Monthly Archives: July 2013

Tree Lily “Picasso”



It’s the last of my three unknown pollen-free lilies to come into bloom, and the one I’m least sure of identification-wise.

Looking through some online catalogues, I’m fairly certain that my white/pink one is Monet, and my pink one is Cezanne, but this white one is still in doubt.

It ought to be Picasso because those are the three that seem to be sold together as the “Crystal” collection, but the pictures of Picasso appear to show a scattering of dots towards the centre of each petal, which mine don’t have? The petals on mine are almost pure white with just a hint of a green stripe down the centre and definitely dot-less!

Oh well, it’s a lovely thing anyway. It’s the tallest of the three at about 5 foot (should be taller, but in my mini-garden, if it stays this height I’ll be quite happy!), has a delicious scent and produces 4 or 5 large, ice white blooms per stem. It’s also been the keenest to propagate itself as I now have three flowering-size bulbs from my original one:  love it when something so beautiful decides to reproduce and I don’t have to do a thing!

I’ve never made a note of the flowering period, which I suspect won’t be long, but as I’ve said before, these lilies earn their place even in the smallest of gardens because they occupy so little ground space and can be easily grown in pots to be moved into and out of the limelight at the appropriate times.

A cameo performance, maybe, but well worth it!


Alstroemeria “Sedna”

The first bud opened a couple of days ago:


Another very pretty flower, but in truth its colour is a little too similar to Sirius, and if it weren’t for the fact that they came in a collection, I probably wouldn’t have chosen to own them both.

Having said that, their habits appear quite different: Sirius is nearly 3ft tall now and requires a bit of staking, whereas Sedna is a mere 1ft tall and supports itself without any assistance, so I suppose they both have their place dependent on space and height requirements.

It seems to be happy in the partially shaded spot it occupies (east-facing, so it gets the morning sun), but I’m tempted to move the pot to a slightly sunnier location to see if it grows any better or faster.

I’ll update this post as time goes by so that I can record the eventual height, how long it flowered for and my end-of-season thoughts – also, how well it overwinters.

Propagating a tuberous begonia from cuttings

A whim; no more, no less.

I spotted some nice, low-growing side shoots on one of my tuberous begonias, so of course I have to see if I can get them to root.

This is the parent:


…and here are the cuttings:


I’ve probably done it all wrong because I only went and read up on the procedure after I’d taken the cuttings, so I didn’t know about including a heel of stem and an undamaged “eye” (still not sure what that is, but apparently it needs an eye to be able to shoot from the new tuber once it’s formed).

All I did, in my ignorance, was lop off the cuttings and poke them into a mix of seed and cuttings compost with some sand for extra drainage, water them in and put them in a covered tray in the coldframe*.

They probably need heat, mist, rooting hormone etc. etc., but eh. I’m not going to be heartbroken if they fail; as usual, I’ll just cross my fingers and hope for the best!

* I’ve since thought better of that and brought them inside. They’re now in a covered tray (cut-off clear plastic bottle as a cover) by my north-facing patio door, where they should get decent enough indirect light and night-time temperatures will be rather higher than outside.  They probably still won’t root, but they’ve got a slightly better chance, I reckon!

Propagating Citrus

I’m a little bit chuffed this morning.

Okay, I’m a lot chuffed. Because today I finally have tangible evidence that my citrus cuttings have rooted, and they’ve done so without using any special equipment or even rooting hormone. Result!

The citrus in question is a Calamondin Orange, which produces, if grown well, a year-round succession of highly fragrant white flowers and very ornamental (but exceedingly bitter!) miniature oranges.

The plant from which I was attempting to propagate is one I actually succeeded in reproducing by grafting about 15 years ago. I grew a rootstock from a supermarket orange pip, waited a year, then grafted a bud from my parents’ original plant onto it, but the only reason I went to that trouble was because previous attempts to propagate from said original plant had failed: it never seemed to set viable seed, and cuttings just turned yellow and rotted no matter how they were treated.

But I’ve been doing some research this spring – chiefly browsing around on youtube – and I decided that 2013 was going to be the year to have another crack at it, armed as I now was with some new information…

So, firstly, seed.

I gleaned from various videos that the best way to get citrus germinating is to peel the outer, waxy coating off the seed before sowing it, which is exactly what I did with the only viable-looking seed I could find in the mature fruit I had available (all the seeds were flat and shrivelled bar this one, plump one). I didn’t much like the odds of success with only one seed, but I stuck it in a small glass jar of compost, down the side so I could see if any roots formed, put a foil lid on it and placed it on the hood of my tropical fish tank (very gentle bottom heat round the clock with a boost when the lights are on during the day…cunning, huh?!)

