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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Thursday, 29 December 2016

Starting over

Aloe ferox youngsters in my garden having survived another winter

Have you ever jumped the gun and then regretted it afterwards? Well, that's what happened to me! A couple of months ago we were in the process of selling our smallholding, something we've been thinking of for a couple of years now, planning retirement and all that, and apart from having to have a massive clean-up of all the stuff one accumulates over 38 years of living in one place, one of my biggest worries was all my succulents - those in the garden were OK, but I had dozens of succulents and cacti in pots and it was impossible for me to take all of them with me. After a short search I was lucky and blessed enough to find another succulent-lover who was thrilled to take all of them off my hands.

Now, here's the thing - the sale fell through! (Much to my relief, I must say, as in the process of selling we suddenly realised what we are leaving behind and we fell in love with our life and our smallholding all over again! One doesn't realise what you have until you lose it, or almost lose it, right?)

This new planting was just coming along nicely and the Aeoniums on the left were some of my favourites.

This Echeveria elegans was also just starting to flower for the first time in in about the 4 years I had it

Another first, this Haworthia cooperii var Transiensis was also pushing up it's first tiny little flowers

My only consolation is that I still have a few succulents and cacti left in the garden and it would be easy to take cuttings and start a new collection. But here's the question : do I want to start another potted collection again? At first, after they were all gone, I felt empty and lost, no daily routine of checking up on all of them, spotting new growth and new flowers and softly chatting to each and every one. All their small watering cans are standing empty, calling out for something to water.

But on the other hand, it's also very liberating to not constantly be worried about them and rushing outside to bring them under cover every time it starts hailing. So, for now, I'll be chatting to all my succulents and cacti in the ground in the garden, checking on them daily and giving them some special attention!

Thursday, 1 December 2016

A wonder of nature - rain and hail

Nature and her bounty is a wonderful thing. My garden, and the succulents in particular, have benefited greatly from all the rain we've been having. The Echverias (E. imbricata) absolutely love all the water (provided there is good drainage) and they have turned into saucer-sized (a big one!) beauties!

However, as bountiful as she gives, she can also take. We've been having extreme hail storms over the past couple of months and although most of my succulents suffered no damage at all and really seemed to thrive afterwards, the tender (huge!) Echeverias bore the brunt of all that pummelling. Some of the hail stones were as big as golf balls.

Hail damage to my Echeverias (E. imbricata)

Shortly after all the hail, just about all the succulents started flowering profusely, making for a wonderful display.

Echinopsis cactus flowers

Epiphyllum crenatum (Litroos)

Mammilleria Cactus Flowers

Rattail cactus flowering

Peanut cactus

It always amazes me that, no matter how much I water the garden, even after just a few millimeters of rain, everything is lush and green. And it's actually no surprise - Rainwater contains nitrate – the most bio-available form of nitrogen. Nitrogen is one of the three key macro-nutrients that plants need to thrive – necessary for the development of lush foliage. Rainwater is 100% soft water. Free of the salts, minerals, treatment chemicals, and pharmaceuticals that are found in municipal water, groundwater, and surface water, rainwater is pure hydration.

Rainwater is slightly acidic—naturally! Green gardeners know that most organically grown plants prefer soil pH levels between 5.5 and 6.5. This is on the acidic side of the neutral pH 7, and by nature’s design, it is the exact pH range for rainwater. Tap water, on the other hand, is treated to be alkaline to protect metal pipes from corroding, and can have a pH level upwards of 8.5.

So there you have it - if you want your succulents to thrive, try and gather rain water in barrels and use that to water your potted succulents. Stored rainwater contains some organic matter. If collected from your rooftop, rainwater contains traces of organic material, like leaf litter, pollen, bird droppings and the like, which are great for your plants.

