We started the morning with an ineresting discussion about succulents. These plants are easy to grow, require little care and look particularly attractive in containers. Their leaves are thicker than normal and fleshy, usually to retain water in arid climates or soil conditions. They can withstand hot and cold conditions, but they don’t like wet. Most succulents, such as Aeoniums, Sedums, Kalanchoes, Sempervivums and Echeverias are in the Crassulaceae family . This is a large family of plants many of which grow at high altitudes in Mexico, where humidity is low, temperatures rarely get too hot and the soil is well-draining.
Sempervivums (“always living”), are also known as Houseleeks and are amongst the most popular succulents.
They are an exceptionally hardy genus of hardy, monocarpic (flowering only once then dying), alpine succulents and seem to thrive in cold temperatures, low or strong light – but don’t like the wet. Their flowers feature narrow aster-like petals on oversized inflorescences.
Echeverias are regarded as one of the most attractive succulents.
They form fleshy, blue-green rosettes (some with pink edges) which offset readily, so they can quickly bulk up in number. Although they are generally frost tolerant, they are not as hardy as Sempervivums. Conversely, they can tolerate heat better. Most Echeverias flower yearly, the flowers are bell-shaped, often orange-red and borne on arching stems.
Most succulents can be propagated from leaf cuttings. Remove a leaf from a plant and leave for a day or two to allow the wound to callous over before planting – this helps to stop rotting. Then put upright and base side down into gritty compost (it needs sharp drainage). Place on to a sunny windowsill – the high light levels assist rooting – and keep the soil slightly damp, but not wet. Many new plants can be created using this method – it takes a couple of months.
Some plants can get leggy (e.g. Aeoniums). When this happens, cut off the leggy top to leave a couple of inches of stem at the base. Remove some of the leaves, then make a clean cut at the bottom of the stem and gently push into gritty compost. Any stem material left over can be chopped into one or two inch pieces, and laid horizontally on to the top of the compost. New plants will grow from the nodes.
Both Echeverias and Sempervivums produce offsets which can also be removed and planted up. Keep them in a sheltered position at five degrees or above.
Commonly called the spotted or Japanese laurel, it is an evergreen shrub. Most plants sold are female and produce red berries if pollinated. It will tolerate deep shade and can brighten a difficult corner in the garden and so especially useful in the winter. Aucubas are bombproof, drought tolerant and long-living. Most form a rounded bush reaching 6 – 9ft within 5 – 7 years. They can be pruned back easily.
Echium Pininana – also called tree echium and giant viper’s bugloss.
This tender plant is native to La Palma in the Canary Islands and provides a tropical flavour in any sheltered border. In its first year it forms a low rosette of silver, hairy, spear-like leaves and the following year produces a single 13 ft. flower spike covered in blue funnel-shaped flowers. The plant dies after flowering, but scatters seed which may germinate. Ventnor Botanic Gardens on the Isle of Wight has many specimens.
Hesperanthus – (formerly known as ‘Schizostylis’).
Commonly known as the Kaffir Lily, this comes from South Africa. The genus name comes from the Greek “hesperos” meaning “evening” and “anthos” meaning “flower”. This clump-forming plant is a semi-evergreen perennial which grows from rhizomes. It has sword-shaped leaves and spikes of starry flowers (pink, scarlet/red or white) from summer to late autumn. 60cms in height, it grows best on a sheltered site in full sun and in fertile, well-drained soil.
Lorapetalum – also known as the Chinese Fringe Flower.
This evergreen, free-flowering shrub produces clusters of bright pink flowers with thin strap-like petals at the end of short branches. Flowering takes place in winter and early spring. Related to witch- hazel, it does well in a pot. Grows best in fertile but well-drained soil in full sun or partial shade, with protection in the winter.
A large graceful evergreen shrub which grows to approx. 6 metres, it has fern-like silvery- grey leaves and racemes of small rounded yellow flower heads in winter and spring. It requires a sunny, warm, sheltered position. Common names are cootamundra wattle and golden mimosa.
Jobs in the garden this week.
- Planting bulbs under the willow arch and removing topsoil from two large pots and planting with fresh bulbs. Planting more white crocuses on the left-hand side of the willow arch.
- Planting tulips in groups of 5s and 7s on the right-hand side of the terraced beds and continuing to plant in the bed behind the hawthorn hedge.
- Planting alliums in the rose-arch bed.
- Removing succulents from a couple of window boxes, adding gritty compost and planting bulbs in their place.
- Planting narcissi bulbs in olive tree bed in 5s or 7s.
- Removing begonias from boxes and replanting with tulip bulbs.
- Planting hydrangeas (cuttings of ‘Annabelle’) under the silver birch by the pond.
- Taking out the cornus (dogwood) stems, then plant crocuses underneath the witch hazels near the Summer House.Creating new vegetable beds. In addition, taking out the salvias and lining them up by the greenhouse behind the raspberries to protect them over the winter. Cuttings of Salvia ‘Amistad’ were also taken. It was noted Rosa ‘Chevy Chase’ also needs pruning.