Friday, 29 April 2016

M'aidez M'aidez - plant ident. Solanum ? Pelargonium? The Court House. Mystery picture - win a shilling.


Big, fat, red tulip.

Planting and styling by Miki Tanaka, the Japanese powerhouse. 


Water droplets on an Echeveria I had just watered. No photoshop or editing but quite unreal . Long live nature. 

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow

It's the 40 th birthday of the  pottery  this year and a big celebration was organised for the 4th March , food, demonstrations and general merriment in a marquee. A great time was had by all particularly the staff who had a shindig in the marquee after the visitors had gone home. Just as it was getting dark and out of the blue or black it started to snow and in a few minutes of big fat snowflakes it was starting to look very Christmassy.  

The Lonesome Pine.

Mystery Picture

Here's your chance to win another shilling.Any guesses what this is a picture of. It is surprising how  intriguing the mundane can be.Here's a clue, its is not an egg custard, crème brulee or  the surface of the sun. Answer way below.

Next opening 24 July

I visited his small, unsung  gem of a garden in what should have been the peak snowdrop time but  with the winter  being what it was they had all finished but  despite the  lack of snowdrops  and grey cold weather there was plenty to  be excited about. The use of  beech  as hedging and yew columns  as markers in the hedge   gives good winter effect and with the  near silhouette of the  pines  it makes  a shapely arrangement.......

............ and throw in a wire fox for an initial look of surprise  which gives way to a smile.

I haven't seen this Ribes for  a long time  but here it was trying to disguise itself as a fuchsia on a sunny wall. Ribes  speciosum  is a very close relative of the gooseberry  but more prickly making it  a devil to tie in and  train along the wall.   

A bit of less is more here.

Gnarled standard wisterias and formal box in the walled garden

A pollarded Salix alba var. vitellina 'Britzensis' with  evergreen purple Pittosporum.

The winter garden looking very good

A handsome house with a rocket to the left waiting to launch. 

Try to get and visit on the 24 July if you can, there  is a lot of  well designed detail. 
Open under the NGS 

Pieces of Aeonium  left on the  greenhouse bench  for a couple of weeks  started throwing out roots. Plenty of will to live.

M'aidez M'aidez
Two unidentified tender plants  below, any ideas what they are.
The first looks  somewhat like a pelargonium  and the other is a Solanum but which one? 

Pelargonium specie?

Solanum specie?


Who'd have though a slug could look so lovely with its cheery smile and its camouflage pattern?

Mystery Picture
The mystery picture was  burnt  toast crumbs scraped off into a washing up bowl in the sink.

Saturday, 27 February 2016

Sheepish or Horny? Rhipsalis, Win a shilling, Pause for Santa Claus, seed grown succulents and late season Melianthus.

Sheepish or Horny?
It has been one of those fabulous  days  which start with  a frosty morning and  follow with  a whole day of sunshine. It has been cold  but thoroughly enjoyable  when working  outdoors.  We seem to have had far too few of these  days this winter. It is almost instinctive to go for the camera on mornings like this, you can't  help but want to take pictures. It was my day at the pottery  today so here are some pottery  themed  pictures.

The sheep have been herded  out onto pastures new since  when they were  put in the paddock only to find  the real sheep  took agin 'em and hoiked 'em over with their horns.
The terracotta sheep were made by pottery owner Jim Keeling at the pottery and fired in the  anagama kiln at Wytham Wood, Oxford. This is a wood fired kiln which gives variation of colour  due to the different amounts of oxygen getting to the pieces and also the glaze caused by the wood ash passing through the kiln.   

Mmm, very nice hairdo.

Did no one ever tell ewe, sticking  two croissants on your head is not a cool look. 

Alice  looking a bit frosty but at least she has her football rattle to  warm herself up with..

Here is the Cheshire cat grinning just like er, well....  a Cheshire cat but all the more demonic for the frost spiked face.

Yep, a daffodil

At first glance this is one of those tricky pictures where you are not sure whether the shadows are on the convex or the concave surfaces.  The whole face is about three and a half  inches  across, that's about nine centimetres.

Those of you who have been to the pottery you will know that the courtyard floor is  patterned with  odd bits  of paving and curious pieces  of  old pottery. I was cleaning between some bricks when this face started to emerge from the soil and stones. It was slightly sinister.  Fortunately there was no one around  to hear because I felt I had to say hello to him or her to break some sort of spell. . 

One way to  help reduce damage  by snails and mice in the garden  is to not offer them  a perfectly snug home like this which was  directly under  a large plant pot.
 A square  of bricks has been used to raise the  pot and inadvertently  provide winter protection  to group of some thirty snails. Another two pots  revealed over a hundred  snails hibernating  and  quietly waiting until things warmed up  so that they could just nip out to snack on the fresh shoots of spring and start their seasonal ravaging.
   If there are just one or two snails I have no qualms  about squashing them underfoot  but  more than that and  I start to get squeamish and I can't bring myself to  kill them so these got carted off as far as I could take them.


