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Rachel's Journal

Rachel's Journal November 2009

Last Post 2972 days 22 hours ago

Hard Frost

30 November 2009 23:39:56
expected from Santy...

expected from Santy...

There's a hard frost outside now. It's covering the whole garden - the first this year.

I went out to the greenhouse but had difficulty getting in as the rock I put in front of the door was frozen to the step. It registered -2 inside the greenhouse. It's a bit early in the winter for that kind of temperature, surely! What more is in store for us?

I had one large roll of plastic with me. It was very hard to know what should get additional cover. In the end I wrapped it over my box of cuttings. It went around the sides and over the top 4 times. Hope it doesn't drop further.


30 November 2009 11:14:21
west garden

west garden

The thermometer in the greenhouse registered 0 last night and, indeed, there is frost everywhere in the garden. The roads are bad too and hubby had to help someone out of an overturned car on his way back from the school run. The driver wasn't hurt but it took a tractor-high-loader to right the car and clear the road.

My morning was less dramatic. I took a walk around the freezing garden and a few pictures. The tree tie on the Acacia has snapped and the tree is leaning. Last spring I found this poor tree practically lying on its side. It has very shallow roots. I will need to find a sturdy tie and right it.

Christmas Get Together

29 November 2009 12:31:39


29 November 2009 10:56:05
Haemanthus humilis & montanus

Haemanthus humilis & montanus

It's a miserable wet day here in Wexford - the kind of day when you say to yourself - at least I've no bulbs left to plant.

I thought I would give an update on how my Haemanthus bulbs from South Africa are doing.

The Haemanthus humilis and both the Haemanthus montanus have started to grow. These are among the easiest of the Haemanthus and I should get flowers the summer after next. I'm keeping a daily eye on the others : )

Gardening Talk

28 November 2009 18:03:08
kitchen window

kitchen window

I must confess to not doing a lot in the garden today. It was a cold night and the temperature went down to 1 degree inside the greenhouse.

This morning I did a thorough and careful watering in the greenhouse, removing fleece to get at the plants, and wiping up any spillage afterwards.

Then it was off to a gardening talk on hedging, given by Frances MacDonald of the Bay Garden. Turn out was poor but large numbers are expected in Springmount next week for the floral demonstrations...

Carol Bone, the International award winning floral artist, will be here on Saturday 5th December at 11am to inspire us with her demonstration on how to decorate the home.  It is a unique opportunity to see Carol in action.

That's all from me except to enclose a photo of how I housed my new Orchids - many people, including hubby, seemed to worry that I would not have space for them. I reckon I could get another 5 on that window sill : )

Making a list...

28 November 2009 17:48:24
Arboretum Gardens

Arboretum Gardens

So far the number of confirmed people for our Christmas get together is 12. In keeping with the festive season I'm making a list, checking it twice...

ClaireE ?
Fran M
The Cottage Gardener

I am really looking forward to our Christmas get together now and to meeting everyone. I do hope we have a good turn out.

I spoke to the Arboretum, Co Carlow this morning and they are very happy to have us. They will place tables together in the restaurant so that we can all sit together, although no one is under any obligation to buy more than a coffee.

If you should be on this list, please let me know. Also, if you intend to bring people, please let me know too so that I can advise the Arboretum of the numbers to set places for.

I am assuming that everyone listed above will want to take part in the Chris Kindle (so if not, let me know). I have enlisted hubby's help to assign the Chris Kindle names because I don't want to have the surprise spoiled for myself in knowing who is buying for me. Shortly you will receive a friend invitation from Cuppa Tea (my hubby). He needs to befriend you so he can send you a private message with your Chris Kindle name. However, lets hold off on assigning names just for the minute as more people may wish to attend.

Jacinta's idea of everyone having to wear Christmas head gear is excellent. We'll all be able to recognise each other easily.

Finally, for the minute, would anyone who is artistic and can get to the get-together a little early like to volunteer to make place names for the table. Just something with each persons garden.ie name and a bit of decoration - just to make it all a bit more special. I'm afraid I'm not very artistic myself. And if anyone has any other ideas...


27 November 2009 16:21:36
Aeonium Collection

Aeonium Collection

Firstly, we have 11 people confirmed so far as coming to our Christmas get-together on Sunday 13 December (see journal below for details).

It looks like this idea of Jacinta's is going to go ahead : ) I think everyone is dying for some gardening 'therapy' and Christmas spirit. More details to follow but please let me know if you do intend to come (or can no longer make it).

