Plant rescue: Senecio angel wings

I have a new rescue project. I think this one may be beyond help but I’ll give it a good try out of a perverse interest in whether the damage can be undone. I have been given this Senecio angel wings from my local houseplant shop. It isn’t really a plant I think of as a houseplant. I think of it more as a garden plant for sensory gardens and see it in a few gardens around me as it is tolerant of our salt winds. It originates from Patagonian region of Chile. Depending on where you read its hardiness goes from -5 in some sources while others say not below 0. It’s generally seen growing in pots as a result where it can be brought in when cold weather strikes. Senecio angel wings are evergreen perennials that are usually short-lived. It’s a succulent with velveteen leaves. I’d been warned this had been allowed to dry out and then watered, possibly too much so it’s fallen into the common trap with succulents. You end up in a cycle of overwatering, and underwatering leading to a slow death.

I forgot to take a picture of how this started but placed back in the initial pot you can see it was a decent-sized pot. It had been top dressed with wood chips. The soil was probably too moisture retentive. This is a succulent that needs free draining soil. The moisture retentive soil with wood on top trapping more water probably wasn’t a great combination for growing this.

I suspected it was suffering with root rot and just intended to inspect the soil by taking it out of the pot to check the roots. It came away from the pot. It appeared that this probably wasn’t that well rooted when delivered from the nursery. It had a central core of roots going down and then circling the pot but not a decent network going through the pot. The plant came away leaving a short root network. The issues with this possibly go back to the nursery selling a plant before it was properly established but without seeing it earlier on I can’t judge that fairly

I’m not convinced it has enough root left to survive but I’m going to chance it. I’ve potted it up in a mix made for succulents and cacti. This has a higher content of sand and grit to allow the water to drain. As it is succulent it doesn’t need lots of water to survive so the limited root system may not be too much of an issue if I carefully make sure it gets water but doesn’t end up waterlogged. I think it will be hard but it may be able to recover and form a stronger root network.

The potting up process was a bit messy leaving lots of the old compost mix stuck to the furry leaves. Some of the leaves had hardened off, possibly through being allowed to dry out too much before being overwatered or just getting old.

I’ve pruned off a few of the worst leaves to reduce the strain on the root system. Fewer leaves mean less photosynthesis so less need for water.

It’s not looking pretty right now and I don’t think this ones going to be recovering anytime soon, if at all. It will need mollycoddling through winter and then might manage to put on fresh growth in spring. For now I’m going to place it outside on dry days to get some more light and then bring it in on wet days and place near the grow lights. I think it probably needs more light than it was getting as a houseplant. If plants don’t have enough light they don’t use water as quickly for photosynthesis. Online sources suggested 6 hours of sunlight a day but as this more often grows outside I think much more than that to really thrive.

So, having addressed the wet compost mix I’ve got to balance the watering, light and heat now for it to stand a chance. It may not survive but that doesn’t mean I can’t learn about what would make it thrive if I end up with another. I probably wouldn’t grow it as a houseplant I reckon it would favour being outside for most of the year and just in for winter. The velvet leaves are quite nice but Stachys can give me the same effect in the garden without being as particular. Tradescantia sillamonata has a similar feel as a houseplant while being more straightforward to keep alive and propagate me, so I’m not sure this has a purpose in my collection but it’s interesting to know more about it.

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Six on Saturday: 24.9.22

Been a busy week at work. We had several people off so I’ve been covering extra sessions. As a result, I’ve not spent much time in my own garden. This week’s six is from my parent’s garden last week.


A good few blooms coming through looking very nice.

Another rose

Another rose, but this one only had one bloom. It was looking nice against the pyracantha.


The time for winter and autumn bedding is upon us. Cyclamen are lovely plants with the foliage and the delicate flowers.


The agapanthus are doing very well. My mum has built a good collection that are flowering over a good period. These are some of my favourites.


This zinnia was just pure floral perfection. My mum has grown lots in pots this year and they have been wonderful providing great bright bursts of orange and pink and red.


Harvests have been a bit erratic with the drought this year but my parents have managed a good harvest of decorative gourds ready for autumn displays.

Hope you all enjoy your weekends. I’ve got a few more extra shifts next week but will hopefully have some garden time this weekend. Still haven’t planted last week’s purchases so want to get them in.

