Tuesday, 28 May 2019

Cotyledon orbiculata

"C. orbiculata is an evergreen, succulent shrub growing to 100cm tall. Its grey-green, oval leaves are coated with a white wax and sometimes have a red edge. Small, bell-shaped, orange-red flowers are borne on stems up to 70cm long in late summer and autumn."
Hardiness H1C

This is the description given on the RHS website.

I have had this plant for many years.  Bought at a garden open day at Southwold nearly twenty years ago, it hasbeen propagated many times.  Cotyledon orbiculata does tend to get quite large after several years, and as it is not winter hardy in the garden, in most parts of the  UK, it spends the winter months in the conservatory.  

Last summer, without any premonition, I planted most of my succulents in the front garden.  Here the Cotyledon orbiculata, about four years old, at the start of the season makes a bold silvery statement, even when first planted out in June.  Another fine plant was located near to the curbside.

By the end of the summer, dry as it was, it had grown to a fine specimen.  I already had a few smaller plants, so I called my friend Sally Gregson, and asked if she would like it, together with a number of echeveria elegans, which had been used as bedding plants.

Yesterday during a visit to Sally and Peter, and having an extensive tour of their garden which is open under the Garden Scheme, I came across the pots of Cotyledon orbiculata which Sally had propagated and grown on and they were in fine form and ready to sell on.  The large stock plant which had spent the winter under glass had recently been moved to a sunny display area along with some other choice plants. It was full of many many tips which will start to flower in August.

When I first saw their flowers a couple of years after first getting my plant, I was enchanted by the flowers, and the colour of the inner surface of the petals which a deep rich mango.  This are complemented by the waxy  covering of the petals' outer surface.  The stamens protrude, and being pollen rich are visited by the various bees in the garden.

In a vase the flowers lasted a very long time, and were mixed in with other succulents.

Here is a close up of the stem in the vase.

One year I had cut off some long stems, which had grown in the poorer light undercover during the winter, and popped them in a vase.  A few weeks later, they had grown roots, so were potted up.

The only three plants I now have were cuttings last year, and were planted together with a few other succulents, last autumn, so as to take up less room in the conservatory.  They grew far too leggy with the low light levels, and are now ready to be chopped back.  For this and next season, I shall attempt to grown on a group in a pot on their own.  Whereas the flowers are damaged by frost, I read that the plant can cope with temperatures hovering around 0 c,  if kept dry...so the plant will spend next winter in conservatory. In its native habitat, which will have much brighter sunshine, and probably well drained growing conditions, the plant can tolerate lower growing temperatures.  Knowing this is a valid reason to try and keep it without any additional heat during the winter, unless of course night time temperatures fall too low.

I am writing this post about the Cotyledon orbiculata based on my experiences, having seen it mentioned in the spring issue of The English Garden.  The picture there just shows the flowers.  The plant is worth growing just for its leaves and the forms it grows in, but try not to touch the leaves, as the waxy covering is easily marked.

Monday, 27 May 2019

In a Vase on Monday - Soft and Rich

Cathy who hosts this meme has a very early bunch of sweet peas this week.  The colours remind me of sugared almonds and the wonderful jar I had as a birthday present from my son.  One or two a day meant I several weeks of enjoyment.  Fresh flowers may last a day or two, or maybe even longer...growing them in the garden brings many benefits!  Of course there is the benefit of sharing and also seeing what other people are contributing.

With a very early morning session in the garden on Sunday, my eye was drawn to the long rich purple flowering stems on Verbascum phoeniceum violetta.  It had been in the ground for less than two weeks, having come home with me from Malvern Spring Show.  Whether or not I was right to do so, I decided for the sake of the plant that I would cut down the flower spikes to allow the plant to develop roots and leaves instead.  Half of me thinks this was foolish as the lower flowers were fertilized and could have given ripe seeds later.  I've also read that they may not be perennial, so I may only have a few days in which to enjoy my dark beauties.

A perfect partner in this twosome are stems of Ballota pseudodictamnus.  I feel that with its grey furry leaves it is a perfect soft partner for the sumptuously coloured verbascum.

Before it unfurls its dark petals, the verbascum keeps its petals beautifully folded in tiny hexagonal cushions.

The good news is that this twosome appears not to be eliciting allergic reactions, so will be remaining in the vase for a few more days!  This morning being Monday, they have their heads up and making a fine display.

Saturday, 25 May 2019

Six on Saturday - 25 May 2019

Since last week there has not been a drop of rain...the water butt is empty, and really we have had nothing to mention for weeks, the clay soil is starting to crack in places.  It is early years on this plot and with several years of mulching, I hope to change things round in due course.

For my Six the first is a  view of  'The Shed Shelf' which has now has become the place where sunlovers take their turn on the eye level viewing shelf.

For my second item I have Aeoniums.  Another hot spot is a corner by the front door.  The tall multi branching aeonium is having its last season, before it is broken down and propagated this winter.  Maybe my friend Sally can get it in her van and we take take it to the October 'show and tell' at the HPS meeting.  Yes I did find it quite strange that at the Show and Tell...there were plants that were 'not hardy'!