This was at the end of April, and within two weeks, to my delight, roots were starting to form. I didn’t celebrate just yet because nothing is guaranteed at such an early stage, but it was great to see! I waited until a shoot had emerged from the compost before taking the lid off and moving the jar to a windowsill with bright but diffuse light to grow it on. When it was an inch or so tall I removed it from the jar and potted it on into a normal 3″ plastic pot of multipurpose compost and put it back on the same windowsill, where it still resides happily, if slowly, growing away:


and here’s a clearer pic of it taken outside:


Oh, and the reason for using a glass jar with no drainage? With only one seed, I didn’t want to mess around forever wondering if it was germinating, so it was nice to have it in a clear container which would allow me to inspect it every day for signs of life. It’s also easy to control the moisture just for the short time the seedling is in there because obviously the glass allows you to see how much water is present. Pretty nifty!

At the same time I started the seed, I also took cuttings.

Now this was going to be the real challenge as far as I was concerned because I wasn’t intending to do anything fussy with them, just stick ’em in a pot and cover them, basically!

From my youtube viewing, it seemed that, more than anything else, the key to getting them to root is to wound the base of the cutting. Citrus stems have a hard, waxy outer coating which inhibits callusing and thereby root production, so the way to get around that is to take a sharp blade and pare away small slivers of the outer surface at the base of the cutting to expose the cambium layer beneath, which then starts to heal itself and in the act of healing produces the cells that make roots.

So that is exactly what I did. I chose cutting material from growth that was made in the last year, nicely bendy without being too hard or soft, trimmed each piece to about 3-4″ long, cutting below a leaf node and nipping off the tip and all but two or three leaves (I cut some of the larger leaves in half too) , wounded them for about a half inch at the base then stuck them in a couple of small pots of proprietary seed and cuttings compost mixed 50:50 with perlite.

I then decided to hedge my bets and try to root them in two slightly different locations with different  means of covering them. One pot was placed in a clear plastic bag with 3 flower sticks inserted into the pot to keep the bag off the leaves, then sealed with a wire tie and placed on an east-facing windowsill:


The other I put under a “propagator” made of the bottom half of a cut-down clear plastic 5 litre bottle and placed it by a north-facing patio door (decent light, all indirect):


And that was it. No rooting hormone, no bottom heat, no mist, no nothin’.

I confess that I wasn’t very hopeful of success in the beginning, but as all 7 cuttings had remained resolutely green and perky-looking for the past 3 months, it seemed there was a chance, so I wasn’t completely shocked when, on opening the bag this morning and peering at the underside of the pot, I saw a root tip poking out! That was all the encouragement I needed to give each cutting a gentle, experimental tweak, and, lo and behold, not one of them moved, so dare I hope they’ve all taken??

Here they are pictured outside for a clearer view. First the cuttings from the bag:


then the cuttings from the plastic bottle:


I think the cuttings from the bag possibly look a little healthier when seen in real life, but there’s not a lot in it. Both methods appear to have done the trick!

And if they have, I’ll consider I’ve been rather lucky. The July heatwave has probably helped (the whole house feels like a propagator!): in a cold summer like last year’s, they may not have fared as well. I think I accidentally timed it well too – the cutting material was at just the right stage of ripeness, and spring/early summer is probably the best season to attempt this in the UK because of the warmer ambient temps and long daylight hours.

But the biggest piece of luck was finding that video which talked about wounding – gotta love the internet!

Daily ramblings

I’ve come to the conclusion that diascias must be the easiest cuttings to strike, certainly at this time of year. I say this because my second batch of cuttings are now side-shooting nicely and it looks like they’ve all taken:


I might have in excess of 20 plants if all of them survive…yikes! Without a greenhouse, overwintering might prove quite the challenge…

My lamium cuttings are coming on well too:


And a side by side comparison with two weeks ago:


They all have obvious new growth, so I decided to move them on into individual pots of a 60:40 mix of JI#2 and sand. The root systems were a bit on the small side, so I hope I haven’t shocked them too much. I watered them in well of course, and put them back into my shaded coldframe to settle, but I’ll have to keep an eye on them and see how they go. I can always cover them again for a while or remove some leaves if it looks like the roots aren’t coping.

I picked my first Castandel french beans today – all 9 of them! I think perhaps I should have grown at least another pot of them because we might be waiting a while for more than a doll-sized helping!

Still, I have to remember that I only grew them as an experiment because the seeds came free with my runner beans: I was never planning to rely on them for all our veg(!) It will be interesting to see how much one small container will yield, and it will be nice to have the occasional meal with home-grown beans…self-sufficiency will have to wait, I’m afraid!

Lily “Monet”…I think!

