Sunday, 11 January 2015

Indoor stuff.

The last of the tulip bulbs went in just before Christmas only to have many dug up and carried away by the squirrels, I will have to wait now to see just how badly the containers have been affected, you can loose a few in the open garden but with containers it ruins the show. I myself have pretty much always planted late, pure laziness, but it would appear to be the perceived wisdom today giving stronger stems and lessening the likelihood of disease.

Following on from the final bulb planting the first cold sowings have been done on the first of  January in the mini-tunnel. Mainly Meconopsis and Primulas from the Meconopsis Group's list have been sown as I believe in getting the seed in the ground on receipt which also means that they are subject to as much frost as possible. I normally sow on a moisture retentive compost, yes there is an element of peat here, and cover with a fine layer of grit. Many pundits and seed suppliers advise that fine seed, particularly of hardy primulas, should not be covered, but I have generally had fairly good germination except with the very difficult ones such as Meconopsis punicea which was probably due to the seed not being fresh enough. This year I am trying a compromise as an experiment and instead of sowing under the grit I have sown on top and then washed the seed in with a very fine spray as you would expect to happen naturally so I will be looking forward to seeing the results. Not necessarily this year of course!

The main job at the moment seems to be going out to secure my mini-tunnel which has attempted to take off a couple of times in the last few days, I have bought a new one but decided it would be daft to put it up before the Winter as the old one will struggle through and take all the battering. There are one or two things happening in the garden but I am saving a photographic walk round until we get some calmer days with a bit of sun so I thought I would show you a few indoor plants which to be frank I am not really too interested in and have collected them through "lucky-dip" society offers or as presents but there seems to have been quite a bit of chat about orchids recently so I thought I might add my five-penny worth.


Dendrobium Spring Dream 'Apollon'

   All the orchids, which are in flower now, are in an East facing half-bay window either on the sill itself or in the case of the Cymbidium on a table in the bay. They are sheltered from the early morning sun and there is a central heating radiator running below the sill. The ones shown have flowered at least once previously and I have had something in flower for the four years since I started accumulating them except for a period of about four months last year when nothing seemed to want to flower. The Cymbidium has only one spike at the moment which is a bit disappointing, but I tend not to worry too much and if anything these plants are rather neglected. They are watered once a week, when I remember, and fed sporadically, when I had just two or three they were soaked in the sink religiously but this is not really practical now. They should be misted, particularly being adjacent to a radiator, but this doesn't happen which probably accounts, along with neglect, for some premature leaf loss but this does not deter them from making a reasonable show. I have re-potted several, particularly when they start to get a bit ugly, but although I am quite ruthless I have a 100% success rate in re-establishing them. There is no doubt in my mind that these plants are very tough and survive well even in our poor indoor environment.

After the beauty of the orchids comes the disaster:

Veltheimia bracteata flower emerging.

Veltheimia bracteata almost there.

Veltheimia bracteata finished. (Today)
Grown from a packet of "lucky-dip" seeds these two plants are winter flowering bulbs which are flowering in their third year from sowing. I had never come across Veltheimia before although it is quite widespread through the Southern Hemisphere and the Mediterranean and is apparently used as part of bedding schemes in more climatically suitable regions. The leaves are quite beautiful but the bottle-brush flowers leave something to be desired, the main problem being that the best strain is a deep red and as you can tell mine are very wishy-washy and nondescript. They look untidy after the first few weeks of flowering as the dead flowers detract from the new ones yet it doesn't seem right to remove them, I suppose one thing in its favour is that the flowering process takes four or five months from the emergence of the stem. I do apologise for missing out a picture in the sequence but I am sure you get the idea and I was so under-inspired I forgot to take a picture of them in their "prime".

I am already getting impatient for the better weather and it's only January!


  1. Unfortunately here, the squirrels and chipmunks share my taste for small species tulips over the big ones. However, since we are in the woods, we also have several predators working hard to make sure the tulip bulbs don't get all eaten.
    Veltheimia bracteata does seem disappointing. If you could grow it outdoor, just the leaves would make it worthwhile, but perhaps not indoor when the room could be used for more of your marvelous orchids.

