Six on Saturday: 16.2.19 Taste of exotics

Having posted about Ophiopogon planiscapus last week I thought I’d continue looking at some of my plans to widen out my selection of exotic plants or at least exotic looking plants. While I’m holding off on most of my sowing a few of my choices for this year have such long germination periods I thought I’d get them started.

1. Musa lasiocarpa-dwarf banana

One of my Morgan & Thompson seed purchases this year was a pack of musa lasiocarpa. This dwarf banana is fairly hardy supposedly taking temperatures down to -10. I’m aiming to grow it for the patio but with up to six months to germinate, I thought I better get started. While they are available as small plants there is a satisfaction that comes with growing from seed. Though as these come with a warning that germination is “slow and erratic” I’m not getting my hopes of success up to much.

2. Agaves

The second of this year’s Morgan and Thompson seed purchases. This was a mixed packet of agave seeds. While I am in the cold North being by the coast I think might give them reasonable survival chances if I can get them going. There are a few gardens in my area that bring agaves out for Summer so we’ll see how I get on. At less than 99p after deals were applied I’m willing to take a chance on them. After a week in the propagator I’ve already got some germinating, so we’ll see if I can keep them going to become fully fledged plants. I need to read up on the next stage. I’d only read up on germination as I thought it might fail at that stage.

3. Heated propagator

In order to increase my chances of germination success, I’ve bought a heated propagator. It featured last week with the black mondo seeds. It’s only a cheap variety that adds a few degrees heat but that could make all the difference. It doesn’t have a thermostat to control temperature but I didn’t want to break the bank on it. I do wish I’d gone for the premium though for a more solid lid.

4. Discount ferns

A few weeks back I picked up a few discount ferns. While they are a bit miserable at the moment I think they’ll pick back up with fresh fronds. The borders are filled mainly with cottage garden favourites so to tie the patio and lawn area together I’m looking to use ferns and hostas that will feature in both areas.

One corner of the border already contains a good number of ferns. I’m now looking to mirror this on the opposite border. These new ferns are destined for there. Dryopteris is a nice erect shuttlecock form growing to around a metre tall.

Cristata the king is a tall form that remains evergreen in warmer climates and deciduous as it moves to colder climates. It tolerates a lot of garden situations from shade to semi-shade and tolerant of a variety of soils. It tends to clump and can then be divided to spread it around.

Filix-Mas is deciduous giving me hope that it will come back fine. Once established it shouldn’t need much care. Most of the ferns are evergreen as I’d intended them as a constant green backdrop. This will add a bit of contrast within that mix.

5. Plant lovers guide to ferns

Ferns make for fascinating plants with their prehistoric nature. They provide excellent foliage. Many of my choices are evergreen providing the garden with a background of year-round interest. This book from Kew Gardens has a lot more detail than I expected. I thought it would have a few recommended varieties and a bit of planting detail. A coffee table book but it’s actually very informative. There are recommendations for different areas of the garden, some design ideas, a solid section detailing different ferns and propagation.

6. Propagating houseplants for outdoors

It isn’t an original idea Will Giles did it, Christopher Lloyd did it but this year I want to try some of the houseplants I keep inside outside. It was discussed in one of this weeks plant based podcasts. My prime candidates are plants that are easy to propagate so I can keep the backup inside and put the propagated plants outside without worrying if they die.

Candidate number one is my spider plant. If I let it my spider plant population grow they could easily take over the house. I normally cut the flowers before they become pups. I have saved a few though to go outside in the Summer. They have put on good root systems and are getting to reasonable heights.

The second plant I’m looking at is my string of hearts. These are supposedly easy to propagate. Cutting laid on soil should root. I imagine this could be used in mixes pots to trail the edge of pots. I’m not sure of its hardiness but a few cuttings of these will only cost a handful of soil. So if they die straight away I haven’t lost anything but a bit of time.

I’m aware these are not necessarily the most exciting photos to ever feature on my six but hopefully, they will be more exciting later in the year. The discount bedraggled ferns should recover to become glorious foliage. The seeds will flourish into beasts. The houseplants will bring new elements to the outside patio area. Exciting times ahead.

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The Plant Based Podcast review

Today a new gardening podcast came on the air. I was excited for the release of this as the two presenters Michael “Mr Plantgeek” Perry and Ellen Mary have always come across as knowledgeable and likeable people through their various outputs. Both push the boundaries of gardening in exciting directions. I’m also confident between them they will have many interesting connections to get guests on the show. It sounds like they’ll be looking to try and cover different ground to existing media and I reckon they will have a few surprises in store.

