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. . . !

Stick or Twist

Like most gardeners, I wonder if some plants are right for their place anymore. There’s a hebe on the desert side of things that looks great apart from this time of year. It flowers in a ridiculous purple colour that doesn’t suit. Do I get rid or stick with it?

In other news, everything’s going smoothly. 29c is a rare treat. Manchester has never hit 100F. Here’s the view from the sofa


It’s been a few days since I had a proper inspection of the garden. Cycling and catching up on housework took priority. Absence makes the heart grow fonder though. I had a few shocks when I looked around. First up, Melia azedarach which I thought might be dead this time last month. It’s deciduous, but mid-June is a later leaf-out than any other deciduous trees I have. It’s a member of Meliaceae and the hardiest with the exception of the genus toona. Looks like it needed more heat and humidity to get going. It’s doubled in size in a week. An all or nothing plant.

A strange smell of foam banana sweets confronted me in the old greenhouse. Magnolia figo is producing those tiny flowers

Speaking of bananas:

The lawn’s filled out, not to mention the forest behind it

Back to the titular heatwave. We had several inches of rain last week. Today’s temperature is 25c, increasing to 30c on Thursday. We don’t get many such warm days here. Next week’s forecast predicts 19c.

Drought ends

On Monday night I left a glass outside. It wasn’t a deliberate experiment, but forty-eight hours later i’m able to say that there’s now five inches of rainwater in it. As is the nature with thunderstorms, coverage is patchy. At my mum’s place in Cumbria they had half an inch at most. There was only a light scattering where I was in Staffordshire yesterday. Here in Stockport, we had three separate hour long bursts of torrential rain that more two-thirds filled up the pint glass.

As a result, the lawn has filled out nicely. It’s peppered with chamomile, which would be fine if it weren’t mixed up with the grass. (Anyone remember the Camomile Lawn? That was a great TV drama.)

Those Zantedeschia are still a bit knackered from being uprooted and moved and the double flowered brugmansia ‘Pink Perfektion’ is strangely slow growing. But the view is better than it was three weeks ago. Also in that new bed are a couple of plants that I bedded in using homemade compost. Note to future self: do not let the fruits of Solanum laciniatum get into the compost. I think the problem is obvious:

Along with the rain has come humidity, thank goodness. It’s ideal growing weather. Solanum quitoense has suddenly woken up and doubled in size in the space of three days after doing absolutely nothing for the past six weeks.

Long live 21c, 70% humidity and a half and half mix of cloud and sunshine. Anything will grow in that. It’s a sweet spot to be in. Finally, another photo from yesterday. Warm weather, the gorse (Ulex europaeus) starting into flower, empty single track roads and a view for as far as the summer haze allows. I can’t tell you how much yesterday improved my mood.


Today marked my first trip out for some time. I visited the Roaches, a popular rock climbing haunt and Lud’s Church, a deep cleft formed by a landslip thousands of years ago.

This shows the Don Whillans Memorial Hut, a house built into the rock.
Vaccilium myrtillus, commonly known as bilberry or whimberry. A common sight on acid soils around these parts.

The flora in Lud’s Church is spectacular. It only grows in such shady, cool, damp and free draining environments such as those found in spots like this. The temperature drop is marked as you step down into the cleft. The plant range is limited to Blechnum penna-marina, another fern I don’t know the name of (dryopteris maybe?), mosses, spleenworts, Luzula sylvatica and the odd rowan or birch.

That last picture is of Luzula sylvatica or great wood-rush. I love it. I get the impression that it doesn’t grow anything like as well is if isn’t consistently moist. With those glossy leaves and almost lithophyte or epiphyte habit, doesn’t it almost remind you of a bromeliad? Such a gorgeous thing.

The Action Leaps From the Screen

It isn’t smelly yet but Sauromatum venosum has opened up to show itself off. Is it me or does it seem more protuberent than the usual? Best put your 3-D glasses on for this picture:

That’s an idea for a movie if ever there was. ‘This summer: just when they thought it was safe to look at the stachyurus. . . Aroid Frenzy 3, in 3-D.’ That’s to follow on from Aroid Frenzy and it’s first sequel, Aroid Frenzy 2, which I assume would be subtitled Electric Boogaloo like all good sequels should be.

Sorry. I can be sensible too! Here’s the single black opium poppy that first opened up this morning. That makes a full poppy roster for the season. I am pleased.