Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Cravendale - Cats with Thumbs

Cat Facebook Friends - Furball Fables

Spring arrives in Corumbela

CeanothusGrevilleaWarminster Broom 
Happy days are here again! Plenty going on in the garden, birds singing  buds burstin' and much suddenly in flower. There is plenty to do and I, once again, feel like doing it. I certainly lost the enthusiasm over the winter but that's all forgotten now. Here above some of the items that have pleased  me recently, Wisteria, Ceanothus,Grevillea and Broom all making a wonderful display of bloom. The village, Corumbela, is not the liveliest or noisiest place around but it does have nice people and some wonderful views over the Med to Africa and Gibraltar.

 An illustration of the law of unintended consequences- a sprinkling of Osteospermum seedlings have established themselves in this very unruly and out of control Jasmin and are proving themselves to be accomplished climbers in their own right. Difficult to tell from the photos but they have reached at least 6 feet up into the Jasmin. that's going to another big job soon, getting that lot under control-severly cutting back the Jasmin before it takes over the whole garden. 

Photo left:- the first flowers on my Bignonia Venusta, not bad for an 8 year old plant! I just don't know why I can't get it to flourish. I lavish much care and attention and generous amounts of TLC for scant reward; this is the first time it has had flowers on it and they are few at the tip end of a 15foot stem; any advice would be welcome. Perhaps I should just forget about it and not bother. There are plenty of them around in friends gardens where they cover fences and pergolas with masses of bloom and foliage, what am I doing wrong?

If you have Agave americana be sure to keep it trimmed back right from the start for once neglected you have to risk serious discomfort to get them back in order again, they can certainly cause a painful prick and are very difficult to approach when allowed their own way for too long.
Happy Gardening

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Seen it!

Featured Plant No5

Spiraea x vanhouttei

The identification is suspect as this is a cutting from an un-named parent and there are many forms and hybrids of white Spiraea but it fits the description in the various expert publications I've consulted, so I will go along with that. Please comment if you think differently.
Regardless of that, this is a shrub that well deserves it's place in our gardens, distinctly unfussy once established it gives a magnificent floral display at this time of year and remains an attractive foliage plant thereafter. Mine has thrived with little attention other than a little pruning, keeping it tidy and removing some older wood later in the year. Propagation is easy from side shoots after flowering and I've read that some can be propagated by root division but I have never put this to the test. The rain outdoors is currently making every effort to batter this one to the ground but I'm confident it will recover quickly afterwards.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

African Daisy, Star of the Veldt???

I have recently seen these attractive plants labelled as either Dimorphotheca or Osteospermum and as they all seem to be identical in form ( that is I can't tell them apart) I wondered what was the difference and was it significant. The most obvious difference after a little read is that Dimorph is an annual and Osteo is perennial BUT they freely hybridize with each other. S I suppose that means you don't know exactly what it is your buying but if it dies after flowering it was Dimorphotheca and if it lives till next year it is Osteospermum. Anyway they make a very good display. After a little digging I came up with this web site which explains it all better than I can. The site is and is worth a visit. An extract is shown below

Osteospermum Types

Half Hardy Osteospermums

Most Osteospermums listed on this website are half hardy perennials. This means they are tender and won't survive cold winters. They usually can cope with mild frosts, but in areas where the temperatures drop below -2 degrees Celsius they'll have problems surviving.This explains why most growers list them as an annual plant, even though they are in reality tender perennials.

Hardy Osteospermums

Another interesting and often confusing category is the group of so called Hardy Osteospermums. These are also perennial and are called 'hardy', because they tend to survive in colder temperatures. This certainly doesn't mean that they are hardy everywhere. We've been growing them for several years in East Anglia (UK) and so far without any losses due to frost.
The hardy types also distinguish themselves by their growth habit. They are prostrate and have the tendency to spread. They are mainly of the jucundum and ecklonis species. Another distinguishing feature is the dark blue centre of the disc, which is present in all the jucundum varieties. The leaves are lancet, whereas the leaves of 'Ecklonis Prostratum' are toothed.
Osteospermum Lady Leitrim
O. Lady Leitrim
Another obvious characteristic of the hardy types is the profuse flowering in early spring. However, unlike many other Osteospermums they don't get such a profuse second flush of flowers, although they continue flowering until the first frosts (and often beyond) with sporadic flowering. Go To The Hardy Varieties Page


There seems to be some confusion about the annual and perennial forms. Although Osteospermums were formerly called 'Dimorphotheca' one has to remember that this name is now only used for the annual forms. These annuals are also known as 'Star of the Veldt' and are very different to the plants we know as'Osteospermum'.
D. aurantiaca
For a big picture of Dimorphotheca aurantiaca click here

