Asphodelus acaulis

One or two flowers opened over the past few weeks, but another day of full sunshine and temperatures of 15°C+ has induced a full display.

Asphodelus acaulis is native to the Atlas Mountains in northwest Africa, where it is dormant during the dry summers, and produces foliage and flowers in winter. The specific epithet acaulis refers to the lack of stem, as in the descriptive botanical term ‘acaulescent’.

This plant is grown in full sun in a very free-draining soil mix which is low in organic matter. Though I water and feed it regularly during its growing season, it’s kept sheltered from precipitation, but not frost-free, along with all the large agaves.

The open-sided roof area. Because of the current heatwave, all plants in this area have been watered, and bulbs and other plants that are in active growth have been fertillised.
The table in the most sheltered corner outside of the conservatory, on which everything is doing well apart from that Aloe arborescens at the back, which did not like the cold – it’s alive, just damaged and needs sorting out! But it’s testament to how hardy the others are in comparison. Because of the warm weather, more of the large dudleyas have been moved out of the conservatory so that they can get as much sun as possible, as they need to be watered during their active growth in winter. They’ll live outside permanently from now on, I just mis-timed acclimatising them last year and didn’t appreciate how hardy they are.

Haworthias, gasterias, agaves, and all other succulents apart from cacti have been watered due to the unseasonable weather. Cacti are still waiting until March for their first irrigation.

After a short break, during which I visited Belfast to see the Botanic Gardens, Ulster Museum, and Giant’s Causeway, I’m back to selling plants on eBay, and am open to swaps once more.

And I’m currently working on a separate blog for my art, which involves uploading and evaluating 135 images from the past 6 years to provide context for my current work. That should be ready in a few months. 😅

Narcissus ‘Nylon’

Back to horticulture, and the emergence of these two beautiful flowers has cheered me up over the last few days.

Firstly, one taken with the phone, to provide context.
They’re out with succulents and alpines on a table under the roof extension.

Narcissus ‘Nylon’ is a hybrid of N. romieuxii and N. cantabricus, and is a variable strain rather than a clone. From looking online, many are more white than this.

Both parents are part of the Bulbocodium group of daffodils. Bulbocodium means woolly bulb, but plants in this group are usually referred to as petticoat daffodils due to the shape of the corolla.

This group is native to southern France, Spain and Portugal, and Morocco, where they are dormant during the hot, dry summers. Though winters there are not exactly wet, in cultivation they prefer plenty of moisture during the growing season. Good drainage and acid soil are also preferred.

Kept near the house in a sunny spot under the roof extension which has exposed south and west sides, these are sheltered from rain and some wind, but kept watered. It rarely freezes this close to the house, but so far they’ve withstood -2°C with no ill effects.

They’re certainly worth getting the ‘proper camera’ out for.

I might end up adding more photos, I was just eager to get back to a lighter topic as soon as possible… and one I’m maybe a little more knowledgeable about! 😉

Winter Blues

It’s the conventional time of year to struggle with mental health, and that’s what I have been doing.

When not working with the plant kingdom – which is therapeutic, although currently limited by weather and light levels – or organising and sharing photography, I sometimes have a go at drawing. Digitally for the vast majority, using a small Intuos Pro tablet and Photoshop, although I still make preliminary sketches on paper.

What do I draw? Almost exclusively original character designs and scenarios. I have done botanical illustration before but haven’t stuck with it because I don’t feel that’s the best medium for me to depict plants and nature; the camera does that.

I make observational sketches too, but the only time I feel motivated to carry out art and ‘do a painting’ is when I’ve imagined or written something that needs communicating visually.

Drawing is a personal thing and I only share what I create with my closest friends. But I should probably be braver about that too. I just don’t think it’s that good/interesting and that’s okay too. It’s just a hobby!

Despite being consistent with subject matter, I am not consistent with production. Sometimes I’ll produce three drawings a week, other times I won’t pick up a pencil for six months.

