Friday, 17 February 2012

On the move again - some succulent signs of spring

I can see spring peeping over the horizon.

Pansy 'Aquarelle' and the shoots of Crocus 'Blue Pearl' peep out of a
straight-sided Basket Pot at Whichford Pottery

Iris 'Harmony'
On Monday the compost in the pots was still frozen solid and I began to worry about plants drying out as there was a brisk breeze, but by Tuesday it had almost completely defrosted and the plants quickly began to perk up.

 Iris 'Harmony' has been living in a Highgrove pot at the foot of a cloud-pruned Osmanthus delavayi for a few years now and is usually one of the first to show its face.

Iris 'J.S.Dijt' has also been unfurling this week, combining rich purple with a cheeky flash of orange on its falls. 

Iris 'JS Dijt' unfurling

 Tulipa 'Princesse Charmante' breaching.
Whale watching
The first tulip shoots are beginning to appear. They always remind me of lunge-feeding humpback whales. You'll see what I mean if you click here. The tulip emerging in the picture on the right is 'Princesse Charmante', which is a greigii tulip, these are early flowerers and have beautiful  bluish leaves with maroon markings.

Even though it was still pretty cold on Valentine's Day we were all warmed at lunchtime by Kazuya's cooking. Kazuya is from Bizen in Japan, which is famous for its distinctive ceramics, and he is at Whichford for a while as part of a visit to study British ceramics. He is already a skilled potter, but very keen to learn more about his craft - and his english is improving rapidly, especially as Chris, who usually works in the same room has been trying to teach him plenty of rude words!

Gohan!  Kazu cooks rice in the staff room

Feel the love
We all admire his beautifully prepared lunches of noodles or rice with meat and vegetables every day - so much more exciting than a cheese sandwich and a packet of crisps, and much more healthy. So we were delighted when he bravely offered to cook for us all. Everybody piled into the staff room and made short work of the delicious stew and curry he produced. Thank you Kazu!

The Chippy Yarnbomber spreads the love

While on the subject of Valentine's I just have to throw in this picture of the latest offering by the Yarnbombers in nearby Chipping Norton, they have decorated practically every signpost and tree in the centre of town with their crocheted craziness and I love them for it.

Succulent love
Back to gardening: the milder, brighter weather is making a difference in the greenhouse too. Lots of my succulents are beginning to yawn, stretch, and reach for the glass of water on their bedside table. During the winter I keep them almost completely dry until I can see either that they are shrivelling badly or that they are trying to grow. I have now watered the entire collection - this takes a long time as it involves taking each pot and standing it in a few inches of water for up to an hour. This way the fine roots can take up water without the risk of water splash causing rots in these xerophytes.

The aeoniums are usually among the first to show signs of distress. Here are three of mine looking happier after a drink:

Aeonium arboreum 'Zwartkop'
Aeonium arboreum 'Zwartkop' doesn't look as black as during the summer, the lower light levels of winter in a dirty greenhouse make it go a bit green about the gills but it'll soon recover.

Aeonium tabuliforme (below) is one of my favourites but I have failed to propagate it so far. This rosette is currently about 40cm in diameter and likely to get bigger. If it flowers it'll die so I really need to try harder with the leaf cuttings.

Aeonium tabuliforme
 Aeonium decorum 'Sunburst' is always a cheery sight and much admired by our customers when it has its summer holidays in the courtyard garden.

Aeonium decorum 'Sunburst'

Echeveria decora

My many and various Echeveria have also perked up after their first proper drink of the year and many of them are starting to flower. Echeveria decora and Echeveria agavoides both have plenty of colour in their foliage but the delicately unfurling spikes of flowers are an extra late-winter treat for me in the greenhouse.
Echeveria agavoides

Seeds of summer
Right, I must stop gawping at the flowers and get on with the seed sowing. This week I have been sowing lots of sweet peas from Pennards, I'm looking forward to 'Leominster Boy', 'Painted Lady', 'America', 'Cupani', and, in this patriotic year, 'William and Catherine'.

From now on I'll be keeping my propagator full and loving the stealthy arrival of spring!

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