Like most grasses there is no need for any Winter protection. Just let it die back and chop back the dead strands in the Spring when you see new shoots emerging.
Thursday, 31 January 2008
Like most grasses there is no need for any Winter protection. Just let it die back and chop back the dead strands in the Spring when you see new shoots emerging.
Not quite a tree fern, more of a stump fern :) This guy grows under the feet of Australian tree ferns and will eventually grow a short dark brown stump, from which will emerge loads and loads of very dark green, stiff fronds.
The interesting thing about this guy is that if you pin one or more of the leaves to the ground a baby one will grow from the tip. This means that you can fairly quickly cover ground with these guys. Keep the frond(s) pinned down until the baby takes root.
They should be grown in damp shaded areas. They are 100% imprevious to anything the Winter will throw at them. Their fronds last all year round and throughout the Summer it will grace you with 20 or 30 new fronds. I really love this fern. It ticks all the boxes and should be in everyone's garden.
Gunnera is related to the Rhubarb. Unlike the rhubarb it has very stiff leaves with a weird nobbly texture to them. This nobbliness extends down the huge stems to its massive corm. These nobbles seem to work together to channel rainfall down to the corm. It’s really wonderful to watch, as this technology even works when you take your hose and spray underneath the leaves!!!!
Gunnera can take strong sunlight, but may burn around the edges if it is dehydrated. It will need good sunlight if you want massive leaves. Keep Gunnera in the shade and you will get smaller, darker leaves which stay near the ground. Each year it will send out massive cone-like flowers which don’t look too pretty, but add to the jungle effect of the plant.
The leaves will melt at -2c, but this is not a problem as corm plants act like bulb plants in that they suck the foliage energy back into their centre, so the leaves would die back anyhow! The corm can take -10c easily unprotected, but if you are paranoid you can fold the mushy old leaves back over the corm to hide it from settling frost.
This is a good choice for the massive jungle look, but you really need loads of room to let it do its stuff. Shop around though as you can get good sized ones for good money. Look at the size of the corm rather than the leaves. Leaf size is dependent on time of year, water and sun.
Calathea require low light. Too much and they will shrivel. They also like humidity so the best place for them is in a fernery setting... with your tree ferns for example.
They are pretty cheap houseplants, so you can buy a whole bunch of them and pot them up together in a standard plastic plant pot. Then dig a hole in your fernery, put some gravel or wood chip into the bottom of the hole, then sink the pot into it. Simple as that and an instant interest among your fern collection.
Calathea spread underground, so once they get too big break them off into clumps and start all over again. I have also noticed that from time to time the whole plant will appear to die off. I have no idea why, but give it time and new leaves will emerge and it will look as good as new.
Remember to bring them in for Winter :D
This fern is supposed to be Winter hardy to -7c. I have not tested this yet, though I know they do remain undamaged at -4c. Some suppliers (usually online ones) tend to sell these as severed trunks. Try to avoid these as they will last that year and not recover for the next year. This applies to all Cyatheas and some Dicksonia species. Also, some Cyathea require the nutrients stored within exiting fronds to create new fronds.
Like Dicksonia Squarrosa the Cooperi tends to sprout new shoots from its base (roots around the base). I have seen snails attack these so watch out!!!
The only real downer of Cooperi is that it really hates the Winter. -2c will damage the fronds, browning them off on their tops. Not much more than this will kill it altogether (-5c). You should really take it into shelter for the Winter, such as a greenhouse, and heat it or cover it with fleece. I have found that the fleece can rot away the white hairs covering its trunk, but it doesn’t seem to mind this.
Cooperi is a difficult fern to get right. It doesn’t like the cold, it doesn’t like too much damp and it dries out fast in the sun. It is really one for a specialist collector.
A real positive point is that they are far more hardier to the Winter elements than Antarctica. I have had a few of these sitting in -10c without any frond damage whatsoever. Like Antarctica they are shipped around as bare trunks, but they are a little more stressed like this and may not revive, so try and get a rooted one if you can.