My love of gardening podcasts has been discussed on the blog before. It’s a format which surprisingly works well for something people would associate as being very visual.

The first three podcasts have all been launched together. In the first podcast, the duo interviewed Beverley Glover of Cambridge Botanic Garden. There was a good discussion on how we can help bees. I was reminded of the need to stick to single forms of most flowers to help bees. I generally don’t select double forms and do try to choose pollinator friendly forms. It was this desire to help wildlife that led to me having mass ox-eye daisies in the garden this year. They ended up spilling all over the border but I was rewarded with many visitors.

The second podcast was with vegan bodybuilder Paul Kerton. While I’m not about to go vegan with my low blood pressure and dietary problems a lot of interesting points were made. Most of all the need for people to see other peoples points of view.

The third podcast with Liz Browne from Urban Jungle Nursery. This covered a lot of topics that have been done to death in the gardening media recently. The return of the houseplant is all over the place. But the three of them together made for good listening. There was a nice shout out for Will Giles known for his exotic garden and books on the subject.

They went on a tangent to discuss how much of the gardening media is out of touch with younger gardeners. While I enjoy watching much of the traditional gardening shows. We aren’t all Monty with space for multiple garden areas. In the words of the Smiths, “Because the music that they constantly play. It says nothing to me about my life“.

Then a little discussion about taking houseplants outside in Summer to use as an alternative to traditional bedding plants. This is just what I’ve been planning to do with several spider pups and string of hearts cuttings destined for outside. I want to try a few more adventurous options on the patio. The aspidistra can have its Summer vacation as well.

All in all a very good start for a new podcast. Three episodes with very interesting podcasts. They kept my attention while I listened back to back cooking dinner. Three different but engaging guests. My only criticism is the volume went up and down during interviews but this is a common podcast problem.

The podcast is available through iPlayer and podcast player. There were quite a few named plant-based podcast but a search for plant-based podcast and Perry brought it up. Though I’m sure it will go up the rankings fast with popularity. Well worth checking out and I’m looking forward to seeing who else they interview.

Link to site.

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Six on a Saturday: Christmas presents

So garden bloggers we are out the other side of Christmas I’ve seen lots of the Tweeters and bloggers I follow were treated to many gardening gifts. Today I’m going to share some of my presents. I didn’t ask for very much this year. I just wanted a couple of top quality tools. My theory being that it is better to buy a few quality items that last rather than replacing every few years.

1. Niwaki okatsune secateurs

This was the main gift I’d asked for. I proffer to ask for something that will get used a lot rather than something I merely desire. While pricey by most standards they are tools that will last me for a long time. Japanese steel and a razor-sharp edge make these a pleasure to work with. I got in the garden yesterday to do some pruning and these made the jobs so much easier. Between my Gold Leaf gloves and these, I felt like a proper gardener. The roses were dealt with ease with no scratches to show for it.

2. Grass edging tools

My parents bought me edging tools clearly in the hope that I will do it neatly. One will cut vertically, the other horizontally making the job a bit easier.

3. Poppy seeds

My mum picked these up while on holiday. The colour looks nice if a bit more ruffled than I’d normally go for.

4. Cosmos

My mum asked for some cosmos for Christmas. I got her a variety of packs from Sarah Raven. I added a pack of a rich purple variety “double click cranberries” and “candy floss” a white variety with pink edges.

Combined with a pack I got free with a magazine and a pack from our wedding gifts I think I have more cosmos than I can really fit in the border, but never mind.

5. Air plants-Tillandsia

I got an air plant Christmas decoration from my mum. Most tillandsia are epiphytes meaning they grow on the surface of another plant. They get their nutrients from the air and water. Many orchids are epiphytes growing on the bark of trees. Many air plants grow on rocks, cliff faces, and trees rather than soil. In theory, they are easy to keep needing the odd spray of water and an occasional dunk. However, they don’t like hard water. Air plants take in water through specially adapted water absorbing cells called trichomes. Hard water contains minerals which can block these preventing moisture absorption. So I’m going to need to try and collect rainwater or at least filter the tap water.

I also have two I received from Geo-Fleur. Amy doesn’t like them much so that is largely going to dictate where they end up being placed in the house.

