Friday, 30 January 2015

Sexy succulents.Hokusai versus the Paint Tray.Bright blue fungus. Squirrels?

Just before I start  I would like to say if you like this blog and would  like to be notified when  a new one is published you can subscribe to one of the feeds that lets you know though I have no idea how you do that  but I do send out a tweet on @pwhorticulture as a reminder. I am not a regular  tweeter and I am almost ashamed to admit that this is a blatant recruitment  drive. I have a son who is setting up  a food business and keeps telling me  how many Twitter  followers he has gained each day which brasses me off  and I don't want to let him beat me, at least not without a fight - how sad is that.  

Excuse the gratuitous blog title but sex sells. 
Sexy Succulents
It was raining at the pottery the other day so I thought I would spend some time in the greenhouse  with the camera. We have an interesting collection of  succulents  most of which, when it comes to names, I don't  know  more than the genus and not always that so if you recognise any of the species or varieties please let me know. It is one of my missions this year to get as many of them named as possible There are Echeverias, Graptopetalums, and Kalanchoes amongst them.    

This one I do know, Aeonium tabuliforme. The picture gives no idea  as to how flat this rosette is. It is some 180 mm across and probably no more than 15 mm high.  It is monocarpic  so it   flowers just once from the centre of the rosette which then dies out. It can be propagated from seed or  offsets ( baby plants)  which sometimes appear at the base of the flowering stem. It can also be propagated   by tugging off  and rooting the individual leaves.

This is a Kalanchoe.

I have a feeling this is also  a Kalanchoe.

Pachyphytum oviferum - this  sends me into paroxysms of drooling delight. The sexiest of  sexy succulents. Do you remember, in fact  now can you even  get, sugared almonds ?  Experience more paroxysms below.


Ups- a - Daisy! 

I planted this narrow bottomed, top heavy, 70cm tall,  terracotta pot just before Christmas, knowing at the back of my mind that it had every chance of blowing over while at the same time thinking  'No it will be okay'. 
Well it wasn't. The very strong winds of mid January up-ended it  but  surprisingly without  a chip.
The wind must have toppled it over but rather than falling on its rim as most pots would, its rounded ellipse shape  allowed it to roll as it fell and  it went with enough momentum to turn it completely upside down. ( 'Well, how about that!' I hear you say.) It didn't do much for  my 'elegant' planting of  Cornus 'Midwinter Fire' twigs, rosemary sprigs ( Did you ever know her?)  and  dead seed  heads  of Sedum 'Matrona' but I  was so taken with the elegance with which  that the pot must have rolled over during the night that I was not too put out that my planting was squashed flat on the  terrace ( I live in an old council house so read patio.).
(If you are thinking of buying such a pot they come with a stone plinth and a bolt for attaching it to the base of the pot to stop such disasters happening, it is just that I was too lazy to use mine.)  

Funny  how even a hint of frost  makes us get the camera out. 

I like  what might be called wallpaper shots.  No particular subject or focus  but  just an interesting interplay of shapes, shades, textures and colours. Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Nigrescens' - with frost.


Glorious Days

The great  pleasure of working in other peoples garden is that you
 get the  chance to enjoy moments  like  this, Moments which you could never get in your own garden at least not if it is on the modest scale that mine is. This was taken on the same cold day as the Ophiopogon picture above which was taken early  morning at home.

I feel that a cartoonist with a sharper wit than mine could come  up with a very funny caption for this picture. Any ideas? 

Life was good this day.

Knowing that  there is a Ha Ha either side of this gate makes it look less pointless than it might otherwise seem.

The same garden but now a  much less harmonious picture. It is an almost ugly picture  but with   a great mix of angles and rounded nature, old buildings and an incongruous energy saving light bulb that made a picture that brought a smile to my face. Twenty past ten: nearly break time.

Frosted Post Tops
 I enjoy the frosty patterns on these fence-post tops. They would have been even better had the focus been  a bit more crisp but they fit well enough into my wallpaper category for me to enjoy

How is your imagination? Do you see an old oak tree in full leaf on the left? And a sort of ploughed field that somehow goes into the sky maybe with a galloping horse in there as well?  No?  Then take more drugs. 


More aliens?