The name 'Osteospermum' is exclusively used for the perennial forms. Both have in common that the flowers close at night. But the annuals or 'Dimorphotheca' are in many aspects very different to 'Osteospermums'. The garden varieties are hybrids of D. aurantiaca. Their colour range is quite different: orange, cream, white, yellow and salmon-pink. Like all other annuals 'Dimorphotheca' can be grown from seed. The flowering period isn't as long and frequent as that of Osteospermums and the plant isn't as long lived. The plants aren't suitable to propagate by cuttings. They are hardy annuals, so seeds can be sown in autumn as well as in spring. They dislike root disturbance, so it's advisable to sow seeds where they are to flower. The plants need a well-drained sandy soil. Place them in full sun or the flowers will refuse to open. Dead-head regularly to prolong flowering.
WARNING: At present some of the reputable seed companies are incorrectly selling 'Dimorhotheca' under the name 'Osteospermum'. You will have to draw your own conclusions as to why they are doing this!! One company is even selling 'Livingstone Daisies' ('Mesembryanthemum') under the name of 'Osteospermum'. We recommend to first check if you are really buying 'Osteospermums' before ordering seed. To help you decide what you are buying see our Lists of Osteospermum and Dimorphotheca Seed.

Featured Plant No4

Jasminium Nudiflorum

The Winter Jasmine (Jasminum nudiflorum) is easy to grow, and accommodates poor treatment, is indifferent to soil or aspect. This is probably the main reason why Jasminum nudiflorum, the Winter Flowering Jasmine , is so often left to its own devices in life - other than receiving the odd (!) cutting back.
 It is usually grown as a wall or pergola/trellis shrub, and is certainly magnificent on a sunny wall, where the wood can ripen ready to burst into flower in the depth of winter - or from mid-autumn. It is not called the Winter flowering Jasmine for nothing.
It responds well to a little bit of attention by way of feeding and 'proper' pruning- which simply means cutting out some old wood now and again and keeping it within bounds. Simply cut back the flowered shoots, to below where the flowering started - as soon as possible after flowers have finished
It can also be grown as a shrub - of lax habit but can be useful bank cover.
Propagation  is easy. Simply peg down a few of the arching stems and cut from parent once rooted.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Featured Plant No3

Crassula Ovata

The common Jade plant or Money tree is to be valued for several reasons: it is in flower at this time of year, it has an attractive appearance throughout the year, is very easy to propagate from cuttings and makes an ideal filler. I'm a fan!
It is however a touch tender, the bad cold snap of 5 years ago cut all mine down to the ground, and although most came back slowly some did not. Unfortunately, my prized specimen, a variegated variety grown from a cutting taken from a friends conservatory in England some 10 years previously fell into the later category.

Cuttings are a doddle, practically any piece of stem will root down quickly and have developed roots in 2 to 3 weeks. Even well established plants can be moved, they are shallow rooted at least when young. I have seen one in La Heradura which was nearly 3 metres high- I wouldn't have tried to move that one.

The jade plant benefits from pruning, which should be done in the spring, before the growing season. Pruning a jade can be done over a period of a few weeks, and involves cutting stems back to a lateral branch. The purpose of pruning is twofold: for a top-heavy succulent like the jade, it is important that its trunk be able to support the weight of its leaves and pruning encourages the trunk to grow in size; pruning also encourages root growth. Calluses should form on new cuts after a few days and new growth should emerge from the stump within a few weeks of the cut.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Potato Growing Bags

Now I know I might be behind the times here but these certainly look like a good idea to me. I have grown potatoes in a barrel many years ago (without any very remarkable results) but these bags would be very convenient on the balcony, patio or in the garden.
Their size  plus  the convenient carrying handles makes for easy movement to wherever is convenient without too much strain and they need little storage space when not in use as they fold up flat.  I have no doubt that other vegetables would be successful too, carrots spring to mind.
  The instructions(from Unwins) are simple enough:
At the appropriate planting time, set three tubers on top of a 6-8in/15-20cm layer of good quality compost in each Potato Growing Bag and then cover the tubers with a further 4in/10cm layer of compost and fertiliser.
As the plants grow and shoots emerge above the surface, add more compost to the potato growing bags to cover the shoots and then repeat as needed until the compost is about 2in/5cm below the top of the bag.
Keep the compost moist at all times but don't saturate it as this might cause the tubers to rot.
An application of a high potash fertiliser  will increase yields. Avoid fertilisers high in nitrogen as these will delay maturity of the crop.