Six on Saturday: 17.9.22 RHS treats

Having done so well completing my RHS Level 2 in Horticulture I felt entitled to a few treats. We headed off to Skirlaugh Garden Centre. Of our local garden centres, I think this one has one of the best range of perennials at the best price. A few others have more choice but you pay for it. I was hoping for a few plants for what I’ve designated as the hot border. The other borders are looking like they’ll be fairly cohesive but this one isn’t looking so good. I had Geum totally tangerine in mind for decent bright flowers over a reasonable period. They had a lot of yellow Geums I wasn’t bothered for and one short red one I was tempted with but didn’t have a place in mind for. I was also looking for more Ophiopogon to go edging the arch on either side but it was very expensive for small pots so I’ll just divide my existing plants. It’ll take longer but it was looking to cost the better part of £50 to get enough to fill the space. But, let’s take a look at what I did buy.


It turned out they had all plants reduced. I assume they are clearing stock ahead of winter. So, all of this came to £30 which is pretty good for some decent perennials. I got 5 Kniphofia uvaria Flamenco. I have a lot of plants forming low mounds of foliage. I wanted a few plants that have more of an upright shape like these to vary things up. While I didn’t find the geum I wanted I did find Potentilla nepalensis Miss Wilmott. This has small pink flowers with a dark centre. Alice picked a potentilla a few years ago that I wasn’t sure about. However, it has proved a good plant and as this one has Miss Wilmott’s name to it, I’m willing to try it. I got 3 Agapanthus purple clouds that I’m planning to put together in a pot. I am trying to reduce my pot watering and the agapanthus have been great in the heat this year. I let Alice choose a number of plants from the alpine section for her alpine garden. She picked: Sempervivum arachnoideum bryoides, Erodium reichardii Album, Chaenorhinum origanifolium ‘blue dream’, Rhodiola pachyclados and Lilium formosanum var. Pricei. Amy choose a Rhodohypoxis Tetra Pink.

Agapanthus ‘purple cloud’

This is supposedly one of the darkest purple Agapnathus. Currently, I have various shades of blue, from very pale to a more royal blue. They have been reliable plants in the pots. They require minimal effort in terms of watering and they bring colour in late summer when there is a bit of a lull between some of the early summer plants fading. The bees seem to love them. This seems like a good enough reason for them to exist in my garden. I think the purple will complement nicely with my blousy pink hydrangeas.

Potentilla ‘Miss Wilmott’

I had envisioned this in a spot mid-border but when I looked up the details it is shorter than the label suggests. It should form a dense clump of strawberry-like leaves and flower through summer and possibly even into autumn. I’ve been listening to the audiobook of Miss Wilmott’s life and it is a fascinating story. An amazing plantswoman, though a bit of a controversial figure in her time, and I’m willing to give any plant with her name assigned a try. I’m going to have to reconsider my positioning though and look for a spot front of the border.

Kniphofia uvaria Flamenco

These are heading into the border I have assigned the hot border. As I said I wanted some plants with more upright shapes. There are a lot of clump-forming perennials with broader leaves like geraniums so these will make a contrast. They form the bottle brush flowers in shades of red, to orange, to yellow. Kniphofia are native to Africa and as such like it on the dryer side. I’m not sure what they’ll make of my soil which is much-improved clay soil. I think I’ve improved it enough over the last few years that these should survive and fit with my plans for more drought tolerance to reduce the need to water.

The alpines

Alice helped me plant up her choices in her fairy garden. We had the one sempervivum that didn’t fit that I’ll probably use in a pot sometime and Amy’s choice of the Rhodohypoxis Tetra Pink which went in the border. I’m not sure it will suit the border soil but Alice was definite it belonged there. A lot of what Alice selected are spreaders so we’ll see how they colonise the space of which suit the conditions well and which don’t. The lilies were new to me. They are a dwarf form that still forms a large flower but on short sturdy stem apparently. They look pretty on the label, but we’ll see. Lily beetle have been around a lot this year though I have still had most lilies make it to flower.

Acanthus ‘morning candle’

I like acanthus. They have nice deep cut leaves and the contrasting flowers are very attractive. I tried Acanthus whitewater last year but this year’s growth has been very weak. Whitewater is a highly variegated one and I wonder if this has weakened it. Morning candle has attractive veining but it is still a dark green so hopefully, this will grow strong. They form tap roots and regrow from small root sections so once placed they can keep coming back even if you move so I need to consider its position well.

I still want to track down the geum I failed to get but I feel this was a pretty good plant haul as a reward for my RHS results. A few people have asked if I plan to continue my studies. I’m not carrying on with any RHS courses currently. I am however aiming for a National Collection of Iris foetidissima. I’m also attending the British Cactus and Succulent society meetings. So between working on the National Collection for plant heritage, reading information from the British Iris Society and building my cactus knowledge I have plenty to keep me busy as I continue to develop my plant knowledge.