Monday, 26 September 2016

One for Monday

Reasons Succulents Are The Best Plants Ever

They are low maintenance
they come in all kinds of colours
They're fat and happy

They like hanging out 
They can live in teacups or anywhere else
they regularly have babies
You can use their cuttings to make more succulents

The succulent grows in symmetry,
Budding as a flower,
Reaching for moisture,
And sunlight every hour,

She waits in peace for loving,
Someone to grow beside,
Hopeful in the waiting,
With no shade to hide behind,

But then, a plant is placed by her,
A quiet friend to greet,
So, now they'll grow in harmony,
Until their purpose is complete.


Friday, 9 September 2016

Succulents flowering in September 2016

The weather has warmed up after a severe and stormy winter and my succulents are celebrating spring!

My Echeveria elegans flowring for the first time!
Echeveria "Lipstick" also flowering for the first time even though it suffered severely from the hailstorm we had

My Echeveria imbricata after the severe hailstorm we had at the end of July - they should all have been plump, beautiful and flowering now

Haworthia cooperii var transiensis -  first flower

Pleiospilos Nelli first Flowers since I acquired her
The Vygies never fail to delight! Mesembryanthemum Lampranthus (Delosperma cooperi)

 As soon as I brought the Rattail cactus outside from indoors where it spent the winter, it started sprouting it's beautiful flowers

The gorgeous flower of the Rattail cactus (Aporocactus-flagelliformis)

 One of my Echeveria imbricata is sporting yellow flowers, a first in the 20-odd years I've been growing them. It is also making a baby along one of the flower stems, I think that is called "sporting".

( A sport in the plant world is a genetic mutation that results from a faulty chromosomal replication. The results of the mutation are a segment of the plant that is distinctly different from the parent plant in both appearance (phenotype) and genetics (genotype). The genetic change is not a result of unusual growing conditions; it is an accident, a mutation. In many cases the new trait can be handed down to the organism’s offspring.)

Read more at Gardening Know How: Plant Sport Mutations – What Does It Mean WhenA Plant “Throws A Sport

A sport in the plant world is a genetic mutation that results from a faulty chromosomal replication. The results of the mutation are a segment of the plant that is distinctly different from the parent plant in both appearance (phenotype) and genetics (genotype). The genetic change is not a result of unusual growing conditions; it is an accident, a mutation. In many cases the new trait can be handed down to the organism’s offspring.

Read more at Gardening Know How: Plant Sport Mutations – What Does It Mean When A Plant “Throws A Sport” http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/info/plant-sport-mutations.ht
A sport in the plant world is a genetic mutation that results from a faulty chromosomal replication. The results of the mutation are a segment of the plant that is distinctly different from the parent plant in both appearance (phenotype) and genetics (genotype). The genetic change is not a result of unusual growing conditions; it is an accident, a mutation. In many cases the new trait can be handed down to the organism’s offspring.

Read more at Gardening Know How: Plant Sport Mutations – What Does It Mean When A Plant “Throws A Sport” http://www.gardeningknowhow.com/garden-how-to/info/plant-sport-mutations.htm
 Just before the sun gets to it, the Mammillaria's flowers are still closed. This one is now starting to form a very nice ring around the crown.


Sunday, 7 August 2016

Mammillaria cactus

For the first time in two years, my little Mammillaria cactus is flowering and I'm utterly thrilled!

The Mammillaria genus is generally found in the South-west United States and Mexico. Mammillaria species appreciate strong light, but many species dislike more than four hours of direct summer sunlight. Provide bright, even light for the best results. Allow the soil mix to become nearly dry between waterings, but then water thoroughly.

With nearly 200 recognized species, the genus Mammillaria is one of the largest of the cactus family, so I'm not even going to try and identify my little baby. Suffice it to say that he is very small with these dense, almost soft, thorns that are not much threat to the hand.

For the most part, these species are globose or ball-shaped plants which grow either solitary or in clumps. Mammillaria cacti can be propagated easily from offsets, which readily form in clusters around the base of the mother plant. To propagate, carefully remove the offset and allow the cut to dry on a paper towel for a few days. Depending on the size of the cut area, a callous will form over the cut surface. Once the callous has formed, place the new plant in a pot with a potting soil mixture and keep in a warm place until new roots emerge. Once the plant is established, re-pot it into a regular container.

