Palm seeds

11 Jan

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.

Compost heap in greenhouse.

11 Jan

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?


23 Dec

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 

New Additions

10 Dec

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.

Finally, there’s a Magnolia laevifolia, which resisted my attempts to take a good picture of the whole. The buds are, I assume, next year’s flowers.


9 Dec

Readers, I could use your imagination in deciding what to grow in the house once it’s finished. Me being me, i’ve taken advantage of the opportunity of remaking the house we bought in order to create a space for ridiculously large and exotic plants and I don’t want to miss a trick when it comes to choosing what to go for. Besides which, my horticultural know-how has been on the slide what with being between houses. 

First of all, an explanation of the space. Here’s a plan of the ground floor as it was. The detail in red indicates the parts which have been demolished.

Here is a plan of what we are replacing it with.

These are some photos I took on Thursday morning. 

View of the entrance from the indoor balcony to the master bedroom

View from the lounge. The steelwork is to support the balcony.

Girders for the balcony and skylight in the vaulted ceiling. Two windows have just been bricked up. The remaining one is to be the bathroom window.

The brick wall will be replaced entirely by glass.

You see that the place is a building site at the moment. But when it is done, we will have an atrium-like hallway. One side is to be entirely glazed, and there is a large roof light in place. The only structure at first floor level is an indoor balcony which is to link the master bedroom on one side of the house with the children’s bedrooms and bathroom on the other side. With 220 square feet of glass illuminating a twenty foot high space, indoors, I can really go to town with characterful planting.

But what to go for? In terms of palms, I thought first of climbers, for instance the genus Calamus. They grow like crazy and have nasty thorns. But  it’s likely that they won’t take kindly to the change in seasons or the lack of humidity, so a bit more research took me over to the fishtail palms, which are also fast growers with a form atypical of palms. They aren’t fully tropical either, as I understand it. Caryota mitis could be the one to seek out. 

Certainly i’ll be growing a brugmansia in there. My cutting of “Tropical Fantasy” failed to survive being owned by me, but a double or triple bloomed brugmansia would be nice, so i’ll see if my local supplier can supply me with the same again or similar. The fragrance would be good and strong indoors. 

Fragrance is something else I am focusing on. Cananga odorata? Plumeria?

Lastly, I have been thinking in terms of flowers, with Chiranthodendron – the monkey hand tree – an option.

What would you grow?


17 Nov

The house is still a building site, but I couldn’t resist laying my hands on one or two plants to keep my interest up through these darker months.

For now, here’s a picture of this bruiser, which was delivered today. More detail to follow next week!

Delivery #2

5 Sep

This arrived a week last Friday, and whilst Burncoose nursery did a great job of packing it, the couriers didn’t bother putting a note through the door to tell me they’d left it at the house over the road. The result was that I didn’t get to unrap them until Monday, by which point the deciduous two had decided it must be autumn already and started to drop their leaves. Not ideal. That said, here are the three together

Here’s Liriodendron chinense 

Here’s Magnolia macrophylla 

And here’s Cestrum nocturnum