So, back to my Aeonium collection. I brought them indoors from the greenhouse. They are over a radiator but that will have to do them. I know, I'm chicken...

For Periwinkle

27 November 2009 16:13:42
Hardy Osteospermum?

Hardy Osteospermum?

Hi Dorothy,

Would this plant be the hardy Osteospermum by any chance?

If so, then I think I know what everything is : )

Christmas Get Together

26 November 2009 23:59:30
Arboretum, Co Carlow

Arboretum, Co Carlow

As suggested on KitKat's journal, what about a Christmas get-together?

I think a great venue would be the Arboretum, Co Carlow (I am, of course, biased as it's handy for me).

The Arboretum is a spacious, well stocked Garden Centre with extensive indoor facilities. They have a large open plan restaurant and it is deserted mostly at this time of year. There is even a free garden to visit on site with lots of grass planting for winter interest. It would be a straight run down from Dublin.

We could even get a little Chris Kindle thing going beforehand and just have a bit of a chat and wander. A great chance to meet up and kick off the Christmas season in a gardening vein.

Off the top of my head - Sunday 13th of December?Anyone interested?


26 November 2009 16:20:07


I was down to Lidl early this morning to get a good choice of the Cymbidium Orchids on offer.

My jaw dropped open when I saw the Orchids. A white one (see left of photo) had been placed to the front to entice customers in and it certainly worked for me. There were a lot of different Cymbidiums in similar colours and all beautiful however I only had to look for a few seconds before I spotted the most fabulous Orchid of all (see right of photo).

I quickly removed my favourite Orchid and put it on the ground to stare. Other shoppers must have thought I was touched. The subtle mustard tones and intricate markings, coupled with enormous bloom size are just to die for (in my opinion). While there was obviously no contest between my favourite and any other Orchid, a strange thing then began to happen...

The white Orchid I had seen first began to call to me: "Buy me, buy me", it pleaded. Now the intention had never been to buy two Orchids but how could I abandon the poor white one after it had spoken to me like that. So I bought two Cymbidium Orchids (close ups in Orchid photo album).

Hubby's comments were "where on earth are you going to put them". Don't worry, where there's a will, there's a way : )

Potting, Cleaning & Worrying

25 November 2009 16:56:09


I didn't do a lot of gardening today but did manage to finish potting up all the lovely plants Periwinkle so kindly gave me.

I then cleaned up the greenhouse and re-arranged it slightly, placing my large plants on upside-down pots in the greenhouse border. It just gives a bit more space.

Everything seems fine in the greenhouse but the Echiums are very thirsty. I have practically stopped watering everything else except the Echiums. I really worry that my Aeoniums will be alright. They are under two layers of fleece but I would be very upset to loose them.... Mind you - I'd be more upset to loose panels from my greenhouse like some other poor garden.ie members...

Hubby did a great deed while I was fiddling about in the greenhouse and mowed the lawn. It's quite rough but it's good to get a cut in at this stage - at least it lifts the leaves.

I'm all set now to get off to Lidl early tomorrow and get me one of those lovely Cymbidium Orchids for €12.99.

Taro Update

25 November 2009 13:37:19
Taro & Colocasia 'ruffles'

Taro & Colocasia 'ruffles'

For anyone interested in my experiment of growing plants from Taro roots, here is a photo.

On the left is Colocasia 'ruffles', bought this autumn for good money. (I think it's about to go into dormancy hence the brown edge to the leaves).

On the right is the plant I grew from a Taro tuber this autumn.

Obviously the difference is minimal. The important question is whether the Taro leaves will grow big enough to be of use as a garden ornamental. 

Time will tell.

What I'm Reading Now

25 November 2009 13:30:14
Naming of Names

Naming of Names

The gardening book I'm reading right now is The Naming of Names by Anna Pavord.

I really enjoyed Anna's Tulip book so was nervous about starting The Naming of Names as I felt sure it could not live up to the high standard previously set.

However The Naming of Names is really excellent. The beginning is a bit repetitive but then the author gets into her stride and the pages fly by. Of course, this book, like The Tulip, will only really be of interest if you have a liking for history. I wouldn't normally read history books for entertainment but this one is different. The narrative is beautifully written and Anna's enthusiasm about her subject seeps constantly through.