If you can grow cacti and succulents successfully, you can likely grow the popular Mammillaria without too much trouble. To encourage better flowering, allow the plants to enjoy a cooling period in the winter and suspend watering. Unlike many other cacti, which use their ribs as storage devices, the Mammillaria feature raised tubercles, from which spines emerge. When you water, the tubercles will expand to allow for increased water storage. The flowers emerge from the axils of these tubercles on the previous year's growth, which accounts for their interesting halo effect. It's imperative that the cactus is not exposed to prolonged dampness and sitting water. Never let your cactus sit in a dish of water. Lastly, make sure to fertilizer during the growing season for the best results.

Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Can you spot the fungus?

I presume these are Bracket Fungi even though they looked like mushrooms when starting out, almost indistinguishable from the rocks, but they are rock hard and sturdy, like most Brackets.

Like all fungi, bracket fungus likes a damp environment and tree bracket fungi attack the hardwood interior, and therefore, the structural integrity of the tree and are the cause of white or brown rot.

Luckily these appeared in a damp spot next to my garden path amongst some rocks and were not near any of my trees. Make sure the bases of trees don’t stand in water. As soon as the infection is noted, removal of the bracket fungus shelves will at least prevent the spore release that may infect other trees. The good news is that these fungi attack the old and the weak and often occur after a tree is damaged by man or nature and play an integral part in the decomposition of wood.

I just love finding mushrooms, brackets, lichens and moss in the garden, it means that the environment is healthy and that everything is working like it should be.

Standard English Name(s): bracket fungus, shelf fungus, tree fungus, conk
Scientific Name(s): various species of Fomes, Fomitopsis, Ganoderma, etc.

Sunday, 12 June 2016

Planting succulents in containers

Planting succulents in containers has various benefits. Succulents are not fussy plants (or so we are led to believe! I have some that insist on lots of special attention and tender loving care!) and will grow just about anywhere. Controlling water requirements is easy, for there are some that thrive with hardly any water and a few, like Crassula imperialis and Echeveria imbricata, absolutely thrive on lots of water. Containers don't have to be expensive and anything goes, from glass bottles to rocks with a hole or an indentation, tins, wooden crates, terracotta pots, concrete blocks, bricks, cups and saucers, wire baskets, pots and pans, plastic containers, dog baskets and even cardboard boxes.

Echeveria imbricata planted in an old dog basket - this one has now become too big and heavy to bring inside, so is moved under cover during winter

Many (or most!) of my succulents and cacti are planted in containers because of the severe winter frosts we get here in Tarlton (Gauteng, South Africa). It enables me to bring in and winterize those that do not tolerate frost. Most succulents have no problem with cold winters and many of them need a cold winter to flower, but being plants that store water, frost is deadly. I almost lost my whole Echeveria imbricata collection to one such severe frosty winter.

An Echeveria imbricata that grew beautifully from a single leaf planted in the pot and on the right, some new Aeonium cuttings

Shade-loving Gasteria that do not mind the cold but I keep them under cover on the patio.

Crassula imperialis do well in pots (with lots of water) and will form thick, trailing clumps.

Enamelware bowls make beautiful containers, but unless you drill holes in the bottom, do not over-water

Vygies - Lampranthus - look lovely in baskets or any container where they can trail over the edge. The Graptoveria sharing the basket (and at the back left) do not do well indoors, they shrivel up and become leggy, so I let them brave the winters outside.

The hardy Austrocylindropuntia subulata monstrosa doesn't mind the frost but looks better when spending the winter indoors - it tends to grey out a bit outside in the frost and stays greener indoors.

I do have some cacti in pots, but purely for ornamental reasons. They easily survive the most severe winters, even frost, except for Echinopsis, I've lost a few due to severe frost. So now I have a few containers filled with Echinopsis eyriesii that come inside every winter.

