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Rachel's Journal

Rachel's Journal January 2010

Last Post 2942 days 6 hours ago

Big Party

31 January 2010 18:40:16
pass the parcel

pass the parcel

Just got through with my son's birthday party.

Thankfully the weather held and the kids got to play outdoors.

Gardeningwise? Well, someone gave me a packet of Hyacinths, which was very nice.

Crash, Bang!

30 January 2010 19:22:24


Recently Cloncaw posted a journal on how her beautiful pink Amaryllis fell over in the night and broke.

Well, the same thing happened to me today but I had a lucky escape.

My pink Amaryllis is just opening and I had it tucked behind some other plants on a cupboard where the flower spike towers over the other plants. I thought the ceramic pot it was in and the support of the other plants in front would stop it falling. Wrong!

I was just watering my Orchids by the sink when...crash!

Luckily my daughter happened to be standing beside the Amaryllis when it fell and she managed to catch it. What a lucky escape!

I have now staked the Amaryllis and tucked it back in it's place where I hope it will behave.

More Big Boys

30 January 2010 12:26:52
Ricinus Communis Carmencita

Ricinus Communis Carmencita

My Castor Oil Plants (Ricinus) are really taking off. Only five of the seven seeds seem to have germinated but the other two may follow. It's only been five days since I sowed them after all!

The vigour of these plants has taken me by surprise and I now realise I'll have to pot them on immediately - probably tomorrow - to avoid stunting their growth.

I love seeing big seeds grow because you can actually see what happens in so much more detail.

Aroids & Giants

29 January 2010 18:22:50
Aroids & Giants

Aroids & Giants

I was delighted last night, just before going to bed, to see the first of my Frangipani seeds have germinated. My delight was soon increased by the emergence of most of my Ricinus seeds. Hurray! Half of the Pelargoniums have also germinated at this stage but the Cleome is very erratic. I only have a hand full of seedlings to show for the two trays I sowed.

It was a day for potting on. I started off with the little Bonsai tree I recently bought and then potted up my Canna Panache, which has survived our Arctic winter and is showing signs of growth. My attention then moved to the three plants I grew from Taro roots. At this stage their leaves are bigger than those of the Colocasia I bought last autumn and they look identical to me. The Taro roots were fairly banging at the base of their pots so I was glad to give them a bigger pot size and some John Innes no. 2.

Finally, I potted on my Tetrapanax rex - the wonderful Christmas pressie from Head Gardener. It is growing well and needs more space. The Tetrapanax has aphids at the minute, due to the fact that it's in close proximity to my Tibouchina. I don't think my Tibouchina likes me too much because it finds my house very stressful. I cut it back to teach it a lesson and washed the aphids off both plants.

So, what I want to know is, when is this competition starting?? Bill, Linda, who will grow the biggest Tetrapanax rex this year??? I've shown you mine. Lets see yours!

Open for Business

29 January 2010 09:42:17
Nepenthes X Miranda

Nepenthes X Miranda




Open for Business...

Poor Man's Orchid

28 January 2010 20:43:22
Schizanthus pinnatus

Schizanthus pinnatus

Encouraged by the fact that my tray of Rhodochiton has germinated nicely, I decided to sow Poor Man's Orchid today. I haven't grown this plant before but, being an Orchid freak, they had to be tried!

I sowed 28 cells of Schizanthus pinnatus, 2-3 seeds per cell. They germinate at a lowish temperature (15-18 degrees) so I popped them on a window sill over the radiator. Roll on spring : )

I also sowed 23 cells (2 packets worth) of Giant Purple Millet, or Pennisetum Purple Majesty. I am relying on this 5-6ft plant as a key ingredient to this year's planting so it had better do well! I am also sowing early to give the plants plenty of time to gain size. There's no point in growing monumental plants but sowing them so late that they never reach their full potential.

Bonsai Bargain & Ushering In

27 January 2010 17:10:21
Bonsai & seedlings on Aldi greenhouse

Bonsai & seedlings on Aldi greenhouse

The day started well with the discovery that my tomato seeds have germinated.

Although great news, this called for a re-shuffle as there was nowhere to put the trays when they came out of the hotpress. It was time to reclaim my Aldi greenhouse!

I had been using my Aldi greenhouse as staging in the actual greenhouse since last summer but now it is needed indoors. The plastic covering is long discarded but the staging is very welcome in spring. I put it in front of my patio doors and use it to hold seed trays until they can go out to the greenhouse. This marks the ushering in of the growing season for me. It doesn't look very ornamental but needs must...

I had to do a few things today in Carlow so, while I was there, I popped into Woodies, just for a look...

I was just leaving when I spotted a discounted Bonsai tree. It was €2. Although I've never tried to keep a Bonsai, I do like the shape on this one and the leaves are proportionally miniature. It is in the most grotesque pot but I thought it would look good in the Chinese pot pictured on the left, which I've had for some time.

