Aloe There!

Prunus incisa 'Kojo-no-mai'

Prunus incisa ‘Kojo-no-mai’


Where does the time go? That’s what I want to know.

We potter here and we potter there and before we know it another month has passed. In fairness to The Gardener she has not been totally idle, in spite of appearances. There are seedlings bursting out of the greenhouse and the terraces are looking almost respectable as we enter the new growing season. Every day there are new surprises and it’s exciting to see the return of (most of) last year’s newcomers, even those which might have chosen to live in more favourable climes.. had they been given any choice in the matter.

That’s the trouble with pushing the boundaries of hardiness. Spring is a watchful and particularly stressful affair. And this year has been more challenging than most, given the additional frisson of a Beast From The East 2. Lessons learned? Of course not.

One of the particular delights of blogging in a gardening community is the exchange of ideas and, in particular, exposure to new-to-us plants. And of course gardeners are not just a UK phenomenon. Which means that the most desirable plants are quite likely to come from very different climate zones. Like Southern California. I was having a blogging chat one day with hb from Piece of Eden (here) who grows a lot of aloes. And very fine aloes they are too. If mostly out of my reach. But hb took the time and trouble to draw my attention to one that I could possibly grow, Aloe polyphylla, giving me cultivation tips and a link to a UK website. Sadly at that moment they were out of stock and a trip down a google rabbit hole suggested the spiral aloe would be a challenge to find and, if I did manage to turn one up, eyewateringly expensive.



Aloe polyphylla, the spiral aloe (image from Wikipedia)


The only place I’ve ever seen it growing in the UK is at St Michael’s Mount, off the coast of Cornwall, perched high on a cliff face lashed frequently by wind and rain from incoming south westerly storms. This aloe is endemic to Lesotho, in the Drakensberg Mountains, clinging to rocky crevices above 2000 ft. The climate is cool in summer and in the winter the plants are often covered in deep snow. It is a protected species in the wild and rare even in cultivation.

But just this week the protracted search paid off. Not with a plant (which perhaps given the precarious nature of the plant budget is just as well), no, a packet of seed. And this is where the fun starts because the best way to germinate them, according to the accompanying instructions, is in a bowl of pure water. Unusually for a succulent, which generally prefer a more arid environment, Aloe polyphylla is subjected to very high summer rainfall, augmented by moisture from the clouds which engulf the Lesotho mountain peaks. It sounds like chez duck might be right up its street. We may lack the mountains but the mizzle we can do.



Aloe polyphylla

Or Aloe polyfilla as it has already been dubbed by the resident DIY enthusiast.


I have ten seeds. It will not have escaped your notice that above there are just five. Hedging my bets. Eggs, baskets, etc. Although what Plan B will be if the first lot fail I have no idea. They are supposed to sink as they absorb water and then sprout a root. At this point they can be potted up in cacti and succulent compost which, in the spirit of eternal optimism (and uncharacteristic advance organisation), I purchased at the same time.


Meanwhile, speaking of Mike..

well he hasn’t been so idle either.



We are getting back into veggie growing, at least that’s the theory.

I used to have three raised beds, the two above plus a third off to the right of this shot which fell victim to the digger when the land was excavated and levelled to provide a base for the greenhouse. So I asked Mike if he would dig me out a patch of ground to use as a temporary new third bed. Ultimately we’ll rebuild it in the manner of the two existing but that will need additional manpower and there are other, more urgent, calls on that for this year.



Mike used the railway sleepers that we’d kept from the old raised bed to retain the soil so in fact I’ve ended up with something far more practical and easy to use than I’d originally envisaged.




Loads of space!


Tulip humilis 'Helene’


Tulip humilis ‘Helene‘

A zingy combination with Euphorbia ‘Ascot Rainbow’ immediately behind it.



Helleborus x hybridus ‘Harvington Black’

I’m a sucker for anything black.


Salvia discolor


Black, black, black..

Salvia discolor, oh my.


First plant acquisition of the year, having drooled over it on Gardeners’ World. And yes, another zone pusher. It’s tender. One for a container. 30-60 cm, lax habit. Grey green leaves which really set off the blooms.

Should it be flowering in March? Unlikely. But I’m not sending it back..