Fruit & Nut

The big eucalyptus was rubbing a branch or two on the fence. While I was removing the offending bits I noticed that woody seedpods had formed. The last I remember, all it had was flowers that seemed never to open. There are stacks of those again, but clearly last year’s did open at some point and were pollinated. This species is Eucalyptus nicholii. Here are the capsules:

The seed itself is very small. I chopped the nutlets up with a pair of scissors, rubbed the bits between the palms of my hands and scattered the result on to a seed tray.

All through the summer, i’ve been expecting the many fruits on Passiflora actinea to ripen. All I had was a rock hard exterior and a dessicated interior. Last week, I discovered a larger one. Though still smaller than a ping pong ball, the shell gave slightly to the touch. Opening it up, there was the most delicious passionfruit pulp at last!

The texture is the same as the passionfruit found in shops here. The taste is much less acid and slightly lemony. Having eaten the pulp, I spat out the seeds, washed, dried and sowed them.

A busy summer’s end

Well, it’s been a busy couple of weeks here. First of all, there’s been a final round of warm, dry weather. Sunday and Monday temperatures were 24-25c and there’s no rain forecast for the best part of another week yet.

The dome went up over the big berm containing the Agave ovatifolia, only to have to leave the vents and door wide open to stop it turning into a plant oven. Until then the weather had been a weeks-long procession of maybe 17c temperatures and regular rainfall, such as back on the 8th when I took a few pictures.

I had a customer visit the other day. “Is that an albizia on the right?” Course, I only remembered Paraserienthes lophantha once they were gone. It’s a mouthful though, don’t you think?
Lookin’ superfine though. Hardiness is dodgy. Kevin, from who I bought it, visited the other week. I said it was too big to fit in the portable plant shelter. “Just shove it in there” hmmm not sure. Magnolia delavayi has bagsied it but I might yet intervene to change that.
Still on the desert side of things, Acacia retinodes has been a joy so far. You know how people often use Verbena bonariensis as a see-thru plant? Well this acacia does that job for me. So lacy, it barely moves on the wind. Plus it’s started flowering in the week since I took this picture.
Time for your close-up.

Nice contrast on the other side of the back garden. . .

A zap of acid green from Pterostyrax hispida by contrast with the black phormium. That’s Hedychium coccineum in flower at the edge of screen. Still no flowers on the bananas. Must be something missing from the soil. They’re certainly big enough to bloom by now.

I’ve started to take apart the bed in front so as to divide the other gingers, bamboo iris and so forth. My thinking is that by dividing and repotting while there’s still some warmth around, I can take a short cut to having more plants for sale earlier than usual next year. My business plans are hotting up, you see.

Website building is one of the main tasks. The site i’m using for it has multitudinous site templates to modify. There’s one specifically for a plant nursery. I expected it to look vaguely familiar and yep, it looks like a few people whose websites i’ve browsed in the past have taken their cues from it.

I’m self-conscious when it comes to putting across my approach to gardening. Maybe too self-conscious. Avoidance of hoary clich├ęs seems fair game to me, but nor to i want to end up tying myself in knots chasing the ineffable mystery and variegated wonder of the natural world. Finding a balance that feels fresh is quite the challenge.

Front Garden Views

Early morning after a few hours of fine drizzle, the place was sopping wet through, a mist stuck to everything.

Yucca recurvifolia is pushing out a bloom spike for the first time. About time too, it’s been a decade
Gleditsia caspica developing branched thorns. That’s why I bought it. For the branched thorns.
Hardy terrestrial bromeliad Fascicularia bicolor is flaring up.
Arundo donax ‘Versicolor’ shouting and screaming in-between the gleditsia and Echium pininana. The echium is in its second year without flowers. Normally it’s a biennial but with the Stockport climate it tends to be a triennial.
Mixed fortunes in the rest of the middle bed. The dawn redwood has escaped the clutches of Passiflora caerulea, so is now growing up again instead of sideways. Astelia chathamica has got chlorosis AGAIN. Buds formed on the brugs but dropped off shortly afterwards. Oh and the hostas are shot to s*** by snails. Sigh.
Tetrapanax gone wild as per usual. Nice.

