September 6, 2006

Random ramblings - September week 1

Ipomoea platense
This relative of the common morning glory look more like a cactus than a vine, but once it blooms, one can easliy see the resemblance. OF course, this will be entering it's dormaYeah, this is another one of those plants, known as Caudex plants, so named because of thier thickened stems, or modified roots that hold water, and which allow these Madacascar natives to survive in a near dormant a(read-dead) state for most of the year until the summer rains come. I know, you may ask "why?" but caudex and caudiciform plants are regarded as highly colelctable, just enter the word CAUDEX on eBay, and see what shows up. Crazy, we plant folk are!

The alpine house, cleaned and ready for fall
With the onset of cooler weather, and rains, I am starting to move the potted alpine collection back into the alpine house. These saxifraga did will on the stone walk that leads to the greenhouse, where I could keep an eye on them and make sure that they were watered properly all summer, and where they recived bright light, but we're somewhat protected from direct sun. I think I might be starting to get soem success in growing the encrusted Sax's, at least I am not killing as many as I did two years ago when I started with alpines!
Moving the potted alpines back to the protection of this little house, helps keep the pots more consistantly damp, but not too wet, since I plunge them in my sand beds, and since the rain can't fall on then (and soon, snow) the foliage can develop more characteristically.

Alpine Auricula enjoyed the cooler summer this year
Even though July was terrible and unseasonally hot, our weather in New England suddenly switched to fall-like cycles early in August, where the thermometer only reached 80 deg. F once. I think that my success with many of the potted alpines was aided by this fact, as well as a routine that now includes a systemic for root aphids (something which has plagued my primula) and a regimine of maintenance that includes careful fertilization. This year, in an effort to master these tough-to-grow-in-the USA auricula, I changed my soil (to a fast-draining mix comprised of 50% fired ceramic Soil Conditioner, 20% perlite, and 20% ProMix, a peat soiless mix.) TO this I add some unsterilized garden soil and compost. These are roung measurements, of course, I just pour piles of material on my potting bench, and toss well.

I also now add a fertilizer in the fall, a 0-10-10, to encourage bud formation - as the brittish growers do. So who knows, at least the fall flush of foliage looks good, and the alpine Primula allionii and P. marginata are mounding up nice and dense. The roots are so strong that some have wraped around the tags. I may have to root prune soon.

Petraeovitex bambusetorum from Thailand
If you have ever visited Bangkok, you may have seen this vine. A relative newcomer, this rare and hard-to-find vine is easy to cultivate, and is something that you most likely will be seeing more of. Although, tropical vines are not something that anyone can grow, due to space issues, this is one that will bloom if kept trained to a hoop or a trellis. In the glass house, this is the first year that I have grown it, but I am so pleased with it, that I have trained one on a pole that leads to the 16 foot cieling, and another in a large hanging basket. If you plant to try this plant (I only know of two retailers in the U.S. who carry it, Logees.com and Toptropicals, you will need to leave enough room for the blossom stems to hang, since they can hang as long at three feet down. The hanging bracts are a nice touch during the end of summer.

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