6. Robins

While not for the garden Amy knows I like my garden robins and got me two robin presents.

She got me a robin for the tree.

Then a carved robin. She said I don’t have to put it away after Christmas, but not sure if that means it will lose its specialness.

A lovely collection of thoughtful gifts. It was good to get in the garden yesterday and put some to use. I hope you all enjoyed your Christmas days and had time with people you love. With New Year coming up I’ll be looking to write my review of the year. It’s been a busy year with the wedding and the garden has come on a lot in this time as well. Enjoy your weekends.

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Houseplant hour-flowering houseplants

Last week I listened back to episode 46 of on the ledge podcast episode 46 of on the ledge podcast with Wisley curator Mathew Pottage. I was hoping for a bit of inspiration on my plans for exotics on the patio.  During the episode, they discussed the idea of why foliage houseplants are more popular than flowering houseplants.

I can think of quite a lot of reasons. Foliage has a longer period of interest than flowers. The Instagram houseplant trend tends to favour photos of leaves and variegation. Many flowering houseplants take a lot of care with long periods in between flowering. However, it did get me thinking. I pretty much only grow kalanchoe for flowers indoors. A number of the plants I grow do flower. A couple of my cacti have quite nice flowers actually, but I don’t grow them for the flowers. The kalanchoe I buy is the standard supermarket varieties. I don’t actually like them very much, but Amy does, so I buy one and they last on average about 4 months before I replace them. The spot Amy likes for them is a kitchen windowsill where they gradually become scruffy from leaf burn. Essentially we buy them as a longer lasting form of cut flowers. Before any one comments I am aware there are lovely forms of kalanchoe, but I’m not keen on the standard supermarket varieties. They look like plastic plants to me. I’ve never bothered with orchids or bromeliads or any of the other. I have done quite well with cut flowers from my garden this year. Ox-eye daisies, cosmos and sweet peas have filled many vases over the Summer.

So in an effort to branch out, I have bought one of the ever-present Christmas amaryllis kits from Aldi. For £2.50 I’m willing to take a chance. The box did say pot included. This was just the plastic drainage pot to pot the bulb up in. I had a bit of an issue finding a pot to fit over the sleeve as it was quite a short wide size. But I did locate a suitable size that isn’t too hideous.

The bulb sits on the pot with its neck out of the soil, then pushed firmly down to ensure contact with the soil. Until the stem starts to get going it doesn’t need much watering. It should take about seven to ten weeks to flower. So it may flower ready for Christmas.

So wish me luck as I venture into growing a houseplant with flowering in mind. Who knows? After this, I may even branch out to buy an orchid for the first time. What flowering houseplants do you all recommend?

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Six on a Saturday- podcasts to fill the void

So last weekend saw the final episode of Gardener’s World for this year. This left many twitterers asking what now? How do we get through the next part of the year with no Monty jobs for the weekend? The garden doesn’t go into shut down. So this week I’m suggesting six podcasts to fill the void left by Gardener’s World over the winter.

Then because I have no photos to go with podcasts, a photo of my mp3 player wouldn’t be that exciting, you are getting random photos of my little helper to go with each podcast. I dislike writing text heavy blogs.

If you fancy joining the six on Saturday gang check out the participants guide. A lovely gardening community.

1. The sodshow

The sodshow is presented by Peter Donegan. Peter is an award winning landscape designer and a member of the gardening media guild. The show has been running for almost 400 episodes and is pretty well polished by now. Potentialy one of the longest running weekly gardening podcasts. The show features many guests with top gardening names getting interviewed. Recently enjoyed the episode on an inside view of the Dutch bulb industries. As an amateur gardener it gives insights into aspects of the industry I don’t normally consider. Peter can ramble a bit and go off in random directions with conversations, but it makes for entertaining listening. Lots of music links are made with Beatles references, punk and post punk bands combined with a rock intro.

The tongue of concentration

2. Gardens weeds and words

From a well established podcast to a newcomer. From Andrew O’Brian this podcast has only had two episodes so far, but two very enjoyable and informative episodes. Often it takes new podcasters a while to get going, sort out reasonable production and work out how they want the podcast to be. But this has the feeling of a podcast that has been going longer. The last episode had Celia Hart on discussing how she ended up as an illustrator for Gardens illustrated. I hope Andrew carries on putting them out.