One footnote I would make : I orignally thought this book would help me understand plant family classifications and the associated nomenclature. It does not. The book is a history of how the study of plant classification evolved but if you are not clear on those classifications yourself, the book will not help.

Christmas Shopping

24 November 2009 07:31:58

Overwhelmed by Generosity

23 November 2009 16:52:29
potting up

potting up

Today I am completely and utterly overwhelmed with the generosity of a fellow gardener.

Periwinkle mentioned doing her divisions a few weeks ago but what she didn't mention was that she sent a lot of those divisions my way!

Today was potting up time and I am completely overwhelmed by the volume of plants in the two great sacks that Dorothy gave me.

Thank you very much, Dorothy. I'm still sorting everything out but, rest assured, your plants will all find happy homes : )

Record Book

22 November 2009 16:36:56
Record Book

Record Book

When Drumanagh visited me this year, she brought me this lovely gardening record book.

I've never had anything so fancy before so I kept it safe to start using it in 2010.

However, I've weakened and started using it already. I noticed some sections at the back for "suppliers" - information I have no need to fill in a book. So I'm using these pages to keep note of my Orchid watering/feeding regime. I was getting quite mixed up trying to keep it on my existing calendar.

So, thanks once again, Alison, for such a lovely present.

Oh, and my Phalaenopsis Orchid opened its first bloom today (photo in the Orchid album). This one didn't flower for me last year and, in fact, I had completely forgotten what its blooms were like. So that was a nice surprise.


22 November 2009 16:28:57
Amaryllis & Hyacinth

Amaryllis & Hyacinth

The two Amaryllis (Hippeastrum) bulbs I bought in Lidl this year have given me cause for concern.

When I was choosing them, I opened the boxes to try to find ones in bud. I found one for the pink type but not a single one was in bud for the red but I bought one anyway.

The pink one (in bud) produced several leaves but I was worried as there was no sign of a flower spike. The red one refused to grow at all.

So you can imagine how pleased I was this morning to find the pink Amaryllis has produced a flower spike and the red one is sending up a leaf (don't know if you can see that from the picture - but it is) : )

In the picture you can also see my Hyacinth in a glass. This has decided to grow without roots! Now, I thought growing it without compost was weird enough but the Hyacinth is having the last laugh by producing no roots in response!


21 November 2009 15:17:50
Spring 2006

Spring 2006

On a windy, wet day, I was looking through my old photos and found some from 2006, the height of my Tulipmania.

Although my garden was really in its infancy in 2006, I did have quite a good display of tulips in that spring. To cheer myself up on this drab day, I have added them to my album "The Beginning", if anyone is interested in looking.

We need to remember that spring is really just around the corner : )

Veggie for Teenagers

20 November 2009 23:03:02
Ishtar's tomato

Ishtar's tomato

Last July my teenage daughter picked up some tomato seeds in a €2 store. Since she doesn't normally express any interest in gardening and was already planting them when I found her, I didn't like to discourage her. I didn't mention that I had actually sowed my tomato seeds on the last day of January!

Well, the tomato plants grew despite all counter indications and by the end of the summer they were setting fruit. Again, I was sceptical as my tomato plants were shutting down at this stage after a long summer's fruiting.

Matters took a turn for the worst for the tomato plants when my daughter went to study up in Dublin in September and the poor things were painfully neglected. However, now in November - can you believe it??? My daughter has had her first tomato ripen!!! There's a lesson in there somewhere!

Kalanchoe Seedlings

20 November 2009 19:21:42
Kalanchoe seedlings

Kalanchoe seedlings

I started my Christmas shopping in earnest today, which meant a trip to Carlow and no gardening.

But, yes, I did find a lovely Phalaenopsis orchid for €3.74 while doing my rounds (photo in my Orchid album) so the Orchid collection increases ;-)

Back home again, Wayne dropped in to return my youngest son who likes to play with Wayne's daughters. It's the only sure way to get rid of Sam, I fear : ) Anyway, we had a great chat about plants and Wayne entrusted me with his Kalanchoe seedlings. As you can see from the photo, there are loads of the little plants and they are all doing well. I'll see if I can grow them on a bit and we'll both have Kalanchoe a plenty in the new year : ) Thanks, Wayne.