Echinopsis cacti (E. eyriesii) rescued from the garden after severe frost and planted in a fan cover.They're sharing space with some Crassula imperialis, not a good mix, as the Crassula require a lot of water and the cacti do not, so I'll have to re-think this configuration!

A few of my succulents and cacti in various containers


Sunday, 29 May 2016

Living rock of South Africa - Titanopsis flowering

It's winter here in South Africa, which means all the cacti and succulents are flowering! The Aloe ferox hasn't started yet and I'm just hoping we don't get any frost this year, last year I only had one flowering due to heavy frost.

The Titanopsis calcarea which I acquired last year in February is now flowering for the first time and the flowers are tiny, really tine, 10mm, but how gorgeous!

Titanopsis is a small genus of dwarf succulents from the family of Aizoaceae. Naturally growing in the Upper Karoo in South Africa, Titanopsis is an attractive but quite unusual plant because of its formation. The plant grows as a dwarf succulent and produces thick truncated leaves that have crumpled surface. These unusual leaves display all the hues of red, purple, green, cream and blue throughout the year. Flowers appear in late fall and winter. Like its cousins in the Aizoaceae family, Titanopsis produces small daisy-like flowers of yellow colour.

Titanopsis genus occur in three separate areas of southern Africa: southern Namibia, the region around the south-eastern border of Namibia and a larger area spanning between the former Cape Province and Orange Free State in South Africa. This unusual distribution means that the different Titanopsis species live in different rainfall systems - either summer or winter rainfall depending on the species. Cultivation is easy with full sun, very well-drained soil, and attention to the natural rainfall of the particular species' habitat.

It is a very rewarding succulent, and can be cultivated in desert gardens in warm climates or in greenhouses or windowsills in the home. Enjoys bright shade in summer and full sun in the other seasons. It requires watering fromautumn to spring, and less in summer. They grow quickly from seed or by division of larger clumps.

My Titanopsis last winter. As can be seen from the pics above, several new clumps have already formed. They are also sometimes referred to as Concrete Leaf or Jewel Weed.

Family: Aizoaceae (ay-zoh-AY-see-ee)
Genus: Titanopsis (ty-tan-OP-sis)
Species: calcarea (kal-KAR-ee-uh)

Saturday, 26 March 2016

Autumn in the succulent garden

Cooler, balmier days have arrived. I just love Autumn. Checking on my succulents yesterday, I saw that a few of them are flowering. Soon the Aloes will be starting, which means lots of visiting Sunbirds.

For the first time in over a year that I acquired my Faucaria last Feb. 2015, it is also flowering now! Thank you to the rain!

Crassula perfoliata ssp. falcata (Propeller plant) sporting three new bright red flowers. I think it's getting a bit big for the pot, needs transplanting or to be moved into the garden.

Pleiospilos nelli on the left and Euphorbia horrid looking good in Autumn! Sharing the pot with the Euphorbia is a little self-seeded piece of Crassula imperialis, a succulent which likes LOTS of sun and LOTS of water, so has been thriving on all the rain.

My Aloe juvennae, acquired last Feb 2015 and which was just as big as the 3 pups it now sports, has grown in leaps and bounds! 

Just a couple of months ago, the Aeonium and cactus were still rather small, perfect for the pot, and now they're going to have to move to a new home.

My Pleiospilos compactus is showing a fair amount of damage from the hail we had recently, but it still seems happy enough and is flowering.

In the succulent bed, I'm struggling to keep on top of all the growth since all the beautiful rain we had. The Crassula imperialis (just to the top left of the Echeverias) in the wire basket has formed a thick, curly mass, hiding all the Echnipsis oxygona cacti inside there somewhere. Will have to transplant the cacti, they struggled to push out their large flowers amongst all those curls!

The tiny. slightly hairy, little mass of succulent has spread very fast over the last few weeks. I have no idea what it is (can anybody help?) and I'll have to start a really in-depth search to try and find out.

With winter not that far away, I'll have to start sorting out which of my succulents I'm going to be winterizing inside - I have far too many now to bring the whole lot it!

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