lesotho ice plant

order: caryophyllales
family: aizoaceae
genus: delosperma
species: nubigenum

First Story

19 june 2016

flower in may 2016.
This is a ground-hugging succulent plant from the southern African continent. It grows into very dense mat of emerald green, with stems usually hidden underneath succulent leaves. Given ample light and water at the onset of the growing season, it jumps out of winter slumber with a showy display of yellow daisy-like flowers, which are clocked to open at noon.

I bought this plant in 2014, when the mat was less than 10 cm across. I decided to plant it in a pot so I can bring it into shelter over the winter and managed to double the size of the mat in 2 years.

It is an undemanding plant, needing almost no care at all. It can withstand drought for a long time, so you can go away for vacations without the hassles. Although, like all succulent plants, you do want to keep it well watered throughout the growing season so it can actually grow fast and well.

Currently the terminals are "brimming" and are beginning to cascade down the pot already. It shall be repotted into a wider pot soon so it can continue to spread horizontally. I can easily describe the experience growing it as rewarding and therefore highly recommend it.

zebra plant // haworthia

order: aparagales
family: xanthorrhoeaceae
genus: haworthia
species: fasciata

First Story

24 april 2012

This zebra plant (Do people really call it this way? I still prefer haworthia.) is a gift from my friend. It's probably the very first plant I have here in Germany, if we don't count the carrot that sprouted on its own in the cabinet and the sunflower seedling that I managed to keep alive for about 2 weeks. With this plant, it marked the beginning of my plants exploration journey.

I had a hard time trying to find out which species of haworthia this is. There were two very similar species, fasciata and attenuata. You can discern between the two fairly easily if you know the trick. The latin word 'fasciata' means banded. Hence if the white dots on the underside of the leaves form bands, then you know it's a haworthia fasciata. If they are just scattered around, then it's an attenuata.

In the beginning (early 2011) this plant was a tiny haworthia. After moving it outdoor in partial shade in summer, it grew bigger and bigger. Out in the garden, it received frequent rainfall and it seemed to like it. The plant looked at its best of health with green leaves and all. By autumn it has got two babies next to it. Around mid-autumn I brought it back inside and placed it on a warm bright south-facing windowsill so that it or they could continue to grow a bit more before winter came.

I decorated a landscape saucer with them, three small-sized sempervivums and some moss i collected from the garden. I later realised that sempervivums are frost-hardy plants and need lower temperature to overwinter, so I transferred them into the garden. As for the haworthias, I cut down on watering in winter in fear of overwatering it, which, I learned, is a common mistake. I sprayed water around it's base every other day. Perhaps I should have sprayed everyday and also around its foliage to increase humidity, because the tips of the leaves have dried up over the winter. Although I actually don't mind the dried up tips. In fact I think they give the plants characters. Like wild plants in their natural habitats in contrast to those super healthy plants you find in nurseries. I also learned that some succulent gardeners sometimes like to stress their plants to make them look different. For example, keeping sunny, either warmer or colder and less water would change their colours. My zebras have put on reddish brown on the underside of the leaves close to the stems.

Since the onset of April I've been giving the plants more water. Now there are two more new babies. So that makes 5 haworthias. I might want to get a more proper pot soon and make room for them to multiply. Just in case I don't sound that way, I'm very excited. Gimme more babies!! :)

I had absolutely no idea that a haworthia has got such attractive bloom to show. Tubular flower buds on the long peduncle open up with their petals curling backwards. Now the more I love this plant.

In order to remove the raceme after flowering wait til it dries out completely. Tug on it gently and it should come off easily. If it doesn't, leave it to dry out a bit more. Don't exert too much force.


06 june 2016

Last year saw a profusion of inflorescence (without any single picture taken lamentably). This year is a vegetative year. With the number of new-comers, the family has grown to 10 members now. Hooray! I believe I'll have to redo the landscape in a bigger saucer at the latest next year.

a rhododendron named "graziella"

order: ericales
family: ericaceae
genus: rhododendron
species: ponticum
cultivar: 'Graziella'

First Story

5 june 2016

60 cm tall bush in 2016.

Whenever it comes to writing a post I have the habit of browsing my recent photo album to see if there is any plant that I haven't written about. There are always some flowering rhododendrons or azaleas among them. I actually want to have more genus diversity in my writing but can't help to put rhododendrons before other plants, if they are flowering so colourfully for me.

