Six on Saturday: 27.8.22

We’ll get the all-important update out of the way first. We had rain starting with showers at the start of the week and then pretty much a full day of rain on Thursday. Here in the UK, that is all any gardeners are interested in right now. So it seems off that my area is now entering a hose pipe ban when it’s the first time in the last month I haven’t needed to get out and water obsessively. With the wetter weather, I’ve moved a few bits in the border that weren’t quite working. I had little clumps of crocosmia that were looking a bit thin and whispy spread out across the border. I’ve bulked these into one large clump. Then I’ve done the same with the sea holly. I’ve grouped them together to see if they have more impact as a group. With the dry weather, they have been one of my reliable plants this year. This week I’m looking at a few plants that are coping well and a few plants I’m testing for winter hardiness and to make the garden more drought tolerant.

Gladiolus

The gladiolus seem to thrive in the heat. They’ve grown up tall and flowered well. They were a cheap purchase a few years ago. I don’t massively like the blousyness of these but they provide late summer colour each year so I didn’t remove all them.

Clematis

I don’t think I saw this clematis flower last year. It grows around the same area as the Clematis Montana so it may well have been pruned back at the wrong time. So it’s nice to see it return. The Montana has suffered a bit in the heat while the other clematis seem to be enjoying it.

Salvia kisses and wishes

I picked up three of these salvias on a 5 for £11 pound deal. They are small pots so it needed 3 really to make up one decent clump. They’ve been planted in a rough triangle front of the border for now. They are half hardy. I had this one last year and it made it through the winter but got eaten to pieces by slugs. So these will stay in the ground but be given some frost protection. Then I’ll take a few cuttings to keep in case it does suffer from frost or slugs again. The tall dark stems and pink flowers will make a nice contrast against the surrounding hardy geraniums and Erigeron.

Mangave blazing saddles

Mangaves are a cross between Agaves and Manfreda. They go back as far as 2005 though are finding more popularity now. I’m seeing them mentioned more regularly as the mad about Mangave collection has found its way to supermarkets and garden centres. They have developed around 30 cultivars with some wonderful variations in colours and patterns as well as some fabulous wavy leaves. In theory they have gained positive characteristics of their parents. They have fast growth from the Manfreda but grow bigger with the Agave genetics. They retain the drought tolerance of both. They can tolerate full sun though they actually like a little shade. They look spikey but don’t have quite as nasty spines as the agaves. They are reckoned to be hardy down to about -5 but my guess is winter wetness is probably going to be a bigger issue so this has been repotted in a sandy-gritty compost mix to allow it to free drain. Then the pot will be raised on legs through autumn and winter to ensure it drains. This was actually a plant Alice choose a while back after we’d seen the cactus and succulents at Wassand Hall. She saw these in Morrisons and fancied one. I’m willing to give them a try. They are interesting architectural plants and should stay looking interesting over winter so I can keep some form of pot display.

This is one of their smaller more ground-hugging cultivars. I reckon it should do well in a pot where it will contrast to my other spiky plants which are largely shades of lighter green. This one has a nice speckled pattern to it. I’ll be interested to see how it holds up through winter. I quite fancy one of the wavy ones so I may need to try and stop at Morrisons to see if they have any more.

Yukka gloriosa ‘citrus twist’

This is another drought-dolerant purchase for the pots. After Alice chose the Mangave I saw this cheap outside the florists. I thought the brighter yellow and green leaves would make a good contrast to the Mangave while still having the pointed leaves.

It’s a tough plant capable of handling full sun and drought. They can survive frosts down to quite low levels but their appearance will suffer. They originate from Texas so they are used to extremes of weather. Looking up close the leaf has shades of cream and yellow with an inner stripe of almost blue-green.

Opuntia humifusa

Then for the final choice for this week’s six I’m going for a cactus. I decided I would try the ultimate in drought tolerance. Opuntia humifusa is reckoned to be one of the hardiest but also able to survive some winter wet. It originates from Northeastern USA and even grows in Canada. Not necessarily reckoned to be the most attractive Opuntia form but it seems a good place to test out hardiness and what can survive in my conditions. It forms yellow flowers around June and these become the prickly pears which are edible as are the pads if times get hard. I’m planning to leave it out over winter but close to one of the walls to avoid a bit of rain. Too much rain is more likely to cause loss than death by frost.

It’s been a productive week in the garden. I’ve got through several big pruning jobs. The lilac and cherry have been cut back a lot for this year. I’ve pruned a lot of honeysuckle hard back as it’s finished flowering and suffered badly in the heat. The roots are hard to get to for watering as it’s right at the back of a thick border. But I’m fairly confident it will return. I’m hoping to get a bit more down before I go back to work. Hope you all enjoy your weekends.