And that’s okay. You’re not obligated to produce art all the time.

Art is hard, not just in regards to technical skill and discipline, but in having what’s necessary to sit in one place, working on one image, from idea to research to sketch to line and colour choice, to deciding it’s complete. These things take all the focus they can get, and that can be difficult when your mind isn’t the most comfortable place to be.

This January I’ve been trying to let go of intrusive thoughts, to make space for more constructive ways of thinking.

Therapy wasn’t for me. But it can be worth trying to talk, and my attempts at getting help certainly didn’t make anything worse.

And I am grateful to the people in my life who have listened, advised and supported, not because it was their job, but because it was their choice.

Though nothing on this blog is a lie, and the way I’ve written so far is a genuine attempt at professionalism, it’s not been complete, and the sterility of omitting human emotion no longer feels accurate.

When depression and anxiety (among other things) have profoundly affected not only my past, but my current situation and actions, it’s cowardly to not mention that at all. Instead of hiding, I could be one more voice of solidarity and hope to other people who have been affected by these issues. So here I am.

I’ll go back to talking about the weather or something in the next entry. 🌈

(edit again: I could have just said “intrusive thoughts are hard to ignore”)

BCSS Seed Distribution 2018/19

Here we are – 27 packets, 26 species:

I sent off the order form the day after it arrived, and it was returned with everything I wanted on December 31st, and I got sowing straight away. A few things have already come up.

I’ve already sown 8 species, and of those three have germinated: Agave utahensis (Meadow View, Az), Haworthia hybrids (ex Donut and Dave Grigsby forms),

and Avonia alstonii (pink flowered):

which has already been moved upstairs. It’s the one in the bag. I’m moving all the older mesembs out to the conservatory as space frees up, and as more seeds germinate they’ll come off the propagator and up to this warm, bright windowsill. And that’s the winter/early spring propagation system! Which was first tested last year, and is now much improved.

In other horticultural news we’ve just ordered new dahlia tubers! 🌼

update from late January – a few photos of the setup, and some progress:

See below for a full list of species from the BCSS list, in order of sowing date (excellent results this year!):

Continue reading “BCSS Seed Distribution 2018/19”

New Year 2019 update

Too busy to write long blog entries at the moment, which is as it should be.

Back to selling on eBay as usual, and expecting an order of topsoil in a few days to fill that raised bed – and the rest will be used for c&s (and other plants) container soil mixes.

I’m still taking a lot of notes by hand. Photographing as necessary.

And I finished cataloguing every container plant: 856 different species/varieties/forms, and that’s always increasing. There must be over 1500 plants in total, but it’s impossible to be exact with seedlings and cuttings, and it changes day to day with the ups and downs of propagation and sales.

The BCSS seeds arrived but that’s for the next entry.

And there’s this:

Haworthia magnifica var. atrofusca ‘Watermelon’. 🍉

It’s perfect.

the New Site: 1 Year On

Long time no writing, I know. Caring for conophytums and other small plants is keeping me busy at the moment, as well as working on tidying and improving the house’s interior. The ‘postage room’ (which is really the dining room) is now as organised and ergonomic as all the spaces for plants.

That improvement has facilitated the consistent weekly sale of around a dozen plants. I’ve rid the collection of over 50 already this month, mostly by selling, but I gave a few away in that Facebook swap group I’m so fond of.

I haven’t slacked off in taking photos, at least. Or recording work by taking notes – tangible paper notes now, which have so far helped me memorise far better than digital notes, which get lost among other windows.

Keeping busy has kept the winter blues at bay. We have a good Christmas planned to look forward to, and there’s less than a week left until the days start lengthening again.

This year I’ve made plenty of progress with acquiring and propagating winter-growing plants. All the mesembs (and of course I’ve just sent off for more from the BCSS list! 😅), and bulbs that I keep are reliably entertaining and beautiful in the darkest months.