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Six on Saturday: 10.9.22

It has been a busy week for me as I returned to work after the school holiday. It’s been a good week back but I also had more significant gardening news. I passed my final two RHS exams and to top it off I received commendations for both exams. So, I finished the course with 6 out of 8 as commendations. Very pleased to have made it through so I think a few gardening treats are in order.

Seating area

Work continues on the seating area. I got the weed matting down and started on the stones. It is gradually taking shape. It should be done by next week.

Burton Agnes Purchases

We went to Burton Agnes Hall last week and made a few purchases. Alice picked the Armeria which I reckon we can add to her fairy garden we started last week. Amy picked Euphorbia x martini ‘Ascot Rainbow’. She liked the contrast of the stem and leaf. I’ve put this one in a pot to give it the drainage it needs. I went for Penstemon ‘Pensham Plum Jerkum’. I fancied something forming towers of flowers that flower over a decent period. The gardens are still filled with lots of plants looking great but it is feeling a bit run down in areas. It’s gradually looking in need of a designer to come and bring some cohesion back to the individual garden sections.

Clematis Montana Warickshire rose

I picked up a cheap Clematis from Morrisons for one side of the arch. Their cheap climbers have grown well for me in the past and Montana are vigorous anyway. They have pale pink flowers in late spring or early summer. I planted an unnamed Montana for the other side of the arch. They should cover the arch nicely but without being spiky for walking through.

Houseplant treats

After receiving my RHS results I figured I deserved a little treat on the day. I got a little Sansiveria. Nothing particularly special, but it isn’t one I’ve got. Then a Crassula Rhapsody in pink. That’s the strange one that looks like little tails. Both of these are barely rooted cuttings so will need a bit of care to keep going. They were cheap but still probably shouldn’t be sent out from their nurseries like this. But the demand for houseplants is outstripping supply I reckon. Then I got a Chamaelobivia, the peanut cactus. It can be grown as a houseplant or in the garden. This one has bright red flowers. It is marketed as a hardy garden cactus. It is reckoned to hardy to -7 though it may be killed by winter wet, so I may put it in the mini greenhouse to shelter it from rain and then it’ll be a garden plant as the weather warms up. They grow easily from offsets so I may pluck out a few to keep inside as an insurance policy.

Cleistocactus strausii

I saw this cactus for sale on Facebook for £7. I’ve been after a nice big specimen and this is fulfilling that role. The big column is a decent two foot. I’m going to need to work out the best way to deal with the browned off stems. I think I will probably divide it and cut out the browned sections leaving me with the tall column and a shorter one. It’s not necessarily a plant you see for sale very often though it is used within a number of well-known gardens planting schemes. Jimi Blake uses it within his garden, Hunting Brook Garden, in Ireland. Looking online these are selling at £100 to £200 so hopefully I can divide this successfully and have a spectacular specimen for the cactus display. Not bad since it included the pot.

Astrantia ‘claret’

I got this Astrantia from Scampston a few years ago and it has proved a reliable plant. It has flowered well through summer and it’s still going strong.

I have the rest of the stone to get on with moving to finish the seating area. We may have ordered too much so the passage around the back of the house may get a fresh layer of stone too. I’d like to try and make it to the garden centre some point this weekend for a few treats for my exam result. I’ve got a few gaps in the border from moving things around that I’d like filled but have to see what’s available. We’ve had a lot of rain this week so the plants that have been moved are largely settling well and the water butts are looking full again. Hope you all enjoy your weekends whatever you are up to.

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Six on Saturday: dramatic changes

This week has been a busy week in the garden. We’ve talked about making a new seating area for a good while but haven’t we got around to it. With this being the last week of the school holiday I’ve got started before I run out of time. Half the lawn has been lifted to make the seating area. The turf has been bagged and hopefully will rot down over autumn and winter to form some good compost to use as a mulch. The back half of the garden will have the seating and the front half still has Alice’s slide. This is going to compartmentalize the areas and hopefully make them more usable for all the family and give us a spot to sit out for a cuppa.

The arch

To mark the divide, I thought an arch would help really mark the areas. It also helps change the view from the house. Looking from the kitchen the eye is drawn across the garden and down to the gate. The aim here is that the arch breaks up the sightline and draws the eyeliner through the arch. Currently from the kitchen, that gives you a view through to the Hydrangea limelight making for something more likely to draw you out into the garden. I have one spare Clematis Montana for one side of the arch but could do with another to climb the other side.