Heavily pruned  Limes ( Lindens) on the high wolds of the North Cotswolds  make a fabulous sight  in late winter. Years of annual pruning has lead to  these gnarled and knobbly  branches which, depending on  your outlook, looking scarily sinister or just leprous.  

Each branch-end with its crowded top knot of  cut back  branch stubs looks like  an alien head  waiting to stretch out and  take a snap at you in an unguarded moment. Is there the hint of a  face of Jesus in the middle there?

Walking beneath these sinister shapes as the late winter sun sinks towards the horizon  brings on a feeling of unease.  

Another of natures surprises.

I was tidying up the garden  and moving some Hazel hurdles which had  stood in a damp corner for a couple of years when I was   dazzled by this  brilliantly coloured  fungi. The picture does not do justice to the  brightness and intensity of this  blue fungi. 
Just a word on Hazel hurdles; if you want a quick screen that you do not expect to last  long then use hazel hurdles. To ensure they don't  even last that long make sure they are resting on the damp  ground, ideally amongst moist  leaf litter  where bacterial and fungal decay can break them down at their  quickest. For a screen that will last a  reasonable amount of time use something else. 


Hokusai versus the Paint Tray,
I am sure you are all familiar with the Hokusai picture below 'The Great Wave off Kanagawa': mountainous waves, Mount Fuji in the background and three boats each with  what must be  eight of the most mighty scared oarsman and passengers. Further below  is  a series of more abstract  images of  the paint tray  from which I  was rollering  emulsion onto the walls. At first  I was  just taken by the patterns  but then I had a Hokusai moment and thought I would photograph them for posterity.
If a pile of bricks  can do it why not  a tray of emulsion paint -  look out Turner Prize here I come!


I lichen thee to a summer's day. 

I was tidying a mixed border  and came across  this very late carnation flower. I had already cut back the plant but could not bring myself to throw it in the barrow without recording  some of its beauty. I threaded  it into  the lichen covered  lattice of a nearby metal bench.  

Here's a teaser for the tree guys ( and gals). 
This aluminium tag was fixed to a tree. Originally it bore a number which was recorded on a plan.In an effort to correlate the trees on the plan with those on the ground I went to check which tree was which only to find that the  number on this label had been gnawed? at. 
It certainly looked like some creature had  had a go at it  and the only  animal I could imagine  that  would have  been able to get at the soft metal tag was a squirrel. The marks looked like teeth marks but I have no idea whether  they are the  marks of squirrel teeth or some other animal, and further still why would it  take so much effort  to gnaw away at this tag. Do squirrels suffer from aluminium deficiency of as their own reflection too much to bear? Let me know.

That's all folks. 

Until the next time.................


  1. Pregnant possibly and in need of its Al fix. Pregnant (and non-pregnant) greys do gnaw metal. Maybe to bet their teeth in top condition for the feeding spree to come. Those lime trees had better watch out.

    Graham T.

  2. Mystery solved , thanks Graham, Is there any way we can possibly come to love grey squirrels? In a pie perhaps? I know it doesn't look like it but this label is on a copper beech tree and it is a fabulous specimen ( tree not label.). Possible 200 plus years old - just checked WJ Bean to make sure there were purple beech in the country then and there were so it could be true. It has some bracket fungi on it , Ganoderma species I think. A recent survey done with a very narrow drill bit into the trunk which meaures resistance as it enters the trunk to show damaged wood - I am sure you know all about that - has shown it to be suffering internally but looking verygood externally with a full crown and very good leaf cover. This tree survey business seems a very inexact science, understandably I will tryand get a picture up on the blog. There are two of these big beech trees and they really are grand. P.S. The squirrels are far too occupied with eating tulip bulbs to worry about the trees.

  3. Not sure greys can ever be loved here. I worked with an old Canadian guy once who occasionally devoured squirrel sandwiches. He loved them. I tried them and they tasted rabbity/chickeney but doesn't everything taste of chicken :-)

    Unfortunately greys love beech. I've seen extensive damage in the crown on the uppermost part of branch unions....damned varmints! They'll be back once the tulip bulbs are devoured.

    Hopefully the Ganoderma will be managed...or rather the tree not the decay.

    Strangely Alan Mitchell hated purple/copper beech but apart from that he seemed a decent bloke.