Not Red

27 January 2010 16:56:43
Hippeastrum (Amaryllis)

Hippeastrum (Amaryllis)


My third Amaryllis is finally opening.

Hurray, it's not red!

Nepenthes Pitchering

26 January 2010 15:07:41
Nepenthes X Miranda

Nepenthes X Miranda

It has taken a full six months for my lowland Nepenthes to settle into its environment and pitcher. Apparently this is quite normal as the plants do not like to be moved and take time to adjust.

The first pitcher has finally formed and the lid is opening, as you can see in the photo. The pitcher will continue to grow in size. I think its markings are quite breathtaking. There is a second pitcher on its way too (see house plants album).

Nepenthes can be difficult but they seem to like hanging from my south facing window over the sink, where the kettle and orchid humidity trays provide an ambient humidity of 70-90%. If the humidity isn't high enough, these plants can fail to pitcher.

Temperature can also be an issue for tropical Nepenthes and I was worried because my kitchen drops below the necessary 16 degrees in winter nights. However, all three Nepenthes plants seem to be doing well.

Nepenthes do well in aquatic baskets and indeed my Nepenthes X Miranda is planted in one, which is then hung. The downside is that whenever I water the plants, the water immediately drains through (as it's supposed to) and lands on the kitchen counter. But it's easily mopped up.

Timings for Seedlings

24 January 2010 21:17:00
Ricinus Communis Carmencita

Ricinus Communis Carmencita

It's very important to get the timing of seed sowing right. Sow too soon and you end up with more plants than you can pot on or dozens of little pots cluttering up your house. Sow too late and your plants don't reach maturity or flower/fruit for the whole of the flowering season. It's a fine tight rope we walk.

Of course everyone's circumstances, plans and space allocation are different but I thought I would make some notes here on what has worked for me.

I find it most useful to sow into 24 cell propagation trays, 2 or 3 seeds per cell and then prick out down to 1 seedling per cell. I have a propagating tray that accommodates 200 seedlings for 2 weeks. I have used it but find that having to re-pot two weeks after germination is far too demanding for me. If, instead, I sow into the 24 cell tray in March, the resultant plants can usually stay in that tray until they are planted outside after last frosts. Anything I sow before March (except tiny seeds, which grow slowly), will have to be potted on at least once before planting out.

I also find that it helps to grow plants as cold as possible from late February onwards. I remove the lid of the seed tray as soon as germination occurs. I also move seedlings out to the greenhouse in late February but keep an eye on the night-time temperatures.

I have found that I can germinate hardy annuals in the greenhouse (without heat) from late February onwards. If they germinate out there, they can stay out there to toughen up and don't need to come indoors at all. I did many experiments on this last spring, which you can read in last year's journals, if anyone is interested. I have only experimented with hardy annuals.

Anyway, that's the way I do it and I have a lot of sowing to do this year. I sowed a few more seeds today for the tropical border I am planning - 10 Hedychium forresti (hardy ginger), 7 Ricinus Communis Carmencita (Castor oil Plant) and 4 Cobaea Scandens alba. 

All were soaked for 24 hours beforehand and sowed in the same seed tray. As they are precious seeds, I put one per cell. I am able to put them all in the same tray because they germinate at the same temperature so can go on the heated mat which generated 25 degrees. If one type of seed germinates before the others, I will cut the seed tray and remove the part with the seedlings from the heat.

Easy Day

23 January 2010 17:42:54
orchids in flower

orchids in flower

I didn't do very much today at all. Spirits were dampened by the fact that our cat died and the kids were very upset.

Watered some orchids and was pleased to find that four of the ones Jacinta gave me are now showing new shoots. Three aren't doing too well but I'm expecting shoots any day now from the remaining six.

I got a pleasant surprise from my one and only Canna. I bought it dormant, at the end of last season, and I put it in the greenhouse. When I rescued my succulent collection at -8.4 degrees, the Canna came indoors too. Now it's throwing up a little shoot.

Will get around to sowing more seed tomorrow.

Calling all Orchid Buffs

22 January 2010 16:41:03
bulbophyllum (cirrhopetalum)

bulbophyllum (cirrhopetalum)

As some of you may be aware, the annual national Orchid Fayre will be held at the Botanic Gardens in Dublin on 10 and 11 April this year.

Two orchid nurseries from UK will be there to sell their plants - David Stead & Burnham's. If there is a particular Orchid you want then you can order it in advance from one of these nurseries and collect it during the Orchid Fayre. This is a particularly interesting deal as Burnham's stock a lot of young plants at prices starting form £4.