Again, they look nice in groups, but big ones are hard to find these days and are pretty expensive. Some places sell Fibrosa as Antarctica, so keep a look out as you may get yourself a bargain... the biggest sign being the squashy trunk :D
Common tree fern which comes in a whole variety of sizes. These are so common because they can just walk into the forests of Australia and hack them down into the sizes they want to ship. Mostly found with no roots or fronds. If you are selecting one you really want one with fronds that are just beginning to show rather than established fronds shooting out all over the place. You should also splash out and get a big one as these guys are very very slow to produce trunk height.
The foliage will die back when Winter arrives, though with each year of exposure they seem to adjust and keep their foliage for longer. All you need for Winter protection is a fat fist full of straw stuffed into the crown to protect the late Summer fronds from being beaten up by frost. You can also tie a fleece around the trunk if you wish, but this is only necessary if you live in very cold areas (regular -10c).
With these (and all tree ferns) you need to keep them moist to get the best out of them. These like to be sprayed on the crown and foliage. If you do this religiously then you will be rewarded with huge fronds. They are pretty wind resistant too, but make sure the whole thing doesn’t fall down and crush something if you are placing it in a windy spot.
When digging a tall one in jam bricks around the whole you are putting it into. This will help keep moisture around its base and also add stability until it managed to re-root itself.
Dicksonia Antarctica look very nice in groups of 3, placed close together in a triangle with different heights. If you can afford it try and place them like this to get the best visual effect. Partially bury rocks around them to encourage moss to grow around their bases to give them that authentic forest look. A couple of ground ferns to finish the look off. Very nice :)
Wednesday, 30 January 2008
I bought mine surprisingly enough from Morrisons in one of those funny tubular cartons they sell baby shrubs in. 5 years later and it is 7 feet high and 6 feet wide.
To get good flowering you need to put it in good light and feed it Azalea food (acidic plant food). Southern sun will black spot the leaves but it doesn't really bother it. Too much shade and the flowers will be sparse.
Written text about this plant says it is frost damaged at -5, but i have seen no evidence of this. Mine has sustained -10 without any issues, even as a newly planted baby.
This has to be one of my favourite shrubs and it is definitely worth tracking down. Grow it as a centre piece rather than stuffing it up against a fence and you will be the talk of the road.
Tuesday, 29 January 2008
In heavy frosts they curl their leaves up which can easily make you think it is being damaged, but I have never seen any damage on mine. They have suffered -10c at least with no protection and in pots, or even bare rooted !!! No amount of sun or cold can harm these guys and they look great too once they have gained in size.
Your only problem is mealy bugs on small ones (which the garden centres usually sell). Mealy bugs sit where the leaves join at the bottom of the plant and chew away at it. The first you know about it is when your baby Tenax starts falling to pieces. You can easily spot them if you pull the leaves slightly apart, but sprays will not help you as they do not penetrate where the mealy bugs live. Once past the baby stage though they will shrug off any mealy attack without worry.
P. Tenax looks great behind leafy foliage or behind / in front of an open fence design. Watch out though as they do get really massive and you should take this into account when planting them out.
The leaves on this variety are soft and slightly hairy. They tend to droop down unless watered well. Like most bog plants they exist as a blobby rhizome which initially sends out mini leaves to gather the energy to make big leaves. This guy get really massive so give it plenty of room. It likes strong light in order to flower, but too direct and the leaves will burn.
The leaves die off in Winter, but the rhizome is ultra tough and you need not offer any protection. There are all kinds of variations of this plant and most garden centres will treat them all as the same thing, so maybe a specialist store is the best place to track one down.
I have another variety which I cannot put a name to. It is similar in leaf structure, but the leaves curl inwards rather than outwards and stand erect rather than flopping about in a bunch. The flower spikes are also way way taller. If I find out what it is i'll let you know as I think it is far more striking and doesn't consume so much room as it likes to stand upright.
They really don’t care about the cold (mine have been in -10 unprotected), they don’t care about wet weather in Winter and their only enemy is slugs and snails. I think these pests only attack when they have nothing else to eat in the garden. They drill holes through the chunky leaves which can make them look very tatty. The slugs also really like the flowers and will eat all of the petals if given a chance before they bloom.
