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.

Artistic Slug

Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s an Arisaema costatum with the middle leaflet chewed half off. Maybe it wasn’t a slug. Spring was especially dry so I had more of an issue with caterpillars than slugs and snails. The weather’s making up for it now though. Today was a rubbish 13c and it rained constantly until teatime. I’ve known weather like that on Christmas day before now. Some things like it, of course. Tetracentron sinense seems to appreciate the rain:

I already knew it was a wierdo though because it shares the order Trochodendrales with only one other species: Trochodendron aralioides. They’re both relics whose former relatives have all died out. I had one of those at the old place and was fond of it. Neither species is an out and out stunner, but they both have their charms.

Out of the box

I took the cacti and succulents I bought last week out of their box. It was the least they deserved. I even potted some of them on. Those little plants were seriously rootbound. Let’s have a look at some of them.

How do you like your plants? Green usually. This aloe’s brown but it isn’t dead. Makes a change.

Opuntia polyancantha. It’s hardy, depending on the source material. It has a massive distribution. See those tiny red dots in the end of some of the spines? What’s going on there? I read that cochineal insects feed on these, but surely that isn’t what’s happened here.

Everyone loves a distichous aloe. This is a distichous form of Aloe glauca. Oh and here’s an opuntia, I don’t know which species. Maybe it’s austrocylindropuntia, having that straight up habit. It’s grown like the clappers though.

Yesterday I posted about Magnolia delavayi flowering. Short lived. That makes it all the more special though, of you ask me. Here it is now, dehiscing

Magnolia delavayi

I am beyond delighted by this. It had one solitary terminal flower bud for weeks and months, gradually shedding layers and becoming fatter and fatter until last night – crack! It opened up over the space of a couple of hours. It closed up again this morning to the shape of a light bulb. Now it’s fully open and smelling really weird. It’s both good and bad. We can’t put our finger on what it smells like. It’s an enigma. Hot plastic and vanilla essence? Volatile solvents and over-ripe bananas? That’s as good a description as we can manage. Here’s photos from today.


The only part of the garden i’ve never featured on this blog thing is the corner by the back door. Here’s why:

Last week I decided enough was enough and demolished one of the sheds. There were two stuck together in one mega-shed. The above photo was taken post-demolition. I also took down the temporary fence i’d fashioned three years ago from sheets of chipboard. It was very ugly. The view isn’t much improved. Here’s where the fence was, seen from the front drive:

The parcel of timber wrapped in blue plastic is the replacement fence. Building that is tomorrow’s job. The timber didn’t arrive until three in the afternoon, so in the meantime I tidied up a bit around the back where the shed used to be.

It was hard work. The old shed was mounted on a two inch thick layer of concrete and surrounded by a small brick wall. Furthermore, the shed floor needed breaking up, a new shorter base for it constructing, the flags underneath needed levelling, the earth flattening under the old base and the faux-stone blocks that used to be at the front of the concrete needed digging up, the mortar chiselling off, re-laying and cleaning.

I haven’t done all that yet. I got this far by mid-afternoon:

. . . at which point I thought those blocks would make a decent display spot for the larger plants I have underneath the staging in the big greenhouse. They hang together well:

Bit more detail:

Plenty more to do over the coming fortnight.

Cacti and Succulent Haul

My pal Darren and I visited Abbey Brook cactus nursery today. We did pretty well and I was glad to see that they were well too, with one or two other customers, but not so many that it was difficult to keep social distance.

Here’s the box:

Agave murpheyi, A. durangensis, A. kerchovei, A. longisepala. Several epiphytic cacti: Selenicereus grandiflorus, Rhipsalis hadrosoma, R. pilocarpa, R. rhombea.

Also a Trichocereus ID’d only as AWC542. In time we’ll find out what that is. I just know that I like the genus. That’s the fifth one of them I have. It’s Echinopsis really, but I can’t get my head round that for now.

Opuntia polyancantha, Aloe mitriformis, something that’s labelled as Aloe juvenna but is brown, Caralluma burchardii, Senecio ficoides, Aloe glauca var. distincha, a senecio that looks like S. mandraliscae but could be something else, Portulacaria afra, a mystery sedum that was taking a ride in one of the agave pots, Sedum rubrotinctum and another sedum or more likely a bigeneric hybrid of a sedum and something else. Oh and Echeveria runyonii ‘Topsy-Turvy’ which it turns out I already had.

These are for a mix of purposes. I wanted plenty of material to make up some mixed succulent containers. I also wanted to broaden my agave assortment and to have more variety of epiphytes. Lastly a couple of these are hardier types to slip into the desert side of the garden here.

Darren’s basket included Pelargonium tetragonum and a very sparse, tall kalanchoe. Oh and an epiphyllum cultivar named ‘Dracula’. And lithops. And and and. . . !