You can select plants from the nurseries' websites and will pay the price quoted on the site with no shipping or handling charges. You pay the euro equivalent on the day you collect your plants at the Orchid Fayre...

David Stead    http://www.davidsteadorchids.co.uk/  

Burnham's       http://s298312835.e-shop.info/shop/page/1?shop_param=

It is a great opportunity to try orchids that you might normally not be able to find. Needless to say, I have already placed a nice little order with Burnham's for myself, including a specimen of the amazing Bulbophyllum Elizabeth Ann Bucklebury, pictured opposite.

Lovely Surprise

21 January 2010 23:19:28
Ctenanthe oppenheimiana

Ctenanthe oppenheimiana

As I was sitting watching Silent Witness this evening that bit of fluff caught my eye again!

I'd noticed a bit of fluff on one of my house plants for some time but had never gotten around to actually do anything about it.

This evening I went over to remove, what would surely be a bit if forgotten tinsel, when... I was astonished to see a flower on my Ctenanthe oppenheimiana!

I didn't even know it flowered! I was given the plant a little over a year ago as a present and I really can recommend it as a plant that needs minimal care. And now, to top it all, a flower - happy days!


21 January 2010 18:18:37


To cheer myself up, I sowed my tomato seed today.

Eight plants each of Siberian, Alaskan Fancy, Reis, Black Krima and Oregon Spring (sent by mistake by the seed company). And four plants each of Peace Vine (thank you Dave & Mecky) and Suncherry (F1 seed collected by myself so will not come true). I sowed three seeds per cell, where I had enough seed, and will prick out the surplus if they all germinate.

That makes 48 tomato plants in total : )

Oh, and, inspired by Fran, I phoned hubby to pick up some Aldi evergreens. He got the last two Aucuba japonica and last two Photinia red robin.

Beschorneria yuccoides

21 January 2010 17:57:20
Beschorneria yuccoides

Beschorneria yuccoides

I am flabbergasted.

I returned from my garden tour this morning and made the post below. Afterwards I remembered my Beschorneria yuccoides.

I bought this plant at the Dillon garden last summer and split it in two. Helen had said that the plant is quite hardy if planted in well drained soi. But Will Giles goes into a lot of detail on how to protect this semi-tender plant so I knew there were no guarantees.

As an experiment, I planted the smaller half of the plant in the garden in a reasonably well drained place and took the bigger half into the greenhouse. The one in the greenhouse was unwrapped and froze solid at one stage when the temperature went down to -8.4. I rescued the plant before -10 was reached and it seems fine.

After my tour this morning, I remembered the smaller half of the Beschorneria that I had planted. More out of pig-iron, I went to have a look this evening. I was sure it would be a gonner. But no! Isn't gardening full of surprises.

Frost Damage

21 January 2010 12:08:05
Cycas revoluta in fleece

Cycas revoluta in fleece

The full extent of the damage done by our recent arctic winter is slowly becoming apparent.

I took a walk around the garden today. Besides the obvious gonners - like Echiums and red Cordyline - there are a few unexpecteds. Most of my Phormiums have suffered and, although my variegated Yuccas seem okay, a good-sized, new, expensive, green one is a gonner. The large clump of blue Agapanthus I got from my mother is also no more.

Thankfully my young Chusan palms (Trachycarpus fortunei) seem to have made it through, although a bit yellow. This is good as I have 6 or 7 of them. The young trees are quite vulnerable although the adult is fully hardy. My two large Cordylines, despite some damage, are also okay.

What I have found is that plants I thought were okay, have started to show signs of damage. My large Agave americana 'Marginata' had been in the greenhouse, covered in two layers of fleece. I eventually brought it indoors when the temeratures plummeted to -8.4. It seemed fine but soon spots developed on some of its leaves and now these have turned a sickening black. I think the plant will pull through but it is badly damaged.

The same story applies for my Cycas revoluta (Sago Palm). It seemed okay but, as you can see from the photo, it now transpires that I lot of its foliage is damaged.

But, on the positive side, our Jerusalem artichokes did well. Hubby dug them up yesterday and we had loads in a stew last night. I love eating them but they aren't called fartichokes for nothing : )

Girlie Smells

20 January 2010 15:24:47
Hyacinth & Dendrobium nobile

Hyacinth & Dendrobium nobile

I was delighted to see that some of my seeds have germinated.

I now have seedlings : )

The Salpiglossis sinuata and Cascabel chillies are up and running.

Spring will soon be here.

My first bowl of Hyacinth is also in full flower but, get this, hubby has pronounced that the scent is "girlie". He has also been known to say the same thing about sweet pea.

Some people!

Nep Stem Cutting

19 January 2010 17:20:00
Nep Stem Cutting

Nep Stem Cutting

For Jacinta.

Here is the diagram of where to cut a Nepenthes stem cutting, according to the Savage Garden by Peter D'Amato.