I love this plant. It is like a Yucca or Agave, but faster growing and no spines to stab you in the leg. It is a real pity that the main plant dies off after flowering as they are pretty fast growing and could (if they didn’t die off) grow to a formidable size in a relatively short space of time. Hmmm, i wonder if severing the flower before it blooms would preserve the plant? Most garden centres sell this plant, though rather highly priced, so go dig one out !!!
Monday, 28 January 2008
The following year new fronds did not appear from the top, rather the roots and lower side of the trunk. It later died due to being fried by the 30c sun of the following Summer. It is now a rotting stump despite my best efforts to revive it :(
So, with these findings in mind the next one i bought i monitored rather more carefully. I have discovered the following:
- It needs constant moisture. Do not place this guy in a sunny spot. It will quickly dehydrate and brown off the leaves. Spray it with your hose at least 3 or 4 times a week in the Summer... foliage and trunk(s) !!!
- The fronds and the top growing point of the trunk will die off at -4c if wet. Offshoots will die off completely at -4c tops. The roots will be tough enough to survive much lower temperatures than this but the main growing area of the trunk will die.
- Dicksonia Antarctica – Outside with straw stuffed on the crown.
- Dicksonia Fibrosa - Outside with straw stuffed on the crown.
- Dicksonia Squarrosa – Unheated greenhouse with no protection.
- Cyathea Cooperi - Unheated greenhouse with no protection.
- Cyathea Medullaris - Unheated greenhouse with no protection.
- Cyathea Australis - Unheated greenhouse with no protection.
- Dicksonia Antarctica – Unrooted specimens lost their fronds at -7c. Rooted specimens had some damage but no loss.
- Dicksonia Fibrosa – No damage to fronds at all !!!
- Dicksonia Squarrosa – Upper fronds browned off and lower fronds were OK.
- Cyathea Cooperi – All fronds browned off.
- Cyathea Medullaris – No damage to any fronds.
- Cyathea Australis – No damage to any fronds.
D. Fibrosa therefore won out with no damage to the fronds at all !!!! I was surprised by this. I was also surprises that the C. Medullaris had no frond damage at -4c. It is supposed to be a weakling, like the C. Cooperi.
Mine spent all last Summer in a cool, damp, shaded area of the garden, primarily due to the fact that i had nowhere else to store it. To my amazement it didn't seem to care? It pushed out 4 leaves that Summer (2007, which was a really naff Summer in the NW by the way). I then moved it to the patio this Winter and it has endured a constant beating of rain and temperatures down to -5 while being drenched with water (both soil and foliage). It has even pushed two more leaves out during this Winter !!!!
I am amazed at this palm’s perseverance contrary to common perceptions and hope, should we get worse negative temperatures, it will muscle through them too. I’ll keep you posted!!!
In their native countries they grow relatively quickly but in temperate climates you will need a sweaty greenhouse to get these boys moving.
Many people make claims of “cold hardy to -7, -10” and other ridiculous numbers for C. Revoluta. Trust me, unless your garden is desert dry in Winter your cycad will defoliate at 0 degrees. Wet Winters really stress this guy out, which is a real pity.
However, cycads in general are real tough guys. I annually defoliate mine (for storage really) and they will not be bothered by this as they push out new leaves the following Summer. I pile them into the greenhouse to help them along, so I’m not sure how long it would take to produce new leaves at say... room temperature?
Cycas Revoluta does seem to attract its fair share of pests. Mealy Bugs tend to sit in awkward to reach places so it is a real battle to eliminate them. Scale can be a real pig as they colonise the cycad within days. The only real remedy for scale is defoliation and a good soaking of systemic insecticide.
C. Revoluta is very commonly found in your local DIY store, but try and get a good sized one from a specialist as they are very slow to expand and you’ll be drawing your pension when they do.
Sunday, 27 January 2008
I was lucky enough to find two mature samples of this guy on a German website (about 2 feet of trunk) which I instantly bought :D
I have been growing cycads from seed for a good while now, but the common Cycas Revoluta is the only one we seem to be able to find of any credible size in the UK.