DIY and rarities

On one of my periodic greenhouse tidy-ups, it became obvious that the seed trays were taking up too much room, so I knocked up a shelf arrangement this morning using some spare stair rods and the wire racks from a collapsible mini-greenhouse. Looks OK, does a job.

While moving the trays I found a seedling in the Richea dracophylla tray. This is a Tasmanian native of the Ericaceae family. It has linear leaf venation and looks for all the world like a monocot to a botanical noob such as I. This is exciting because as far as I know, the only specimens of this species in the UK were flown in from Tasmania by a private collector. Here it is amongst the moss of the tray. Remember this is a dicot. i’m assuming the seed leaves are buried somewhere in the moss.

Not strictly rare, but certainly unusual to come across, is Ficus petiolaris, a xerophytic species of fig from western North America. In time these plants form a caudex as an adaptation to the difficulties their environment poses them.

They’re just as precious when they’re tiny. More special in a way, since if i’m growing something from seed it’s usually because i’ve not been able to get it any other way and haven’t ever seen it IRL before. By growing them myself i’ve seen these plants for the first time.


It’s a good year for these plants, with a series of pleasant surprises. First to flower was Cautleya spicata, with which this is my first year.

The next surprise was that of the hedychiums, H. gardnerianum was first to flower. The scent was delicious.

It hadn’t flowered outdoors for me before. Whatever I did in spring to encourage it to grow and then harden it off must have worked. Up until now, i’ve found hedychiums to sulk when their growing conditions are changed. The same goes for H. coccineum, the next to flower. It was a particular delight to see moths feeding on the blooms at night. This plant was bought as H. coronarium, which it obviously isn’t. I had to figure out what it was myself.

Then there was dependable old H. forrestii.

Still forming up to flower is H. ellipticum, which will be a first for me. That just leaves H. coronarium, which still evades me. I want to sample the scent of that so badly!

Mutant pineapple goes wild

Yesterday I spent several hours digging up the smaller of the two Puya berteroniana from its planting place in the ground in the big greenhouse. Never again!

Those hooks broke off in my scalp, fingers, ear and leg too, despite butchering the leaves so I could get around it

Ending up with a mutant pineapple in a pot

And all to clear another four square feet of room in the greenhouse. It’s bigger brother is staying where it is until it flowers. Which should be next year, or the one after that.

The more it attacks me the fonder I feel for it. Strange.

That’s definitely the last time I try moving one of these beasts. When the big one dies i’m not keen on keeping the offsets. Just the seed it produces. As for the ‘little’ one, it’s staying in the pot. The most I can do for it is drag it into the shed over winter. There’s a skylight in it. It probably won’t survive, but that’s the way it’s going now.

Summer Drizzle

It’s been a fortnight since I last posted. The weather hasn’t been the best. We had a couple of hot days, including one at 31c which was the hottest so far this year. Mostly it’s been quite cool and wet though. There’s a light drizzle out there at the moment and it’s 19c, but at least the light’s flat and good for photography.

That in mind, here are a few images. The starved agave I bought last month from a local garden centre seems to like me. It looks like Agave potatorum to me

Here’s a large A. americana that I tried to sell via my pal Darren, I tire of forcing it through the greenhouse doorway come winter every year when there are hardier types that i’m pursuing. Someone suggested that it’s A. salmiana var. ferox but it can’t be. Does have a nice form though:

The albizia relative Paraserianthes lophantha has gone bonkers. It’s very elegant.

My favourite seed grown agave isn’t as chunky and squat as it was. Identifying these things is hard, they change their growth form as they grow up!

I received a copy of Greg Starr’s book on agaves for my birthday. It’s a treat and useful too in helping with identification. I still say this is A. lophantha though:

It looks a little odd, what with the oldest leaves being so much longer than the rest. I put that down to it growing out some severe damage it had last winter, despite being in the greenhouse. It’s quite a tender type.