On an "outside" note, I noticed one of those mad rogue oriental poppies in flower in my garden this morning and snapped a photo for the November 09 album. Their blatant audacity, despite the dreadful weather, always brings a smile to my face in November : )


19 November 2009 15:23:55

Bud Drop

18 November 2009 15:42:37
Brugmansia - 9 new buds

Brugmansia - 9 new buds

What a diabolical day! I spent a good hour this morning clearing all dead leaves from the greenhouse. I've even taken to putting the full watering can outside. Such is my fear of the dreaded botrytis!

Light relief was had by the purchase of a pale yellow Phal for €5, complete with pretty pot. I'm with Jacinta on this one. Nice pots cost money so if you can get one with a discounted plant then all the better.

I've noticed an element of bud drop on the plants I'm overwintering in the kitchen. I had to spray for aphids in there again today and, while doing so, counted 9 buds on my Brugmansia. I fear the poor thing is going to flower itself to death at this rate!

However, with the last round of flowers, most of the Brugmansia buds dropped, leaving just one that actually opened to flower in the end. Now my Tibouchina is dropping buds too. This kind of behaviour is due to general stress on the plants and isn't dangerous in itself - just a bit of a pain when you're looking forward to the flowers!

I can understand stress for the poor over-worked Brugmansia but I'll need to pay more careful attention to feeding and watering of both and hope that does the trick.

A Close Call

17 November 2009 15:46:10
Sarracenia & Darlingtonia, without the water

Sarracenia & Darlingtonia, without the water

I've had the fear of God put into me today. Or should I say the fear of botrytis! I think you must have had a hand in that, Bill. Didn't you just bring up the sordid subject?

Well, last night a chance comment on the Carnivorous Plant Forum, made me think. Someone was being advised to remove their Sarracenia from water for the winter. Sarracenia are normally kept in a tray of water to emulate their natural environment. My Sarracenia, which are overwintering in my cold greenhouse, were sitting in their trays of rain water.

Now I thought that such "dry" procedures only applied when the plants had to be wrapped and kept in a basement for reasons of temperature. There are a lot of carnivorous plant keepers in America, where there are temperature extremes, so the forums are usually full of this kind of information.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, if overwintered in a cold greenhouse, Sarracenia should be kept moist, not wet. The reason for this is to reduce the likelihood of botrytis, which loves stagnant water and cold temperatures.

I got such a fright! But I'm pleased to say that I have now lost the water and am breathing a sigh of relief. I also evicted a Water Hyacinth which I was planning on overwintering in a bowl of water. It's gone back into the pond and if it lives, it lives. If it dies, so be it. I feel like I have a charmed life this evening.

Root Cuttings

17 November 2009 14:24:54
Root Cuttings

Root Cuttings

We were blessed with the weather this morning here in Wexford. It looked nice and bright outside but, it was only when I got out into it that, I realised it wasn't too cold at all.

My aim today was to take root cuttings from my sea kale (Crambe maritima). The sea kale is a beautiful plant with glaucous, frilled, rubbery leaves and sprays of Gypsophila-like, tiny white flowers. But I am not the only one to appreciate this lovely ornamental. Helen Dillon grows a lot of it in her garden and, although she grows few veg, she has a big raised bed of kale which they force for eating (take note all veggie people out there). Anyway sea kale has large tap roots so the way to propagate it is by root cutting.

To take the root cuttings, I dug down beside my sea kale, exposing some roots. I then selected some pieces and snipped them off. Pencil thickness is best. It is very important at this stage to remember which end is the top and which is the bottom. A lot of the books recommend cutting the top of the root straight and the bottom slanty to be able to distinguish them in case you get them mixed up. I was feeling confident so I didn't bother : )

The next step was back to the greenhouse, making sure my roots were the right way up. I then cut them into 5cm pieces, again being careful of top and bottom. I filled 18 little pots with seed/cutting compost and poked my Crambe pieces down the middle of each pot. The top needs to sit flush with the compost level. I covered with grit and watered in. Well, I know we shouldn't count our chickens before they hatch but 18 additional Crambe maritima to use and swap would be a great asset next year : )

When I was digging down to find my Crambe roots, the weeds in their bed began to annoy me. As I was already out there, I took the opportunity to weed the bed. Quite pleased about that! And if it doesn't rain tomorrow, I will cover it with bark to help keep it weed free.

On the way back up the garden, I collected Rudbeckia and Aconitum seed and hung them in the greenhouse. My final job, as the rain caught up on me, was to pull up all the Marigolds from the border in the greenhouse, marking the final chapter in this summer's growth.

