R got a new fish eye and popped this as a test.
It looks worse than it is.
My delightful nascent colony. Opens in the later afternoon for nocturnal moth pollination. Looks like a maternal bohemian darlek. Smells like boiled-down jungle honey, gingery vodka and alien varnish.
A pleasant MMXIX to you all. Yes I had to google the numerals. I am wasted. what do you want from me
Another dig through this and last year's pics reveals a wee trove of half-forgotten images so here they are. Some of these are flowering for the first time in our garden: great success.
above: Aloe cameronii (although some peeps are calling this variant something else now, saying it was mis-ID'd in cultivation. This is the less waxy, greener form, anyway).
below: Aloe mawii in full swing. One of my faves- my plant is heading up like a freak and will soon have about 4 new points.
above: Aloe conifera
below: Aloe andongensis. A really superb non-drama species that deserves a lot more attention
above: Aloe dawei
below: Aloe speciosa detail
above: Aloe aristata (proper) just budding up. I have the straight species and not the one usually labelled as such in trade and I find it harder to grow than the latter more common plant. It loves to lose its roots for no apparent reason.
below: Aloe hemmingii. Spectacular little fellow.
above + below: Aloe Burhii, details from the amazing UFO-style flower truss that appeared last year. Another of my favourite species with its fat, spineless dinosaur leaves and delightful flowers. Undemanding and delicious.
Another couple of firsts this year: above Aloe succotrina and below Aloe pulcherrima,
an Ethiopian plant. Last image is Aloe rupicola, flowering for the second time.
Mine flowered for the first time this year with the stalk emerging in late autumn/early winter, snaking slowly upward to become a brilliant coral red spike in mid-spring, which was appreciated by the local honeyeaters. The stalks apparently branch in time to form a more spectacular candelabra-type arrangement.
My overall impressions of Aloe rupicola are moderate size, attractive foliage, decent growth rate, cold-hardiness, undemanding cultivation (mine's in a shitty plastic pot with proprietary cactus mix) and ready flowering. It doesn't seem to suffer any of the spotty fungal leaf pathologies that afflict a number of other aloes in this humid coastal situation, which is an important bonus. The one thing it does not seem to appreciate is massive amounts of harshest midday sunlight, presumably because it has evolved as a semi-understorey species in open hill scrub in its native clime; mine is happiest in half day shade and/or filtered sunlight, perhaps even looking its best in these conditions.
A recommended species for those with neither the room nor the climate to accommodate the larger tree aloes and one that would look particular striking and serpentine planted in groups.
Midwinter lacuna. Which is not some sort of frosty camelid.
I'm totally in one right now and that's sort of alright even though I suspect it's only exercise endorphins that are standing between me and a bout of mild depression.
Should I be concerned? I can't decide. Lets look at some aloe photos. It's been a quite good year for the more difficult species with a long warm autumn inducing some nice flowering. This is Aloe fievetii from Madagascar, blooming for the second time. I blogged it a wee while back and it's been chugging along nicely. Got a branching inflorescence this time. Yay.
Below left: I have two supposed forms of Aloe cameronii, the waxy shiny sort of plasticky one that colours up deep red when stressed and the more matte jade green one. They're both flowering at the same time here and this emerging inflorescence belongs to the latter form; the former is thinner and more elongate. Some people like to split the species but I'm of the opinion that they're just extreme ends of the same plasm yo. Below right: Aloe conifera, getting there slowly as is its wont.
Above: Aloe Mawii, coming on strongly now and colouring up. Much excite.
Maybe you're hardened to the sight of good old Aloe x 'Gold Tooth' but it is a fucking spectacular plant despite its vulgar ease of cultivation. It glows hypnotically in strong afternoon sunlight, its peacock green coruscating against the bright gold of its toothy margins. And what's not to love about that fat cobby bud? All killer, no filler.
I had it in a pot in case we got a hard winter and it's done so well that I'll plant it out in spring. Nice species. Try it if you get the chance.
This week will be more photacular than tentextual so you'll just have to reconstruct my spitting and raving from memory.
The serpentine, asparagussy flower stalk is emerging at an almost alarming rate.
I'll post detailed pics of the inflorescence since there's not many images of this plant online.
And finally we have one of my pair of Aloe conifera, a Madagascan species with scented yellow flowers; another first-timer. The other plant hasn't budded up visibly yet but fingers crossed.
Not sure what's coming at you this week since a stretch of unwintery weather has given us a window to frenziedly undertake all the outdoor shit we neglected over autumn. Stay tuned.
Miscellaneous domestic observations.
above left Buttermilk echinopsis hybrid- first flower oh yeeeah.
freaky trade bead / elderly White Fronted Tern.
Battered by a final breeding season then a bad storm; passed away peacefully in a comfortable box overnight.