Aeonium schwarzkopf will also possibly be too large to go another year.  It already had a reprieve this year, when it was potted with another aeonium and a selection of other succulents in the pot that nearly broke my leg when it fell on me when I was moving it to the conservatory.

For my third item I have my wigwam of runner beans.  I planted the seeds on 7 April,  far too early...which resulted in a lot of work, with bringing in and out they covering for protection against frosts once they had been planted.  Probably I will have only gained a week at the most.  End of  April sowing would have much easier, with planting out this week.  I am growing the 'self-fertile' variety still with white flowers: Moonlight by Thompson and Morgan.

My fourth entry this week is this edge of the border beauty which I bought from my favourite local pop up stall: Tadham Alpines last year.  It is Silene Uniflora Alba.  In the wild Silenes seem to catch my eye, and along the coast of Northumberland when on holiday there in the summer, have often watched as bees and other insects crawl into the blooms...here I crouch down on our shingle path and do the same! It is revelling in the sun and has settled in well.  The red campions are out in fine form along the hedgerows locally following on the heels of the Queen Ann's Lace.

 My fifth item is a view of the narrow alley along the northern edge of the house.  This 'premium shaded and cooler ledge' is where plants stand if they need relief from the glaring sunshine for the greater part of the day. Pot grown cyclamen, and 'self seeded' ferns transplanted to three of my 'Penny Pots', and potted cuttings fight for a place along the narrow wall.

The last and sixth of the entries is a sad looking Exochorda macrantha The Bride. It was newly planted last summer, and flowered quite nicely.  I thought it may be too dry, so have been watering it deeply each week.  Maybe someone helpful would give me advice.

Maybe a prune now it has finished flowering?

I look forward to joining with The Propagator who host this meme and through his 'hub' was view Sixes from other gardeners here and from other places around the world!

Monday, 20 May 2019

In a Vase on Monday - Early one morning

Early this morning, just as the sun was rising, I heard the birds a singing in the garden below me....

Yes there is a song about a maiden...my mother used to sing this...and as I went into the garden very early this morning, it was the white Iceberg rose which came to mind.  My mother used this rose...

Then I started to look around and various other elements sung out, and the white rose had been deceived into thinking it would be the star!

The colours as viewed by the camera weren't quite right in the very early morning light, but I have neither the knowledge, the skill or the patience to meddle with the picture!

In the vase this morning: Weigela Florida Variegata still a small plant in the garden, Corydalis Purple Dragon, Lamium maculatum Beacon Silver, Rose Iceberg, Cerinthe, and vying to take the limelight is new to the garden Phlox divaricata subsp. laphamii 'Chattahoochee' .

With its purple eye, and beautifully twisted and curled round purple in the in bud stage, I defy anyone not to have fallen for its charms!  I just kept wanting it as I walked around Malvern.  It was only when I got home and read about it that I found that it was' a fussy madame'.

The cerinthe with its glaucous leaves and nodding 'only slightly purple' heads goes well with Miss Chattahoochee.  Each time I view this plant I feel a guilty pang, as I saved seeds and Alison has been growing the plants on beautifully...and as I found out when visiting the Cathedral in Salisbury,  there were some magically purple ones in full flower.  Whether it is the chalk soil there or whether it is my strain, my cerinthe are a very pale example!  Later this morning I am off to collect a few weeks supply of honey, and will take the posy to Meg.

Saturday, 18 May 2019

Six on Saturday - 18 May 2019

This little plant brings a spot of excitement in the 'Shade Border'.  There is very little shade in the garden, and this area is being planted up on the north side of a slatted fence is being developed to put in some of my favourite shade loving plants.   Only recently bought from Graham at the Pop up Alpine Tadham Nurseries Stall, Dodecatheon pulchellum already is performing nicely.  Just look at that rosette of smooth pointed leaves, and those shooting star flowers.  I read that once the flowers are fertilised, the drooping habit changes and the flowers point upwards.  For now I am enjoying it as later it will disappear as it is summer dormant.  Now the nights are so short, I am far too tired to stay up to watch for shooting stars, instead I have these beauties to gaze on during the day.  No plough here, just mulch and watering....

Dodecatheon pulchellum

Along the border is a second little plant which I enjoy mainly for the interesting leaves, but at present it is flowering its socks off...I've no idea what this one is called.  It has been flowering well, but all winter its attractive leaves have been lighting up this little spot.  It certainly is living up to its 'common' name of coral bells.

When it comes to a heuchera well grown how about this one at the Malvern Spring Show 2019.  The patterning and colouration on Green Spice filled me with Heuchera envy!

One other shady area is in a corner by the conservatory, where some of the potted ferns are gathered.  In the winter when two of these lose all their leaves, they are tucked behind other pots.  Not counting the large pot at the back,  there are four pots here...I hope I can sneak these in as 3 to 6 of this week's Six on Saturday: Fern Athyrium niponicum ‘Pictum’ with its silver and purple leaves in  the foreground.  I originally bought it in 2014 in Frome, and have since divided it up several times.   At two o'clock Fern Athyrium otophorum var. okanum, which is lovely with its purple stems and bright green leaves, the little fern is Asplenium trichomanes the Maidenhair spleenwort, which is a lovely native (UK) fern.  Its has been so forgiving...if I forget to water it and it looks very close to a bowl of tiny green crips, a soak in a bowl of water, brings it back to life.  