You can remove a whole Nepenthes stem or just the tip. In the diagram, the horizontal lines represent cuts to be made for three cuttings but, if you want, you can just do one. 

Make sure the stem-piece under the leaf is long enough. It wasn't quite long enough on one of my cuttings so it kept falling out of the pot.

Bottom leaves on the cuttings should be cut in half and, if you have a pitcher, you should fill it with water (rain water obviously) to increase humidity. Place your cutting in pure perlite, watered well  and cover with a plastic bag. The book says to use rooting hormone but, having spoken to other growers, it is probably best to use nothing. I didn't use the hormone.

The cuttings need plenty of light and heat will increase the rooting speed. Mine took 48 days with heat.

This process works well although some hybrids are harder to root than others and mine was an easy one. I don't know how easy Rebecca is. Good luck.

How to Repot an Orchid

19 January 2010 16:23:05
congested root ball

congested root ball

Guess what I did today? Yes, I re-potted my two newly acquired Cymbidiums and a third one which recently finished flowering.

I have never seen such congested orchid root balls before! I really had to laugh out loud when I saw them. That was only after I had cut off the original pots as I couldn't get the orchids out at all. Once out of the pots, it took me more than half an hour to tease out the roots and removed the mix from each orchid. I made the mother of all messes too, with bits of bark all over the kitchen floor and water spilled on the table. But it was easily cleaned up : )

Anyway, just in case anyone is looking for instructions on how to re-pot an orchid, here are the steps. I have also put up a photo album called "How to Repot an Orchid"...

1) Carry out the task in a warm room, preferably early in the day. Remove the plant from its pot without damaging roots

2) Remove all of the existing mix. To do this you will need to tease out the roots from their pot-imposed shape. You will need to do this slowly and carefully, to avoid breaking roots, by picking at little bits of bark until they come out and slowly loosening up the mass

3) Cut off any blackened roots

4) Soak the orchid root ball in a bowl of warm water

5) Prepare the pot. Use one that is slightly bigger than before. Wash it and, if it is not a special orchid pot with extra drainage holes, put a layer of stones, crocks or polystyrene at the base for drainage

6) Put a layer of orchid bark mix over the stones and add your plant and more orchid bark, firming down as you go. All of the roots do not need to come into intimate contact with the mix like with other plants. Make sure to cover any roots that were previously under the mix. Any roots that were sticking up should be left sticking up. If your orchid mix is very dry then you could moisten it with a little warm water beforehand but it should not be dripping

7) Place your re-potted orchid in a cool place and do not water for two weeks. Leaves should be misted daily. After two weeks, return to your normal watering and feeding regime but do not use the submersion method for watering for a few more weeks

New Cymbidiums

18 January 2010 08:54:17
cymbidium mini

cymbidium mini

I'm delighted with the two new Cymbidiums I picked up from Fran last night.

They are lovely things, with silky yellow petals.

Thank you so much, Fran, for getting them for me. It was very kind of you.

The plan for later today is to re-pot them, together with my existing Cymbidiums, one of which has gone over.

But first, it's off to the toy shop in Carlow as it's my youngest's birthday this Thursday.


17 January 2010 16:58:32


I was faced with a dilemma today. I had already soaked my Arisaaema seeds for 48 house so they needed to be sown yet I had no space on the heated mats. Oh joy to find that my tray of Rhodochiton does not need 25 degrees at all so it has been moved off the heated mat and to the window sill in the boys' room. I now have space for my tray of Arisaema speciosum and Pelargonium Black Velvet.

The photo shows the effects that lack of sunshine has had on my black Aeoniums. There just isn't enough light to balcken them up. We could all do with more sunshine, I think!


16 January 2010 19:48:21


I did a few gardening jobs today, including planting up the 40 Darwin tulips I recently got for free. They filled four large pots and only three of the bulbs were mouldy. I planted the mouldy bulbs in a small pot on their own. In my experience they flower the first year regardless. I'm looking forward to seeing these lovely orange tulips in spring.

The other task I did was to deal with some seeds I had been soaking. The seeds are Camellia sinensis (tea), which hubby wanted to try to grow after his trip to India a year or so back. Even if they germinate, it will take three years to get any tea.

The Camellia sinensis seeds are big hard things and require scarification. Scarification means nicking or scratching the seed shell to facilitate water entry and germination. Last year I scarified my Bird of Paradise seeds but they never germinated so I would not consider myself experienced in this process. It is recommended to use a knife or sand paper. I find a nail file handier. But it's quite tough work so I got hubby to do a bit of scratching (besides, it's his tea).

The seeds got sown in peat, sterilised by microwave for good measure, and have gone in the hotpress. The seeds require 20 degrees. My heated mats provide 25 and the window sill gives an inconstant 15-20 so hotpress it was!