Cotswold Wildlife Park

After the first trip of our holiday to Kiftsgate, it was Alice’s choice of where to go. She decided on Cotswold Wildlife Park which I was happy with as I wanted to go to. I’ve seen snippets of the garden through Harriet Rycroft on Twitter. As well as having lots of animals to see it has walled gardens with a good reputation.

Cactus and succulent beds

One of the areas I was interested to see was the cactus beds. They have a great collection of cactus and succulents outside.

It’s interesting to see lots of plants we normally see as houseplants growing outside like the spikey Aloe veras.

Aeoniums and opuntias were used a lot through these beds with several opuntias being fully hardy.

It was interesting to see lots of the opuntias fruiting. Some varieties have edible fruit and the pads can be eaten as well but I’m happy to let them keep growing. I’m trying a few outside in my garden and want to test their hardiness over winter.

I’d love to know more about the winter maintenance of this area of the garden. Some of the plants in the bed are hardy but many must need protection from winter wet. They appeared to be in the ground so I’d be interested to know if they are dug out or else protected in place.

A few of the plants being propagated were visible in a service area but could only peer in.

Exotic planting

There is much more to enjoy within the walled garden. Bananas and palms tower over the main planting. Then dahlias were providing much of the colour.

Some of it was growing in walk-in hot houses with the animals. We spotted many birds here but the sloth remained elusive.

We sat and waited and watched but no luck.

We did enjoy some of the more exotic birds in there.

Fabulous frizzy hair styles.

The train

We took the little train around the park. It does charge separately from your park entry fee but was only a few quid.

It takes you on a loop of the park down to the furthest end where the rhinos and giraffes are. You can’t get out but if you have someone who will struggle with the walking it will give them a chance to see around more of the park as it was a decent walk from one end of the park to the other. Particularly in the heat we visited.

The tree ferns around the station were coping well with the heat.

Animals

For most people, the animals are the main attraction and there is more than I’m going to show. The prairie dogs were one of Amy’s favourites.

The penguins kept Alice’s attention the best. She occasionally talks about liking a job like being a vet but when she actually has animals in front of her she isn’t massively interested. She did like watching the penguins going in and out of the water.

The tortoise was one of the more accommodating animals for photos.

Though I think the rhinos were one of my favourites. With them being so endangered it is good to know we still have populations being looked after. While it is a far from ideal set up at least it gives the possibility for reintroductions to the wild at some stage. It was hot and dry enough in the heatwave that they were looking right at home. Many of the animals were hiding away in the shade whereas they were a bit more active.

Amy’s macro

It was so hot Amy didn’t stop much to make use of her camera as it was too much effort swapping her lenses but she did get some wonderful photos in one of the cooler exhibits.

While I was marvelling at the fact that they have maidenhair ferns that don’t look miserable. Clearly, I need to build a fake waterfall inside to give them the right conditions.

And they had nepenthes hanging down in here.

Savanna

The grasslands around the house were looking much like the Savanna many of the animals come from. To get to the animals at the far end of the park we did little shade hops from tree to tree.

The larger grasses and ret hot pokers were amongst the plants doing better in the heat.

But meant we got to see the giraffes a bit better than from the train.

And the camels were being quite sociable coming out to see the visitors.

Alice showed her appreciation of the tree’s shade.

Despite the heat, it was still a great day out. We got to see some amazing animals and I got to see some interesting plants. I’d love to know more about their winter maintenance of the cactus. There is a book on the gardens which I may need to speak out. I’m finishing here but a few more photos below.

Find me on Twitter.

Six on Saturday: 20.8.22 freebies and more

For the first time in a while I’m going to write about my own garden. Our trip to the Cotswolds has inspired me, but there is nothing like the joy of your own garden. If you want to see the first part of our holiday to Kiftsgate Court Gardens check the blog out. I have been fortunate recently to end up with a number of free plants locally that I’m going to be writing about. Then a few successes and a failure.

Drosera

The first of the freebies was a Drosera, commonly known as sundew. This was an odd plant to see offered for free on the local Facebook group.

These are carnivorous plants and are supposedly one of the easier to look after. I wanted it for the summer room where I figure it might stop the odd pest on the cactus and succulent collection. Currently, it seems to have managed a few pollen beetles that aren’t really any major harm.

