About me

About me
🌿 I've been gardening ever since a child, when I spent time with my father in his vegetable garden. But my fascination with Echeverias started in the 1980's, when my father gave me a pot with five Echeverias, which turned out to be E. imbricata. At first I wasn't much interested in them and planted them in some obscure corner of the garden and completely forgot about them. How great was my surprise when, a couple of months later, I noticed that they had spread and made a beautiful display - I was hooked!
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Monday, 26 January 2015

Crassula Perfoliata ssp falcata

A new addition to my collection, Crassula falcata, known by the common names airplane plant and propeller plant, is a succulent plant endemic to South Africa, from the Cape of Good Hope. The foliage is gray-green with striking texture, on plants that grow to 2 feet (0.61 m) tall. The flowers are tiny and scarlet red, that rise in dense clusters above the foliage for a month in summer. The flower smells like cinnamon and can bloom twice per year, attracting birds and other pollinators. Crassula falcata is cultivated for use in drought tolerant and succulent gardens.

Afrikaans: Sekelblaarplakkie; Heuningbossie

Family: Crassulaceae (krass-yoo-LAY-see-ee) 
Genus: Crassula (KRASS-oo-la)

There is good news and there is bad news : The bad news first: this plant is not hardy in my cold climate. Not by a long shot. This means that I will be relegated to growing it in a pot and shifting it between the indoors and out depending on the season. We get terrible frost here in Tarlton (Gauteng, South Africa) and I spend half my life carting my succulents in and out! The good news is that it propagates fairly easily from leaf cuttings. Simply break one off and place it on top of the soil. If you’re in a warm zone, you will have no trouble growing the plant outside in the ground as long as the soil is dry and exceptionally gritty/well-draining. You may even find yourself graced with blooms of scarlet red flowers.

Pic from the internet

Pice from the internet

I've been told that they take long to start flowering and I'm just wondering how long before mine produces beautiful blooms like this...


Tuesday, 20 January 2015

Where is the best place to plant a succulent garden?

Read what "Random Harvest Nursery" has to say about this...
Where the light changes, is the best place for your succulent and rock garden. It does not matter if it is a dry and problematic area.
The creation of that special place is a labour of love, because creating mood and feeling in a garden is the same as weaving a tapestry of colours. It takes a lot of patience and planning, but don’t let that put you off.
If your space is against a wall, you could paint a desert scene that flows into your bed, especially if your rockery is too small to plant a large Aloe.
Then, taking your time, gradually release your creative genius by adding soil and doing some earth shaping to help fashion different shadows and light, that will add drama to architectural plants. Create miniature landscape features like rocky canyons, outcrops and a dry river bed. Have fun by copying a typical dry river bed in nature.
Include debris such as water smoothed pebbles, seeds that may have been carried along an irregular flash flood, driftwood, grass lodged behind an occasional rock, and dried grasses and reeds etc.
The driftwood will help to encourage soil organisms and enhance your plants. You could even use different coloured sands to complete the picture.

A little water is essential for the insects, birds and lizards that will be drawn to the living, evolving eco-system. Make sure to allow for a little seepage, alternatively a small grindstone shaped rock with a dripper is sufficient. Space permitting, you could even create a small pool backed up against a shaded rocky area in your dry riverbed.
Rocks and gravel come next, cultivating this habitat for plants, wildlife and organisms.  When choosing rocks and gravel they should have similar harmonious colours that will blend naturally together.
Creating a natural cobblestone, or rock pathway through your succulent bed, will enable you to stroll through and get a closer look at your creation. A stone seat, built to look like a stone wall, or a dry stone wall or gabion with plants growing out of the spaces between the rocks completes the picture.
Succulents need healthy, well-drained soil to which compost and organic fertilizer have been added.
When you have done the planting, mulch the area with gravel, woodchips, bark, leaves, or other organic material; thereafter mulch the bed with a thin layer at least once a year, but twice is better to keep the soil healthy.
When deciding what to plant where, take the colours, shapes and textures of the leaves and stems, as well as the overall character of the plants, into account.
When planting, think of their natural habitat, Lithops spp. (Stone Plants) that grow so cryptically take on the appearance of the gravel in which they grow. Only when they burst forth in colourful, glistening bloom are they highly visible to both us and their pollinators.
When placing your plants stand back and keep checking if they have been placed correctly. Start with feature plants or “star performers” such as large Aloes. Rocks should look completely natural.
Place bulbs such as Haemanthus humilis (Rabbit’s ears), strategically under rocks and growing from crevasses. If at the end you have made a mistake, remember that succulents transplant very successfully and you can easily move them.
Include other non-succulent species of plant to complete the picture. Try to stick to those that would be found growing naturally near to the succulents that you have used, or at least have similar water and sun requirements.
Use grasses sparingly as they can overshadow other plants. Include a few Tulbaghia violacea (Wild Garlic) to help with pest control.
The bold lines and often stocky shapes of succulents contrast very well or are shown off with striking effect when planted with softer plants such as some annuals or plants with small leaves and dainty flowers.
Last but not least, sow a scatter pack of Namaqualand Daisies for spring-time splendour in and around your succulents.


Monday, 19 January 2015

Cactus - Cereus jamacaru

Ink sketch and watercolour wash on Bockingford 300gsm

Cereus jamacaru (Queen of the Night, Een-Nag blom)
Classification: Cactaceae

Incorrectly referred to as Cereus peruvianus in South Africa.