Anyway, back to Rumphii. As soon as I put these guys in the sun their leaves browned off. I suppose they were reared in a hothouse rather than under proper sunlight. Only one of them looked really tatty so I chopped all it's leaves off and bunged it into the greenhouse.
It is now bulging up in the middle and ready to spring forth new leaves... hopefully 14 or more... we'll see I guess.
The Rumphii should be able to take full sun, but it does like it's air moisture, so placement on the edge of water (though not in it) would probably make it happy. I would never leave these guys outside in Winter, though apparently they are supposed to be trunk hardy to some degree.
Saturday, 26 January 2008
They will only push out new leaves if the temperature isn’t too hot, why I have no idea? In fact the cooler it is the faster they seem to grow. During the Winter my 2 small examples of this palm continued to grow a new leaf (yeh they are THAT slow growing)... this was in very wet temperatures of -2. I am too scared to leave them out anything below that this year as they are so hard to come by.
When small - at least - they do not like the sun, they prefer cool, damp shade... just like ferns. If you put them in the sun then they get very upset and refuse to grow. Also, keeping them in the house is awkward as the dryness of indoors will cause them to quickly go brown and shrivel up. If you must keep them indoors you will need to mist them every day. Your best option is to keep them outside until the temperatures get too low and keep toggling them in and out as temperatures rise and fall.
Unlike other baby palms Winter rain and damp does not seem to bother them at all. My two have been very wet in their plastic pots for the whole Autumn and Winter seasons which is great news for the UK climate.
Well, if you manage to get hold of one of these guys I would recommend you plant it in a sheltered part of your garden with ferns and other moisture lovers. East facing rather than South and in an area where it doesn’t get too frozen. I have not experimented with heavy freeze conditions yet, but will do once they get too big to bring indoors - probably 10 years or so away :D
First off they need full sun and high heat and lots of it... something we very rarely get in the NW UK. For this reason they will sit dormant all year and just push out new leaves in the very late Summer which doesn’t really give them much growing time at all before the Autumn sends them dormant again. So, in the NW UK they will grow pretty slowly.
I have found that they do not like to be dug up once planted. They will go brown and defoliate when dug up and may never recover. If you MUST dig it up make sure it is done in Winter and chop off all leaves but the newest lot to stop it dehydrating.
Mine has survived -10 2 years ago without damage, however I have discovered that they hate early Spring freezes. This is when they start to suck up water again and if you get a wet freeze... even -4... it may go brown and appear to die off. However, like many palms, although they appear dead they will push out new leaves again if you get a hot following Summer, so don’t be too keen to throw them onto the compost pile should they go completely brown.
Thirdly these guys will eventually grow really huge... and I mean HUGE. You really don’t want to be putting them near your house. They form a really massive trunk diameter and a thick canopy of leaves. Many people prune them back so they don’t impose too much, which is OK in hot climates, but not really a good idea in cooler climates as the palm will struggle if pruned too hard. By pruning I mean chopping off all leaves which fall under an ideal 45 degree angle from the top of the plant. It looks nice but imagine how effective your hands would be if you had all but your middle two fingers pruned :D
Finally, these palms posses really evil long needle-like thorns which point in all directions. As the plant becomes bigger these thorns can inflict really nasty wounds. If you have kids either educate them or just don’t buy this plant.
I would recommend you keep it in a pot until it becomes unmanageable, then plant it out. Their leaves shoot to 12 feet or more before they start growing a proper trunk.
Well, I have been experimenting with these plants as outdoor candidates this year and they seem to be a lot hardier than one would expect. I have had a big chunky one (waaaay too heavy to drag into the house) sitting nicely on my back patio within a fat plastic pot enduring night-time temperatures as low as -5 so far without any noticeable foliage damage whatsoever.
Apparently they like dry Winters (which we never get in the NW UK) but their roots are so dense that i would be surprised if Winter rain had any real effect on generating root rot.
I must say that spiders love these guys. When i re-potted it in the late Summer I must have seen 200+ spiders run madly from it across the floor... only little ones though, thankfully!