Friday 18th October 2019

October, and autumn is in full swing.


Seeds, berries, hips and haws everywhere

And on the Nature Table this week…


Now there’s a blast from the past!

This week for the Plant Ident. we looked at rock, alpine and other similar plants.  An alpine is a plant which naturally grows in an alpine climate – high up and above the tree line.  Some rain is fine, and they can cope with low temperatures but, crucially, they must have good drainage as they hate standing in cold, wet soil.  Don’t we all?

Good drainage can be provided by using a very gritty soil.  A mix of half horticultural grit and half multi-purpose compost is fine, as is a mix of one third grit, one third m-p compost and one third John Innes no. 2.

Provided the above criteria are met, they can be left outside all winter, although it’s wise to try and protect from too much rain, unless you want to stand outside with an umbrella over them every time the skies open.  Try putting them under the eaves of your house or under a porch during the wet months.   Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Hosta venusta


An adorably tiny little Hosta!  Or, botanically speaking, a miniature Hosta cultivar.  This is the smallest of the Hosta species: glossy, dark-green, ovate leaves complement the lavender/violet flowers which form in late summer/autumn.

Cotula hispida


Mat-forming perennial with feathery, silver-grey leaves.  a spreader.  Has bright yellow button-shaped flowers in the spring/summer.  Needs a sunny, well-drained position.

Sempervivum ‘Royal Ruby’    


Houseleeks are not true alpines, but need similar treatment.  They are small, hardy, low-growing plants needing sun and good drainage.  The rosettes have long leaves which turn an attractive dark red.

Armeria maritima ‘Rubrifolia’


A lovely little cushion-forming plant with dark red-bronze leaves and deep pink flowers.  Commonly known as Thrift.  As the name suggests, it’s a good performer in coastal areas.

Sedum pachychlados


A spreading alpine with small rosettes of blue-grey leaves.  White flowers in the summer.

Planting up alpine sinks

Most of us don’t have an alpine house to display a collection of these beauties, but alpine sinks are a perfect alternative, as it’s possible to create the conditions needed for the plants to thrive.  Moreover, troughs can easily be raised to enable better appreciation of these tiny horticultural jewels.  Wendy Bates from Rotherview Nursery near Hastings (a Chelsea Gold medallist!) recently ran a workshop at The Garden House demonstrating how to plant up hypertufa alpine troughs.  She favours either a traditional planting with rocks or using slate to create a ‘crevicing’ effect.


So, obviously, one of our jobs for the week had to be: –

Planting up alpine troughs.

First mix up the gritty compost


In with the hard landscaping


Impressive.  With no hesitation, he’s going for the creviced look

Meticulous attention to planting detail


Finishing off with a layer of grit



Loving it


Now that’s just showing off.

And now for something completely different

At this time of year, it’s a good idea to:-

Take cuttings of tender perennials  

Tender perennials will not survive outside over the winter, but by taking cuttings now, you can ensure there will be a good stock of plants for next year.  Some plants can, of course, be brought indoors, but space can be a problem unless you have a set of splendiferous glasshouses.

Cuttings are easily taken from the side shoots of tender perennials.  Take off a side shoot, cut just below a leaf node and remove some leaves to prevent too much water loss (transpiration).  The cutting should be around 5.0 – 7.5 cms.  If the remaining leaves are particularly large, some can be cut in half.  Ensure tools are clean and sharp.

Oak-Leaved Pelargonium cutting


Note how the cut has been made just below a leaf node.

Verbena bonariensis cuttings


Insert the cuttings around the sides of a pot filled to the top with multi-purpose compost mixed 50:50 with perlite (helps drainage).   Use a small dibber to create the hole and put the stems in right up to their remaining leaves.  Firm in and label!  Place on a heated bench or in a propagator.  Failing that, try a warm, well-lit windowsill.  Rooting can take place within 3 -4 days.  Some find that a plastic bag tied lightly around the pot is helpful. Or experiment with half a clear, plastic bottle inverted over the pot.


No room!  No room!  I got here first.  Taken root and everything.

Plectranthus ciliatus

Take a few of these little lovelies

and you can go from this…


…to this, by next summer


Amazing, but true.

We call it ‘plants for free’…

that’s propagation for you.

The danger is that they may rot off, so keep an eye on them.  Squirt with a little water every day to keep them moist, but don’t overwater.  When rooted, pot each cutting on into its own pot, using just multi-purpose compost this time.  Plants such as Salvia, Rosemary and Lavender are easy to propagate too.

Labelling the Lavender cuttings



A creche of potential baby plants

Other jobs for the week

Sow hardy annual seeds


Cover with a fine layer of compost or vermiculite.  Label and water carefully.

Put prepared hyacinth bulbs into forcing jars

Use gloves, as some people are allergic to handling the bulbs.  Prepared hyacinth bulbs have been refrigerated and therefore tricked into thinking that they have been through a winter.  Sit the bulb in the neck of the jar so that it is just touching the water.  Place in a cool, dark place (maybe a shed or garage) for 8 – 10 weeks; white roots will begin to grow.  When the hyacinth shoot has reached about 5 cms, bring the jar back into a cool, light room.  The hyacinth will then be able to develop slowly and will flower for a long time.  Too much warmth, and the plant will grow too quickly.


Prepared bulbs can also be grown in compost or just grit as they have all the food they need within the bulb itself.  Plant up to the neck of the bulb and follow the same procedure as above.

Re-pot Abutilons into clay pots.


Label. (Make a note of the colour if possible.)  Water and finish with a layer of grit; place in the greenhouse for the winter.

Would anyone like some quinces?


We might!


Pot on rooted willow cuttings. 

These are Salix purpurea ‘Nancy Saunders’.


Have they been watered?


Bear with, bear with…

Make a wreath from autumnal pickings


Don’t worry, it’s going to look glorious



Awesomely autumnal



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