Six on Saturday – 23/1/2021

Seeking inspiration, I looked back at what I’d posted as sixes in Januaries past. No help there. Walking round the garden didn’t help much either. It’s cold and wet and dull. Next door have a mini digger in and are starting to do something, so we have a grandstand seat to watch and tut. Anyhow, back to the task in hand:

One.
Crocus sieberi ‘Tricolor’. I planted several clumps of these in the garden in autumn 2019 and while they did flower in 2020, they were overshadowed by some I’d planted in a pot. This year, it looks as if the corms that were left in the pot are going to do very little and those in the garden get their chance to shine.

Two.
Euphorbia mellifera. This has been growing here for longer than just about any other plant in the garden. It grows up and out, blocks the path, starts to become a nuisance, so I cut it back to make it start again. I cut it about every second year, when it seems to need doing. In 2020 I chopped it in May, cutting out all the flowered shoots and leaving the unflowered ones. They had been growing up below the flowering shoots and had become a bit spindly, so a couple of months later, with lots of new growth coming from the base, I cut them all off as well. I could have done it in one go but left some growth to feed new shoots. Now it is all sturdy new growth of the same age and looks great. It won’t flower this year, but next year it will and it will likely get chopped again.

Three.
Agave macroacantha. Black-spined Agave or large spined Agave. Who’d have thought it, this has big black spines. I bought it for Sue from Tregrehan Plant Fair a few years back and she has raised a number of young plants from offsets, This one, the parent plant, was looking somewhat tatty and there was no room in the greenhouse so it got left outside. So far it is showing no signs of damage from cold. It’s a lean, hungry plant and may now be big enough and hard enough to survive outdoors, in which case it can join A. parryi and A. montana out the front. I’m not keen on moving it around, it’s heavy and vicious.

Four.
Fuchsia ‘Cotta Christmas Tree’. This has decided that mid-winter is when it wants to flower and whom am I to argue. I love these species crosses, F. decussata x F. crassistipula in this case, but like a lot of the species, they flower very late in the year if they’re hard pruned in spring. If you don’t prune they get enormous but have to come in for the winter because they’re not hardy and need a lot of room. The flowers are about 7cm long.

Five.
Peas, ‘Hurst Greenshaft’. I sowed Peas and Broad beans to germinate indoors so I can put them in my tunnel for an early crop. I’m new to growing veg in the tunnel, I don’t really know what I’m doing. The peas aren’t even an early variety but I’d saved my own seed from them last summer and partly I wanted to test their viability. They’re now out in the greenhouse where the temperature is much lower but the light level much higher.

Six.
More seeds. I didn’t really need any more seeds but you know how it is, the slightest pretext for looking at a seed catalogue and you’re hooked. The whole concept of saving your own seed, it gradually acclimatising to your own conditions, of conserving genetic material and eroding the stranglehold of big business and their grip on this vital part of the food supply chain. Whatever. There’s a part of that narrative that really strikes a chord with me and another part that says it’s just a different marketing angle. Who wouldn’t trust a company that is apparently trying to put itself out of business by encouraging you to buy their seeds just once, then save your own ever after. Not that most of their customers will, and if they do, it’ll only be of one or two things. It seems to me there are some inconsistencies in the narrative, like how if a vegetable strain has been kept going for the last 100 years it’s going to have much diversity to adapt to my local conditions. How, if it does adapt to my conditions to a significant degree, am I really conserving the pure strain.

What does appeal though is the idea that they have not been bred only to crop well under intensive culture with lots of fertiliser and chemicals to control pests and diseases. They haven’t been bred to all mature at the same moment so they can be harvested in a single pass or by machine. I find it hard to strike the right balance between cynicism and gullibility.

I placed a small order with Real Seeds. It could have been Vital Seeds, or a number of others. I’ve bought from them before, a number of years ago, so I’m having another go. Some are things I already have seeds of, so I have something to compare them with. I must try to make a meaningful comparison, then record and report on it.

Well, that’s not too shabby a six if you ask me. The thing is, the Euphorbia and the Agave are always there, just not doing anything to draw attention to themselves. Just because they aren’t doing anything they weren’t doing last week or last month shouldn’t exclude them. Time to get this in the post and head off to see what El Propagador has to offer this week and where his floo network will lead this week.

38 thoughts on “Six on Saturday – 23/1/2021

  1. Just looking at those spines on the Agave give me the heebie- geebies. The same feeling I have towards seeing the edges of paper and thinking of paper cuts. I looking forward to see your Red Beard bunching onions later in the season.

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    1. The thing that worries me most about Agaves is that as my eyesight gets poorer, I can’t see the spines when I’m very close to the plant. I try to be very careful but you will know that urge to pull a weed when you see it and I may not have my glasses on.

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  2. The Agave’s a mean looking beastie, I can see why you wouldn’t want to move it about too much.

    Interesting thoughts on seed saving etc. I’ve tried to save a few things in the past, but the enthusiasm generally wanes and I forget to carry on year to year. This might interest you:
    https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2021/jan/19/plotting-the-future-the-seed-guardians-bringing-variety-to-uk-gardens-aoe

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I’d seen the article from The Guardian. I find myself in sympathy with their broad aims but sceptical about some of the specific claims, which I think would often be very difficult to prove. There seems to me an obvious conflict between maintaining a strain of a vegetable with considerable genetic diversity yet selecting the plants that do best in a specific location as the ones to collect seed from, which surely narrows the genetic base.

