Tuesday, 5 February 2008

Washingtonia Filifera – Doesn’t like getting wet !!!

It seems that suppliers of the palm don’t seem to care whether they give you a Filifera, Robusta or a mongrel of the two. It can be very confusing as at first sight they look almost identical to each other. However, from my own experiences with these palms they are very temperamental to the British weather conditions. Filifera can quite happily shrug off -7c so long as it doesn’t get wet. If you have rain followed by a measly -5c then it will defoliate... old leaves, new leaves, the lot will wilt, go brown and hang there looking very sorry for itself.

The year before I kept one inside the house for the Winter. Despite being ‘dry’ atmosphere lovers it decided to shrivel all of its leaves up into brown paper. I was really surprised by this behaviour?

This is a real pity as I think this is one of the more attractive fan palms with its dark orange trunk and light green leaves. On a good note though, it will return when the weather warms up. It will initially push out a mass of small leaves and then give you one or two big ones again. It can take it 2 years to start growing proper size leaves again.

This palm is a fast grower in the UK, as fast as the Trachycarpus family. However, I would not recommend it for the NW of England as we always get wash-out Winters which means this palm will not really thrive and seeing as bringing them indoors or leaving them outdoors during the Winter defoliates them unless you are a fan of totem poles I would not bother..

Strange baby Cycad growing behaviour!

During the Summer of 2007 I decided to give some newly hatched cycads a good soaking of heat in the greenhouse to try and encourage them to grow a new leaf. Some decided to respond. However mealy bugs decided they liked the taste of a particular species – Cycas Panzihuaensis – they quickly consumed the new emerging leaf before i even noticed they were there. The mealies didn’t bother the other cycads for some reason? Anyway, about 5 days later i saw that the same cycad had decided to put another leaf out!!!! Well this was a real surprise to me. I checked it for mealies and none seemed to be around. Well, within the next couple of days i went in there and saw the leaf had been chewed up yet again. This time however I thought to myself... “hmmm maybe it will grow another one?”... guess what... about 5 or so days later a third attempt emerged. This time the Cycad stayed with me wherever I went :D

This little escapade did get me thinking though... what would happen if i chopped emerging leaves off? I intend to try it out this Summer. I guess it will either stress the cycad out or... hopefully... make it grow faster. I know i can encourage new leaf production by defoliating grown cycads, but it never occurred to me that perhaps the same is true for baby ones too??? I’ll keep you posted.

Saturday, 2 February 2008

Clivia Miniata

Another awesome underplanter to tree ferns is the Clivia species. There are a few variations, but the C. Miniata is the most commonly available.
This can be planted out during the Spring, Summer and Autumn and brought back in for the Winter. You can plant it direct or sink it in pots.
The dark, thick foliage is very rich and contrasts very well with the brown trunks or light green fronds of ferns. During the growing season it likes to be kept moist and shaded. If the Summer sun hits this plants leaves then they will fry and never recover.
Clivia flower in the Spring, red, yellow or orange clumps. They spread mainly through suckers which can be separated into new plants, though I think they look nicer as a huge clump. They prefer to be on the dry side for Winter, so bring them in and forget about them.

Friday, 1 February 2008

Agapanthus Africanus

Commonly available and root hardy this particular type of Agapanthus is perfect for both ferneries and palmeries. I'm not so interested in the flowers, more the dark shiney broad leaves they produce. These look fantastic when set in large clumps around rocks between palms or tree ferns.
If you want Agapanthus to flower you need to give them good sunlight. If you don't want them to flower (like me) give them shade. They do not like boggy ground even though they look like lillies. They don't like dry ground either so ensure good moisture by clumping them close to each other.
In the Winter the foliage will usually die back at around -5c. The roots will remain intact though, even at -10c. In the new year they will spring up more leaves fairly quickly and sucker roots will spring up new plants.
You can keep them in pots if you like, but they spread faster if you leave them in the ground outside. Agapanthus are still fairly expensive in garden centres, which is a little irritating as they are always planted out as medium to large sized groups in any planting scheme.