Just wondering now if I should cover the greenhouse border with weed-suppressing membrane. I should certainly water it occasionally otherwise the soil consistency is going to be as dry as a bone next spring. I wonder what other greenhouse owners do!

Goodbye Autumn

17 November 2009 11:16:22
cherry tree

cherry tree

A walk around the garden this morning reveals that autumn is nearly done. The garden is fast slipping into winter.

Although good light enabled me to take a few photos (November album), I hate the garden at this time of year. It is so drab and unwelcoming. The long grass makes it unpleasant to walk around and all I notice is the weeds peeping up between the bare monotony. It is so hard to imagine that the garden ever looked nice.

I have no motivation at all to garden outdoors now. This is a big change from last year. But I am going to do one final job before I officially retire for the year. I'm off to take root cuttings from my sea kale (Crambe maritima), if I can find it among the weeds.

On the Decline...

16 November 2009 18:41:01
Sick Aralia & Begonia Rex

Sick Aralia & Begonia Rex

I am having no luck with two of my house plants and they are slowly dying on me.

The Aralia developed some kind of white fungus were the branches join the main step. Gradually each little branch is withering and dropping off. I tried washing off the fungus but it's come back again. I'm not sure if anything can be done and it looks like I'm going to loose this lovely plant.

The demise of my Begonia rex is probably my own fault. For the last six months I can't seem to get the watering right. The plant either droops from not enough water or too much water. It has now lost all its leaves completely. I'm not sure it's 100% my fault as I used to care for it well and my Begonia tiger paw is doing well.

I fear the next step is the bin!

Repotting Orchids Again

15 November 2009 19:18:35


I didn't do much gardening today at all.

When I was out though, I bought two earthenware pots for potting up my newly bought Dendrobium Orchids.

I decided to pot these up as soon as possible because of the appalling state of their roots. The plants were in miniature pots, with roots spilling out everywhere, and the pots were so small that the plants didn't even stand up. The mix was also suspect but I didn't get a chance to inspect it properly until I took the orchids out for repotting. They were planted in pure sphagnum moss!

However, despite the fact that the moss was obviously retaining water, the roots seemed in good nick with no rotten pieces. When I recently repotted my Zygopetalum I noticed an unidentified mass in the centre, which I thought might be rotten roots. I now realise that it was shpagnum moss. Traditionally used as an ingredient to Orchid mix, no Orchid should be planted in pure sphagnum.

So I removed the Orchids, teased out the roots and removed the sphagnum. I repotted using a mix of 6 parts Orchid bark to one part perlite and put them in earthenware pots to compensate for top heaviness. This time I remembered to put stones in the base of my pots as they aren't special Orchid pots. I'll get there in the end!

Cold Orchids

14 November 2009 13:48:49
Cold Orchids

Cold Orchids

Well, I now have my cold orchids established in their permanent winter position. The temperature is supposed to range from 10-13 degrees and this unused bedroom looks like fitting the bill.

Although I'm still experimenting with the temperature and I'm not sure that north facing window will provide sufficient light for the Denobriums, it's a foot in the right direction.

As you can see I've also made humidity trays for the orchids from large pot-saucers and pebbles from the garden.

Problems, problems...

13 November 2009 15:31:24
Nepenthes stem cuttings.

Nepenthes stem cuttings.

I took Nepenthes stem cuttings today.

I cut the long stem on my Ventrata in three places, leaving 2-3 leaves on each cutting. I then put pure vermiculite in three little pots and saturated it with rain water. I poked the three cuttings into the mix and misted them. I then cut the end off the lower leaves.

The problems started when I put the three cuttings in my heated propagating case and realised that I couldn't shut the lid because they were too tall.

I spent a good half hour puzzling over what to do and experimenting with solutions that involved tall bottles at the corners, bent clothes hangers and lego bricks. Nothing worked. I can't cover the cuttings with individual plastic bags because they're too wide.

Still don't know what to do. A giant transparent plastic bag might be the solution. It's not my day. Any thoughts?

Loosing my Mind

13 November 2009 14:07:39
Loosing my Mind

Loosing my Mind

I am trying to organise a place for my orchids. Most of them are cool orchids, requiring 10-13 degrees during winter. Actually I probably need 10 degrees at night and 15 during the day to allow for a proper night/day difference.  Anyway, the point is that I no longer trusted my greenhouse max/min thermometer so I bought some new ones.

