}

November 30, 2011

Dividing a prized Agave

AN AGAVE LOPHANTHA 'QUADRICOLOR' IS READY FOR DIVISION, RESULTING IN MANY NEW PLANTS TO SHARE WITH FRIENDS.
Agave's offer the home gardener so much more than Tequilla, today, many are investments; costly, yes,  but they are true investments, almost guaranteed to perform better than the stock market, and sometimes, they can be just as painful, but in the end, they make dazzling statements that enhance any place in the garden. You don't even need a greenhouse, any home gardener can keep specimens whether you live in an apartment, suburban house or large estate. Agave thrive both indoors in pots on windowsills when small, and then spend the summer outdoors in full sun. In winter, they can return to the brightest window sills or they can spend a slow, dormant winter in cool, dry cellar when they become too large. Ours do very well in our sunny, cold greenhouse, and although expensive, many form offsets ( or pups) that can be removed and potted up to start new plants. When  $35. plant does that, I become very happy.
Dividing an Agave only requires patience, the easiest mistake to make is to divide too early, when the runners are still root free. I like to wait an extra year after the first sign of off-shoots, so that they can form their own roots before I remove them from their mother.

A well rooted division snaps easily off of the mother plant, and is ready to spend life on its own, in its own pot.

NOTICE HOW THE OLDER OFFSETS HASVE MORE ROOTS, WHILE THE ONE ON THE RIGHT HAS ONLY A COUPLE. THE LARGER OFFSETS ARE THREE YEARS OLD, AND THEY SNAP OFF EASILY, SINCE THE UNDERGROUND STEMS ARE BRITTLE.
My five year old plant provided me with six strong divisions, plus a few un-rooted stems that I will pot together in a flat of sand, so that they can form roots, which can take up to another six months. Agave are not fast growers, so the more maturity that you can get on your plantlets, the easier the transition to their own pots will be. 

These underground shoots often will root, but like premature babies, they must be treated carefully, and often need a little intensive care for a period of time before they can catch up to their older brothers and sisters.

Mom gets a fresh batch of soil ( Pro Mix, sand and Soil Perfector by Espoma) and is then upgraded to a nicer pot. She will start to create more babies right away, but will not be repotted and divided for at least three more years. Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor' is now more affordable, at $16.00 ( this past year), and you can order one from Plant Delight's Nursery. Their new catalog will be out in early January. Any plant that can live for decades, that can handle full sun and drought, it prime in my book. Not all agave species divide as fast as others, but this cultivar offsets regularly.

Freshly potted up baby Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor' on the bench in the greenhouse, ready to be watered in with their first drink. They will be allowed to dry out completely between waterings until new roots form.

November 27, 2011

My 'Earlier than Normal', Camellia Season

THE EARLIEST CAMELLIAS TO BLOOM IN THE AUTUMN ARE THE SASANQUA TYPE, THE GROUP WHICH INCLUDES GREEN TEA. THIS PINK SINGLE SASANQUA IS A JAPANESE CULTIVAR CALLED 'OMIGOROMO'

Camellias in New England? The Camellia has a long history as a container plant in New England glasshouses, they were some of the first plants ever grown in greenhouses in the 17th and 18 Century in and around the Boston area. Estates often kept large tubs of Camellias which arrived on ships from China, Japan and Europe where it was a popular cut flower. A Camellia blossom often was one of the few flowers available during the cold winter months, where short day length plants that could withstand cold temperatures included scented violets, forced bulbs and citrus. 

'CAMELLIA SASANQUA 'OMIGOROMO'
Many think of camellia's as out-dated corsage plants best saved for old ladies and some foundation plantings in southern California or the south, sadly, the generation who did remember the Camellia as a corsage flower is gone, leaving this fine cold weather bloomer prime for re-discovery by a new generation who will need to learn how to grow it. If you live in New England as I do, camellias do best in cold greenhouses, or perhaps an unheated room, if you live in an old house. There was a time when a every Victorian mansion had a chilly, unheated room, or even a conservatory where camellia trees thrived in large terra cotta pots. 

CAMELLIA SASANQUA 'MINE NO YUKU', OR SNOW ON THE MOUNTAIN, HAS NOW BEEN RENAMED BY  MONROVIA NURSERIES, AND MARKETED UNDER THE REGISTERED NAME OF 'WHITE DOVES'. 
 Today, the camellia suffers from modern heating systems and dry air - two things which they hate. Outdoor culture in the northeast has not yet been perfected. There is much excitement about new, hardier species coming into the market from northern Korea and from high elevation sites in China and Japan, but most seem to be reliable hardy to Pennsylvania and zone 7. A few are surviving in Zones 5 and 6, but only in special sites.

This autumn, my camellias are blooming very early, most of my tubs were in bloom in February as I posted earlier this year in a camellia round-up, but even some later types are starting to bloom. Camellias are grouped into specific groups, representing either their flower shape, they heritage or their type. There are sasanqua's, which mostly bloom in the autumn, and then there are camellia japonica's, species, and many more. My sasanqua types always bloom in November, but this season even has some japonica's blooming. In January, many of these same plants were in bloom.
'MINE-NO-YUKI' MAKES AN IMPRESSIVE TUBBED SPECIMEN FOR FALL GARDENS, WHERE IT CAN REMAIN OUTDOORS UNTIL TEMPERATURES FALL BELOW 26 DEGREES F. I MOVE MINE IN AND OUT OF THE GREENHOUSE, AS THE WEATHER SHIFTS. THIS AUTUMN HAS BEEN REMARKABLY MILD, SO THE SASANQUA'S ARE OUTSIDE AGAIN.

November 26, 2011

Family Ties - A Hyacinth Family Reunion

RESNOVA MEGAPHYLLA, NOW ALMOST FULLY EMERGED, DISPLAYS TWO LEAVES, NOT UNLIKE OTHER RELATIVES LIKE THE MASSONIA BELOW, BOTH SHARE PHYSIOLOGICAL FEATURES LIKE DUAL APPRESSED LEAVES AND BLOSSOMS THAT LOOK LIKE SHAVING BRUSHES AT GROUND LEVEL.
 Like any family, whether we like it or not, there are similarities amongst relatives. While I may share my physiology with my brothers, sister and my dad, the goes for plants. As I walked through the greenhouse this morning, I noticed how many of the rarer relatives of the Hyacinth family all share similar traits with the common Dutch hyacinth which we are so familiar with. Here are a few shots which demonstrate the botanical connection between some South African bulbs species all related to hyacinths. I could have included the Daubenya from the previous post, as well as some spring blooming specimens in my collection like Velthiemia, Dipcadi and other Lachenalia, but I wanted to show what is growing right now, near each other.
MASSONIA JASMINIFLORA, ALMOST READY TO BLOOM

IN THE SAND PLUNGE, YOU CAN SEE THE SIMILARITIES

LACHENALIA  PURPUREO -CAERULEA  HAS CURIOUS PUSTULATED FOLIAGE -LITTLE BLISTERS WHICH CAN BE ORNAMENTAL.