I had great horticultural plans for this year; leaving off painting and writing a little to try and get the garden looking relatively respectable again. Unfortunately everything did not go as planned for a number of reasons – although the garden did look great for a week or two!.
One of the reasons was that my wife and I found ourselves looking after two terminally ill cats, one passed away at the turn of the year and the other in June. One was a rescue who we took on knowing she was poorly and actually gave her over two years she wouldn’t have had, although we desperately hoped she would have lasted longer, and the other was a young cat we had since a kitten and her illness (in fact she had two quite separate ones which seemed to us such bad luck) came as a complete shock. To stretch coincidence even further just after the second cat died we discovered that our dog had a tumour on her leg: it was the worse kind but very low grade so it has been removed and we are hoping it doesn’t return.
The second drain on my time was that, quite out of the blue, I decided to invent a second artistic career independent of my main one. In fact I started afresh as if I was a young man (I wish!) beginning his artistic journey and I am exploring radically new media, styles and themes. This has meant two sets of blogs and two sets of paintings to upload to various online galleries which consequently left too little time for other blogs.
Anyway I have started to get back into the garden again now – a rather daunting task! – and I am also beginning to make a photographic record of my plants. There have been quite a few changes predominantly in the greenhouses and hopefully I will begin to share the images and my gardening experiences soon.
The succulent house immediately after potting in May. Please not the ex hot water heating pipe plant stands.
As usual I am desperately late with my gardening jobs (partly blamed on the very hot summer but mainly because my default state is sat in front of an easel, painting!). To illustrate here are two, I think rather surreal, photographs: one taken from the kitchen window and one taken from the dining room. Both show a complete mess which I should really be ashamed about but probably aren’t!
The tubs are for mature Dioscorea caudiciforms which ideally should be potted every three of four years but I am not sure if I have actually potted them this century! If I had they would have armchair sized caudexes by now, which admittedly would take up a lot of room. I am potting the ones that grow in the winter and will now have to, reluctantly, leave the summer growing ones to the spring (or will I – I may chance it). Interestingly whether they grow in winter or summer is almost dictated by chance, or more likely watering regimes when they are still seedlings. They come from South Africa so would normally grow during our winter months.
Someone has given me an eight by six foot greenhouse but I am not sure where to put it; hence the bits propped up against the outhouse! I already have four plus three ponds, not to mention a relatively newly planted lawn so flexibility is somewhat lacking. Logically the best option would be to remove the six by four plastic lean-to and put it there but I am reluctant to throw away an old friend. I will continue to muse!
Incidentally something I am ashamed about is not realising the lemon was not getting the rain during a wet spell last month. It subsequently dried out and lost its leaves -very embarrassing that!
Both these plants are caudiciform climbers which are grown for their curious form rather than their inconspicuous flowers.
Testudinaria elephantipes is a fairly rampant relative of the yam with an above ground caudex which gets huge if planted in a border or very large tub – unfortunately space restraints mean mine are not potted on regularly enough – something I want to address next year now that I have rearranged the greenhouses.
Fockea edulis is a member of the milkweed family and surprisingly hardy (I keep mine at a minimum of 40/45 degrees Fahrenheit).
I grew both of them from seed in the Eighties and early Nineties although the Testudinaria does seed itself.
I meant to post this last week but pressure of work prevented me from doing so. I will try and post garden updates more regularly if I can make the necessary changes to my daily schedules.
Below are a handful of photographs of my plants and the changes to the greenhouses now that most of the potting has been done. I didn’t do the cactus/mesembryanthemum house but photographs are included anyway – hopefully they wont be too boring!
Part of the left staging in the Succulent House, This greenhouse concentrates on members of the Crassula family plus Aloes, Haworthias, Gasterias etc. under the staging.
Part of the right staging in the Succulent House
Part of the left staging in the Cacti/Mesembryanthemum House. This has most of what is left of my cacti collection with members of the Agave family underneath.
Part of the right staging of the Cacti/Mesembryanthemum House. This has most of what is left of my mesemb collection with xerophytic bromeliads underneath.
Part of the left staging of the Mixed House. This is mainly Crassulaceae and Euphorbias with epiphytic cactus (the few I have left) immediately underneath.
Part of the right staging of the Mixed House. This has a large range of plant families including Crassulas and Euphorbias and a range of caudiciform succulents. There is a small number of orchids underneath.
The partly cleared Lean-To which will house tomatoes, peppers etc, during the summer and half hardy succulents and other plants during the winter months.
The outdoor staging (novel concept this!) which has a small number of half hardy succulents at the moment.
In my my younger days, when I was much more sensible, I would start potting at the end of March when the wildlife conservation season had ended and do a bit each weekend. Now I leave it until the very last moment – usually Chelsea week in late May and try and do it in all one go. Thankfully, this year I didn’t have the cacti and mesembyanthemums to do (most of these are potted on/repotted every other year) however it was still far too stressful – never again!
It should be noted I suppose that in the past I had probably three times more plants than I have now. Anyway here are some photographs of work in progress. I will show photographs of completed greenhouses in my next post.