jottings

Posted in plant pieces

‘Tis the season for Semps!

By virtue of nomenclature, sempervivum covers every season, being evergreen succulent perennials which can outlast most UK winters. However, I have had a few losses which contradicts the ‘always living’ Latin definition.

A few of the named varieties are not as prodigious as some of the more familiar types like S. Atlanticum or the Arachnoideums. Twice I have lost ‘Engles’ – a favourite purple-grey variety and looking through the labels (kept separately now) I notice that a couple of others have vanished over the past 2 years.

the succulent wall garden

Sempervivums (aka houseleeks, hen & chicks) are alpines, requiring lots of drainage and sunny spots. I grow mine in shallow troughs or circular pots with gritted John Innes #3 but moving house in November 2019, these were rather unceremoniously plonked on top of a stone wall plot. They were then left to their own devices whilst I was away in New Zealand for the winter.

On my return I found that some had decayed whilst a number had been dislodged from the pots, along with their labels. This created a real challenge to identify which belonged where. So many semps look alike and I did in fact replant together a couple that were different varieties.

Sempervivums have currently come to the fore in popularity and garden centres are churning out nameless varieties in multipacks. However, taking time to observe their individual charms creates quite a different approach and so I tend to purchase named varieties for their colour and form as well as heritage.

Anyone who has tried to ID their semps from the internet will face an impossible task as not only do the images exhibit wide-ranging colour differences but most websites give next to nothing in detail. For example, I searched for verification that a label-less one was ‘Green Ice‘ yet only one site mentioned that in Spring the backs of the leaves flush purple – as mine have!

And that brings me to the title – Spring is indeed the season for Sempervivums as, chameleon-like, many will almost change appearance with fresh greens, reds, bronzes, purples coming to the fore, before the change down for summer flowering.

Useful links:
How to care for Sempervivum plants

Posted in in the garden now

Marching on to pastures new

The stormy March has come at last, With wind, and cloud, and changing skies; ~ William Cullen Bryant ~

After the late winter snows, the garden is coming alive again, and so too is the gardener. It’s been a few months since I last wrote up my garden jottings – partly in tune with the suspended animation of most plants late in the year but also because my plans to move house to a more permanent setting have hung in the balance for all these ‘lockdown months’. They were finally finalized 3 weeks ago.

Yes the ‘Garden in a Pot’ is shifting location again but this time many of the plants will be able to put their roots into the soil. I still intend to keep some contained as I have another kind of potted garden in mind – more of that at another time. Not for a while yet though as there’s building work in progress which means that July is pencilled in for the move.

Meanwhile, I’m arranging to transfer some of my bigger shrubs and trees (including the large leaf hydrangea above which is already leafing vigorously) over to the new garden very soon as its much more difficult when they are in summer leaf.

Winter was not all inaction though as the three varieties of Sarcococcas all flowered in their small bloomed highly fragrant way. The purple-stemed S. hookeriana has elegance as well and deserves to kept aside as a feature plant.

I’ve added a ‘Has Beens’ section to the plant register to include the ones I no longer want as well as the deceased. Recent casualties include a Delosperma and a ferny Corydalis.

My few narcissi bulbs have not done well and are mostly coming up blind despite feeding post flowering and natural die back. Muscari on the other hand thrive on potted neglect – and yesterday’s sun drew a drone fly out of hibernation to enjoy their blooms.

These non-gardening weeks have given me time to add more of the plants to the Register. There is an evident gap in late autumn plants, and I’ve already begun to buy more winter evergreens to extend that season’s interest in the garden.