palm tree like appearance in a red ceramic container.
Outdoors the leaves rarely stay unblemished by strong winds or insects.
I am reminded of that other Dracaena (fragrans) which gets shredded by grasshoppers when grown outdoors in a warm climate. Many so called indoor plants just don't make the transition well when planted as garden specimens ,though some rejoice in their freedom and turn into monsters such as Ficus/'Rubber Plants'.

Platykelba insigne

Platykelba insigne (Ascelepiadoideae)

Simplicity itself is the appeal of a plant which goes through life as a mass of cascading stems while producing (allegedly) perfumed flowers. I have yet to see any flowers so I can't comment on that and it is always a little annoying when you read about a perfume with no description of the fragrance. Coconut? Vanilla? Honey? keep me guessing.
This is an easy care hanging basket or vertical garden plant and probably better in shade as mine has thrived under shade cloth. The hanging basket version is a bit lopsided as it was kept on a shelf for too long.

Orbea variegata

Orbea variegata syn Stapelia variegata
Developing seed pods in "V for Victory" mode

This spreading ground cover succulent has fleshy stems which resemble in size and shape crinkle-cut potatoes. Container grown plants quickly fill the space with these stems/leaves and new growth tends to hang upside down over the edge of the pot. These can be trimmed off and used to propagate new plants if required.
I have not tried growing it in a garden bed but I imagine it would form a dense weed suppressing mat and would be ideal to grow in a dry spot under trees particularly ones providing summer shade and winter sun.
The 8cm diameter flowers resemble puffed balloons in bud and when open exude the characteristic carrion smell to attract  flies as pollinators. Working close by to them I often forget this unfortunate aspect of their being and assume there is a dead rat somewhere under the bench.
The purple striped seed pods produced even while new flowers are still in bud are most attractive. Eventually they turn brown and scroll back to release fluffy seeds in much the same way as its cousin the Oleander does, both being in the family Apocynaceae.
Container grown plants can be brought indoors and placed in a bright location though this is not recommended during the summer flowering season. It is definitely a winter thing especially if you live in a frost prone location.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Senecio barbertonicus

                     Senecio barbertonicus
I have been growing this succulent sub-shrub for about a year now and it has reached posssibly its mature height and spread of about a metre. The pointed leaves are an unusual colour green, changing from chartreuse in winter to olive green in summer. The daisy like flowers are said to be perfumed though I will have to wait and see as none have been produced as yet. Senecio flowers tend to be fairly insignificant daisies which end their life as balls of fluff at the end of the stems. 
The species name relates to the region of South Africa where it hails from, with its more famous cousin being the Barberton daisy or Gerbera.

Sedum adolphii 'Firestorm'

           Sedum adolphii 'Firestorm'
This Mexican groundcover succulent is putting on a display of intense orange and red leaves at the moment. The other two forms of this Sedum, the more familiar 'Golden' and 'Pat's Pink' are equally appealing but just not quite so bright.
As a trailing plant, leaves are prone to drop off exposing bare stems as it matures. If this is not appealing pruning back closer to the centre of the plant will result in a more compact specimen. New plants can be propagated from these stems or from the leaves themselves if placed on the surface of potting soil.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

My seed packet history

Seed Merchants of yesteryear.........
I have to confess to being something of a gardening hoarder. If by definition that refers to someone who has kept all packets of seed, plant labels, gardening magazines and newspaper clippings, as well as an assortment of rusting no longer in service tools that have ever crossed my path during the past forty years or so. 
Then you wake up one day and ask yourself why am I keeping all this? So before the old seed packets went into the recycle bin I took a few photos of a range from various companies some of whom are no longer trading. 
Not much changes however......
It is impossible for me to walk past a seed rack in a Nursery or Hardware store without picking out a couple of packets of something I would like to try. As well, these days it is seeds saved from cross pollinated prize shrubs which hold my attention. What will the resulting seedling turn into?

These lines from the V Sackville-West poem The Garden convey the wonder and reward of growing plants from seed.
'He is a millionaire for a few pence.
Squandering nature in her gift exceeds
Even her own demands.
Consider not the lily, but her seeds
In membrane tissue packed within the pod
With skill that fools the skill of human hands;
The poppy with her cracking pepper-pot
That spills in ripened moment split asunder;
The foxglove with her shower as fine as snuff.
Consider these with thankfulness and wonder.'