However, each time I tested the temperature in the orchid room (my daughter's old bedroom), I got a different reading. It was driving me nuts. So I decided to work this out for once and for all and moved four different thermometers into exactly the same spot in the orchid room. I had to even use my hubby's beer making thermometer.

Guess what? Two thermometers say 12 degrees and the other two say 14 degrees! Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah..............

Hyacinth Horror :-(

13 November 2009 11:33:26
Hyacinths in the greenhouse

Hyacinths in the greenhouse

I went to check on my Hyacinths today and to take a photo as several people are posting up their photos of the great progress being made.

My Hyacinths are being kept in the greenhouse (for cold) and the two in glasses are being kept there under a bucket (to eliminate the light). Now I have checked on them regularly but not thoroughly enough, it seems!

When I raised the bucket today, I was greeted with the sign of two little green buds at the tip of the bulbs. This is what I had seem before when I looked, but today I decided to look more closely at the roots as I didn't remember ever seeing the wads of spaghetti other gardening friends are displaying now. Well, I have very few roots and the reason is because my bulbs have mould on them : (  I'm not sure why that it but I imagine it is because I have filled the water level too high. I didn't have the water touching the bottom of the bulbs but I had spent ages getting the gap down to a wafer thin width. Maybe this was not the smartest idea because I seem to remember something called osmosis from school : (

Oh, well, at least I have 12 other bulbs, planted in bowls and they are doing well. I removed the mouldy Hyacinths from the glass and poured out a bit of water. I then removed the outer skin of each Hyacinth. The mould doesn't seem to have gone any deeper but how the bulbs might react to being skinned is another matter. I put them back on their glasses but removed the bucket. We'll see what happens.

The Dendrobium Alliance

12 November 2009 21:12:28
Dendrobium Orchids

Dendrobium Orchids

Firstly, you'll have to excuse my journal title. I've been reading a lot about orchids lately and I was struck by how very "star wars" a lot of their names are. The "alliance" term is also used in relation to orchids, suggesting some kind of aliens' pact, to my mind at least : )

Well I went on an orchid quest today. No news back yet from my niece in Dublin regarding Atlantic Homecare, so I decided to do what I could here in Wexford. As I recently exhausted Woodies in Wexford Town for bargain orchids, I decided to hit Carlow (neighbouring counties beware - I'm a woman on a mission). So after work I drove to Carlow and checked out Woodies. What a disappointment! There were no discount orchids there at all! Crestfallen, I bought a small thermometer for €7.99 and headed off to the Arboretum Garden Centre.

My reasons for going to the Arboretum were to have a look around (since I'd come so far) as I knew I would find few discounts there. Well I had a look and was disgusted to find the same thermometer I had just bought in Woodies but here it was only €2.99! And this in an expensive Garden Centre.

I headed home, with only an over-priced thermometer to show for the day but when I arrived in Bunclody it was too early to collect my son from evening study. So, with time to kill, I popped into Supervalue. And look what I found! Two beautiful orchids for €2.99 each. Okay, they aren't as cheap as what is being offered up in Dublin in DIY stores, but they do still have the flowers on so as least I can see what I am buying.

So, I drove all the way to Carlow and back to buy an over-priced thermometer and then, back home, I found two discounted orchids on my own doorstep! What a laugh!

Unholy Trinity

11 November 2009 11:15:21
The 3 girlies - Rebecca, Ventrata & Miranda

The 3 girlies - Rebecca, Ventrata & Miranda

I thought I would post a picture of my three Nepenthes, tropical pitcher plants, or the Unholy Trinity, as some philistines call them ;-)

I have grown these plants since March this year and they seem to be doing quite well. Perhaps visually the least impressive, the Miranda on the right is the biggest success story as it is a highlander plant and, therefore, more tricky than the others to grow.

These plants are great, producing leaves where the tips develop into long strings and then gradually form tiny pitchers! The pitchers then grow larger. Inside they contain a digestive enzyme to help the plant absorb nutrients from the insects it catches. But the whole operation, although in theory quite gruesome, is hidden from view by little lids on the graceful pitchers. And, Liga, there is no bad smell from these plants at all : )

Growing carnivorous plants can be tricky so it is said that if you manage to successfully keep your plants for a whole year (without killing them) then you qualify as an "experienced grower". My immediate challenge is to bring these tropical plants through an Irish winter.