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  3. That spiky plant is quite scary. Yes, that sounds daft but I would certainly give it a wide berth. I have noticed a couple of rather pale crocuses showing themselves in the front garden but yours is a lovely, deep shade. Interesting comments about seeds.

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    1. That Agave is particularly brutal but under cover it has a beautiful glaucous bloom with contrasting shiny black spines and is beautiful. Hopefully there are a lot more of the crocuses to come, I really want them to be permanent.

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  4. I hesitate to plant my euphorbia mellifera in the ground and seeing yours, I see that you manage to contain the volume. (With of course regular pruning …)
    Your sweet peas are a way ahead of mine :good !

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  5. So is it best to empty spring bulbs from their pots after flowering? I have left most of mine from last year as an experiment to see if anything pops up, several tulips have year after year, but I remember some crocuses didn’t. I planted Crocus sieberi ‘Tricolor’ in the ground last year, but the wet February totally flattened them. I haven’t seen any sign of them this year. That’s a lovely photo with the raindrop clinging on. Some of those seeds are worth having just for the names! Red Beard Bunching Onions 😂 You are going to have to show those when they are grown.

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  6. Agaves in pots are not easy; yet, they are so happy in pots. It is not fair. They grow so big and heavy that they are impossible to move about without getting impaled. Heck, they are difficult enough to work with in the ground! We are fortunate that there is a landscape here where we can grow several out of the way. However, the gophers eat them from below. I recently planted an Agave attenuata, with another one canned for my own garden. It is a species that lacks the nasty spines.

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    1. I should try Agave attenuata, it grows outside in some of the west Cornwall gardens so suitably hardened up might well survive here. It’d be good to be growing something our Brisbane folks are also growing.

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      1. Brisbane?
        Agave attenuata likes a warm climate. It survives here, but can get slightly shabby after cool winter weather. It survives in cooler climates too, but does not look as happy as it does farther south.

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      2. We have family north of Brisbane (Australia). Agave attenuata is popular there, no doubt because isn’t spiteful. They had a clump of it in their garden. Talking of Australia, do people grow Xanthorrhoea in America?

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      3. No. I have not even seen one since I was a little tyke, and it might have been something else. Yucca rostrata is gaining popularity, although it is not as grassy. Yucca elata is somewhat common within its native range. Yucca querateroensis is still very rare. Besides, Yucca is a completely different genus.

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  7. The tricolor crocus is stunning, though I found myself trying to determine whether the tricolor refers to the purple, yellow, and white of the flower or is meant to somehow include the striking rust of the stem, in which case quatricolor? The agave is incredible and seems to have some offspring, though division does sound potentially hazardous. Thank you for the thoughtful discussion of heirloom seeds/seed saving. Certainly a complex issue, but I agree that the arguments for growing seeds not selected to thrive only with inputs of chemical fertilizer, herbicides, and pesticides are strong.

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    1. The seed business is hideously complicated and I probably should look into it more. In principal I am sympathetic to notions of sustainability and see maintaining genetic diversity as a crucial part of that, but the internet is so full of fanciful claims for all sorts that it becomes tiring trying to sort the wheat from the chaff. They all claim that the science is on their side, because that sounds convincing, except that there usually isn’t any science there.

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    1. My experience has been similar. I’ve had a couple of clumps of crocus that have stayed around but by the time you realise that you’ve forgotten what they are so it’s hard to get more.

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  8. I laughed that you have some vicious plants and that you have mixed feelings about the way a seed company touts its wares. I’m just pleased nothing from my garden is taunting me at the moment.

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  9. The Agave certainly is one to give a wide berth, but that being said, I wouldn’t mind one of those myself.
    The seed packets are beautifully presented, and as Jude said, they have interesting names. I also will be interested to see what they are like when they grow. The bush drying bean sounds fascinating.
    I meant to comment on your recent post about changes in your garden over the years, but forgot until now. It was interesting. It’s rewarding to look back and see how far the garden has come.

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    1. It always intrigued me that a dry country like Australia doesn’t seem to have much in the way of succulents in its flora, spiny or otherwise. The seed packet presentation is interesting. Call me cynical but I have a niece who has just completed a degree in marketing and a lot of the business she’s currently getting leans heavily on that same look; bit old fashioned, lots of claims and references to nature, words like natural, organic, pure, green, eco. Most people take it at face value, they want to feel they’re doing the right thing and don’t want to look too deep for fear of finding out they’re not. I wouldn’t have bought from Real Seeds if I thought that was where they were coming from, but they’re still a business and for them as for all businesses, it’s about getting customers to give their money to them not to someone else.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I understand your seed conundrum. I had bought seeds from Real Seeds last Autumn but they can no longer supply to Ireland. I do hope its a temporary thing. Come to think of it, I may be more tempted to save my own.

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    1. I’ve ordered from Seedaholic for the last three years but for one reason or another didn’t this year. Their website says they’re having postal problems but it looks like they’re still supplying UK customers. I wonder how long we will have to wait for a single benefit to the UK to emerge from the Brexit shitstorm.

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