More tongue of concentration

3. Skinny Jean Gardener

This podcast is quite an upbeat one. It’s one for the drive into work, not before bed. Lee Connely adds lots of humour to his podcasts. There is an excellent list of top former guests. Recently enjoyed Jack Wallington, Toby Buckland and Adam Frost, but going back there is a long list of top garden names. Lee’s worked a lot on getting young people into gardening. Great passion and enthusiasm for his topics.

Alliums are good for hitting with.

4. Gardener’s question time

Technically not a podcast, but a radio show broadcasted in podcast form. This long running radio main stay didn’t used to make much sense to me. However, as my gardening knowledge expands I get more and more from listening. Basic concept of the show is that a panel of experts answer gardening questions. Most weeks I find there are a couple of seasonal questions relevant to my own garden. This is lovely easy listening and usually has good humour between panellists. For some this might be a bit of a stuffy old institution, but I rather like it as it’s nice hearing about other people’s fungus problems, pruning disasters, etc to know everyone has issues in their gardens. It’s the correspondant episode coming up where you can send in questions. Tempted to send some in for the minor thrill of getting it called out on air.

5. Roots and all

Another relatively new podcast. It’s just starting to find it’s feet. Hosted by Sarah Wilson, an horticulturist, it features a mix of episodes. Some are interviews, while others cover specific topics such as trees and houseplants. Sarah has called on a number of different guests from different parts of the industry. Much like the sodshow, I like that I get insights into aspects of professional gardening I don’t consider with my little garden.

Smelling the verbena

6. On the ledge

This podcast, from Jane Perrone, focuses on houseplants. If you go through the archives you’ll find a great list of guests. Alongside the podcast is an active Facebook group. Then there is the #houseplanthour every two weeks on twitter. I’ve learnt so much from working my way through these podcasts. House plants to me have more of the feel of the Victorian plant collector than my more relaxed outdoor gardening. Most of my garden plants will tolerate neglect for periods. Whereas the houseplants are that bit more exotic and need more botanic knowledge for them to thrive. This show has improved my knowledge enormously. Although it does come with a wallet warning as it may lead to new purchases.

It has good fresh feel to it and being on houseplants takes into account that many people want to grow plants, but not many people can afford their own gardens, or they rent and move around. The definition of gardening is expanding.

On the ledge-the houseplant guide in podcast form

Hope these help tide you over through the cold winter months. There are others I listen to, but for this post I will be good and stick to the six format. Are there any you’d recommend? Half term holiday for me now, so a chance to catch up on weeding. I promise next week will be out in the garden again.

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Six on Saturday: 6.10.18 wet Autumn day

After another period of dry weather, it looks like today is going to be a wet day. That’s the bulb planter cancelled for the moment. I don’t think Alice will go along with doing it in the rain. At least the ground will be softened.

1. Cyclamen

I’ve bought a few large cyclamens from Tescos. These ones haven’t flowered yet. Most of the trolley had red flowers, so we’ll see what colour these come out. They’ll give a nice burst of colour in the foliage corner. The leaves are nicely veined and fit well with the heuchera.

2. Fatsia-spider web

Carrying on from last week, I bought another fatsia for the patio. This is a variegated version. Accounts differ about whether it is less hardy than the standard variety. We’ll see over the winter in a side by side comparison.  It also isn’t supposed to grow quite as big. I had considered bringing it inside for the winter, but I think I’m going to just try to keep it sheltered.

3. Aeonium arboreum-Zwartkop

My aeonium was left out last winter. It survived, but lost a lot of leaves. Having hung on in there it has gradually recovered over the year. So this year it’s coming in. I’m going to try it in the loft. There is a sky light giving a small amount of light and it shouldn’t need much water during the dormant winter season.

4. Sarracenia-pitcher plant

Having talked about some going in, now one going out. I had this pitcher plant inside, but can’t find a position it is happy in. The windowsills are all too bright and it was getting some leaf burn. Pitcher plants need lots of light, combined with lots of water. Ideally, rainwater. Pitcher plants are carnivorous, so take nutrients from insects. The hard tap water I get would do it harm. It was suggested putting it outside and it seems to be a bit happier. It will shrivel down for winter like a herbaceous perennial. It is currently being tested for UK winter hardiness with the plant being grown outside all year. As I don’t have a good spot inside I may leave it out and see how it does. I may lose it, but it isn’t going to thrive inside.