Potatoes need plenty of moisture, particularly round about flowering time which is when the tubers start to form. An occasional heavy watering is better than little and often as this does not get down far enough and encourages shallow rooting.
Planting and harvesting times are as for your normal garden potato crops. I might try this as I’ve never had a much success with any vegetables planted in the garden here in Spain. Maybe I’m just not a vegetable gardener!

The bags illustrated are from Unwins seeds. They are quite expensive at 7.95 GBP each(with seed potatoes) but there are other suppliers of the bags + tubers considerably cheaper, 3.35GBP at Dobies for example. I haven’t seen any locally.
If anyone has had experience of these please or any other container growing info drop me a comment or mail.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Reminder of Summer

 Something not seen too often, chameleons mating. I  was a little late with the camera however and missed the climax of the action. “She” then escaped up a nearby olive tree with the male in hot pursuit. I assume he had unfinished business. I did have a short video of the tree chase which ended with the femail's tail clamped in his mouth and her suspended in mid air; unfortunately I seemed to have lost it, no doubt during the recent upgrade to Windows 7!  I’m missing the summer already and I’m finding the prospect of the winter clear-up somewhat daunting with so much pruning and cutting back to do. Not to mention the inevitable excellent crop of weeds and mountains of wet dead leaves but then the spring and good cheer will soon be on us and my enthusiasm will be reawakened.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Featured Plant No2

Abelia Grandiflora

Description - Abelia x grandiflora
A medium sized usually -evergreen shrub, Abelia x grandiflora has lightly scented, white flowers lightly tinged with pink throughout  summer. These flowers are long lasting and contrast well against the dark green, glossy leaves. A superb choice of shrub for planting as part of a mixed border or against a wall or fence. At this time of year it’s foliage has turned russet red and along with the still present flowers it makes for a striking specimen plant.
Definitely not fussy as to siting or soil it requires little attention beyond a spring tidy up- removing some old wood. Fertilizing and watering requirements are light and mine has yet to suffer from any frost or wind damage

Summer flowering is very prolific although the individual flowers are quite small and the overall appearance is very pleasing. A definite bee magnet.
Height and spread approx 2-3 metres

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Garden Club visit to La Concepcion

La Concepcion botanic gardens Photo Album

For the sake of completeness here is the photo album of the visit to La Concepcion botanic garden in May 2010. Retrospective thanks to Carol for the organisation. The trip was well attended and we were lucky with the weather and didn't get very wet.

An exceptional outdoor tropical section on a very large site, it has a long history of care and investment and is rightly touted as the best outdoor tropical garden in Europe. It can be physically a little tiring  as the site is very large but there is a good bar/restaurant for refreshments. Not to be missed by anyone with even a passing interest in plants. I have been  back since with the summer visitors

Monday, November 29, 2010

Featured Plant No1

Grevillea rosmarinifolia

My choice this month is Grevillea rosmarinifolia  it is just coming in to flower and gives a good lift to the garden at this time of year. My one specimen has thrived in the local conditions, nothing seems to deter it and yet strangely enough I've never taken any cuttings and I just can't think why. Many cultivars exist with a wide range of flowere forms. I can't say I remember seeing it in local garden centres and can't for the life of me remember were I got mine.
I`ve only ever pruned mine very lightly as I read somewhere that it dislikes a hard prune. an attractive shrub at all times of year requiring little in the way of food and water and is distinctly unfussy as to site and soil. Mine has been fully hardy-so far.
Height and spread are variously reported to be about 2m either way but I would guess that given the space this will spread well beyond that.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Trip to Molino de Inca botanic gardens

Carol recently arranged a visit for club members to El Molino de Inca a botanical garden near Torremolinos. The visit was a huge success, the gardens truly delightful and well worth the visit. The garden's main attraction is it's collection of palms with over 80 different species on show.

The name “Molino de Inca” originated from a licence obtained by Joseph de Inca Sotomayor in 1700 for the construction of two flour mills to be powered by the “Manantial de Torremolinos” (Torremolinos Springs), “Manantial del Albercón” (Albercon Springs), “Manantial de Inca” (Inca Springs) and the “Manantial de La Cueva” (La Cueva Springs).

The Garden, which was designed by the municipal technician Manuel Simón, was opened to the public in Spring 2003. With over 70 species of palm trees, it is one of mainland Spain’s top three outdoor public palm gardens.

The garden’s most interesting trees include an enormous Eucalyptus and a one-hundred year-old Araucaria of more than 50 metres in height, which is located in the centre of a maze.

This garden does not overawe as perhaps La Concepion tends to with it's sheer size and scope. It's a welcoming place with easy access for all and no daunting walks. Parking is plentiful and close. One slight drawback-vending machines only but there is a decent bar/restaurant on the way out/in, please feel free to add comments.