The seating area

The seating area will have weed matting put down and then we are travelling. It would be nice to have it paved or something more robust but for now, we are going with the cheaper option. Both the table and the arch were reduced at the garden centre as they are clearing ready to transform the garden furniture ready for Christmas. The table is eucalyptus wood and resin. The resin is made with recycled fisherman rope, which feels quite fitting with us being by the coast. Quite a bright choice but it’s Amy’s favourite colour and they are more comfortable than the wooden fold-out ones we had before.

Shaded area

Around the seating area is a mix of foliage plants with the Hydrangea limelight bringing the main colour. This area has more shade than the rest of the garden with the black cherry and lilac on one side. Then the other side has a holly, Ilex golden king. This is still small but after a couple of years of settling, it’s put on a good bit of growth this year. The fences are gradually getting claimed by climbing hydrangeas. So hopefully you will be surrounded by green when sat here. This area has most of Iris foetidissima plants. I am currently in the process of building up towards a National Collection so this will house them in a more attractive and unified border than it was before.

The slide

The slide has been turned around so Alice doesn’t have to slide into the border. I’ve moved some of the turf lifted to repair a few patches. I’ll probably end up seeding the lawn to as it’s had a hard year.

Underneath I have set up Alice’s fairy garden. I thought she’d use the underneath as a den area when we built it but she rarely did. It just ended up being a scruffy patch of grass underneath. We had the fairy garden in a pot previously but this is a bit more accessible. She helped set it all up and has made stories around each landmark already. The frame above provides some rain cover. A bit still gets through but not as much. It gets quite a bit of morning sun and then the frame will shade it for midday before the sun goes around and it will get some more. We’ve planted in a number from pots where they had spread well and needed dividing. It keeps all her fairy bits together and allows me to have a mini rock garden to play with.

Cool border

We are a good few years into starting the garden and some plants have outgrown their spaces and others haven’t performed as expected. I have a better knowledge of where gets more sun and more shade and where wind directs. Some of the planting combinations were working and some weren’t. So, I made the decision to do a big shift around. It’s not the ideal time to do it as it’s a bit too hot still so I am having to water it all in well. We do have a week ahead of rain though which should help. The border to the side of the slide has largely worked but there were a few colour combinations that weren’t working and a few plants receiving too much sun. The Acer has been potted up for now and the candelabra primulas have been moved to more shaded areas around the seating area. The remaining plants were largely shades of blue and purple with a number of white Aster family members. I figured I might as well make this the unifying colour scheme and make this a cool border. There is a tall Symphyotrichum novi-belgii (formally aster) that flowers in late summer. The frothy Erigeron karvinskianus provides little daisy flowers at the front of the border. Next to that is wood asters which are a slightly taller white daisy. The Echinops (globe thistles) have done well this year. They suffered with aphids early on in the year but it hasn’t stopped them flowering well. Behind and out of sight is the Eryngium (Sea holly). I have moved all the Eryngium that was dotted along the border together to see if it can make more of an impact as a group. Hopefully these will all work better together. Many of the flowers made up our wedding flowers so it should work nicely together. A lot of the planting flowers mid to late summer so I’ll maybe need to get a few bulbs into add some spring interest. But as this border is completely obscured from the house by evergreen planting I’m not too concerned if this only has summer interest as there won’t be many people looking at it any other time beyond me.

The hot border

Opposite the cool border I’ve decided we’ll have a hot border. It’s a bit tired at the moment with a lot of the plants finished flowering. The salvias are still going strong and the gladioli are coming into flower one by one. The crocosmia are bringing a little colour but it won’t really be until next year where it comes into its own. The front of the border is largely made up of different short hardy geraniums that flower late spring. Interspaced along the front are several short Iris sibericas that offer a different leaf shape to the geraniums. I’ve placed Salvia hot lips at both ends of the border as this has done well for a long period bringing in lots of bees. I could probably do with a few taller plants mid border. There are a few salvias and monarda. Lupins will come up for early spring but this border still isn’t quite right. More thought needed.

And that’s your six. The patio is getting a tidy too. I’m trying to reduce the pots to a couple of neat displays as it has got too full this year. I’ve got a number of drought-resistant plants for the full sun positions but I need to repot a few things. I think what I’ve worked on this week should make a nicer garden long-term. It’ll be a little while settling in but it should be a more unified garden and a lot of what I’ve moved should be happier in their new positions. I think it will help with the drought tolerance if summers carry on like this year. We are forecast showers for the next week so have to see how much I can get done this week. Come back to see progress next week. Check out the propagator’s blog for how to take part in six on Saturday if you fancy getting involved.

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