My local houseplant shop, Botany Boutique, is now selling plant rescue bags. I bought one previously (previous blog) and did pretty well out of it. The bags contain less than perfect plants that the shop can’t justify selling at full price. By selling them this way the shop avoids a loss and cuts their environmental waste and the buyer potentially gets a good plant if they can nurse it back. Botany Boutique had a bag that had been reserved and then left unclaimed. As I had bought the other she offered it to me for free while I was in buying something else. This included 2 Boston Ferns, a peace lily, Oxalis triangularis, Tradescantia and a parlour palm. I already own each of these except the Boston ferns so had a pretty good idea of what each needed. The parlour palm and peace lily just needed a few browned stems and yellowed leaves cut out and they now look presentable. I cut back the dead growth on the Tradescantia and stuck a few cuttings of one I already owned into the soil to bulk it out. The Oxalis has had a trim and a water. These can grow inside or outside so I’ve left it outside, for now, to get more sun to help it recover. Oxalis triangularis spreads by rhizomes so even if appears that all the top growth has died it’s worth waiting a while to see if new growth comes. By coincidence, I had ordered several self-watering pots to help my maidenhair fern. The maidenhair fern is bad for dropping leaves and browning. The self-watering pots have a reservoir of water at the bottom. A wick runs from the reservoir into the soil to keep the soil moist without waterlogging the plant and causing rot. I potted both of the rescue Boston ferns up in these. We’ll see if it makes any difference. They’d lost quite a lot of fronds and it may be too much of a time investment to get them looking good again. But I’m grateful for a bunch of freebies.

Acer

Now for a casualty of the heatwave. Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’ has been gradually crisping but with our week away and the heat it is looking worse by the day. Our neighbours did a good job watering the garden but this has been going downhill for a few weeks. I’m going to pot it up and move it to a more shaded place. I should wait until dormancy to move it but it may be too late by then. I have a suspicion this may be past the point of saving. I have planted a tetrapanax nearby that can take over. The tetrapanax is happier with sun and should hopefully thrive there and add to the exotic feel of the garden. As it is, the Acer is one of the few plants that looks to have expired in the heatwave which in comparison with those of you down south I am getting off lightly so far. A hosepipe ban is coming into effect but not until the end of the month. I’m getting by on the water butts currently but we have had a few bursts of rain this week.

Hydrangea limelight

Now for something that is still thriving. Throughout or holiday we have seen hydrangeas looking very miserable but ours are all doing well. The best of the bunch is Hyrangea paniculata ‘limelight. Panculata seem to have a bit more drought tolerance than some of the other hydrangeas. This is in the shaded front garden where we have clay soil. It has still needed watering a good deal but it is worth the time as it makes a great centerpiece to the front garden.

Eucomis

I bought this back in 2020 from the plant bench at Wassand Hall. It has sat not really doing anything since then. I had considered composting it. This year it has rewarded me with three of the pineapple-like flower spikes. The purple edging and inner triangles is quite pretty so it can stay another year.

Japanese anemone honouring jobert

This clump has been in a few years now and is producing a better number of flowers. With any luck these will keep producing through to autumn.

While it has cooled down a lot in my area watering is still the main job to get on with. We have rain forecast for Monday but we’ll see how much actually materialises. Hope you are all coping with your gardens. We have our linen wedding anniversary to celebrate though we have nothing planned to mark the occasion.

Find me on Twitter.

Kiftsgate Court Garden

We have returned from our holiday in the Cotswolds, which is pretty much a paradise for garden visits. I asked Twitter where they recommended and Kiftsgate Court Gardens was suggested. I looked it up and found we got two for one with our Gardeners World card so even better. The garden is the result of three successive female gardeners starting with Heather Muir in the 1920’s. She was aided by Lawrence Johnson of Hidcote Manor. We didn’t make it to Hidcote. Hidcote is arguably one of the most famous of the arts and crafts movement gardens. It is currently under National Trust stewardship and I don’t totally trust the National Trust for several of their environmental stances and the excessive price they charge for visiting their properties. As it was, it has been so hot the last week we have chosen gardens with shade. We may manage Hidcote in future. After Heather, Diany Binny took over and developed the white sunk garden and began to open the garden to the public. Anne Chambers took over and carried on the evolution of the garden with the tennis court becoming a water garden. The staff were very welcoming on entry explaining the layout and they were friendly to Alice. Not every garden we visit is happy to see children.

The banks and pool

We began our visit heading down the winding bank paths. These looked to have been replanted recently with a few areas of hardy geraniums and ferns that haven’t been established yet. It will look nice as it spreads if it can survive the current heatwave. As we got down the planting was more established. The paths wind down to the summer house which has a lovely view across the pool and Cotswolds. Then coming down from the summer house the steps lead to a little pond.

The pool at the bottom has a sunken ha-ha giving you another view out to the rolling hills.

In the heat, all seating was appreciated. If it was cooler we might have stayed down here longer to admire the view but we needed shade.