16 January 2010 14:07:39
miltoniopsis & hyacinth

miltoniopsis & hyacinth

It was a desperate night here in Wexford. The wind was dreadful and I kept fearing for the trampoline and the greenhouse, hopefully not in that order of cause and effect. Wouldn't it be lovely if the wind blew the kids' trampoline through the greenhouse?

Thankfully no real damage seems to have been done. The wind has lifted the plastic membrane off my unplanted border again (and hubby says it's not his turn) but apart from that, the only problem is the dampness which got into the greenhouse. The greenhouse is complete open for airing out and drying as I write. But the day is lovely - it's like the wind has blown away winter. Wishful thinking, I'm sure.

My first bowl of Hyacinths has started to flower and my Miltoniopsis Orchid has opened a new spray of flowers ; )


15 January 2010 22:17:15


Here is a photo of the Kalachoe seedlings Wayne gave me on 20 November for growing on.

There are 20 sturdy little plants.

Wayne, is the parent the orange plant in your 'House Plants' album?

Garden Centres of the annoying kind...

15 January 2010 15:01:48


Well I've cheered up considerably today and will tell you why.

I popped into my local Garden Centre this morning to buy a bag of vermiculite. This Garden Centre, without naming names, is very expensive and they NEVER have anything at a reduced price. You could go in there in autumn until you were blue in the face looking for bargains on Ensetes or Cannas but they are always the same exorbitant price, whether they're half dead or not. By the way, I don't know what happened to their Ensetes and Cannas from last autumn because they're gone now and I doubt they sold them.

What also irritates me about this particular Garden Centre is that they never have prices on the compost. Now, I may be old fashioned but price does matter. So you have to go and ask at the counter what price the compost is. They then want to know which one. You say, how much is your cheapest but of course they can't tell you which one is the cheapest because they have to know the bar code for each compost, input it, note the price and then compare all the different prices, which is beyond what they're prepared to do for a mere customer. Why don't they just put the prices on the compost? Aaaah! I've walked out of there in protest before, without buying anything, because they can't tell me which is the cheapest compost. Mind you, it's the kind of place where they don't really care - water off a duck's back - so I'm only upsetting myself for nothing.

Anyway, I bought my vermiculite today without even looking at compost and, as I paid, the man pointed me to a large box and said would I like to take any bulbs for free!!! I nearly dropped out of my standing. So, after composing myself, I went over to the box and sorted through some fairly healthy looking spring bulbs. I helped myself to four packets of tulips and two of Camassia and double checked at the counter again to make really sure they were free before leaving.

Oooh, I am feeling so smug and self satisfied. I'll have to take a trip to the greenhouse later now to plant these lovely bulbs into pots : )

Brugmansia & Fragipani

14 January 2010 19:38:06
frangipani in plastic bag & cuttings

frangipani in plastic bag & cuttings

I didn't do too much today as I've a rotten cold and am out of vermiculite.

I did manage to sow my Brugmansia sanguinea (5 precious seeds) and Frangipani mixed (also 5 seeds). The Frangipani packet was supposed to contain 6 seeds but there were only 5 and a skin in the packet. I always feel hard done by when that happens with the low number seeds : ( 

But speaking of small numbers, I decided to try to grow the Chilean Mutisia linearifolia. Germination rates are supposed to be low with this plant so I was disappointed to note that I was only actually given one single seed! I didn't pay a lot for it though and bought it on the Estonian web site where, I am sure it states the seed numbers somewhere, if only I had been able to understand Estonian : ) Anyway, my precious seed is being stratified for 15 days at the minute (stuck in the fridge) and I will then try my luck with it.

Let it grow, let it grow, let it grow

13 January 2010 23:42:58
Cleome spinosa Helen Campbell

Cleome spinosa Helen Campbell

The postman brought more seeds for me today - so exciting!

I've soaked my Frangipani and Brugmansia seeds for sowing tomorrow but today I sowed two trays of white Cleome.

The instructions say that Cleome need variable temperatures for germination so to sow early to avail of proper night/day fluctuations. I'm not sure how that would have any affect if they were in a heated propagator. Anyway, my heated mats are all full up at the moment so I placed the two trays over the radiator in the kitchen. I think that might do it as it is warm there and the temperature does drop at night. Does anyone have any experience with these seeds or ones with similar requirements?

Anyway, to put my Cleome on the window sill, I first had to make a clear window sill - quite an achievement I can tell you. My daughter came into the kitchen just as I'd cleared the window sill and was amazed. I had to tell her I'd only cleared it of plants so as I could fill it up again with different plants : )

Other than that, I watered in the greenhouse today - long overdue. I even opened the windows for a while. Temperatures out there are quite civilized now so I moved my Sarracenia back out in case they beak dormancy.

