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So yesterday I had the pleasure of visiting Crete lodge exotic garden again.  Melissa and Keith have continued their tireless work in the garden and it was looking better than ever.  Sadly the memory card in my camera seems to have got scrambled, so I lost a lot of the photos, but some had been downloaded first.

The sunken garden is a good place to start as there is always something in flower.




Look at the size of that agave ovtifolia. Sadly it is starting to suggest it may flower, the same for the agave weberi and with the horrida in the first photo already flowering that would be three flowers in that section of the garden alone!

Ther are so many sections to the garden and that is before you even get to the cactus house and other greenhouses.  The biggest section is the main succulent bank and the new sections the other side of the path.  Looking down from the sunken garden you get the first glimpse over the green roof.


Melissa is particularly proud of the new pot.


The bank has some of the largest agave montanas scattered across it.



A bit further down and you come one of the newer parts of the garden.


I love the combination of the succulents with the traditional UK gravel garden plants.


Every angle gives you a different set of plants


The bank carries on around to a section full of yuccas and palms, these photos didn't make it, so back up to the terrace, via a lovely little olive bed. Keith does all the main structural brick work and then Melissa does the decorative fronts.  The whole garden is covered in these lovely little sections meaning no planting opportunities are missed.


The terrace has some feature agaves as well.  The larger one maybe about to flower but this time I had lost count of the number.


Annoying all the other photos were lost.  So I'll juts have to go back another time and re-take them. Those on facebook can go to their page, found here. It is always an inspiration to visit and obviously I always leave with a plant or two, even if I'm not allowed to liberate everthing I would like.

I'll leave you with one last photo looking down the main succulent section, it is hard to believe this is the UK.


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The pot that gets the most comments, especially on here, is the large bowl of echeveria comptons carousel. It probably stood out as these are suppose to be difficult, so a bowl full is quite rare.


The mild winter meant they got a bit tatty, so I decided to start again and cut the whole thing up.  The plants are at a good stage now, so I thought I would show how to go about dead heading these in the hope that others find it useful. Having cut the heads off, they get cleaned up, all dead leaves removed and checked for any issues. Then place them on a wire shelf to dry. I tend to leave these for a couple of weeks, this not only gives them time to callus over but also for roots to start.


At this point they are ready to be planted up. No water for the first few days and then grandually over the next couple of weeks you can water a little bit more each time.  This seems to be a good rule for them in general (after re-potting, after purchasing) - start slowly with the watering.


Don't worry if you lose a few leaves, especially if you get a sudden hot spell at this stage. You will probably find a few leaves mark, but they will grow out and within a couple of months you won't notice. After a couple of weeks if you try to gently move the rosette it should hold firm showing the roots have taken and the plant is good to go.

Not sure what I am going to do with 10 pots full of these. Over the next couple of years they will each form clumps and I would guess two repots will be all that's required to get one back into the large bowl again. I guess I have some good trading material for this summer.
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A couple of year ago I experimented with hypertufa, making a couple of test pots.  They were nothing special at the time, but slowly moss started to grow on them and they have turned into much more natural pots.  I have been looking for something to go in them and was surprised to find a little agave filifera at the local garden center.  They are just made for each other.


The agave has a certain compacta look to it, which would be great.  Sadly it is probably just a young plant, so will need some sort of intervention to keep it small. Either way for the next couple of years it is going to be put somewhere to be admired.
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I have said it before, there are few echeverias that have the drama of echeveria laui in flower.


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The garden and pots are are full of flower spikes at the moment. The best are in the echeveria elegans river, which looks amazing at this time of year.


In the evening they are backlit which adds to the drama.  The bumble bees love them


The concrete egg is full of echeveria cuspidata var zaragoza, which is one of my favourites. Sadly it isn't hardy for my garden so has to be moved inside over winter.

The flowers are are a nicer colour than the very pale elegans.

