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Monday, February 22, 2010

Bromeliads- tougher than they look- low water

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Bromeliads are so 3-D, AVATAR spectacular it's hard to realize they are actually, for So Cal, rather practical plants. True, they don't like direct sun, though they tolerate a bit of morning sun. But bromeliads needn't be just houseplants. They can be part of a living wall between one apartment balcony and another (more on this later.)  These  Bromeliads  are very happy in low light or afternoon shade.

 They just look fussy--they aren't. I have one of the grey striped ones, (A. fasciata) that blooms every now and again with a pink flower, sends out pups and has been living in the same pot for about 20 years (no kidding.) It's beyond tolerant. it's practically one of the immortals. There is no soil in the pot, just its own roots.

 Here it is, somewhat scruffy, but indomitable. My sharp-eyed readers will have noticed the pup emerging underneath the leaves.There is no stopping this guy...He's hit the end of the pot and is growing side wise.
The Guzmanias are not as brawny as this, but still pretty resilient. They just need to be kept in morning sun, or less, and watered occasionally in their cups. (Drunkards one and all.)

Right now it's blooming time and they can be found---- for the price of a bouquet of flowers-- at Home Depot , and OSH and local nurseries. A good investment.

The Guzemanias hail from the forests of Ecuador and Columbia, where they can be found at 1,000 fee---  cold at night. Nor do they mind  filtered sun. Their one flaw is that they don't make pups very often.Their varnished Mid Century Modern  look  is not to every one's taste, but for those of us who treasure a touch of flamboyance---Guzmans have got it.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

The Roof Garden continued

These are the elements for the next piece of roof garden. The plug of sedum will allow the casement window to open, the larger plants will go behind.
Crassula radicans is blooming right now. Sedum Aurora is the familiar "pork & beans"--- but pink.
The low growing sedum is "green sedum".

 Unable to resist a variety of plants,  tried to repeat the colors in the original half--sort of.

 The 2 sedums are the same variety, the barrel cactus repeat the barrels of the original half....  but the euphorbia can only be justified on the basis of outstanding good looks, color  and a repetition of shape. 

 Here's the completed garden.
For looks, it certainly  beats a grey composition roof. The roof garden willl cut the reflected  heat coming into the window by about 50%, and cut the energy costs of keeping this room, west-facing , cool in summer.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

An inspired succulent and cactus garden in Westwood

As you can see, the photo is 2 years old--- and continuously  inspiring.
 Volante's garden has all the charm of the classic Perennial border as envisioned by great gardeners like Gertrude Jekyll. But the classic perennial border simply uses too much water for So Cal. This garden was the first I'd seen  to achieve the lush, colorful look English garden look  without the lavish over-use of water. Volante described it as being "It's a little English garden plus a little desert garden".

The succulents are familiar: the big frilly ones Volante has used to such effect are ruffled  echeverias,  the
pale one to the left is another echeveria, the small ground covers are sedums, the flat paddle shapes in the middle are kalanchoes.The elements of this garden are not that unusual--what is unusual is the brilliant design. Been trying to achieve the same effect. Not yet successfully as it's the repetition of elements that holds the design together. Repetition and variation on a theme require discipline. But how to resist all those plants that don't fit in the design? My method has been is to put everything in, then subtract..... if only those new ( kalanchoes,sedums, echeverias---fill in the blanks) weren't sooo seductive. Shoe addicts and book collectors will understand.

Friday, February 5, 2010

For the adventurous- growing cactus and succulent from seed

If you’re going to do it, this is the time. For cactus seed, Penya Seeds has an impressive list: Golden Ball, Golden Barrel:

     Claret Cup Hedgehog (who could resist the name ? )                                                       

 Silver Torch--- which grows beautifully around here. This one lives up the street.                                     

Unlikely as it sounds, Rare Palm Seeds has a dazzling assortment of agave seeds. It is a mind-boggling  site . They have : Agave Victoria –reginae, agave polithiflora,agave vizcainoesis , a. poatorum (Vershaffeltii) a. desmetiana and more than anyone has space for.        

This is one of the most  fantastic agaves ---  a green tiger. Never seen one in the flesh, but Rare Palms has the seeds.

Another favorite site has aloe seeds and is in South Africa. The site is tricky to find- you have to remember to spell Afrika with a K as the S. Africans do:  (If you forget the dashes or the K, you'll be wandering all over the Internet.) The owners of the site, Rudi and Erica , obviously have a deep love of the plants they cultivate and hybridize, and an astonishing amount of experience in growing them. Here’s their description of one of the aloes you can buy seeds to try: “ aloe mitriformis has wide thick short triangular leaves with blunt teeth…this aloe grows creeping along the ground…it does not want a lot of rain or water in the summer… “

 By now the aloe has developed a personality --- with strong tastes and habits.! If you'd like to see a picture of this determined character go to: :
 There Werner Voight has a picture. Voight  informs us that the plant’s name has been changed to a. perifolata (2005) and that the common name is mitre aloe or bishops’ hat. He gives explicit directions for growing the aloe. It sounds undemanding--- my kind of aloe to try growing from seed.
.” The species name perfoliata means surrounding or embracing and refers to the arrangement of the leaves on the stems. A. perfoliata is one of seven aloes  with distinctive creeping stems. All species of creeping aloes flower in the dry summer months... Growing A. perfoliata is very easy….. Use coarse river sand and cover seeds…”

Coarse,--- but not rude--- sand does  work.  Sempervivums seeds obtained from Thompson and Morgan--fine as dust--have come up. Unbelievable! white spots are seeds germinating.

Monday, February 1, 2010

The Roof Garden-continued

Here's the roof garden about 1/2 done--in place after the rains.
The kalanchoes, both  lavender and and  red, have almost doubled in size. Winter is the growing time for many of the succulents, but remember  --- some rest in the winter, and need summer water, and a dry winter (you've already heard the sad story about the mammallaria who got watered at the wrong time.)
There are no sempervivums in this  particular roof garden, as it's too hot a spot for them. The west sun beats on the plants from noon until sundown. 

However, it's "growing from seed" time for sempervivums . The plan is to have another roof garden facing east which gets little or no direct sun, but lots of light. The semps should be happy there. The seed is here , and has been planted. It's an experiment. Otherwise the plants will be ordered in sufficient quantity for the east facing roof garden as suggested by Gwen her book. The ones in the picture came from Squaw Mountain and are growing in a pot until the East Roof Garden (move over Michelle) is ready for them.
The "chicks" root right away if planted elsewhere. Some are growing on the  planting mix of a stag horn fern. The semps  never missed a beat- started growing right away.