Some traditional Valentine’s Day demolition. The hole is going to be glazed on Monday.
Totally unflattering photo of Mark, sorry Mark.
You wouldn’t think we’ll be living in it in a few weeks time, would you?
All the seeds I ordered have arrived now and Mark the builder has lent me some growlights he wasn’t using. On collecting them from his allotment, I had a look around. It’s quite a set up. He has chickens, ducks and quail there, besides vegetable plots and a few sheds for growing things. I poached some of his chickens’ eggs in a curry sauce and had the rest in a Yorkshire pudding just now. Very nice they were too.
The lights though, the LED panel is set up in the cellar keeping the waifs and strays ticking over, while the incandescent bulb is spreading some warmth over the strawberry planter.
His introduction into our lives is a long story. Essentially what happened is that we took pity on him thinking he was the street’s spare cat. He begs, is friendly and looks a bit mangy. However, a near neighbour had been feeding him before we turned up and named him Ernie. Then the plot thickened further when we took him to the vet (losing fur, claw torn out and bleeding, suppurating wound on chin) and found that he has an older owner who had him microchipped. I can’t say I have full confidence in Ernie’s other owners, but there isn’t anything Anna and I can do in the circumstances. We stopped feeding him the other day as we will be moving out of this rented house in six weeks time and we don’t want to have him yowling at whoever has this house next. He is well fed: that’s one problem he doesn’t have.
Once i’ve got my hands on the rest of the things I need to grow the seeds, i’ll be away.
On receiving a cheque from my Stepmum at Christmas, I decided to spend it on books. They’ve all arrived in the post now.
My wishlist is kept at Amazon because it’s a handy aide memoire for books, film and music, although I always spend with AbeBooks because unlike Amazon, they aren’t a predatory, world straddling colossus. I bought eleven titles with my £30. There’s exciting mountaineering by Stephen Venables and Gaston Rebuffat; French fictioneering with Emile Zola, Honore de Balzac and Anatole France; historical recipes for cooking pets, endangered species and vermin with the authors of The Decadent Cookbook; Renaissance nonsense with Hypnerotomachia Poliphili; smackhead Anna Kavan; Spinoza’s Ethics; Lafcadio Hearn’s rendering of Japanese horror stories and a biography of Derek Jarman.
With all that, I couldn’t leave out gardening. A few years ago, Robert Lee Riffle’s The Tropical Look helped me out hugely by giving me weird ideas such as trying to grow Monstera deliciosa (still the best plant name I know of) outside. Therefore, I spent £17 of my own money on a copy. Thank goodness I did: I was wondering if I could make a decent fist of growing Cananga odorata in the atrium. Well, wonder no more, I said to myself on reading about growing it. Ylang-ylang “grows quickly into a rather narrow headed tree” which “blooms when young and on new growth. The bright green glossy leaves . . . 10 or more inches long”. Sold! I’ve got the seeds on order from Plant World Seeds.
The thing about this book is (aside from the focus on flamboyance) the enthusiasm its author has for the subject. For a reference book, you can tell it’s authored, if you know what I mean. The entry for Delonix regia, which is another tree i’ve ordered seeds of, states “this is the world’s most beautiful flowering tree.” That isn’t necessary comment in a reference book, but i’m glad he wrote it.
It’s January and that means it’s time to select and order seeds. The number one priority is to get something going for the atrium at the new place. I’ve decided on a range of palms. Two minutes online resulted in finding the Rare Palm Seeds website, which has a fair spread available to order.
First, there are the rattan palms, chiefly the genus Calamus. Once upon a time, reading a book on palms in search of plants of rare charisma, I discovered that some palms behave like climbers. Besides their unfamiliar form, the appeal of these is that they grow like the clappers. When I then discovered that they climb by means of spines, barbs and hooks, the idea was firmly lodged in my mind that here was something worth going after. The main drawback is the these are fully tropical plants, needing a lot of light and heat in order to grow at all. Provided I can get the seeds to germinate, i’ll keep them under grow lights and on a heat mat until I have a house plant that can be put on show and enjoyed. I doubt that they will appreciate the house temperature of 15c to 20c, but my guess is that they should last awhile before foundering. I tell myself that they will have the heavily armed stems of a solanum species I used to have, but with very large pinnate leaves; or that they are like brambles on steroids. The species on sale is Calamus rudentum. In the wild it is said to grow up to five hundred feet in length.
The one time I visited Kew Gardens, the Tropical House had a fishtail palm in flower. It was colossal, reaching nearly to the high central roof. It was the foliage that caught my eye. The next year I bought a quartet of Aralia elata and told myself that their high branchless stems and large compound leaves were, besides being attractive in their own right, an acceptable substitute for a fishtail palm. I’ve gone for seeds of Caryota mitis.
Other than those two, there’s borderline hardy Brahea armata and Trithrinax brasilensis var.acanthocoma. I’ve had thoughts of getting hold of these for years. They’re very slow, but worth a punt at under £5 for a packet of seeds.
The final two i’m going for are the queen palm, Syagrus romanzoffiana and the classic Hollywood street tree Washingtonia robusta. The latter is easy to germinate and grows quickly – compared to the average palm.
Today was spent at the new place, clearing up. There were several wooden pallets which I have transformed into a container in which to keep leaf mould. There aren’t many dead leaves around at the moment though, so it is doubling up as a bin store for the time being.
There are a fair few joists and long lengths of 3×2 timbers knocking around too. They will contain a compost heap once i’ve finished sawing them to length and nailing them together.
The idea i’ve had is to assemble it inside the old greenhouse. It’ll keep the greenhouse warm over winter and I can still place pots on the heap, seeing as it’ll be contained in 2″ thick timber. I could place boards on top of the frame so as to allow for storage. The other consideration is that neither compost bin nor greenhouse are attractive. Why not hide one inside the other?
Have I gone a bit mad?
Every three months, the British Cacti and Succulent Society magazine lands on my doormat. Unfortunately, I have to admit to it having become a bit of a joke in our house, for my perception of it as somewhat dry in its treatment of what is an exciting group of plants. This quarter, there’s an editorial on the subject! The author writes that the BCSS is always being told that cacti are a fashionable element in home decor nowadays. I’m glad that established BCSS members have noticed, although I have my doubts as to whether they are up to capitalising on the imagination these plants can unleash. Some will say this is unfair and perhaps it is. I can only go off my own personal experience, which is of a disdain for the challenge of growing cacti and succulents outdoors in the UK, even for those of obvious hardiness, preferring “perfect” specimens grown for the showbench in pots, devoid of any kind of setting, be it home or garden.
The title of the post refers to the front cover though. Cactus World? More like Choad World
A fortnight ago I said i’d post about the new plants i’d bought in. This delivery came from Junker’s in Somerset. The owner and her son were extraordinarily helpful and have supplied me with three great looking plants. From their selection of seed-grown agaves, there’s this luminous Agave ovatifolia, which they dubbed “Silver Moon”.
It’ll go on the berm i’ve built up in the sunniest part of the garden. Their agaves have been raised in the manner of the covered bed in the old garden, with rain shelter over them and plenty of ventilation but no frost protection. My plan is to keep a removable dome over the whole berm during winter.
Speakung of agaves, i’m putting a stop to ferrying tender ones in and out of shelter each year by planting them in the greenhouse along with others of similar hardiness, for instance the puyas.
The next plant is a six foot tall Cunninghamia lanceolata “Glauca”. You can see both the berm and the Cunninghamia in this photo, either side of the old greenhouse, which i’m in the process of fixing up.