Proteaceae porn: pink King Protea and various allies in my mother's garden
Apparently not every plant develops the flask-like shape so I consider myself lucky that mine exhibits some junk in the trunk. Some fanciers dock the growing tips and even graft onto root stocks chosen from larger species to create a busier architecture; I personally find all this frankenstein shit distasteful and prefer the natural form. The original species baronii can top out three metres in its native situation but windsorii keeps to around half this height; the plant you see here is around 40cm tall. I don't expect it will max out any growth records due to our cooler conditions.
I love the way the spines seem to originate and divide laterally, as though it is mirroring itself. Weird.
Sadly, large Pachypodium specimens can command hefty prices and this has given rise to habitat poaching on an island already suffering apocalyptic degradation and species loss. With this in mind I would sincerely encourage you to resist the temptation posed by showy adult plants obviously jacked from a cliff face and offered on Ebay. Pick yourself up a smaller seed-grown specimen from a reliable purveyor instead and treat yourself to the experience of nurturing these strange beauties from infancy.
Which is easy enough to do, at least in the case of P. windsorii. It's said that they like a larger root run than you'd usually allow for a plant this size, and I support this contention after constraining mine in a too-small pot for a couple of years and seeing little growth and bugger-all flowering. Restricted subsistence also seemed to make my plant more susceptible to mealy bug drama at the growing tips as well, resulting in leaf retardation. I run a strict no-spray gladiatorial policy with insect pests and either bin or move on plants that cannot prosper without toxic intervention, so it was a relief to see this guy outgrow the initial infestation this year and go on to flower non-stop for about five months after a generous repotting. Check the underside of your leaf bases on a regular basis; I squash and wipe away any mealy bullshit with a narrow hard-bristled paintbrush (the type kids use at primary school), which avoids damage to plants and keeps hands clear of spines. I find outdoor living can clear a susceptible plant of mealy bugs- just be careful not to fry a formerly sheltered specimen with too much UV and introduce it gradually to full exposure.
Online sources suggest this species prefers acidic substrates. It's my experience that most of the succulent species available to the average non-fanatical collector are pretty adaptable in this respect, and if my windsorii is suffering in alkaline silence, there are no physiological symptoms. I don't practise additional feeding aside from the slow-release granules that are a feature of most quality potting mixes. The plant spends its dormant, leafless winters indoors on a windowsill (the colder months are wet here) in low light and temps that can get down to around 3ºC on a cold night to about 20ºC during the day when we have the fire on. Some peeps say to water occasionally during the leafless state in order to fend off root loss, but I never really have so... er... maybe I should?
Pachypodiums aren't really beginner's plants, strictly speaking, but if you've gathered a few clues about general succulent culture you should be able to manage the easier species. I'd rank P. windsorii amongst them.
We document the usual xmas dwarf cacti explosion and a few choice aloe flowers for your delectation.
Below left: Sulcorebutia Krainziana orange form Lobvia ancistrophora buds
Above left: Sulcorebutia candidae Above right: Echinocereus sp. Or could be a Rebutia hybrid.
Below: Rebutia pygmaea (or heliosa): many subtle charms. Euphorbia horrida hybrid
Below Sulcorebutia pasopayana
We've been so busy digging new rose beds that we almost forgot to check out the Aloe House.
Midwinter means my Aloe collection's thoughts turn to conjugation. More and more species are flowering regularly as my fleshy little friends begin to mature and that is very gratifying to any doting succulent parent.
I've written up some of these species already (okay, one) so hit the links to see more of the plant.
All photos are the work of the Lovely R.
(Please don't post these elsewhere without at least crediting and linking back to the site, thanks.)
The surpassingly beautiful Aloe albiflora, a native of the Madagascan highlands. Well, it was, until exterminated in the wild by mining and habitat degradation. Luckily it thrives in cultivation and mine flowers almost nonstop.
Above and right: The exceptionally beautiful flowers. They hold in this tight vertical formation until the individual florets begin to turn down and open in graceful sequence, dripping copious amounts of nectar. I always turn the racemes away from neighbouring plants so the honeydew doesn't leaves sticky puddles on their leaves.
The Lovely R outdid himself with these gorgeous images of our cacti going off from early summer.
Above left and top right: Rebutia & Sulcorebutia. Above right bottom: Mammillaria
Above: More Sulco/Rebutias. Below: Neochilenia/Eriosyce
Above & Below left: Rebutia. Below right: Echinocereus
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It is perfectly happy in a large container though if you can get away with it climatically, I do recommend planting all tree aloes out in raised beds for maximum growth and vigour. Speciosa is supposed to attain 6m in southern Africa. In the short time they've been cultivated in NZ quite a few have got up to around 3 m, so we may well see some monster examples in the next decade. It confers its beauty, flower size and tenacity when hybridised with fussier species (forming spectacular crosses with marlothii etc) and I grow a number of speciosa-x-? that have yet to blossom.
