Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Echeveria, The Other Hens and Chicks

So you probably figured out from a previous post I have been smitten by Sempervivums.  I really like them probably because they come in so many sizes, shapes and colours, they are fuss free and Oh, did I mention winter hardy???

Well I guess I knew that most of you knew that anyway.

What about this little guy, is he winter hardy??
Echeverias are tender succulent plants native to Mexico.  They form rosettes of fleshy leaves much like the Semps.   

According to one nursery in the province, they are. (Nursery shall remain nameless because for the most part they are a really good nursery).  Last year I was out cruising a few local nurseries in May, looking for something that maybe I didn't have. Here was a whole table of Echeveria.  I was thrilled.  They are here in the perennial section, not in the Greenhouse, so they must be hardy.  Must be new varieties.  But my sceptical mind reminded me to ask.  And I was very disappointed in what I heard.

I asked 3 different people there "are they hardy?, will they survive??"   I got "well, I'm not sure, but they are here in the perennial section so they must be." All three of them, and one may have been the owner, looked as if they had been employees for many years (not high school students).  One did indicate they could be border-line hardy.  I was sceptical and felt that they didn't really know their product.  I bought 4 anyway, I have a small greenhouse and would overwinter them inside. And I really wanted to get a few.  I did some research when I got home.

Most are propagated by cuttings and offsets and if they have not been hybridized, they can be grown from seed.  They are drought resistant but when watered, need to be deeply watered (as with most plants, that is the preferred method).  Even though they are considered a sun plant they do prefer a bit of afternoon shade at the hottest part of the day, because they can burn.  They are best grown in pots.  Use regular potting soil with a bit of grit added to it such as perlite or pea gravel. But most are hardy to zones 7-10. Definitely not survive in this part of the province and I doubt if they would in other parts.

I remarked to Jodi DeLong (bloomingwriter) when I saw her a month later at a gardening event. As I was speaking, she was just shaking her head, 'No they're not, No they're not.'  She had remarked in her blog a month later that there had been many nurseries selling plants that were not suitable to this climate for over wintering.  These types of plants need to be treated as annuals or brought inside for the winter.

Even though I was sceptical of the hardiness of the plant, I wanted some and I had an idea what conditions they needed.  Even talking to those people, they didn't tell me how to take care of them and where they would grow best.  I was very concerned of other people coming by and taking them home.  If they have planted them out, this spring they are going to have a jelly like mess.

Always ask questions at a plant nursery.  People are there to help.  Customer service is one of the most important aspects of a nursery considering all the different products they sell. If you feel you are getting  no help, then find a nursery that gives good customer service. Those who run specialty nurseries know their product inside and out and can help you select appropriate plants for your garden.  That is what we are here for.

Monday, April 11, 2011

When Nature Changes Your Garden

     Years ago when this Red Spruce was younger (and smaller), it had leaned.  We managed to straighten it and for a few years it was doing beautifully.  Last November during one of those gales (not even a hurricane), the poor spruce leaned again.

     This time the roots were exposed.  It could have been straightened either by staking (big stake) or by binding it to the oak tree behind it.  But I was not risking damaging the oak. So we decided it had to go.

In front of the spruce was a Bayberry (Myrica) we transferred from Andrew's Parent's cottage along the Bay of Fundy a few years ago.  It rooted in nicely and was doing really well.  I was not risking damaging that.   We moved it to another part of the garden and I'll cross my fingers and pamper it well.

On a nice quiet Saturday morning out came the power saw.  The bed around the tree holds my collection of mini hosta as well as some other perennials, so Andrew had to be careful where he stepped.  Yes he does know what he is doing.

 But, of course the tree had to get caught up in the tips of the branches of the Red Maple.

Maybe, just a little push??

Yes, that is all it took.  Down it came. 
There is really no joy when a tree comes down, other than it did not make any damage.

It just came short of the cactus bed.

Andrew decided to pull it out, wiggling it around the beds.  I was there cringing, 'don't rip anything out'.  Can't you just cut it up here?? No he pulled it out.  A branch or two brushed over the end of the mini host bed.  Some of those were very small and had heaved a bit over the winter (probably should have covered a few).  I guess I will have to wait a few weeks to see if they have made it.

The dynamics of the garden will change a bit, that hosta bed will get a bit more afternoon sun.  We will have to see how much as the season progresses.  It was a tall skinny spruce, not like the bushy ones at the corner.  If they went, then the shade garden would no longer be the shade garden.  We may replace the tree with another evergreen, but move it out a bit further.  We are not sure, we will have to think about it.  I know I want a native tree of some type, not some new cultivar.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Slightly Obsessed with Sempervivums

I am not a collector, I don't need one of everything.  Some people may say otherwise. But I have been slowly falling for sempervivums (Hens and Chicks).

Sempervivum Black

They are also known as Houseleeks originating in the Alps of Europe.  They grow from rosettes of succulent leaves (The Hen) producing new plants (Chicks) in a circular patern.   Usually grown in full sun and can tolerate hot dry conditions, they are great for rock gardens and troughs.  The old fashion ones can grow in light shade as long as they are kept dry.  I found that the hen tended to be larger producing fewer chicks.

Sempervivum ciliosum var. borisii

They are not usually grown for their flowers although the individual flower is quite attractive.  The flower stalk however, has drawn a few giggles over the years from those with a slightly perverted mind.  The flower stalk is an elongation of the hen so one thing to remember is that once the hen makes the transformation to a flower, she dies.  Hopefully, she has had her babies before hand and her daughters usually spread to fill in the space.  Some varieties will bloom more than others. I remember seeing at a nursery a few years ago, a single hen blooming in  4" pots.  Whoever purchased those would not have had anything left.

Sempervivum arachnoideum var tomentosum
Cobweb Hen and Chicks

And the great thing is they come in so many sizes, shapes and colours.  They are easily hybridized and grown from seed.  On the upside you get a lot of variation, on the down side it is difficult for a collector to be sure of the named varieties.  I currently have about 15 and have found a like minded person in BC that I am going to do some trading with this spring.

Jovibarba hirta

Jovibarba grows almost exactly like sempervivum.They distinguishing features that keeps them in a separate genus is the flowers.  To the untrained eye they look alike, but taxonomy says different.  The chicks are also formed a bit different.  They are produced on thinner stems and tend to roll off when able to make it on their own. Hence they are called 'rollers'.  They are green with the chick being reddish until they mature. It is harder to get named varieties with Jovibarba then Sempervivum.  I currently have 3 types J. hirta I, II, III.  Until I find and expert in this genus, that is what they will be called.

Jovibarba heuffelii

J. heuffeli are larger, very fleshy evergreen semp-like.  They do not produce stolons on which the chicks form but form new rosettes in between the leaves.  A sharp knife is required to separate them for multiplication.

Orostachys spinosa

 Again another semp-like plant, it folds on itself during the winter in a tight ball, gradually opening up into the summer.  It produces chicks at the base of the hen much like semps.

I am now on the look out for Rosularia.  Have just heard of them and I may be getting one in trade.  Again another form of a Hen and Chick.  Garden North has seed.  That is going on my April seed list.