It worked!

13 January 2010 23:29:33
last year's amaryllis

last year's amaryllis

Just to give you an update on last year's Amaryllis/Hippeastrum bulbs.

I have three potted up together but they were refusing to die back or resprout.

On 30 December (see journal) I cut back the foliage, watered them well and moved them to a warm, bright place.

I noticed today that all three bulbs are resprouting and, it looks like an offset to the side is also growing leaves. Although it's too soon to see how many flowers I will get, I can tell already that one bulb has two flower spikes : )

Tiny Seeds

12 January 2010 17:06:35
Salpiglossis & Eustoma

Salpiglossis & Eustoma

Joy - the postman arrived to day, delivering two of my seed orders!

So it's time for me to get cracking with seed germination : )

I sowed two trays of 24 cells each - one tray of Salpiglossis sinata 'Kew Blue' and one of Eustoma 'Double Eagle Mixed'. What tiny weeny seeds they were! Each packet contained 30 seeds so I had my work cut out for me ensuring that each of the 24 cells had a seed. But it is all done now, vermiculite on top and heated nicely on my reptile mats : )

First Seedlings

11 January 2010 15:05:50
Nepenthes ventrata cutting

Nepenthes ventrata cutting

As the snow is thawing, I decided to usher spring in by starting to germinate my first seedlings of the season : ) Although the postman hasn't been near us for a long time and I haven't received my mail order seeds, I do have some Rhodochiton seeds that Liga gave me at the Arboretum.

I brought the bag of compost for seedlings indoors last night and laid it against the radiator. By this morning it had ceased to be a rigid block. Once the compost was in the, tray, I floated it in a sink of warm water to further warm it all up. So now I have a tray of 24 Rhodochiton on a heated mat and my fingers crossed.

Although I previously said I wasn't going to grow peppers or chilis again, hubby suddenly produced some very fancy chilis he had bought at Tescos for the seed -  Habanero, Cascabel and Ancho (Poblano). He was so enthusiastic, we had to give it a shot so an additional tray was soon planted up with these chilis seeds. Don't know if they will come true from seed but so it goes...

I had a bit of a disaster today though when I lifted my Nepenthes cuttings. One just toppled straight out of its pot. On closer examination, it does have tiny roots so I had to replant it. A trip outside for the moss peat, met with no success as it was a frozen block. Hubby kindly went at it with the hammer and chipped off a piece, which I defrosted in the microwave in a Christmas pudding bowl! I replanted the cutting, a little deeper and trimmed two of the side leaves as they were making it unstable and prone to imbalance. Fingers crossed again.


10 January 2010 17:00:02
orchid shoot

orchid shoot

I got to thinking today about how resilient plants really are, compared to animals and people. I'm looking out at the snow falling and my garden, completely covered in inches of snow and yet I know that the vast majority of plants out there will come through all right. If I were to spend even one night out there, I wouldn't be around to tell the tale.

When things freeze, the water in them expands. This is why soft fruits don't freeze well. The expanding water ruptures their cell walls and, as soon as they are thawed out, the cell walls collapse completely and you get mush. However, while this happens with soft fruit, many plants seem to be able to survive this kind of tortuous treatment.

All the soil in my greenhouse is frozen solid. I realised this today when I went to get a bag of seed compost and realised it was frozen rigid. The same thing goes for the soil in the pots where my plants are sitting. So, even if a good idea, no watering would be possible.

Indoors, I was reminded of resilience again when I spotted a new shoot emerging from one of the orchids Jacinta gave me. I hadn't expected any growth for about a year but my little plants have surprised me yet again.

The Damage

09 January 2010 15:05:44


It hit an appalling -10 inside the greenhouse last night. In the clear light of day, I took a look at the damage done to the plants I brought indoors last night.

My Polygala myrtifolia and Rhododendron Lady Alice Fitzwilliam have suffered. But I would be cautiously optimistic that they will make a full recovery. From my succulent collection, both Crassulas are in a bad way. One may survive and one definitely won't. Last night when I brought in my Beschorneria it was frozen rigid so I really feared the worst. Today it looks okay as do the rest of the plants I brought in.But i couldn't bring everything in...

I gave all the rescued plants a good watering. They were scarily dry as I didn't dare water them for the last ages.

It is very cramped in my house now. There is not a free window sill, the bath is full and there are two large boxes of plants on the floor in my bedroom. I took down the Christmas decorations today. Maybe I can use the space where I had the tree...

On a brighter note, my first Hyacinth is in full flower. Isn't it a beauty?

The Rescue Continues...

09 January 2010 00:31:18
my bath

my bath

It's half past midnight and I've just come in from the greenhouse.

You guessed what happened?