The lilies were the standout flower all over the garden. While many plants have suffered with the heat these were loving it.

Amy was very determined to get a photo of Alice by the pool with her reflection but Alice quickly lost interest and got fed up of squinting.

The walk back up was hot work with multiple stops on the way. The route took us under the towering Scots pines. Their shade was much appreciated. By the end of this holiday, I have become convinced that these should be planted everywhere as they have saved us from heat exhaustion, again and again, the last week.

I rather liked this statue that you find located part of the way back up. Statues are often placed badly in gardens or they are out of proportion with their surroundings but this fitted beautifully. There was also a stone bench to sit on which was needed for us to stop and drink more water.

Yellow border

The yellow border was more of an orange border currently with crocosmia and lilies dominating the colour.

Though no less beautiful for being orange rather than yellow.

At the end of this border, there were a number of topiary animals creating a mini farm.

And a stone which in my mind has a face.

The water garden

As already mentioned the water garden was previously a tennis court. It has kept the strong straight lines of the court. The dragonflies were skimming the surface enjoying hunting the other insects on the water.

The water pleasantly trickles over the leaves. On a cooler day this would be a nice serene place to stop and wander. But in the heat of our visit we mainly stayed in the shelter.

Luckily to the side there was a much appreciated shelter.

The rose garden

The rose garden was a bit lacking in roses in flower. I assume they are either over or the next flush hasn’t come through yet. Most of the photos I took here were badly over exposed so I don’t have any of the few roses that were looking good.

One end of the rose garden leads back towards the house while the other takes you through to the wild garden and orchard. I really liked how the smaller leaves of the formal yew hedge had been combined with the larger leaves to make the arch.

And a statue seat drawing the eye up the path.

Wild garden and orchard

The wild garden was not full of much activity. Much of the plants had finished flowering and gone to seed ready for next year. There will have been lots of life hidden away amongst the stems but not much moving in the heat.

The orchard had some fine-looking fruit forming. The grass has gone very parched but will still be providing habitats for lots of insects and other life. Many of their old apple trees had died and have been replaced but all looks to be settling in well. Underneath is planted with Camassias and the tulip Jan Reus which are well over now but would make a spring visit worthwhile with the fruit trees blossom.

The avenue

The avenue is made up of a formal seating arrangement with gravel arranged to make the diamond shape.

Then the avenue stretches out, lined by tulip trees, to a sculpture at the end by Pete Moorhouse. Looking at it as a photo the sculpture doesn’t look quite proportioned right to the length of the avenue and the size of the trees.

I can’t say I was that bothered for walking down to see it in the heat but Alice insisted. I’m not interested in formal layouts like this. They leave me feeling a bit cold, combined with the heat I can’t say I liked this area. The water garden was formal but that was all done with a bit more panache. This still feels like a work in progress. It extends the garden but I didn’t feel it fitted with the more intimate feel of the other garden rooms.

Alice on the other hand enjoyed running up and down the banks.

White sunk garden and four squares

By this point, legs were getting tired so we started heading back to the house. We stopped to have a look in the white sunk garden on the way.

There was a lot flowering around this area doing well in the heat. Roses and agapanthus were thriving.

Then the wide border and four squares were filled with lots of colourful beauties.

Then a well-earned ice cream for Alice. We’d given her legs a good workout and nice cake for us in the cafe.

We appreciated the shade and breeze that filtered through the plants around the window after our hot exploration of the garden.

Even in the heat, this was a lovely garden to visit. There were a lot of plants suffering in the heat but the dahlias and lilies were looking fabulous. I particularly like the yellow and wide borders. Lots of perennials looking good. The fern garden I didn’t photograph much but that had a lovely mix of ferns. The banks were a nice stroll down and back up through the pines. Hard work in the heat but well worth it. Sadly I couldn’t make plant purchases as we wouldn’t be able to fit them for the journey home but the selection on offer looked very good. I’d like to return again at another time of year to see it in a different season or at least a few degrees cooler. I would recommend it for a visit though you may struggle if you have mobility issues as the bank is steep and many of the garden rooms are on different levels. It made a good start to our stay in Moreton In Marsh.

Find me on Twitter.

Six on Saturday: Epiphyllum plant rescue

I’ve fancied an epiphyllum cactus for a little while. Also known as orchid cactus, these are native to Central and South America. They are epiphytes and would naturally be found in crevices of trees or rocks where enough humus has formed to capture water. It’s a forest cactus rather than the more usual desert cactus that comes to mind with the word cactus. They live in the understory so like a little more shade than desert cactus making them good houseplants. Epiphyllum look good hanging over the edge of pots and suit hanging pots well so they can hang as they would in the wild from tree branches.