I bought this rhododendron as a discounted item at season end in 2012. I was fascinated mainly by its unusual lance-shaped leaves for rhododendrons. My friend and I didn't agree on the appeal of the flower colour displayed on the label but couldn't judge it for sure since there're no flowers on them at the moment. I insisted to go ahead with it nevertheless. It was probably 30 to 40 cm tall at that time.

Once home, I planted it against a tall ivy-covered fence. When it finally flowered the following year in late May, both my friend and I were compelled by the abundant trusses of simple rosy pink flowers without any visible marking, against the dark ivy canvas. The show lasted for less than 2 weeks, after which the funnel-shaped corollas began to fall off and left a sticky mess of nectar on the plant. Over the years, I learned to clean it up the easy way. If it doesn't rain during flowering, you can give it a gentle shower with the help of a garden hose. After shower, I would spend an hour dead-heading the entire plant.

Despite the mixed manure that I applied quite regularly, leaves seem to have reduced in size over the years. In part, the rain shadow of that spot coupled with the dry years we had must have restricted the growth somewhat. Worse is that, it has to compete for both water and nutrients with our neighbour's century-old birch with its far reaching roots. I actually dug out a huge clump of massive roots with lots of thirsty fibrous roots belonging to the tree once when planting some azaleas around it. That being said, I actually find the dwarfed leaves quite adorable so I'll just leave it be until we find a bigger garden to move to.

2016 flowers close-up.

a rose named "café"

order: rosales
family: rosaceae
genus: rosa
species: chinensis + multiflora
cultivar: "Café"

First Story

24 May 2016

This wonderful brownish peach/apricot-colour rose is a gift that I got to pick for myself 3 years ago. Although its scent is not as magnificent as some of my other roses, its unusual colour was reason enough for me to decide to take it. This is a remontant polyantha rose hybrid that was bred by Reimer Kordes in 1956. Its parents are R. 'Golden glow' x R. kordesii and R. 'Lavender Pinocchio'. Flowers are fully double with very soft petals. They remind me of vintage lacy dresses of a fine lady such as this one.

I planted it in the sunniest spot of our garden where we are trying to establish a rose bed to complement our 90-year-old neighbours' aged modern roses across the street. If it were a competition, our roses would lose in many different levels. Level one: our young plants will first need years to establish before they can look anything as robust as our neighbours' roses. Level two: when I see how disease resistant our neighbours' roses are while ours habitually get spotted leaves, I think the general health of our roses should definitely improve. It might be the advantage of the modern genes or their lawnless garden which is simply more hygienic for growing roses. Level three: those modern roses easily last twice as long as our historical roses. Although, our roses do win on the level of fragrance which seems to be absent with those modern roses. And though our roses are not as vibrant as those modern roses, I love them for their more natural appearance.

ritchie's spurge

order: malpighiales
family: euphorbiaceae
genus: euphorbia
species: ritchiei

First Story

10 august 2013

Finally another post of a spurge, a new spurge in my collection. I call it golem because of its look, but really you can call it Ritchie's spurge, because a guy called Ritchie must have been the first person to have found it. This spurge grows pretty fast and likes to branch out everywhere. For all I've observed for the 2 months it's been with me, those branches are short and fat. They bear succulent leaves but drop them if it's too hot. As I bought it, it was in a small round plastic pot which was pressed into oval shape by several emerging basal shoots. I had to act immediately and repotted it in fear that those young shoots could be damaged from too much pressure. There's a hexagonal ceramic pot that's lying vacant somewhere in the garden, so it's now the new home for this spurge. It looks a little bit oversized at the moment, but I'm pretty sure that in no time, this golem is going to be in need of an even bigger home.


26 april 2016

pot has become too small. right before transplant.

It's been nearly 3 years! I didn't realise this spurge has been with me for this long until I started to write this update. Talking about "long"... Its main stem has become so long that my visitors have been complaining about it being vulgar. This is certainly not what I expected when I got it. After some online research I knew I could expect a rounded cushion with pink flowers all over it, such as this example and this example. But it's just not happening yet.

The plant grew rather fast at the beginning with lots of new basal shoots and some branching. But I had the feeling that growth nearly came to a stand still last year, which is why I decided it's time to transplant it into a bigger pot. I have an exact same hexagonal one, only 3 times as big, that became available recently. So I conveniently made the decision to use it as its future home. During the transplant, I realised the rootball was indeed very small and felt kind of lost in its new home. After gently loosening the twining roots on the surface of the tight rootball, I added a lot of fresh growing medium (as always, good quality, porous mix) around it in order to fill the pot. I hope new roots will fill in and it will regain its vigour soon. When the plant throws out new leaves in the summer, I'll update with another photo.