    1. I have seen some pictures of clumps of the pink/red form of Veltheimia bracteata growing outside under trees and have to say that they look pretty good, on top of which they are a very undemanding shade plants. My experience is coloured by growing it as a house plant which to be quite honest doesn't do it justice, particularly with the pale form.

  2. Not that it's any consolation Rick but I've read lots of blogs where those pesky squirrels help themselves to the bulbs. Such a shame. I do hope your containers aren't affected. Do you put a layer of chicken wire beneath the planting surface, I've read that helps. Jessica over at The Rusty Duck had her husband fashion planting baskets which would encompass the bulbs therefore making it impossible for those critters to get too.
    I'm impressed re house plants. As soon as an indoor plant crosses my threshold, it's death warrant has been signed!
    All the best for 2015 Rick.

    1. Hi Angie, squirrels are the bane of my life and it would not be an exaggeration to say that I can see no argument to support their existence. I have set up a defence system for some of my containers a picture of which will appear on my next post, you will laugh:). I seem to be lucky with the few indoor plants that I grow but they are really there to be tolerated rather than nurtured as I wouldn't buy one by choice. All the best to you Angie for 2015 and may your garden continue to flourish.
      Slàinte mhath.

  3. Hi Rick, the squirrels were digging like mad to get at the bulbs which I planted in Autumn. I am seeing plenty of the Daffodils popping through, I think a lot of the Tulips may be gone though. I share your lack of enthusiasm for house plants, although Orchids are very special.

    1. Hi Alistair, the blessed things are now uprooting my cyclamen, not for the corms but for something that they think is buried next to them, I will swing for them one day! My daffodils are coming through along with some iris and crocus so please lets get into Spring. Orchids I now like because they thrive, no thanks to me, and not by choice!

  4. For someone so casual about your orchids they look superb. I think you have the plant knowledge to instinctively get things right. I did have a comment on my own blog by an experienced orchid grower who advocated treating them tough!
    I think one of the keys is growing them in the right place and your east facing site sounds ideal.

    1. When I look back Roger when I was about thirteen years of age and worked in a garden shop on Saturdays houseplants were my love because I took home all the failing ones and nursed them back to health, at first Mum was really flattered until she realised I was not always bringing home gifts. Rochford's were the main suppliers then and I think they are probably the largest wholesale suppliers of all plants today. I honestly have little interest in house plants but you do your best with what you have.

  5. Ah, your dendrobium is lovely, I am waiting for my dendrobium to re-flower for the first time, not sure if I am doing it right but I have not watered it for 2 months, it still looks just as green and the new spikes are growing, but no signs of buds yet so I haven’t dared giving it any water yet. I only water my other orchids once a week too, and like you I am not good at misting – to busy out in the garden, but the orchids don’t seem to mind.

    As for the squirrels – Ugh! I have given up on tulips but I keep planting lilies and crocuses every year. This year I am going to try out smarten them (she said!), I have bought chicken wire and will try to wrap my climbing rose and the tubs with the lilies will get a wire hat each. I will try at least.

    I hope the winter storms are faring well with your garden, right now it is so windy down here that I had to put the rubbish bin in front of the cat flap as I was going nuts of the noise. The cat isn’t going outside anyway!

    Finally, can I ask what you do with your bergenias? From memory I think you have quite a few? I have some Bergenia 'Winter Glow', am I supposed to remove any leaves if they look fine? Or just wait for the flowers?

  6. Hi Helene, I only have three Bergenias so maybe it's not me you are thinking of, but I can't think of any reason to remove healthy leaves and mine flower at all odd times of the year. They leaves do have a tendency to look tatty, particularly if they are in a dry spot and one such plant that I inherited never looks quite as good as the ones I have planted in a more suitable position. I haven't moved it as it flowers well and isn't doing any harm:)