1. The plant

I found a large one growing in one of the local garden centres. It is not looking the best currently but it was cheap for the size. This has suffered in just about every way a plant can. It has been sat on a waterlogged bench in a boiling hot greenhouse. The greenhouse has no vents beyond opening the doors so it has been fried and drowned. Not ideal for a cactus. It also appears to have been nibbled on by something and had a good A-Z of weeds including two varieties of Oxalis. On the face of it a plant not worth getting but it was cheap for a decent-sized plant. It may turn out I can’t fix the issues and then it will be used as a large amount of cutting material to propagate more.

2. The weeds

The first step was removing as much of the weeds as possible. I took it out of the pot. A lot of it peeled off the outer layer in big sections leaving the plant behind.

3. Soil removing

The soil it had been potted in was less than ideal and it was rather sodden so I removed much of the existing soil. This left the plant which only has a small root network. I imagine this is pretty normal though going off its epiphytic nature.

4. Potting mix

I mixed a more suitable potting mix made up of part sand, part grit and part compost. This will have some moisture retention but free enough draining that it doesn’t sit in water like it has been.

5. Potting up

I potted it back up in a smaller pot. having removed the weeds and probably losing some of the roots in the process the root ball was much smaller and generally, you want a plant growing in a pot that is just slightly bigger than the root ball. I’ve potted it slightly higher than it was previously as by my reckoning it had been buried a bit low. This has left a bit of unsightly damaged stem but this will be hidden as it grows. But I think the stem may suffer with rot left as it was.

6. Finishing touches

I then top-dressed it with some grit and found it a cache pot. It doesn’t suit the plant that well but it will do for now. There are two rather grand flowers so I get a taste of what it may be like in future years. It’s got quite a bad lean to it that I’m trying to rectify by facing it away from the light. Though to be fair I don’t mind it on a plant like this where I think it looks a bit more natural having a sense of direction.

Hopefully, now it’s out of the direct sun it should darken a bit. It is more yellow than the photos appear. This is probably a mix of the watering and the sun. We’ll see if it sorts itself out over the next few months. I’d still quite like an Epiphyllum anguliger, the fishbone cactus, but this will do for now. It still has signs of its mistreatment but if I can keep it going it will be a plant with a bit more of a story and character.

Find me on Twitter.

Six on Saturday: 6.8.22 Wassand Hall

Wassand Hall is one of our closest gardens to visit. We went a few months back and Alice enjoyed it so much she has been pestering to go back each time we drive past the turn off. I think this may be because she gets a bag of sweets for completing the woodland trail more than an interest in plants. But it is one of my favourite local gardens. The Wassand estate manages a lot for wildlife and the walled gardens are as nice as any gardens we visit. It’s a bit rough around the edges as it’s primarily run by volunteers but it is small enough it can be maintained with exciting plants.

Tropical corner

The tropical corner is one of my favourite areas of the walled garden. The mix of large-leaved plants with bright flowers is fabulous. The bananas and tetrapanax are a bit crisped this year but it’s still great seeing the big leaves.

Alice is still at an age where she’s excited by the idea of banana trees in the UK.

Colocasia envy

Each time we visit I end up with envy of the greenhouse. It’s a lovely structure and heated with a humifier. It is a perfect environment for a whole host of tropical plants including this bench of colocasia. I’ve tried one before but didn’t get it to anywhere near these levels and mine suffered with disease and pests by the end of the season. I have got my own aroid in the form of a little caladium on the go from my plant rescue box I wrote about earlier in the week. The variegated leaves on this are bringing me some pleasure but have to see if I can bring it back to health to keep through winter.

Carnivorous plants

Also in the greenhouse is the collection of carnivorous plants. The different adaptations to trap insects is endlessly fascinating. I have just ended up with a Drosera for free from the local gardeners Facebook group so I was interested to check theirs out.

The Sarracenia are my favourite with their veined leaves. These form pitchers filled with liquid. The insects are attracted to the liquid which they drown in and then they are absorbed by the plant gradually.

Hydrangea Annabelle

Each time we visit at this time of year the hydrangeas have been covered with butterflies. They normally get listed as low benefit for wildlife but I find they are quite popular with butterflies.

Dahlias

There were a good few dahlias but I think this shocking pink was one of the best. I’m not a fan of the muted washed out dahlias like cafe au lait. Dahlias should be bright and in your face not something that looks like weak tea.

Plant purchases

There are normally some interesting plants for sale on their sales bench. I normally find something not readily available at the garden centres. For some reason, I was attracted to the drought-tolerant plants. I went with a dark-leaved purple emperor and a little alpine succulent, Chiastophyllum oppositifolium. Then the day lilly was a cheap purchase they were clearing out.