Overwhelmed with Asters

10 November 2009 14:16:59
China Aster seeds from Russia

China Aster seeds from Russia

I received a surprise package in the post a few days ago. I quickly saw that it was from Russia so realised it must be from my friend Olga. Well, we all love to get packages in the post but I was not prepared for what awaited me when I opened the package.

Olga had asked me if I would like some China Aster seeds. I had readily said yes as I love the big blooms and had been unable to find the seeds here.  The annual competition of my local Horticultural Society used to have an Aster category so I had looked for the seeds.

Well, I couldn't believe the number of packets that tumbled out of that envelope. They just kept coming and coming. I am completely overwhelmed by Olga's generosity. I expected one packet, maybe two but instead I have the whole botanic gardens. So, thank you very much, Olga. I really look forward to trying the single colour varieties. And those red blooms - well, they're just my type of flower.

Twin Bananas

10 November 2009 10:36:05
Ensete ventricosum maurelli

Ensete ventricosum maurelli

I was just looking at my tender bananas this morning, both Ensetes and both currently residing in the kitchen.

At the beginning of the season I had a large banana and a medium banana. Both were potted on twice this year, both were planted in the garden and both were shredded by the wind.

But somehow now I have two bananas the same size. I'm not sure if one was stunted or the other was encouraged!

Bargain Trolley

09 November 2009 17:18:27
Bargain Trolley

Bargain Trolley

My daughter wanted to go to Wexford today as she had the day off. This was a great opportunity for me to visit the Woodies in Wexford and check out the infamous bargains trolley there for cut-rate Orchids!

Well, I was very disappointed to find none - just one type of Orchid, in full flower, at very unreduced rates. I did stop to rescue a reduced Sarracenia, mislabelled as Venus Fly Catcher, for €350.

After I had paid, I spotted the trolley and there, waiting for me , was a single Orchid for €2 : )

It has a brown mark on one leaf - surely a scorch mark, but I reckon it will do well with a bit of TLC.

Orchid Error!?!

08 November 2009 11:42:52
Cymbidium or Vuylstekeara or what?

Cymbidium or Vuylstekeara or what?

I think I have made a mistake on identifying one of my orchids. Maybe one of the garden.ie "resident orchid experts" will help me out ;-)

I bought this lovely, scented orchid from Lidl/Aldi a few years ago. The picture shows it when it flowered again for me last May. The orchid was marked "Cambria".

Now I couldn't find any "Cambria" orchid in my books so I assumed it was a Cymbidium.  Just this morning, looking through my orchid liberature, I came across a Vuylstekeara orchid, known as "Cambria". Mine does look like the Vuylstekeara one, although a different colour. Oh dear, they all do look somewhat similiar. A google reveals that the Cambria may be some type of hybrid. Can someone help? What type of orchid is this? If it's not a Cymbidium, thank goodness I rescued it from the cold greenhouse last night : )


07 November 2009 18:25:22


Last year I inherited a Zygopetalum orchid. It was already in poor shape when I got. The tips of the leaves were brown and it hadn't been watered for several months but it was still alive.

Not knowing anything about this particular type of orchid, I submitted it to the same regime as my Phalaeonopsis and Cymbidium orchids. I placed it in a light place, misted it daily and watered regularly, using the leach method.It refused to flower.

Having done a little research it seems that the main problem with the orchid is that it is pot bound, therefore not getting enough water. Zygopetalums need repotting every three years and mine had not been repotted for longer than that. It also seems that they like cooler temperatures, being able to tolerate a minimum of 1 degree! Maybe it should have been getting the summer-cool treatment like my Cymbidium should have!

So, today I re-potted my Zygopetalum. I used 4 parts orchid bark to 1 part perlite, thoroughly moistening the mix before I put the orchid into it. I then took the orchid out of the pot and spent some time prizing the bits of stale bark from between its roots. It's roots were right up against the side of the pot, confirming my diagnosis of pot-bound.I then put a mound of moist mix in the centre of the new pot and put my orchid on it, adding more mix around the side. I pressed everything down really firmly and left the re-potted orchid in my cold greenhouse to rest.

I took photos, which are in my new album. A cause for concern was a dry mass of perhaps mummified roots, just under the plant. Its structure was quite different from the other roots, visible in the photo. It did occur to me that this should perhaps be cut out but, as it was directly under the plant,I didn't have the nerve. I hope it was not rot. Now I had better go and buy some feed!

True Grit

06 November 2009 17:39:48
True Grit

True Grit

As it was so wet here, I concentrated on a few greenhouse jobs today.