Highlights at the moment include: Asphodelus acaulis, which I haven’t taken a decent photo of yet; Narcissus ‘Nylon’ has buds on the way; Aloe albiflora has just begun to flower; Faucaria and Fenestraria are still in flower. While the gasterias have all given flowering a rest, the haworthias have just kept going, with more buds on the way. And there’s this Clivia:

The unflappable agaves suit this time of year. Being sharp and often cold-coloured, they’re a genus that feels wintery. But they look very good in summer too!

Euphorbia horrida ‘Snowflake’ is another foliage (well, stem) favourite:

Daffodil leaves are already emerging, which is always a hopeful sign:


Updates out of the way, the intention of this entry was to celebrate the anniversary of the new site. Exactly a year ago today, Tom and I moved in.

In that time, we – and the dog – have settled in, both to the house and garden, and to the local community. Here feels like home and I think we’ll be here for a long time, so I think we all feel content now.

I’m not going to review the year, as that would be repeating much of what’s already described elsewhere in this journal. Although there’s always room for improvement, and I’d like to document things much better in the future.

And a write-up of the La Gomera visit is still needed.

From travelling, reading, listening and observing, I’ve learned a lot this year, and a lot of things feel easier and seem more achievable.

After winter has passed, I’ll be able to give a more full evaluation of the new roof structure – aka the greenhouse with only two walls! But it’s safe to say it is certainly doing its job so far! The agaves and aeoniums look pretty content too:

Soon I’ll dig more beds parallel to the already dug raspberry bed, which broke the ice by being the first thing we cut into the ‘paddock’. That was another satisfying achievement of this year.

In late spring those new beds will be filled with dahlias; cut flowers, especially home-grown, are always appreciated, and who knows, maybe I’d even go commercial with that one day too.

And the usual general maintenance jobs keep emerging in need of doing.

Snow and hail were forecast today, so last night I covered the tender plants at the edge of the roof area with two layers – blankets and tarpaulin:

Of course, there was no interesting weather today, just a lot more rain. But it was a good test of this method, and one less rainy winter day won’t hurt.

Dahlia Harvest from Year 1 in the Ground

Perhaps a few weeks too early, although not much of the foliage was left functioning to feed the tubers after it got frosted, so they were just about done for the year.

After digging them up I learned that more exposure to colder weather makes the eyes easier to see, which is vital for dividing tubers successfully. Fortunately they were visible enough this time, but I’ll be mindful of that next year.

It was a nightmare splitting the two that had grown into each other, totally fusing together, but I managed to salvage sufficient tubers of each. That’s what happens when you throw all the tubers together in one box without labelling them and hope for the best, and then don’t pay enough attention when planting them in spring.

But that’s not going to happen next year, as I’m as organised this winter as I was disorganised in the last. They’ve been treated properly this time:

These are plastic crates lined with cardboard, with a layer of coco coir at the bottom. The yellow powder on the tubers is sulphur dust, which works well as a fungicide.

They have since been covered with another layer of coco coir and are now stacked out of the way at the back of the garage, which is cool but frost-free.

I might plant a few dahlias in the same bed again next spring, if the hedge has been replaced with a fence by then – we’re still waiting for that to happen.

However, I’ve now got my sights on the meadow/paddock now. Since digging the raspberry bed there, I realised I could grow flower crops there too. They would get much more sun, and it would be great to give them all more space.

But here’s the first ‘dahlia bed’, now sans dahlias:

(beautiful foliage on the smoke bush at the moment!)

I haven’t dug up the osteospermums yet, since they still look fine, but I’ll keep an eye on them, and the weather forecast.

We have the rest of winter to choose a few new dahlia cultivars. I’d like to find one of the cartwheel, or star dahlias (this type includes the ‘Honka‘ series), with their single rolled petals, and I’ll get some ideas from Tom about what else to grow.

There’s now this display to beat:

To keep boring lists tucked away, click ‘Continue reading’ to see the list of tubers that have been prepared.

Continue reading “Dahlia Harvest from Year 1 in the Ground”