I was sitting inside and worrying so I decided to go out and bring plants indoors. I took in one lot and came in, tried to move on but ended up going out again. I've just brought the succulent collection in.

Some plants don't look too good - polygala, tender rhododendron, a few succulents - but they may come round yet. My 16 agapanthus, which I've grown from seed, look like they've had it. I left them in the greenhouse to their fate. I couldn't bring everything in and it was hard to see in the dark.

I think Cloncaw wasn't far wrong - at this rate there'll be no space indoors and my family will have to move out to the greenhouse : )

Greenhouse Rescue

08 January 2010 19:36:36
Greenhouse Rescue

Greenhouse Rescue

I was sitting inside, watching the greenhouse thermometer plummet to -6. My new weather station means that I don't need to go outside to worry any more.

I decided to take action. I decided on the basis that I had checked plants in the greenhouse this morning and they all seemed alive (of course, only time will really tell the full extent of the damage but they did seem alive this morning, even after last night's -8.4).

So, with hubby's help, we mounted a 'greenhouse rescue' operation at 7pm this evening. We grabbed what was easy to grab - the box of cuttings and the box of sarracenia - and brought them indoors. I removed the many layers of fleece, newspaper and plastic from these two boxes and spread them over my succulent collection which is remaining in the greenhouse.

The two boxes of 'saved' plants are now in the utility room on top of the freezer. They can't stay there longer term as we can't open the chest-freezer now. But, I'm thinking, maybe I'll bring them in each night until the big freeze passes. I don't think hubby is overly impressed with this plan but we'll see how it goes.

Great Day for Gardening

08 January 2010 12:13:21
Great Day for Gardening

Great Day for Gardening

This morning I awoke full of energy and the joy of gardening. I wrapped up well and went out to the garden to weed. I double dug two borders, cut back perennials and cleared snow. Then I...

Only kidding. Minus 8.4 inside the greenhouse last night. Do you think I'm barking? Great day for gardening - not!

More photos in my January album.

Victor, the snowman

07 January 2010 15:25:02
Victor, the snowman

Victor, the snowman



Introducing Victor, the snowman!

Still Here

07 January 2010 15:10:39
where's the garden gone?

where's the garden gone?

Internet is back, thank goodness.

Snow, snow and more snow. Who would have thought pictures of snow covered gardens would become boring! I have put more in my January album.

We're snowed in again. Schools are closed and my daughter's college in Dublin closed. She made it back to Wexford this morning, by the the skin of her teeth - got as far as Camolin and is staying with friends as we can't get to her.

I made a big snowman yesterday with two of my sons. Gardening wise? I collected a bowl full of snow for melting for indoor plants. Does that count?

On The Menu

05 January 2010 19:46:25
black krim

black krim

I have ordered my vegetable seeds for this year. I realised that I have actually ordered from five different seed companies to get all my seeds. Although excessive, I think I have all flowers and food sorted now.

On the menu this summer...


Alaskan Fancy - heirloom, early

Siberian - heirloom, early

Black Krima - heirloom, black beef

Reis Tomato - heirloom, odd-looking, beef

Suncherry (seed collected from last years plants) - F1 hybrid, cherry, RHS award


Pea - Mangetout, Oregon Sugar Pod



Lollo rosso

Cocarde - French, oak leaved - delicious (have  grown this before)


Courgette - green, F1 hybrid, Bambino

Cucumber - heirloom, Boothby's Blonde

Squash - Turk's Turban

Pattypan Squash - White Custard

Pumpkin -  Goliath

Pak Choi

Camellia sinensis - tea. Hubby (cuppa tea) wants to try to grow tea so we are giving it a try!

From Last Year

I have tried overwintering a sweet pepper plant, two aubergines and a Physalis peruviana (plus cuttings). If they come through, we will have these to eat. I also have radish seeds from last year (kids love to sow them) and a raised bed each of Jerusalem artichokes and strawberries. But I won't go into fruit here!

I think this is enough for me this year. I enjoy eating fresh veg but it is not where my energies lie. I am much more interested in flowers and ornamentals. Hopefully if I can get the seeds grown, hardened and the greenhouse crops planted, I can then hand veg production over to hubby.

The Wandering Jew & other stories

04 January 2010 17:38:13
miltoniopsis & nepenthes

miltoniopsis & nepenthes

A low of -3.8 in the greenhouse last night and the water in the water butt was all completely frozen this morning. I had wanted to water some of my parched greenhouse plants but didn't feel like getting the hose out...

I did bring a chunk of ice indoors to melt and use on my Nepenthes and Orchids. A lot of Orchids needed to be watered again and the nepenthes had not been watered or misted for three days so they were priority.

As my daughter went back to college today, I was at a bit of a loose end, which could be seen by the fact that I cleaned all my house plant leaves, sprayed my bananas for aphids again (will have to buy something systematic) and even turned my attention to the Wandering Jew.