5. Holly fern-fortunei

Another fern going on the patio. While it’s browned a bit at the moment it was cheap and new fronds in Spring will replace the brown ones. I have one in the border already in fairly deep shade, but it can be pot grown if kept moist. I thought it was a nice contrast of leaf shape to the couple I’ve bought so far. It is native to Asia. I’d quite like to find a painted fern, another Japanese native, to go with it to add contrast of leaves and colour. The bright green of these in Spring is a wonderful sight.

6. Rain

My dad, kindly, mowed the lawn earlier in the week. Luckily, as I am not going to be able to do it now as I’ve had continual rain for the last few hours. All the supermarkets are selling Autumn lawn repair boxes. But I think mine has done pretty well through the Summer drought with no watering. Seeded well, cut to a higher level and no SPring watering has done it good. If you water your lawn in Spring and when it’s establishing it encourages shallow rooting. Supposedly, If it’s left to its own devices it roots deeper helping during dry periods. Either way, it’s looking lush. Not a mass amount of colour in the garden at the moment, but the hydrangeas are still giving a good display as they gradually fade. Some of the roses are set to give second bursts. The verbena has been keeping the pollinators happy. The rain is helping it all look fresh.

I’d talked about the patio last week but didn’t really show it properly. It is just a concrete slope. It is getting paved, which should make it look much better. The slope does, however, help all the plants planted in the border at the end of the patio. The hydrangeas benefit from lots of water in Summer, so getting all the water runoff from the patio helps them a lot.

Hope you all enjoy your weekends. Check the propagators blog to see more six on Saturday posts.

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Six on Saturday: 29.9.18 patio plants

Over the next few months we are supposed to be getting the outside of the house rendering redone and the patio redone. It is currently just concrete with large parts cracking and falling apart. The plan is for the wall to be sorted and pavers down.

On the patio the plants have ended up being a fairly random selection. The alpine and succulent planters have thrived, but the other plants have ended up being plants that didn’t suit the border. As such, there is really any cohesion to them the main garden is largely wildlife friendly, cottage garden flowers and plants. I’m looking to have more foliage and a few more exotic looking plants on the patio. Rather than lots of cluttered small pots a few bigger one. The patio plants seem to suffer with the sea wind, so I’ll need a few tough specimens on the corner to protect other plants.

So here are six plants probably staying on the patio.

1. Tree fern-Dicksonia antarcita

I planted this tree fern in the border, but I don’t think it got enough water, so I’ve taken it out of the fern corner and put it into a pot. I can wrap it for the winter and then give it a bit more attention on the patio to try and try to get it looking less sorry for itself.

2. Fatsia Japonica

The leave of fatsia has superb foliage. It’s an excellent background plant. I’m imagining this moved into one of the bigger pots once I’ve evicted the current inhabitant. Then in front a variety of ferns, maybe the odd lily or something for colour. Only small at the moment, but will grow quickly enough next year.

3. Yuccas/cordyline?

These two plants were on the decking in my last house when I bought it. They were shadowed heavily by a number of plants, including tomatoes, that have now been moved. They had yellowed quite a bit, but have recovered fine now. They seem to be survivors having tolerated quite a bit of abuse from weather and neglect.

4. Asplenium scolopendrium Harts tongue fern

I’ve got one of these growing in the fern corner. I like the long tongue leaves. It stays attractive for much of the year. The fronds brown over winter and are replaced by fresh fronds in spring. Quite small at the moment, but at £2.50 I can wait for growth.

5. Aspidistra “China moon”

A few weeks back on Gardeners World, Monty had his houseplants out and it was talked about, on twitter, how some varieties of aspidistra could be kept outside all year. Aspidistras became the symbol of middle class living for the Victorians. I rather like the idea of a patio aspidistra, so I’m testing this variety of winter. It came in a big clump. I’ve divided some off to keep inside as insurance. Not the ideal time to divide, but I think it’s got enough root on. “China Moon” is a darker spotted variety. Hopefully do well in the shade of the wall.

6. Cordyline-Red star

I thought the thin red leaves would make a nice contrast to the other green foliage plants. Recommended for coastal gardens it should survive hopefully survive the winter weather and winds, so long as I keep it in a more sheltered position.

Looking back through my six I’ve mainly got thin leaved plants, so could do with some broader leaved foliage. Maybe time to get some hostas. It’s all a bit of a mess at the moment, but no point sorting until the paving is done. Happy gardening people!

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