The Peruvian Apple Cactus, Cereus jamacaru, is a large, erect, thorny columnar cactus found in South America as well as the nearby ABC Islands of the Dutch Caribbean. It is also known as Giant Club Cactus, Hedge Cactus, cadushi and kayush. With an often tree-like appearance, the Peruvian Apple Cactus’ cylindrical grey-green to blue stems can reach 10 meters (33 ft) in height and 10-20 cm in diameter. The nocturnal flowers remain open for only one night. Unfortunately this plant has been declared an unwanted “invader” in South Africa due to it’s fast-spreading habit.

Die Kaktus Cereus peruvianus (of Een-nag blom) is ’n boomagtige kaktus, partymaal tot 10m hoog, wat vir net een nag van die jaar asemrowende wit blomme voort bring. Ongelukkig is hierdie kaktus as ’n ongewensde indringerplant verklaar in Suid Afrika as gevolg van hul gewoonte om uiters vinnig te versprei. Daar is groot verwarring oor die eintlike naam van hierdie kaktus, aangesien Cereus vir heelwat kaktussoorte gebruik word. Die spesienaam, peruvianus, dui aan dat dit endemies is aan Peru, maar dit is ’n botaniese fout. Hierdie plant is eintlik endemies aan Brasilië, Uruguay en Argentinië.

Hierdie een groei langs Solly se kaia op ons plot (Tarlton, Gauteng, Suid Afrika) en hy was verskriklik ontsteld toe ek voorstel ons moet dit verwyder. Nou is hy die dood voor die oë gesweer as ek sou sien dat dit enigsins versprei!


Saturday, 10 January 2015

Succulents and rain

Seeing as most succulents and cacti come from hot, desert regions and are also well-known for their drought resistance, one would think that they can't tolerate a lot of water and most don't. But there are always a few exceptions to the rule and through trial and error I have discovered some succulents that actually thrive on a lot of water.

This little cactus, above, Austrocylindropuntia subulata monstrosa (Eve's Needle) is in full sun in the garden and gets lots of water, me and the rain! and it has absolutely thrived. It is also very frost tolerant and extreme cold doesn't seem to have much effect on it.

This Crassula muscosa, above and below, from the Crassulaceae family and indigenous to South Africa, is very drought resistant but absolutely goes wild with lots of water! When in full sun and with little water, it tends to go brown and get woody but when watered a lot, it makes lovely clumps of bright, healthy-looking green clumps. Tends to spread very quickly when watered a lot.

Crassula muscosa

Crassula muscosa in a pot

Flowers of the Echeveria imbricata

The effect of lots of water on Echeveria imbricata is amazing! You are rewarded with plants the size of dinner plates and a profusion of flowers! We've been having 10-20mm of rain almost every day for the past couple of weeks, and my Echeverias have never been so stunning! However, one has to cut down on watering in winter and they are not frost-tolerant, so wet feet would be bad news.

Echeveria imbricata in a pot on my patio

Echeveria imbricata in a pot on my patio

Huge, dinner-plate size Echeveria imbricata in pots on my patio

More huge Echeveria imbricata in a pot on my patio

Echeveria imbricata in a wooden planter on my patio

More Crassula muscosa enjoying lots of water. The Echinopsis cacti will only tolerate lots of water if it is planted in a well-draining soil - when they get soggy they easily suffer from rot.

The Geraniums have been loving the rain, but the Eve's Needle in the pot gets moved under roof at the first signs of rain. Since I got it as a tiny, 3" little plant, it has been acclimatising in this pot with no holes, but is now ready to be planted directly into the garden.

My Old Man Cactus (genus Cephalocereus) has spent many years in this pot with lots of rain, but it does have holes and a well-draining soil, and is now sporting two new pups which are ready to be removed and re-planted.

Kalanchoe rotundifolia, indigenous to South Africa) on the right in the white pot is tolerant of both drought and lots of water. I propagated this one from a little cutting and it has been under cover for quite some time and I only placed it in full sun this week. So I will be keeping an eye on it to see how it develops before transplanting it straight into the garden.

The Rattail Cactus (Aporocactus Flagelliformis or Disocactus flagelliformis) above, is native to Mexico, which means gardeners only in the warmer zones can grow them outdoors. Mine spends summer outdoorsin full sun with LOTS of water, but it doesn't tolerate frost and I bring them inside every winter. And then, every spring I am rewarded with this beautiful show of flowers!


Tuesday, 6 January 2015

Echeverias after the winter

Having survived a particularly harsh winter OUTSIDE! ( usually bring them inside every winter), these Echeverias (E. imbricata) have doubled in size with all the beautiful early-summer rains we’ve had. These pots spent the winter under the protection of my Wild Olive (Olea europaea subsp. africana). Also known as “Blue Hens and Chicks”, these plants, hailing from the semi-desert areas of Central America, thrive in frost free, brightly lit conditions with good drainage.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Re-potting after neglect

I've just freshened up this pot of succulents which was standing in the garden. When I tested the ground it was a hard as concrete, I really don't know HOW they've managed to survive!

First I watered the pot heavily to soften the ground. I gently removed each plant, cut off dead and old pieces and carefully laying them down in the shade so as not to damage them. I then put in a mix of potting soil and garden soil with pebbles at the bottom to aid draining and re-planted most of them, leaving some space for new growth. An Aloe at the back with the Aeoniums next to it and in front added the Crassula and the Echinopsis cactus with a few crystal pebbles as decoration.

I'm just wondering if the red tinges on the Aeoniums is a bad sign or not? They're normally as green as grass... But they all seem none the worse for the wear and neglect, that pot has been standing there on the little table for over a year without any attention and just the odd watering.

 Neglected and forlorn somewhere in the garden...

A New Year's resolution - I promise to spend more time with you, my darling succulents!

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