Another of my gorgeously-scented, pollen-free lilies opened fully today, and I believe I may have identified it as Monet:


I struggle badly with photographing white/pale flowers, and as usual, this image is a bit on the bleached side, but it’s close enough – there’s actually a better picture of it that I’m using as the background of the blog, but it’s not from this year so it would feel a bit like “cheating” to post it here where everything is meant to be current.

If it is indeed Monet, it’s rather short for a tree lily at only 4½ foot or so (should be nearer 8 foot!), but to be honest, smaller is better in my garden, so I’m not at all bothered that it’s a bit of an underachiever. The blooms are large, measuring about 7½ inches across, they are beautifully coloured with a subtle wash of pink over white and a dusting of pink dots, and they smell absolutely glorious – that’s all I could ask!

Care-wise, it needs staking or it would be flat on its face by July, and I’ve been diligent with the watering and feeding to try to get the best from it, but otherwise, it seems a pretty fuss-free plant.

It probably belongs in the “Spectacular But Brief” category, and as such should be under threat of removal in my teeny, tiny garden, but it earns its position by virtue of occupying much more vertical space than horizontal: an 18″ pot holds 6 of these stately beauties, and it can of course be moved aside once the display is over, so no ugly gap need be left.

Definitely one I’d recommend.

Daily ramblings

Just a quick note or two.

Took cuttings from my original 3 rooted diascia cuttings this morning. They appeared to need pinching out to get them branching, so I whipped off the 2 lead stems on each plant and decided, what the heck, might as well try to root them too!

This is what remained:


If all the cuttings root I have no idea where I’m going to put them: “quarts” and “pint pots” come to mind!

I also potted on my phlox cuttings from late spring into 12cm pots using a mix of JI#2 and sand. Not sure why I added the sand except that I feel this particular compost seems rather slow to drain and my instinct is to open it up a bit. Could be wrong, but eh, they’ll be going out into the ground at the beginning of autumn, so it probably won’t make much odds in the end. They’re being far more pampered now than they will be in the future, so they’d better make the most of it. Heh.

Another alstroemeria came into flower today, Uranus, a lovely clear lilac shade with a little white towards the centre. This was the best photo I could get:


Pretty little thing – I look forward to seeing a few more!

Hemerocallis “Lemon Bells” is still giving its all – another 30 or so flowers on it today – but I think it’s already beginning to wind down. I’m reckoning it’s going to end up in the “Spectacular but Brief” category, and I’ll have to give some serious thought as to whether it’s good enough value for a very small garden such as mine. It would be a really tough decision to ditch it, and I’ll try my best to think of something that can work with it to fill the hole that it leaves, but if I can’t manage it within the display, it’ll have to go. Everything has to work very hard in a small space if you’re not to be left with ugly gaps.

That’s one of the reasons I like my unfashionable begonias and impatiens because you can pretty much rely on them for colour from June to the frosts, and their presence then allows for at least some of the more transient beauties, such as hemerocallis, to come and go without seriously diminishing the display. It’s a question of striking the balance – and that’s the hard part!

Daily ramblings

The first of my unknown lilies opened today:


I acquired them a few years ago after I complained to a mail order plant company about some rather shoddy fuchsias I’d received, and they sent me 3 free lily bulbs by way of apology.

They didn’t do anything in the first season, but after overwintering in an 18″ pot, they shot up the next spring and bore several blooms each that summer. They’ve since been getting taller each year and multiplying (I now have 6!) so they’ve proven to be a rather nice freebie!

There was no information with them so I don’t know what they are, but I do know that they grow about 5 foot tall, have a gorgeous, heady scent and are a pollen-free variety – the flowers never fully open through the life of the bloom, so the anthers always remain covered. Aesthetically, this might not be to everyone’s taste, but it’s certainly less messy!

As for culture, I don’t do a lot really. In autumn, every couple of years, I re-pot into fresh multipurpose compost, then I leave them out all winter with no kind of protection (they seem to be tough as old boots!). From late March, or whenever they start into growth, I begin weekly feeding with Miracle Gro, switching to Tomorite or Phostrogen in June to promote flowering. Water as needed, and that’s it…job’s a good ‘un!

The one drawback is, in this part of the country, the dreaded scarlet lily beetle, but as I keep the plants all together in one pot that is accessible from all angles, I find they’re fairly easy to control. As long as I inspect them every day, especially in early summer when the beetle is most prevalent, I can keep damage to very low levels.

Rose sawfly, on the other hand, is another story.

This year seems to have been very bad for them in my garden, not helped by the fact that I tend not to notice the activity of their dastardly larvae until a fair few leaves have been munched: they’ve taken a particularly bad toll of my climbing roses because I can’t reach the shoot tips to remove the little blighters! Pfft.