The sixth plant masquerading as a fern is a small very slow growing grafted acer.  I've had it about five years.  I remember buying it from a specialist grower who came to give a talk at my previous gardening club.  It had a label, I remember it breaking in half, I remembered that I ought to write a new label out...I didn't, I hadn't put it on my blog, and I hadn't entered it in my garden log....I know very little about acers and would not know where to start!

Its hard to believe from looking at the garden, that this time last year there was very little planted up!  

Friday, 17 May 2019

Malvern Spring Show 2019

Here are some of my shots from Malvern Spring Show.  More words may be updated as aid memoires to myself....

 Clematis H F Young

Tanacetum parthenium 'Aureum'

Saturday, 11 May 2019

Six on Saturday - 11 May 2019

Six on Saturday, and got me learning more, looking at my garden, and appreciating the beauty of nature.  The propagator's efforts and all other gardners joining him are an insight into gardens on a regular basis.  I hope you enjoy this and leave a comment...if you post, I will be taking a peep later....

Today being the day after the visit to Malvern Spring Show, thoughts are still running through my head, as I have my early morning walk to take in the lovely bird song, fresh air, and see what is performing well in the garden.  My first vpftm was planted on a sloping sight in my garden in Swindon, then a self layering branch was brought to my next garden.  For this garden a new plant was acquired early in 2018, and this year it is looking great.  Plans are that this will be in the front garden, where the removal of the turf is progressing well.  I may well grow a clematis viticella through it to bring colour later in the year.  

Viburnum plicatum f. tomentosum'Mariesii'

For my second item....clematis.  Here again is another whimsical structure for Viennetta to clamber up.  I first saw this variety at  Tatton Park in 2016, and bought this one early spring 2017.  At its feet I have two clumps of ferns, and a begonia that is in that pot for its third season without protection, but everything was repotted into new compost a few weeks ago.  The reason that I posted this here is that I very much enjoyed my visit to The Clematis Society stand at .  Here I chatted with a lady, and in the end left with a back copy of 'The Clematis' 2017 Edition.  As we were stuck in traffic...and our coach stop started all the way to the motorway and beyond, I was able to read it cover to cover.  Learning so much from 'real clematis lovers' their trials and tribulations, finding out that I had been doing many things more or less right, and that growing in pots is by no means frowned on, was a great way to spend time after the show.  In the journal I find that Viennetta was Taylor's Best Seller by volume in 2017!

Mixed tub containing clematis Viennetta

Thirdly...another reason for a tour of the garden is to discover what has happened overnight.  As I got rather ahead of myself and carried away, and sowed my beans far too early...I have had to cover them these cold nights in double fleece, and also remove the fleece in the morning.  Note to myself, wait till mid April to sow beans next year....

Frost protection for beans

In amongst other plants is this little beauty: Salvia officinalis tricolour. Growing in a sunny and well drained spot.  It brings light and colour with its coloured leaves.  Its muted pink and sage green leaves edged in white, gives a little spot of light at all times of the year.

Sage tricolour

I love the early morning light, and after the rain with a little humidity the early morning mist, light filters through cow parsley onto a recently planted rosa Open Arms.

Taken at the beginning of this week, before the rains, is this little Dianthus.  I bought it last year from a friend as little more than a plug.  I placed it at the edge of the gravel patch with as its colour matches the eye of the Euphorbia martini 'Ascot Rainbow' just behind it.

Looking closely at it almost makes you go cross eyed, and even the camera seems to battle with the pink/red combo.  However I like this little solitary Dianthus chinensis.  If anyone can give more information please do add in the comments.  It went through the winter well and as you can see has many stems coming up from the base.  I shall be taking a few cuttings just as back up in case this flowerers itself to death, and proves to be a bi-annual.

Wednesday, 8 May 2019


Intrigued by the title?  I too was curious as to what this meant.  The internet informed me that this is a term applied to living tissue in vascular plants through which organic compounds made during photosynthesis is moved to parts of the plant where it is needed.  As a lover of plants and trees this was interesting.....

However in this post I present Phloem as the name given by Rachel Coopey to her sock pattern.  She was inspired by the structure and clean lines of leaves and buds in the spring.  Left and right socks mirror each other, with a lace leaf motif running down one side of the leg and a pattern of buds running down the other.  Now that I have read this...I may just be on the lookout for some more soft luxurious sock yarn to knit up a second pair.  I came across this pattern several years ago and had it in my 'to knit' folder, ready printed off.  It was completely coincidental that I had first picked a ball of West Yorkshire Spinners sock yarn from my stash then went to research for a pattern to use.  If you would like to  knit it,  the free pattern can be found on the Knitty Website.

With the legs a little longer than the original, here are my socks complete a couple of weeks ago.

I love the detail of the pattern with the interesting cuff