The Wandering Jew - what a gloriously romantic title for such a bedraggled looking plant! But the reason my attention turned to this plant was that I have seen them looking in mint condition and a worthy addition to anyone's indoor collection. I decided to take pity on my poor plant and to love it a little. So I potted my Tradescantia in a larger pot, with good compost, cutting away all faded growth and gave it a good water. The plan is to hang the pot in the hall where a nail awaits - a job for another day!

Private Parachutes

03 January 2010 23:26:43
Hordeum jubatum

Hordeum jubatum

I have to laugh at these grass seeds.

Each comes with its own private parachute.

Now I know when I got these seeds last year in packets there was no parachute attached but I'm not sure how I would take the parachutes off without potentially damaging the seeds.

The bowl to the right is full of Hordeum jubatum (annual squirrel grass). It looks for all the world like a bowl of my youngest's blondy hair!!!

Wheat from the Chaff

03 January 2010 23:19:24
helichrysum seed and chaff

helichrysum seed and chaff

I finally got around to sorting out the seed I collected.

Well, I've done the first part anyway, which is to remove the seeds from the dried plants and put them into labelled bowls.

Some seed collection went better than others. All my cosmos seems to have gone mouldy and I am not sure of the quality of the resultant seed. I think I'll have to buy in. The Helichrysum (straw flower) harvest, on the other hand, was very successful.

There is a fair bit of sorting left to do, however, as some seeds are inextricably mixed with their own private parachutes.


02 January 2010 17:48:51
Hyacinth, Kalanchoe, Schlumbergera

Hyacinth, Kalanchoe, Schlumbergera

I did a few little gardening jobs today with house plants.

My neighbour, Wayne, gave me a tray of Kalanchoe seedlings early this winter and, although they are growing fine, I feared that they didn't have much of a root run in the little tray they came in. This afternoon I potted the 21 tiny Kalanchoe plants into a larger seed tray, in individual cells, using a very gritty compost. The hardest part was summoning up the courage to venture out to the greenhouse for compost.

I also decided to pot on three of the Schlumbergera plantlets I have grown from cuttings RitaD gave me. I had three plants in each pot and four pots in total. That makes a lot of Schlumbergera! I decided to just pot on the biggest three as space is at a premium. Actually, I think I need not have bothered because the roots were not very extensive.

Speaking of Christmas cactus, I seem to be having little luck with my mother's Schlumbergera this autumn. There is no sign of buds. I think I have the light right for this epiphyte but maybe I should have potted it on. God knows how long this plant has been in that pot. But I know I read somewhere that Schlumbergera likes to be pot bound. I water it about once a week. The plant did actually give some flowers last autumn, when I got it first after a long period of neglect, so I'm not sure what to do with this one. Any tips? It would be nice to get flowers.

And to add insult to injury, my Sammy pointed out a Christmas cactus in glorious flower on the landing of our doctor's surgery last time we were there - where you can bet the plant is studiously ignored from one end of the week to the next!

Giant Snail for Fran

02 January 2010 17:28:18
Giant African Snail

Giant African Snail

Here you go, Fran.

This photo was taken earlier in 2009.

There is only one snail left now, due to an unfortunate accident.

Bad Orchid Day

02 January 2010 13:34:37
For Patiopally

For Patiopally

I must be having a bad orchid day.

Last night hubby accidentally broke a leaf on one of my Phalaenopsis - one that is busy growing two additional flower spikes, I hasten to add!

Then this morning when checking the thermometer in 'the orchid room', I managed to knock one of the Oncidiums onto the floor and spill its bark out. I quickly fixed it up but mustn't have balanced the poor Oncidium properly on the stones in the moisture tray because within a minute my daughter was calling me back. This time there were two Oncidiums on the floor and a big mess everywhere : (The most discouraging thing was to see how little the recently-potted Oncidiums have actually adhered to their new potting medium.

Anyway, hopefully all will be well now. I am just uploading a photo here for Patiopally. I think our snails must be twins. What do you think, Ann?

New Year's Day

01 January 2010 13:58:09
New Year's Day

New Year's Day

A few years back U2 wrote a song about New Year's Day. The video featured snowy landscapes that had been filmed in Scandinavia. There would have been no need to travel so far this year for those landscapes.

The kids were out in the snow before I got up this morning, making snow angels and generally freezing their butts off. I had to follow them out with the camera in my nightie and robe. You can see some photos in my new album.

I have also put a few more photos in my House Plants and Orchids albums.

Despite the snow, temperatures in the greenhouse did not drop below -1 last night. I only had -4 in there on one single night. But the worst is not over yet.

Well, must dash, it's time to get out the jig-saws now : )


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