14 March 2010

My pot plants don't smoke!

Pot plants [US friends: read 'potted plants', not marijuana] are loving all this rain, even if we are sick to death of it ourselves! That thyme (above left) has tripled in size in about two weeks, and the lavender (above right) is finally getting going after doing nothing much in the pot for more than a year. Both are tricky to grow in this climate, where the summer weather is exactly opposite to what these Mediterranean natives would prefer: our rainy hot seasons have already drowned several of my earlier attempts at both types. So now I only grow them in pots that allow good drainage in wet weather, and which I can move around in the garden according to seasonal conditions.

The same applies to pelargonia (geraniums etc.), but the plant below, which I have no memory of ever buying or acquiring, has really exploded just lately. And now I'm not even sure it's a pelargonium.

With long white flower spikes, which have appeared for the first time this year, the plant really has the flowering habit of a begonia. And the leaves and stalks, too, are begonia-like. So I'm no longer sure what this is. But with its two-toned leaves and a sprawling habit, it has nestled in nicely alongside a red-leaved neighbour on top of our water-tank-cum-terrace. In the close-up of this plant's leaves, you can see a resemblance to the leaves of two of my begonias (below). And you can't see the plant's fleshy stalks, but they're also begonia-like. 
It was probably a mistake to plant this 'cardboard palm' (actually a cycad rather than a true palm) in a container – even though the container is a large old concrete washing trough that I acquired I-don't-know-where. The cycad was only about 30cm wide when I planted it in the left half of the double-sink that sits in a corner of our gravelled parking area. At the time I thought that cycads were slow-growing! I planted a mini-variety of lilly pilly into the right half of the trough, thinking its vertical habit would balance out the cardboard palm's horizontal habit. I have since found out that these cycads can grow to 2m in diameter – and mine is well on its way to that. And pruning of the lilly pilly has resulted in its developing a horizontal habit too. Worse, the overhanging fronds hide from view that pointy corner of the concrete trough, which is a menace for unsuspecting visitors trying to execute a Y-turn in our cramped driveway. So this arrangement may well have to be reconsidered. (Good planning was never my forte!)

Here are two container plants that are no danger to anyone. On the left is the reliable old trooper, Moses-in-a-cradle – 'a fleshy rhizomatous herb native to Mexico'. I have hundreds of these scattered around the garden in various tough spots. They all derive from cuttings given to me or planted by a dear friend who used to care for the garden and house during our overseas assignments. (And some two dozen offspring went off recently to populate a difficult area in my daugher's Brisbane garden.) The little clutch below left, from cuttings put in no more than a year ago, is flourishing in a low broad pot near the edge of a covered verandah where nothing else has ever done well – though I don't remember seeing any of the white flowers that this Rhoeo spathacea is supposed to have on any of my plants as yet. The plant on the right is one of several bromeliads Julian and Teri gave me as Christmas gifts in 2008. I've kept all of them in pots, where they do best, but tucked them into various spots in the garden. I hope this year they may flower as they are obviously quite happy.

The arrangement at right is doubly pleasing – first, because the newly built cypress pergola and balustrade surrounding our tank-top terrace is still a joy to behold, and second, because the bougainvillea and agave growing together in a big pot are as happy here as they were in the out-of-sight part of the garden from which I moved them so that we'd be better able to enjoy the annual blooming riot. But who or what wouldn't be happy in this north-facing sunny spot with shadecloth overhead and big trees on the western side providing dappled shade as the sun moves across the sky on hot afternoons. Indeed, when friend Geoff came north to stay with us for ten days at Christmas-time, he spent a good part of every day reading in the chair at the left in this picture.

I've left my 'pot of the year' till last. This one's a passionfruit that has been in the same pot for several years, during which time a nearby jasmine vine dropped some tendrils into it and these took root there too. But even though I've fertilised regularly and topped up the potting mixture each year, until recently this pot had lingered in another part of the garden with limited access to the sun-filled northern sky in wintertime and inadequate supports on which the vine might lift its arms into the light. Four months ago, when the new balustrade around the water tank was finished, I moved this pot to a sheltered spot down alongside the tank's side wall (that's it at the bottom of this photo, partly hidden by the red leaves of that ubiquitous cover-up whose name I can never remember). Directly above the pot, one of the poles that support the balustrade rises up, providing access to plenty of wire netting at head-height so both the passionfruit and the jasmine can climb up to get as much sun as they want. The result has been astounding growth.

There are geranium leaves mixed in there in the photo at right. But can you see the passionfruit too? The vine is happily colonising the balustrade's netting for several metres in each direction. New flowers appear regularly and develop into fruit that are already good-sized. This is one happy pot plant! And that means: one happy gardener.


Anonymous said...

It always amazes me how well pot plants spring back to life after rain - even if you have been watering the things, it's just not the same. I have a passion fruit that is growing like crazy but just never has flowered and therefore no fruit. I know you can help with the pollination by brushing the flowers and transferring to other flowers, but we don't even get to the flower bit.

Chartreuse said...

I think maybe what they say about real estate also applies to pot plants: Position, position, position! I don't know what persuaded mine to go beserk. I did add a good dollop of slow-release fertiliser when I moved it. And I put in blood and bone with the potting soil to top up the pot. Otherwise, it's just a huge pot which is partly shaded, with its leaves in the sun all day. The test will come in the dry season - will I remember to keep it watered?

Anonymous said...

I must admit I have done nothing to the Passion Fruit (unlike my citrus which I give lots of attention to).

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I started this blog in 2009 when I became a full-time caregiver. My husband had been diagnosed a few years earlier with primary progressive aphasia. Over the next four years until his death in 2013, we went on a journey of discovery about this rare condition. My blog is about what I learned, how we both coped and how the journey deepened our love and appreciation of each other. Allen’s journey is over, but mine goes on.