Well, that’s your six for the week. Back to the watering. We have had a few short bursts of rain but it isn’t having much impact on the garden but it has helped refill the water butts. I’m trying to keep the garden well-watered ready for being away. Enjoy your weekends.

Find me on Twitter.

Plant Rescue Box

The new local houseplant shop, Botany Boutique, has partnered with the plant rescuer, Sarah Gerrard-Jones, to stock plant rescue boxes. These are bags or boxes of plants that need a bit of care to get them back to pristine sales point. They may need a repot or can be saved by taking cuttings. They are an opportunity to grab some interesting plants at bargain prices. When I saw Botany Boutique was going to be offering these I reserved one straight away as I like a plant rescue project. There is a sense of satisfaction in bringing back a plant to health that otherwise would add to the waste in this world. Sarah’s book the plant rescuer is currently on sale for kindle. I’ve bought it and probably going to give a read after I’ve finished my current book. I’m not generally keen on plant books on kindle but as I had a voucher it was pretty cheap. If it turns out to be good I’ll probably buy a hard copy.

The collection

For £15 I received:

Sago palmCaladium, Kalanchoe, 2 African violets, peace Lilly, Hoya, 2 calatheas and a few succulents.

  • Sago palm (Cycas revoluta)
  • Caladium
  • Kalanchoe
  • 2 African Violets (Streptocarpus sect. Saintpaulia)
  • Peace Lilly (Spathiphyllum)
  • Hoya kerri
  • 2 Calatheas
  • A collection of succulents

The state of these varied of why they’d been included. Some like the peace lily and African violets I think have been included as they are going past flowering point. The succulents are pretty disfigured. The caladium had a good few bent stems. The sago palm had two crisped smaller leaves and two larger healthy leaves.

Caladium

The caladium is one of the plants that interested me more as it isn’t one I have and it has an interesting leaf. It was quite a large plant but many of the stems had been knocked and weren’t going to heal. I don’t know caladiums well enough to know the variety but it looks pretty to me. It could be gingerland but they change a lot depending on the light levels.

I began by cutting out the damaged stems. This left a much-reduced plant but still a good couple of leaves.

The soil had a little bit of fungal growth. Possibly grey mould. Fungal issues are not uncommon for plants like this that need a decent level of moisture. The fallen leaves were causing part of the issue. With some plants, you can leave them to dry out between watering to reduce fungal problems but as caladiums need a good level of water this isn’t a great option. So I went with the more extreme option of removing the existing soil and repotting in fresh soil.

As it was a decent clump and one section had the fungal covering I decided to divide it while the soil was off. Caladiums form tubers, much like dahlias. You can take cuttings so long as it has a little section with a tuber on. I divided two smaller sections with leaves that are set to unfurl. Earlier in the year you could probably get away with just tuber and let it form new stems. I went with how it naturally wanted to split cutting this section with a sharp sterilised knife to avoid spreading disease.

The larger tuber section had a bit of root rot. If you looking at the photo below you can see a number of roots that have gone brown and they felt like mush. These were cut off and the healthy white roots were retained.

To pot it up it needs holding in the pot at the desired level and then the soil was poured around the roots, tapping every so often to let the soil go down and continuing until the pot was full to just below the rim. The old soil has gone in the council bin just in case it was a nastier fungal disease than I believe.

At the end of this process, I have two small pots and a larger one. I have left them for a good soak in a tray. With any luck, I’ll have one decent plant for me and two I can gift away. They are often recommended for growing for one summer season buying the tubers in spring and not keeping so we’ll see how I get on with the winter dormancy period.

Succulents

The succulents are the ones I have the least interest in as I already have healthy versions of many of these. The sempervivum looked like it had just gone leggy but when I inspected it came away from the soil.

I stripped off the rotting and dead leaves back to the small central stem that was still healthy. I have a number of semperivums already so I’ve just poked a hole in the other pots and slotted it in. It may root, it may not. It doesn’t bother me too much either way as it isn’t one I’m that bothered about. It’ll be a while until it gets to any size to be worthwhile.

The succulent at the front has just been labelled succulent. Not sure exactly what it is. Could just be an etiolated echeveria or crassula.

I’ve stripped off the lower leaves and potted it deeper. I could have potted up the leaves and they would form new plants too but it doesn’t look like anything I’m too interested in. I considered composting it but it felt cruel when I was trying to rescue everything else. You can see it has several small leaves at the top that will hopefully form a fresh healthy plant. The stem below the ground can root us into the ground and it looks a bit neater for removing damaged leaves.