Slug and snail depredation hasn’t been as bad as expected after the immense amounts of rain that fell over winter and spring, but they’ve still managed to decimate my large-leaved hosta that I grow in a pot on the patio (I think it’s “Frances Williams”, but I’m not certain). I pellet it, but they laugh at my efforts and keep right on making lacework out of every leaf that dares unfurl.

I need to borrow a chicken…

Alstroemeria “Sirius”

First, the eye-candy pic:


Alstroemeria is new to me this year.

I bought 5 bare root plants of the “Planets” series in spring, potted them up and looked after them carefully in the coldframe until the frosts had passed, then planted them into a couple of 12″ pots as their final destination for this season.

Sirius was always the most advanced of the 5, so I wasn’t surprised that it was the first to flower. They’re curious plants in that they appear to send up small, non-flowering “test” shoots first, then progressively taller bud-bearing ones thereafter: the initial shoots were only about 6″ high, but the later stalks are rising to 28″ and more.

I believe they’re not supposed to need support, but the taller ones look rather vulnerable to me – a decent downpour might test them a shade too far! – so I’ve put in some flower stakes and twine as a precaution. I’ve been watering them every day during this hot spell, and feeding once a week since the beginning of June (Miracle Gro first, now Tomorite), and that’s pretty much it as regards care.

When a flower stalk finishes blooming, the appropriate way to deadhead is by pulling the whole stalk out of the ground, like a stick of rhubarb, so I’m ready for that when it happens. I believe that’s supposed to promote more flowering shoots, so well worth doing correctly if true!

They look way too exotic to be hardy in the UK, but apparently in milder areas they are, as long as they are planted with their tubers about 4″- 6″ below the surface of the ground and given a good mulching. I don’t know if they’re likely to survive in the containers I have them in, so I may hedge my bets come autumn by dividing the plants into two and putting half in pots in the coldframe and the other half out in the ground. That way I should get some survivors, hopefully!

Daily ramblings

Another day, another ramble.

Took some early(ish) photos this morning of my large flowered hemerocallis, Egyptian Ibis (top), and Georgette Belden:


Ibis on its own:


…and a view from the back gate:


Some very pretty flowers, though I’m a little disappointed scent-wise.

I know that when my Madame Alfred Carriere rose and my pot of lilies come into flower there will be perfume to spare, but in the meantime the only thing in the whole garden that has noticeable scent is the phlox. It just seems to have happened that most of what I grow is there because it looks good…and stays alive(!)

Mindful of the fragrance shortfall, I grew a couple of pots of ten week stocks, but they don’t seem to smell of much other than a faint spiciness of an evening. I also ordered some pinks in early June that are now planted out in the border, but they have no flowers, ergo no scent, quite yet. I should give it some thought for next year: nicotiana might be a good idea since that has yielded excellent, almost overpowering scent for me in the past.

Yesterday morning I potted on my diascia cuttings into 9cm pots of a 60:40 mix of JI#2 and sand. I don’t know how this medium will perform – been trying all sorts of different combinations this year – but I guess I’ll soon see! I’ll keep them in the coldframe until the middle of next week (this is Saturday) to let them get over the root disturbance, then move them out into progressively sunnier positions. They have nice little root systems and they look good, but I’ll probably have to pinch them out in a while to get them branching.

On the veg front, I stopped my Sungold tomatoes the other day. They’d reached the top of their 6 foot canes, so I reckoned it was time. Gardener’s Delight still has about a foot or so to go to catch up, so I won’t be stopping that for a while yet. My runner beans (Firestorm) are looking leafy and healthy and there are a few flowers dotted around, but they’re being well and truly beaten by my French beans (Castandel) which have not only flowers but baby beans!

I’m glad the Castandel are doing well now because they had an inauspicious start. I tried germinating them indoors during May (the cold, late spring meant I didn’t attempt to start them outside at that point) and had a terrible success rate in getting them to come up. I eventually managed to raise three seedlings, so in June I hardened them off and planted them in a 14″ pot of multipurpose compost. They didn’t look all that promising, however, so I decided to shove a few beans in with them, one alongside each plant, to see what would happen.

What happened was that they ALL germinated, and quite quickly too, so I shall know not to bother to try and cosset them indoors next year – I’ll just bung ’em straight outdoors! Me being me, I couldn’t bring myself to dump any of them, so I now have a very small pot with a LOT of beans in it – 6 to be precise! It’ll be interesting to see what comes of this rather intensive cultivation: I’ve been feeding once a week with Miracle Gro since they were planted out, and now I’m feeding once a week with Tomorite, so that should help things along.

That’s about it for today. It was a LOT cooler than lately, so I haven’t had to dash out and do a rescue-watering, which made a change! Tomorrow we’ll be out, so I’ll have to make sure I drown everything thoroughly first thing: this proper summer weather has its price!