While out enjoying the evening sun, I thought I might as well plant up the aloe aristatas. I have been trying to get some to survive for the last few years and they seem fine in the main rockery. They have got to a decent size now and have properly started to spred


I have been growing on a pot to plant at the fron of the cycad rockery. The hope is they will contrast well with the echeverias.


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So last year was a good mangave and manfreda year, with flowers on two manfredas, more on that in another post, and the mangave flowering.  So a quick recap: the mangave was produce by a friend and is hybrid between manfreda virginica and agave obscura


The pollen was provided by friends over at Crete Lodge exotic garden. They seem to have agaves in flower every year now, this time there were two agaves flowering at the same time. An agave mitis and one labelled as agave horrida, although they suspect it is not.

Photo courtesy of Melissa at Crete Lodge
Isn't that wall amazing, such a shame that the agave left such a big gap.

So the last time I posted progress on the flower spike there were seed pods. It seemed to take forever but finally these opened and amazingly there were seeds. These where sown and placed in a heated prop.  To be honest I was not that confident anything would germinate.

I was wrong, one month later and there were around 40 seedlings.


The problem was that in my eagerness, winter was the wrong time to sow them. They needed to be kept alive until spring and I'm terrible with seedlings: too much water, too little water. So I'm really surprised that 4 months later 19 are still alive. I'll take 50% surviving any day.


I know not very interesting to look at yet. It is only in the last few weeks they have really started to grow, most are now sending out their 2nd proper leaf. How good would it be to have a few new mangaves of my own making. I really hope that some of the horrida (or not) parentage comes through. I do like my toothie plants.

The funny thing is, with the two different pollen donars I would guess I am now the largest mangave producer in the UK. 
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For many people aloe polyphylla is the must have aloe. The beautiful spiral and the fact that it is one of the hardiest aloes both adding to its attraction.  I have three now, that is if you count the cored multihead one as one plant.  It's still growing well and may be crunch time to decide what to do. Leave it so as not to risk loosing it, or cut it up to at least give two plants.


There are 6 heads in total all about the same size. I figure I could cut down the middle to give two clumps with roots, or cut two heads off to keep a multi-headed plant and separate the rest with or without roots. Either way, some of it is going to have to planted out at some point soon, they are getting too big for pots and grow so much quicker in the ground.

The second plant is one given to me a friend after I managed to kill all my seedlings.  We both got seeds from the same place at the same time, only he managed not to kill his. I am slowly getting better with seedlings due to my mangave hybrids and a few tests on random seeds, so maybe I'll have to try again.  Anyway it has been potted into a 30cm pot to give it one more year in which I can bring it inside.  I will probaly just place it where the plant will be in the new section of the rockery.


I think in the Uk they need to be about 30cm at least to survive planted out, even then I will most likely cover it just to give it that little extra protection.

The final plant is the large one. It sailed through winter without any damage.


The exciting news is that it is flowering again, having had a year off last year.


It will be a couple of months before the flower is fully open, but good to know it is back to flowering.
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It was not possible to put it off any longer time to clear this section ready to expand the rockery.


The aloe striatula, large agave salmiana and the covered agave ferox all needed digging out.  The right side of the railway sleeper was cleared yesterday and the lower palm fronds removed to make access a bit easier. Given the size of the plants, and the length of the terminal spines, time for a little protection.


The aloe striatula came out nice and easily. As there are others in the garden they were just cut up. The little agave ferox also came quickly.  The soil is 50% gravel so the roots pull out without requiring too much force.


It is funny to think this was exactly the same size of the agave salmiana when they were planted, especially given that the full name is agave salmiana var ferox. Then onto the big one.  Digging the roots out was easy, getting it out of the spot was not.  In the end it was manhandled into a big sheet.
This could then be dragged / carried from the back of the house to the front where it would be replanted.  So the first section of the extension to the rockery is complete.