Kalanchoe

I was gifted a few Kalanchoe plantlets a few months back and they have been growing well. I think this may be another kalanchoe daigremontiana, mother of thousands. So I may well be swamped with this plant as it is very good at propagating itself. It had a few damaged lower leaves.

I potted it on into a slightly bigger pot. I removed the lower damaged leaves and potted it slightly lower with the repot. This is one I’ll probably just gift on unless it appears to be a different Kalanchoe from what I already have.

Healthy plants

The calatheas largely look healthy enough. They just have a few yellowing leaves. These have gone in the bathroom along with a few relatives as I already have a maranta and Goeppertia. These like to be moist with good humidity so the bathroom is the ideal spot. Mine is south facing so if I place them on the far wall they seem to get about the right light level and be happy. I’ll monitor these and see how they do and if there are any more problems. They are in small pots currently and it is always harder to keep the water level right. As plants grow and get potted on they become a bit more forgiving. The leaves need a bit of a clean so I’ll take them in the shower with me over the week to give a clean off.

The African Violets look to be fine. They have finished flowering so it will just be a matter of growing them on and potting as needed until they are ready to flower. For now, I have just put them in the north-facing spare room. I’ll keep my eye out for some small pots to put these in.

Sago palm

Despite the name, they aren’t actually palm trees, though they have the look of one. They are actually gymnosperms, relatives of conifers. They originate from southern Japan. Cycads have very ancient origins going back to Jurassic times with many dying out in the great extinction but some survived to modern times. This had two smaller leaves on the outside that had browned off. These have been removed. If I remember rightly new leaves form from the centre so hopefully, I have just removed older leaves. When checking plant health the roots are my first port of call. By taking a plant out of its pot you can check for watering issues, whether over or under watering as well as pests and disease. This had some white powdery egg like growth at the bottom and similar yellow growth higher up.

As I was unsure of what this was I figured a repot was probably a good plan. I removed the soil and washed off as much as I could. Scraped off a little bit of what looked to be fungal growth.

It seems to be increasingly rare to receive a plant in a potting medium that actually suits the plant. I reckon I see daily posts on the British Cactus and Succulent Society Facebook group where people have root rot from cactus purchased in moisture retentive soil. The sago palm comes from Japanese islands and when I’ve seen pictures in its native environment it is usually rocky slopes. So I’ve gone for a free draining mix with a good level of sand and grit. I’ve top-dressed it with grit as I plan to place it outside for summer and this will prevent a few weeds getting in. I’ve kept it in for now as it is a particularly windy day out there and didn’t want to traumatise it anymore. These can grow 5m or so but as it is slow growing this won’t be happening anytime soon.

Hoya kerrii

Hoya kerrii is known as the sweetheart plant. It is generally sold around Valentine’s Day as a single cutting of the heart-shaped leaf. I rarely see it actually sold as a vine with any stem. It is almost always sold as leaf cutting that is barely rooted and doesn’t survive much beyond February. Removing it from the pot confirmed my suspicion. This had the tiniest bit of root wrapped in a little bit of what I assumed was coir fibre wrapped in an elastic band. The leaf is yellowed and a bit wrinkled so I’m assuming the issue with this was underwatering made worse by its lack of root system.

I carefully unwrapped the fibre from around the root and kept as much root as I can. I then potted it into the soil so it has space for more roots to grow. The plant looks better on one side so I’ve kept that side facing out while the yellower side is hidden. The yellowing is difficult to judge why it’s happened as it could be over or underwatering, lack of nutrients, too many nutrients, too much sun, or too little sun. So I’m just going to have to see if giving it a better root run helps first and that should help with watering and nutrient issues. My suspicion is its days are numbered but I can probably get a little enjoyment from it before composting.

All in all, I’m very happy with what I got in the plant rescue box. There are several plants that appear decent enough quality without any effort and a good few that I think will recover. A few succulents I’m not so bothered about, not that I dislike succulents, I have many, but these are already ones I have or close enough to ones I have. The plants would have cost many times the amount paid so if I can bring them back it’ll have been a good saving. I’ve enjoyed the initial process of diagnosing and starting them on the road to recovery. We’ll see how many of them I manage to keep going back to full health.

Find me on Twitter

Helmsley Walled Gardens

We have returned from a break away in North Yorkshire. We’ve had a fabulous time glamping out in the moors. We’ve crammed a lot into a short break away but today’s blog will focus on our trip to Helmsley Walled Gardens. I had heard of the gardens previously but haven’t visited. We opted for it as we had for one through the gardener’s world magazine card. This comes free with the magazine once a year and is well worth the issue price. Just this one trip has paid back for the magazine. Alice was free as under 16’s don’t have to pay. She also got a good activity booklet to take away.