Moving on from agaves:

I had an illicium flower, that was a first for me. Illicium aff. griffithii. Very fleeting and difficult to photograph though. Here’s the closest thing to a decent photo, as the blooms fall apart as soon as they open:

The first ginger to flower will be Hedychium gardenerianum this year, which was unexpected. It’s usually H. forrestii and much later than this:

The greenhouse is filling up, an onerous situation in early August!

Nine rattan ‘palmlets’. Calamus longisetus:

I’m propagating much more than i’m buying, which is as it should be. Hence the full greenhouse in high summer, oh and also because it’s too cool outside to expect climbing palms to grow in it!

Papaver somniferum fandom

Uh-oh. It looks like this blog has become an unwitting exercise in ethnobotany. Someone’s been coming into the front garden with some sort of bladed weapon and harvesting the drugs.

Good job the general populus hasn’t twigged about the Echinopsis bridgesii, Leonotis leonorus and Brugmansia x candida ‘Maya’. Or that i’ve ordered a bunch of seeds just this morning, one of which is Ephedra. I’d better watch out in case I end up with Andean shamans, Mormons and South African drug fiends jostling to get into position for their next high.

Anyway, I feel duty bound to appreciate the upside, which is that there’s someone out there who recognises and takes an interest in plants. Or something.

Botanising with my feet up

Last week we had friends round. Richard spurred me on, accidentally, by asking if the big Agave ovatifolia is a cactus. It made me realise that my blog plant list has cacti and succulents lumped together, and that I might teach myself a thing or two by putting it in better taxonomic order, what with Agave being more closely related to a lawn than to cacti.

Four hours later. . .

. . . and it’s looking more sleek from the point of view of botany. Besides, my foot has coloured up something shocking, so a sit down job felt like a good idea. The process has brought up as many questions as it had answers. For instance, how the dicots are ordered outside of the Asterids and Rosids. Where does Magnolia fit in to the scheme? Where do Caryophyllales sit? How about evolutionary throwbacks like Illicium and Tetracentron? Seems like the answer is half down to me not understanding it yet and half down to science being an ongoing project.

Actual gardening got a bit of a look in today too. I cast an eye over yesterday’s haul to see if anything could use potting on. Ruscus aculeatus might be the new Arecaceae, by which I mean you get a lot of roots for very little above ground action.

While I was at potting on the Butcher’s Broom I potted on Lobelia fistulosa too. They’re very healthy looking. But hanging over all this is do I plant all these tree saplings yet? I should put some in the ground. We’re getting a bit crowded out here but i’m sure they can fight it out and find their own level.

Trip out, toe damage and tree surgeons

On Friday, I was expecting a skip to be dropped off. It arrived but was clearly too small, so they agreed to come back with a larger one today. Which was great, because I couldn’t help but notice that some tree surgeons were mincing a very large conifer just around the corner from me and they agreed to drop the conifer mincemeat on my drive. There’s a sliced and diced willow in there too. Now I had the world’s largest pot pourri dumped on the drive.

The whole family helped move in round to the back:

It might be helpful at this point to give a sense of scale. The other night I got out there in the rain with a tape measure and figured out how big our plot is. It’s fractionally under one eighth of an acre.

The skip didn’t arrive today either. Their wagon was knackered, they said. Suits me. I went to see Kevin at Village Plants Nursery, hobbling along after stubbing my toe on the bedroom door. I dropped off some trees and came away with many, many more. Sixteen plants.

Nearly all are trees. Having updated my plant list, I find I now have eighty different kinds of trees an shrubs for my eighth of an acre. Highlights from today’s collection include a hydrangea that was collected from central China on a plant hunting expedition in 2002, Blepharocalyx cruckshanksii, Prunus takesimensis and Betula medwediewii.

My toe is an exciting shade of magenta. I don’t bruise easily either. Methinks it is broken.