Wednesday, 12 October 2011

Succulence in a dry autumn

We are still waiting for a decent helping of rain and I am glad that I planted out so many succulents.

Succulents in Ham House Urns along the drive at Whichford Pottery
Jim's ruin with succulents in the font
I shall do my best to overwinter as many as possible because they are so useful - I haven't watered any of the succulent plantings at all since I first put them together. The little rain we have had has been enough. And this is why all the pots in the drive are full of succulents, so that I don't have to traipse out there with watering cans.

Flourishing in ruins
I have even put them in Jim's 'ruin', where they have thrived. The original ruin was made for a flower show in Japan but Jim has also built one here. The terracotta pieces fit together a bit like Lego and are cemented together. It's amazing what you can do with clay!

Aeoniums, Echeveria, Kalanchoe and other
crassulaceae in the Kew Collection

Saving treasures
The succulents in Kew pots have filled out nicely. These pots are small enough to grab and run into the greenhouse with when frost is imminent but bigger potfuls will take longer to dismantle. I will leave most of the latter out a little longer as they are looking so good but I am beginning to stow away many of my little treasures; if I have to walk to the greenhouse I make sure that I am carrying a couple of them. I would rather lose a few big plants than have all the little oddities turn to mush.

Haycorns, Pooh!
Despite the warmth Autumn is definitely here. Acorns have been raining down from the young oak trees, which were inexplicably planted between the packing shed and the greenhouse, making alarming bangs on the glass. They are beautiful things and most of us have fond childhood memories of snapping them out of their little cups and fitting them back in again or of making little Oakie Dokes (acorn people).
Beautiful acorns have been raining down
Witches' garage
I have never seen so many fruits on the spindle tree (Euonymus europaeus) in the hedge near the compost heaps. Again, this has been a favourite for me ever since I was a child, partly for the preposterous pink/orange colour combination and partly because one of my favourite books was The Midnight Folk, by John Masefield. In this I found the useful information that witches tether their brooms to spindle to stop them from flying away by themselves. I haven't read the book for a long time of course and really hope that I am remembering this correctly and didn't just dream it.
Reserved parking. Euonymus europaeus or Spindle at Whichford
No gin for me
There are sloes in the hedge by the Octagon but I won't be making sloe gin because thirsty blackbirds are gobbling them up. From her lack of fear I guess that this scruffy creature is Mrs B moulting - she did look a bit like she had gone down the chippy with her curlers in.

"What are you looking at?" Mrs B gobbling sloes
Crocus speciosus in a Wisley Seed Pan
Splendid crocus
We had a few Crocus speciosus bulbs at the sale in September. I really wish we had ordered more as they were popular so I only kept a few to plant. They are absolutely gorgeous.
I haven't grown this autumn-flowering crocus before but I should have taken more notice of the name, speciosus means showy, handsome, beautiful, splendid...

Hedychium gardnerianum has also been flowering over the last 10 days or so in the courtyard. I love the exotic look of it and the sweet scent. We are lucky that plants like this are kept in check by our frosts - in some countries this has become an invasive weed but here it must be taken under cover for the winter.

Hedychium gardnerianum

Before I forget - here's another Spring Bulb FAQ: How close together do you plant tulips?
It depends on the effect I want and whether the flowers open wide (like a parrot tulip) or stay neat (like Darwin hybrids). If the flowers are neat and I want a solid block of colour or a clump then I plant very close together - but don't let the bulbs touch each other so that fungal infections can't spread too easily. If the flowers are bigger or if other plants and/or bulbs will be planted above them then I usually plant them about 2-3 inches apart. you can space them more widely if you want a less full effect, or plant in clumps with a few spaced more randomly for a "natural" effect.

This pot will have a fairly dense mass of Tulip 'Rococo'
Tulip 'Rococo', Spring 2011
This is a planting I did today in a giant Sissinghurst pot (about 3 feet in diameter). The tulip is 'Rococo', a medium-sized flower which curls and opens fairly wide. The cracked upside-down pot is a second which I am using to support a pot containing a large Photinia x fraseri 'Red Robin'.

Above this layer of tulips I have planted two Leucothoe fontanesiana 'Rainbow' and two Helleborus niger, plus 'Moonlight Mix' pansies, Narcissus 'Jenny', Muscari latifolium and Crocus 'Jeanne d'Arc'. The tulips will fight their way through it all, never fear.

Photographic fun in the garden

And finally - last weekend there was another of Liz Eddison's garden photography days. I know a good time was had by all because the participants included my oldest friend - and these two suspicious characters hiding behind cameras turned out to be Andy, a senior thrower who has been making pots with Jim since the very beginning 35 years ago, and Lynda, who crafts all the amazing hand-pressed ware, including the elephants.
Lynda and Andy hide behind their cameras
Keep an eye on the Whichford website for new dates for this popular garden photography course - much learning and laughter guaranteed!


  1. Le fusain est magnifique! Jamais vu non plus autant de fleurs sur cet arbuste!

    J'ai également planté des Crocus speciosus dans l'espoir d'une récolte de safran... Malheureusement, ils n'ont pas pointé du nez cet automne. L'an prochain?

    Vos plantations et vos magnifiques pots sont vraiment inspirants. Bravo!

    ( I'll try to translate my comment)

    I've never seen a spindle tree with so much flower either! Superb!

    In my garden, I've planted saffron but it seems I will not enjoy them this autumn.

    Your potteries and the plants who embellish them are truly splendid and inspiring!

  2. Bonjour Jasmine! Merci - vous etes gentille. Pour le safran il vous faut Crocus sativus. J'en ai plante quelques cormes (?) l'annee derniere mais je n'ai pas reussi a le garder parce que (je crois) je ne l'ai pas garde suffisamment au sec et pour resister au gel je crois qu'il doit etre dans un endroit tres bien draine. Je crois que Crocus speciosus est un peu plus robuste - on verra! Excusez mon mauvais francais - et je n'arrive pas a ajouter les accents, il faut faire des recherches pour la prochaine correspondance!

  3. I love the blackbird sat eating sloes. It looks like it should have a caption 'What you looking at...' :). I have a 8 year old oak tree which I planted, I will be so excited for my first acorn.

  4. Hello Anthony - yes she is my favourite bird at the pottery and often features in the blog. She only has one foot and yet is a massively successful mother and very tame, will nearly take food from my hand but not quite. I think you missed the actual caption - great minds think alike! Good for you for planting an oak - so useful to wildlife.

  5. Bonjour Harriet,

    Même sans accent votre français est excellent. Meilleur même que certaines personnes francophones!

    Vous avez raison, c'est bien le Crocus sativus que j'ai planté et non pas le speciosus! J'ai planté (effectivement) des cormes en un endroit drainé, mais peut-être que j'ajouterai l'an prochain du sable ou du petit gravier pour augmenter le drainage.

    À bientôt!