The walled gardens go back to 1758 when it was built by the Feversham family to supply them with fruit and veg at the nearby Dumcombe Park. It fell into disrepair after WWI but was re-envisioned as a therapeutic garden by a local practise nurse, Alison Ticehurst. While she didn’t get to see her idea come to her fruition it has continued as a place for people to heal through horticulture. The garden continues to aid people with a variety of physical disabilities as well as depression and anxiety. It is maintained by a core of staff and friendly volunteers, many of whom we chatted with as went around.

The Orchid House

You enter the gardens through the cafe area and we then turned around to see the Orchid House. This is in the process of being renovated. The panes have been replaced which has been a painstaking process as the spaces are of many different sizes. A new heating and water system is going in. It is looking good and when it’s all complete and stocked it will be able to house some fascinating plants I’m sure.

Currently, it is housing the pelargoniums in the centre.

Then one side has a good collection of aeoniums. I enjoyed a talk from the British Cactus & Succulent Society last month on aeoniums so it was good to see many together. It showed their native spread across the Canary Islands. It was interesting to see the variety in the lecture as we normally see just a handful that have emerged from the same couple of cultivars. My own two are a bit sorry looking and I want to try and give them better care through this winter.

Then a few random succulents along the bench.

There were several moth traps set along the orchid house and outside and several of the catches were on display before being released. There was a good variety and a volunteer showed us some of the catches.

The Long Border

From the Orchid House we went along the long border. This runs from one end of the garden to the Orchid House. This is largely herbaceous perennials and it was looking very nice currently. The central hot border was used for the 2018 film of the Secret Garden.

The Echinops were stars currently. They grow in poor soil and are drought tolerant. But when grown on richer soil they grow taller. These had formed large globes.

The bees could get enough of them.

Hidden Gardens

Alice was excited to explore all the paths from the side of the long border which she considered to be secret paths.

Little border run off the long border with spots to sit and explore.

The annual border

To what I think was the east side of the gardens several large beds had been given to annuals. The cornflower were dominating the mix currently. I hope they get left to go to seed as the birds will love all the seed heads.

Then some daises and poppies stood out amongst the blue.

The Orchard

Alongside the annual beds there is a good orchard stocking a good variety of fruit trees, then a few more growing as cordons along the wall.

They are looking to have a good harvest in a few months. The shop sells a number of preserves and chutneys so I imagine these are harvested for those.

The labyrinth

Neighbouring the orchard is a labyrinth cut into the grass. Garden labyrinths fit well into the therapeutic garden as they are meant to be walked as a time and place for contemplation.

Alice on the other hand has no respect for tradition and sees them as a race to the centre.

Chickens

At the other end of the garden is a wildlife pond and chicken area adding to the productivity of the garden.

Not the friendliest-looking birds though.

And in the corner a shaded area with a good grouping of Acers.

The west wall is given over to Irises which are over now but I’m sure make a spring visit worthwhile. There were a few Kniphofia still in flower.

Statues

There are a number of metal statues dotted around the garden. These are nicely displayed and fit nicely within the loose planting style.

Insects

Even though it was a bit of an overcast day there was still plenty of pollinator activity.

There were many busy bees taking advantage of the garden. In many ways, I think gardens encourage more biodiversity than reserves with the gardener’s desire to ram in many different plants rather than small monoculture areas of limited planting.

Wasps have a bad reputation but they are actually quite useful as pollinators and they attack many pests of garden plants maintaining a natural balance.

A wall of passionflowers in the plant sales area was buzzing with many visitors.

The Vinehouse Cafe

No garden visit is really complete without refreshments. The cafe is housed within an orangery setup along one of the garden’s walls. It was worth a visit having been voted Visit England’s Visitor Experience Award winners in Yorkshire within the food and drink category. Grapevines grow up from one edge and hang over the tables.

We both enjoyed a savoury scone, while Alice had a caramel shortbread slice. I particularly enjoyed mine as I went for a blue cheese and walnut scone. Blue cheese is frowned upon by the rest of the family when at home but I can get away with it when out.

The grapes are reaching a good size. I don’t know how well they ripen but it looks very nice.

Normally a garden visit would have ended with a plant purchase but as the car space was going to be needed for the return journey after glamping I had to forgo that pleasure. The plants for sale were largely from the Yorkshire Plants company which are stocked local to me there wasn’t anything I couldn’t get closer to home. If space wasn’t an issue there was a decent selection of plants available at a reasonable price. I would recommend a visit to the gardens. It was a good family day out The gardens were looking good. The food was delicious and we all came away happy. Plus by visiting and spending you support the therapeutic side of the garden. Hope you’ve enjoyed the tour.

Find me on Twitter.