January 9, 2011

Sunny Sunday's in January, it's why one keeps a greenhouse.

A rarely seen view of the back of my greenhouse.

I could be skiing, or snowshoeing this weekend, but because of a big, top secret project at work, I needed to work at home all weekend. Still, I made time to spend a few hours in the greenhouse because it was sunny, and warm in there....and it is January 9, and there is no better reason than that.

Pink flowered Rosemary cutting being trained as standard topiary subjects. Not sure what I am going to do with this many, but I suppose one cannot have enough! I think that I am going to pot three or four together into a window box, and train them as a mini pleached hedge for the deck. Stay tuned.
Clivia miniata -a rare dwarf Japanese form I brought back from a trip to Japan. They call these types ' Daruma' types. They are traditionally grown in a gravelly clay mix called Akedama soil, so I grow mine the same way. You can buy Akedama soil at some Bonsai nurseries. The ring of Sphagnum around the base of the stem is also a traditional cultural technique in Japan, it covers or protects the part of the plant that would be called the basal plate ( since Clivia are technically considered bulbs by botanists, or, more accurately, geophytes. Seems weird? Think of onions, right? Now think of  Leeks. Both are really bulbs, with a basal plate and a scaly structure in layers. Now apply that logic to your Clivia plant. The same goes for Agapanthus, the Blue Lily of the Nile, and that, my friends, is why you sometimes see Agapanthus sold in Dutch Bulb catalogs as 'bulbs' when you might be thinking " but they are all roots?". Enough for the botany lesson of the day.

These Japanese and Chinese miniature Clivia can sometimes be found on eBay, but they can be costly. Shop wisely.  I like to wrap a piece of New Zealand sphagnum around the base to cover the roots, when grown  in Akedama soil ( the gravelly looking clay pellets you see), it's a cultural method we saw demonstrated in Japan at some specialty Clivia nurseries. I am not sure that it offers the plant anything special, but it looks nice, and why not grow these rare plants in an authentic way.
Succulents needed some attention. I use these short winter days to propagate favorite varieties for use in summer containers. 

The older succulent plant, here a Sedum  rubrotinctum 'Aurora' on the right, (the mother plants) are also saved, I pot them together in a seed flat after I cut back all of the cuttings. These old stems will generate more cuttings in a few months. Even the little jelly bean-like leaves of this plant will root, if I so chose to save them.

Sedum cuttings in a pot. This 'Jelly Bean' plant will root, and provide me with another harvest of cuttings in a month or two. All started from one cutting last spring, a $2.00 investment will grow into a dozen plants.

Cuttings are potted by kind, into clay pots with a sandy potting mix that drains well. They will root quickly, even in the cool weather, and in March, I will repot them into their final containers for the summer, most likely, strawberry pots and larger, more ornamental clay pots.
I think many of these sedum look best planted as cuttings, all close together in a pot. I try to find a spot in the greenhouse where they can get as much sun as possible. Bright sunshine is key for plants that are dense and tight in habit, with intense coloring.

A Tropaeolum azureum is telling me that it is ready to take off. It has twined around a thin stem of a Narcissus viridiflora growing in a pot next to it.

See the Telos Rare Bulbs ad on this page to see the flowers of this vining Nasturtium. The vine grows from a tuber, and for the first three months, it has a very weak stem, but if you look carefull above, you will see that it has twisted and curled around a Narcissus leaf, so it is time to provide something for it to scramble along. I could not find a cleaver enough trellis, so I opted for some Japanese maple branches. I hope provides enough detail, for this precious vine is rather dainty, and it prefers to grow over branches in it native habitat in Chile.

Tropaeolum azureum beginning to climb on a home made trellis of Japanese maple branches. I pinch the wire-like stem of this relative of the common nasturtium, to encourage some branchings early on. 

Outside, the alpine troughs sleep under a blanket of snow.

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