We recorded the emergence of the first flower in some detail, lol. As you can see, it ripens to a candy pink and then turns a lovely creamy ivory from the base as the individual florets open up and reveal their saffron pollen. This is the first time I've noticed pink stippling on the lower flowers but it's hardly something to complain about. If you're keen to try a tree aloe, start with speciosa. They're usually quite readily available, possibly the hardiest variety in a winter-rain area and certainly beautiful enough to warrant the space in your garden.
A place indoors is really overkill for this reliably hardy species (in our zone 9 situation) which will tolerate both scorching sun and half shade, staying greenest when regularly watered, meaning twice a month in summer and just a few times over winter. I suspect the tough waxy cuticle helps it retain moisture and stay in good order; though this specimen has been woefully under-potted for most of it's life, it's never developed any of the frustrating leaf pathologies that can mar so many other aloes.
After ten years it's pupped slowly into three divisions, separated and replanted to allow them more scope to develop. The wee guy to the right is the latest scion; I snapped it off from the basal section of the largest plant and gave it a couple of weeks to dry after removal, just leaving it to sit on the topping pumice. This brown bump is the first of its own roots and many other species will do the same if you don't excise or completely crush the narrow zone from which this tissue originates.
This colony featured in my Repotting your Aloes piece if you're keen to see how not to treat your vegetable children. If you're new to succulent cultivation and want a tough nut to practice on, look no further than Aloe hemmingii. It's got all the bells and whistles; beautiful, relatively easily obtainable and cheerfully indestructible.
Aloe neglect. If these plants were children, they'd be wards of the State by now and deservedly so.
To the far right above.... erm... yesss. A less innocent tableau; we have a much abus'ed and forlorn old Aloe somaliensis colony, veteran of some shocking mistreatment. It had been knocked over/shoved back in three times over summer with very few figs given, losing more soil with each incident and its poor roots getting more and more parched and broken. I've taken this guy for granted for years and it's time to do the right thing by it.
We'll do the harlana first. It's just a straightforward rehousing job and because this plant is not particularly fussy or showing signs of stress I'm putting it into a much larger pot, which it will fill out by this time next year.
You can use a smaller grade. I find it compacts a wee bit, and I prefer this size as a top dressing since it tends to stay put. I like to shake some old soil from around the roots of the plant in question into this new mix; it's probably just a superstition but since it preserves some of the microflora/PH from the previous environment it might just be beneficial. Who knows? Don't do this if your plant is struggling or displaying rot; you want a fresh start in that case. I am an incorrigible over-waterer so I always use ceramic pots and an open soil mix to give my collection a chance to survive my attentions. If your vegetable children are faced with a very arid, hot and/or neglectaroony type situation you might want to ease up on the drainage amendments. But to my eye, below right is some hot looking dirt, and if I were a xeric plant in a bar, I would definitely sway drunkenly toward it.
Below- Let's move onto the poor somaliensis. I'm choosing a luxury plastic pot for this guy, even though I hate them with a white hot passion. This species is a survivor and I don't tend to overwater this specimen for some reason. It's pupping away too; multiple plants and busy roots mean there's less chance of soggy empty soil.
Below left: Brush all the soil and pumice out of those leaves or you're setting your plant up for some unsightly fungal spots. I keep two sizes of paint brush exclusively for dusting junk from my succulents; it's generally not a good idea to draft one in from your DIY stash as any solvent residues can burn your plants. And finally, below right: the finished product. Some grateful potted-on aloes beside their former homes. Only another two dozen or so to go.
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They can be broken off by the impatient gardener and potted onto form more plants. I'm going to let this guy go crazy and form the Medusa-type mass that make big old specimens such a sight to behold.
One of the older aloes in cultivation, mitriformis is predictably undemanding. At least that's been my experience. It would probably be just fine planted out in a well-drained spot since our conditions are almost identical to its original habitat (maritime climate, humidity, sea fogs, not stupidly hot etc). But the flowering plant is such a pretty example that I'm going to cosset it in a pot for a while. Despite its reputation for favouring certain substrates (sandstone for mitriformis, granite for distans) almost exclusively when in situ, this species has done perfectly well in my care with little-to-no soil PH/composition consideration, so I doubt it's worth tearing your hair out trying to source special mixes. Like virtually all my succulents, they spend winter in an unheated open shelter and it doesn't seem to have fazed them in the least.
This is an extremely beautiful and rewarding aloe and an easy plant for the beginner.
* More wonderful flora here *
Though it seems almost sacrilegious to remove the hypnotic scarlet from the flowers, I think this is a particularly pleasing B&W by the lovely R. I used to think of monochrome as earplugs for the eyes- visual impoverishment- and I still think it's abused by the unscrupulous... but I'm coming round.