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Thursday, 26 November 2015

I don’t remember planting this

I don’t remember planting this. One day when I looked, there it was. And I had no idea what it was, but it was beautiful, so I decided to investigate.

And another one here

It turned out to be Silky Thread Grass - Nassella (Stipa) tenuissima. Silky thread Grass brings gossamer grace to any spot where it's planted. It blooms from late spring into late summer with plumes of silky flowers that sway back and forth in the slightest breeze. Grows readily in most any soil with full to partial sun. Re-seeds itself readily.

Native to the Western US, it is supposed to be drought-tolerant, but as the hot summers wore on, and no matter how much I watered it, slowly over two or three seasons it died. Maybe I over-watered it....

Being non-indigenous to South Africa, it doesn't actually belong in my garden, but it is such a beautiful plant I could consider trying to find another one.


Saturday, 21 November 2015

Hen-and-Chickens - Chlorophytum comosum

Chlorophytum comosum, often called the spider plant, airplane plant or hen-and-chickens, is a flowering perennial herb. It is native to tropical and Southern Africa, but has become naturalised in other parts of the world, including western Australia. Chlorophytum comosum is easy to grow as a house-plant; variegated forms are the most popular.

Chlorophytum comosum grows to about 60 centimetres (24in) high. It has fleshy, tuberous roots, about 5–10 centimetres (2–4in) long. The long narrow leaves reach a length of 20–45 centimetres (8–18in) and are around 6–25 millimetres (0.2–1.0in) wide.

Flowers are produced in a long branched inflorescence, which can reach a length of up to 75 centimetres (30in) and eventually bends downwards. Flowers initially occur in clusters of 1–6 at intervals along the stem (scape) of the inflorescence. Each cluster is at the base of a bract, which ranges from 2–8 centimetres (0.8–3.1in) in length, becoming smaller towards the end of the inflorescence. Most of the flowers which are produced initially die off, so that the inflorescences are relatively sparsely flowered.

Individual flowers are greenish-white, borne on stalks (pedicels) some 4–8 millimetres (0.2–0.3in) long. Each flower has six three-veined tepals which are 6–9 millimetres (0.2–0.4in) long, slightly hooded or boat-shaped at their tips. The stamens consist of a pollen-producing anther about 3.5 millimetres (0.1in) long with a filament about the same length or slightly longer. The central style is 3–8 millimetres (0.1–0.3in) long. Seeds are produced in a capsule 3–8 millimetres (0.1–0.3in) long on stalks (pedicels) which lengthen to up to 12 millimetres (0.5in).

The inflorescences carry plant-lets at the tips of their branches, which eventually droop and touch the soil, developing adventitious roots. The stems (scapes) of the inflorescence are called "stolons" in some sources, but this term is more correctly used for stems which do not bear flowers, and have roots at the nodes.

Hen-and-chickens are easy to grow, being able to thrive in a wide range of conditions. They will tolerate temperatures down to 35°F (2°C), but grow best at temperatures between 65°F (18°C) and 90°F (32°C). I have found that they prefer a LOT of water in summer, less in winter. They are susceptible to frost but planting them under a tree where they are a bit protected helps a lot. They also do well in shade to semi-shade.

When in full sun they tend to be more yellow

A draw-back in my garden is that my chickens absolutely love them! When there's no green grass in winter for them to graze, the hen & chicks is high on their menu and these plants do not recover from clipping or being cut down, I've lost many a plant to my girls!


Tuesday, 10 November 2015

Succulents in hanging baskets

If you are someone who has always been partial to hanging baskets, yet you like cacti and succulent plants, you might be wondering, “What are my choices?” There are plenty of succulent plants that hang down that are perfect for hanging baskets.
Last spring I planted a few succulents in a hanging basket that used to contain Plectranthus verticilatus, which unfortunately died during winter. The story goes that, as long as your 'money plant' (Plectranthus)  grows well, you'll never be short of money, and I had my plant for years. When it died last winter, I must say I started getting very worried! he he!
I used a few Echeveria imbricata, Echeveria elegans, some Gasteria and a few sprigs of Crassula imperialis. They have all survived the winter and really filled the basket nicely! Hanging from a wooden beam on the patio, they get morning sun and late afternoon sun and very little water.
More succulents you can use :
Burro’s tail (Sedum morganianum)
Ragwort vine (Othonna capensis)  – This is one of the creeping hanging succulent plants. A member of the daisy family, this is not as common as some succulents. But, it has much to offer. Native to South Africa, this creeping plant features slender, trailing stems. These can eventually reach several feet in length. The shiny, green leaves are usually in clusters. Spindle-shaped, these look as if they are suspended on the stems. The yellow blooms, which look like daisies, need sun to open.

String of hearts (Ceropegia woodii) - being a succulent it is very forgiving to being under-watered.

String of pearls (Senecio rowleyanus)
String of nickels (Dischidia nummularia) - This trailing succulent plant has interesting foliage that screams for attention. It consists of round grey-green leaves which are flat and reminiscent of little coins (about nickel size) hanging  from a string.

The Rattail cactus is another succulent that actually prefers a hanging basket, as the trailing stems can get several feet long.

Vygies is another creeping succulent that does well in a hanging basket. I've got mine in a little basket on a plant stand on my patio and is already starting to hang down. I'd like to plant him in a hanging basket, but would just have to find the perfect sunny spot in the garden to hang him.

I'm sure there are many more species that can be used in your basket, so just use your imagination and give them a try, you might be pleasantly surprised!


Thursday, 5 November 2015

Earth's little gems - Gasteria glomerata

My newly-acquired Gasteria glomerata on the left sharing a pot with Huernia longituba

I acquired my Gasteria in February this year (2015) by way of an on-line auction on FaceBook and after winterizing inside my house for two months, I was thrilled to discover a small! flower soon after I put it outside at the beginning of spring. I just can't wait to see it fully open!

Gasteria glomerata is a stemless, compact succulent plant with an unspotted but slightly roughened grey-green leaf surface. Leaves grow in a single line (distichous), but the plant clumps up freely to make a mat. Already I see a baby peeping through on the left! It is native to the Eastern Cape of South Africa.

G. glomerata is a rare endemic confined to the lower Kouga River, now part of the Kouga Dam. Although it is rare, its status is not threatened at all due to its cliff face habitat and it is protected within a reserve. The seed is also dispersed world-wide and the plant is commonly grown in many collections. Its ease of propagation ensures that it is not necessary to collect plants from the wild.

The terrain of Gasteria glomerata is rugged, inhospitable and the plants occur on sheer, vertical, shady, south-facing rocky ledges (altitude 500-700 m), in minerally poor, slightly acid quartzitic sandstone soils. Gasteria glomerata is pollinated by sunbirds. Its fruiting capsule, opens from the top to release the flattish seeds. The fleshy leaves store water and are therefore drought tolerant, making this an ideal water-wise garden plant. Even though its habitat on the cliffs is very exposed, and is bone dry at times, the plants receive enough water from seepage for survival.

It is popular due to its horticultural value, and can be grown in small containers or in succulent plant gardens and is easily propagated from leaf cuttings or seed. It is a slow growing, but long-lived species. Leaf cuttings should first be allowed to dry and heal by placing them on a cool windowsill for at least three weeks. The basal part should preferably be treated with a fungicide. Plant the leaves in an erect position or lying on their side in sandy soil. Rooting is rapid and young plants can be harvested the following season.


Monday, 2 November 2015

Winter is dead

She turned to the sunlight and shook her yellow head... and whispered to her neighbour, "Winter is dead”.

- A A Milne

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