The first thing I did was to put grit over the top of all my cuttings - something sorely needed to stop moss etc growing.

Actually the agapanthus I grew from seed needs to be potted on as I noticed some roots trying to escape from the pot, but it's not really the right time of year for that so I'll leave it to spring.

I also collected some penesetum, squirrel grass and echinacea seed and sowed a tray of sanguisorba and sarracenia that Gismo gave me.

Finally I cut back my fuchsias and wrapped them up, together with a few more plants, using fleece. Oh, and sick of the sight of my bougainvillea, (which only gave me three flowers this year despite a lot of tlc and has now decided to shed all its leaves), I moved it out to the greenhouse and wrapped it in fleece. Lets see how a bit of rough treatment goes with it...

What if...

06 November 2009 09:44:43
What if...

What if...

What if you could rub a magic lamp and have one gardening wish come true?

I know exactly what I would wish for...

I would wish for a micro climate just in my garden - where the days were gloriously warm and it rained just at night. As if an invisible greenhouse bubble had been somehow passed over my garden.

I could then grow all the species that we coddle indoors in this country and more... My garden would abound with palms and orchids and plants that I don't even know the name of yet but I'm sure I glimpsed on some sci-fi programme on the telly when I was a kid.

There would be little need to go on holiday as I would already have the weather right in my own garden. We could take picnics all through the winter and go swimming (because I'd have to get a pool) in darkest January. Barbecues would become very popular at mine though and I'd probably have a lot of uninvited guests but it would all be worth it.

So what's your gardening wish?

Taro or Colocasia

05 November 2009 12:00:10
Taro or Colocasia

Taro or Colocasia

Recently I bought three edible Taro tubers in order to plant them.

As Colocasia is a type of Taro, I will be pleased to see what I actually get from planting the edible tubers. My hope is that it is a cheap was of getting ornamental plants.

Two tubers were planted using the tray method and one was just kept nice and moist. Colocasia is esentially a pond plant. All three are doing well and one is pictured here as it begins to unfurl its second leaf. Will keep you posted!

South African Bulbs

04 November 2009 16:27:18
South African Bulbs

South African Bulbs

My order from South Africa arrived today.

I am suitably delighted, especially since other things weren't going my way. The French CD for my class tomorrow turns out to be the wrong one so I am going to have to mimic various silly voices in class tomorrow, rather than play the tape. I was feeling quite pissed off and then my package from South Africa arrived.

So here's what I got : Haemanthus coccineus, Haemanthus sanguineus, Haemanthus albiflos, Haemanthus humilis and two Haemanthus montanus - the complete Haemanthus collection, or near enough, you might say!

The lucky mix I ordered included a Velthemia bracteata, Brunsvigia gregaria, Nerine filifolia and lastly a Nerine bowdenii.

I potted everything up in a mix of 3 compost/1.5 grit and topped with grit. Feeling quite self satisfied at the moment : )

Winter Protection

03 November 2009 17:50:39


I didn't get to do much gardening today as other work called.

Bought some more fleece and wrapped more plants in the greenhouse. I still don't have enough!

I will probably look back and laugh at this over cautiousness in years to come but as it's my first greenhouse winter, I'm taking few chances.  The following lists are primarily for my own reference.

Plants wrapped in the greenhouse are : Physallis peruviana, succulent collection (mostly double wrapped), Nerim oleander, Canna, glory lily, date palm, sago palm, 1 Echium, 1 lion's tail, Begonias, hardy banana (bit of a joke really!), Pomegranate, 4 Eucomis & 1 Eucomis cutting, tender Rhododendron and most of the Acidanthera. The other two Echiums in the greenhouse have their roots well wrapped in double fleece as I ran out and couldn't cover them completely. My small cuttings are in a large plastic box with a lid in the greenhouse.

In the house : Hibiscus, Ensete, citrus, Colocasia, Amorphophallus, Brugmansia, Bougainvillea, Musa rubra, Tibouchina urvilleana, Gardenia & Hedychium.

Well, I think that pretty much covers everything including the kitchen sink. Ah, yes, that nearly got covered in fleece too : )

Giant Spider Attack

02 November 2009 17:45:27
Giant Spider Attack

Giant Spider Attack

Couldn't believe the state of my greenhouse today.

Some giant spiders have attacked!

Look at the size of their webs!

Think I'll be giving the greenhouse a wide berth.


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