Rhipsalis pilocarpa

This plant is a real treat in the middle of winter. It flowered over Christmas in the greenhouse and it obviously knew what it was doing because it has  a distinctly Christmas character with the flowers hanging down like stilled snowflakes 

Take a look at Mark Preston's ( British Cactus and Succulent Society) piece on the Rhipsalis  here to find out more about this Brazilian cactus.
I grow it in glasshouse with the thermostat set at 12 C  but that is only near the heater, further  away the temperature drops  off by a few degrees. I keep it quite dry during the winter. 

Win a shilling!
What do you think this is? It's not poorly jelly fish or  a sci- fi book cover, it is not the Mississippi delta shining like a national guitar, its not running paint, its not modern art and it is  not ceramic,  hey, who said it's gorilla snot?  Answer at the bottom of the page.


Glazed over.

 I could not resist  a picture of this trolley load of brightly coloured, glazed pots fresh out of the kiln and still warm at the pottery. They started off  as part of that muddy pile of clay  behind them! 

 I did not click the 'Impressionist' button on photoshop for this.( but I did get my own reflection in it - very bad technique.) 


A pause for Santa Clause

We have  strayed  quite a way from the garden path  in  this issue but  I felt sad for this little fellow. My mom, long since gone,  gawd bless 'er, made this Santa some twenty  five or more years ago for the kids  and  he finally bit the dust this year. Not only did he bite the dust he became it. His salty  dough body finally gave out. It's sad, the other stuff in the loft will surely miss him.
( I wonder if he would have lasted longer if he had eaten less spaghetti?)

While we are on Christmas -  when I went to  put tree  away  I was startled to find  a Cyberman lurking in the box.   He'll definitely find it lonely in the loft.


Soil prep and big planting project

Part of  a large planting scheme I am involved  with requires  adding a  large quantity of  organic matter. Here the girls can be seen  practising synchronised shovelling.

Shovelling took too long so here Barney delves into the  fiery bowels of  a huge heap of composted  bark to load the barrows with a  mini-digger. 

Meanwhile back in the greenhouse .....

Last year after the flowers  of the Echeveria had faded  I collected the dried  stems  with their shrivelled flower heads and they laid on a tray for several months  until during a tidy up I thought  I would  just see if I could grow them from seed. Just after Christamas and with no great expectations I scattered  the  seeds of  several varieties  onto a seed tray of   J.I compost covered  with a layer of  Perlite. Within a coup,e of weeks  they had  germinated like so much cress. I had sowed far too many so I pricked out the few you  see  below and threw away the remaining hundreds. I was very surprised how readily they germinated, I guess as they are plants from relatively  arid regions if you give them some warmth  and some water  they are ready to race away  and boy did they go. 

Flowerts of an Echeveria  species. ( The spotted leaves are not an Echeveria.)

I pricked out three seedlings  per pot. ( Should have done just one)  Each seedling was tiny with tiny leaves and it was  barely possible to get hold of them. As soon as I started watering them they shot away You can tell the two rows I gave more water to by way of an experiment, they have grown much bigger. 

A similar tale with this Aeonium tabuliforme

The plant usually grows  for a few years, produces  a tall head of yellow flowers and then dies (i.e. Monocarpic- having only one setting of seeds) . Mine produced no offsets  so I thought I would try seeds and hey presto they germinated within  ten days or so.  This is in January, mid winter. They were in a greenhouse run at 12C. 
 There is some cultural information here .

Aeonium tabuliforme before  flowering. Because it is shot from directly above you can't tell but it is as flat as a pancake.

My dead  Aeonium tabuliforme with cut down  withered flower spike. 

The compost is  a soil based type  with a layer of perlite on top. I sowed onto the perlite then watered the pot to wash the seeds into the perlite. I have blown away some of the perlite to better show the seedlings


Persistent Melianthus.

This picture was taken in late February. The Melianthus major plant, grown in a large  pot, has remained green and  healthy due to the mild winter and has obviously had enough warmth to keep growing gradually and produce the  beginnings of a flower head. In the last two or three  days the cold  nights have meant it has started to look very straggly so it is time to cut it back. The cold weather has  darkened  the stems with a deep  red and  also  edged some of the leaves the same colour. If it kept  those  red tints in the summer it would be an even more dramatic plant. 
Answer to the mystery picture, It was some splashes along the side of my already dirty white van. 
If you guessed  correctly  then exceptionaly hearty congratulations are due to you  but,  sorry,  I was only kidding about the shilling