Tuesday, February 25, 2014

It's Not Always the Flowers

Mammillaria  formosa  subsp. microthele


The flowers of M. formosa subsp. microthele are small, white, and do not attract much attention.  However, later in the year, when the red fruit develops, M. formosa subsp. microthele is quite a show off.  Of course, the tight white spines and the compact, globose stems, with their dichotomous growth, do their part to make this a very attractive cactus.  The plant shown began as three seedlings I planted together in a small plastic pot.  More than twenty years of sun, regular watering, and repotting, has resulted in one of my favorite plants.  The only problem M. formosa subsp. microthele  has is hanging on to its fruit, which have become a favorite treat for local mockingbirds.   


Saturday, February 8, 2014

Flash Back to Sunny Days


Frithia humilis


This is not a recent photo, all my plants now are tightly bundled up in the winter quarters.  This is a photo of sunnier and warmer days a few years ago.  However, as I begin to think about some of the succulent seeds I want to order for the late winter, I like to look back over plants I have grown over the past few years and enjoy some of my past successes.  I want to build up my confidence before I begin my seed sowing for 2014. 
Frithia humilis is a real charmer amongst the mesembs.  Unlike it's bigger brother Frithia pulchra, it is easier to grow, especially in terms of watering.   In fact, most growers have trouble with F. humilis because they keep it too dry.   You have to have a well drained potting media, but this is a mesemb that does not enjoy going dry for extended periods of time.  
I grow Frithia humilis in lots of sunlight.  From mid May until the end of September it receives at least 8 hours of direct sun daily.  This is another reason I give it special attention in terms of water.  The results of strong sunlight are leaves that take on a very attractive (at least for me) reddish purple coloration.  The strong sun has also resulted in good flowering.  
Frithia humilis is a small plant but with time and good growth it can make a respectable sized clump.   The photo below also demonstrates one of my quirks in growing small cacti and succulents.  I like to put them in a somewhat large pot and try and make the plant look as if it were growing in its natural habitat.  I have no idea whether or not I succeeded with F. humilis because I have never had the good fortune to visit its natural habitat.  Nevertheless, it looks nice to me. :)

Friday, February 7, 2014

Winter Hardy Succulents

Orostachys malacophyllus var. iwarenge


Since I have three acres (1.2 hectares) of land, most of it in full sun, it was natural to establish a small section of the yard as an outdoor cactus and succulent bed.  Most of the noticeable plants in the bed are large opuntias, cylindropuntias, yuccas, and agaves.  But here and there, among the rocks, are smaller winter hardy cacti and other succulents.  I have tried to grow a series of South Africa succulents, mostly mesembs, but it is a constant struggle to keep the local rabbits from eating, or damaging them.  One low growing succulent however, has done remarkable well, and doesn't seem to be on the rabbit menu.   This is Orostachys malacophyllus v. iwarenge.    
The genus Orostachys is a member of the Crassulaceae family and is native to a wide-spread area of temperate Asia, including Japan, China, and Russia.  O. malacophyllus var. iwarenge is native to Japan, and while not common in cultivation it is available through nurseries specializing in cold hardy succulents and alpine plants.  In my winter hardy C&S planting it has been a trouble-free plant that I have not given the praise it deserves.  I'll try to change that.  


Saturday, February 1, 2014

An Old Friend Mesemb


Rabiea  albipuncta


Some years ago I grew a number of different mesembs from seed, including Rabiea albipuncta.   They all had a common trait, they were possibly winter hardy in my area.  I wanted to add South African succulents to my winter hardy beds.  Ten plants of R. albipuncta were planted outside, but it wasn't the winter that was their challenge, it was rabbits.  The cute little rabbits that hopped around and through my yard seem to have a special fondness for South African succulents and nearly ate them all.   Of the 10 Rabieas, only one survived, and I removed it from the bed and potted it up.  That was 12 years ago and it is still with me.   Now, it's another of my "old friends."