In the front, space had to be cleared in the central bed. I haven't shown much of the front as it's a bit more mixed. The central bed is a large oval, which is the perfect spot to let the agave get to its full size.


Once some space had been created, the agave was lifted into position and slipped almost perfectly into place.  It was nice that it went without issue and too many more stabs.


It's a little sad how small the agave looks in its new home.  It will grow and no doubt given a few years will swamp the other plants in there. Currently the best view is from above.


Not a bad start to the weekend. Sadly the rockery stone is not going to be here until next week, so I'll continue removing the plants from the main rockery. 
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Last weekend I finally got to the island of Madeira. It was only for a few days and with the in-laws, so there was limited time to visit gardens.  We did manage to sneak in a few gardens though. I had been warned in advance that Madeira is not famous for succulents; a lot of rain and no frosts make it perfect climate for too many other plants.  So the next few posts will contain lots of photos, but very few succulents, hopefully the gardens will be of interest, just for something different.

First morning we went to one of the orchid nurseries,


This is pretty much in the centre of Funchal, only 1km from the front. However it is all up hill, and in Madeira that really means up hill.  So having recovered, it was a pleasure to be greated by this set of aloes inside the gate.


This was the only larger aloe I saw on the whole trip. In the garden you get the advantage of those steep hills.


The outside area did have some lovely other plants. I expected the tropical flowers, but didn't expect to see so many different trees.


Anyway you don't visit for the trees, and as soon as you get into the nursery it is clear why you are there.


It would be pretty amazing if that was the whole place, but it wouldn't be Madeira if it was. No you have this:


The photo shows two of the main sections, turn around and you get even more:


I loved that they use tree ferns to create deeper shade. You can see the whole site is on slope, there is no flat land anywhere. There is another section the same size on top of this.  It was an amazing collection and if the orchids were not enough you can look up and notice that the vine above the main path is a jade vine.


The flowers are such a stunning colour, and if possile the buds are even better.


It takes some getting used to, having so many spectacular plants everywhere you look.






You could spend hours there photographing every flower, and smelling them to find out where the different scents were from.  When you do finally leave you are greated by the owners other interest which is bromeliads. Initially it is just the odd pot


Then you are out into the path between the shade houses.


There was a little spanish moss starter wall,


It is such a simple idea to form balls or boxes with a little bit of spanish moss inside and then in a few years you have your full waterfall.


 It doesn't matter what they look like, they will be hidden before you know it. I did try a few years ago, and forgot to water so lost my little clump.  I am tempted to try again.

There were some nice clumps of tillandsias as well. If only mine would grow into clumps like this.


As an introduction to Madeira it was perfect, such plant extravagance you simply don't know where to look.
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The cold continues, so time to think about the planned changes to the main rockery.  It has filled out so much over the last year.


So some changes needed over the summer. First a few of these plants need to be removed.  The aloe striatula has got too big, so will be removed. This will also allow a better view of the garden from the house.  few of the small or medium sized agaves will most likely be repositioned to allow for the continued growth.

Then the rockery will be extended. Currently it changes just before the large railway sleeper. The other side of the sleeper has been empty or storage while the garage was removed.


The orginal idea in the garden plan was for this to be more traditional planting. The succuelnt rockery has worked so well it will now be continued the whole way along the bed. It will mean ordering more stone, but will be worth it as it will give a lot more space.

Linked to the extension, is sorting out the more jungle section. This was a bit of fun to see how the plants would cope if just left to fight it out.  There was one clear winner: the agave salmiana.


It is already over 1.5m across so action needs to be taken before it's too late.  That whole section will be dug up, very carefully, and the plants relocated to the front garden.  There is a large circular bed in the front and it will be planted in the centre of that and can take over there instead.  Hopefully as the front gets less sun, it will be little slower.

It is amazing how much everything has all grown, especially in the last couple of years. This photo is from March 2017.


Anyone who says agaves and yuccas don't grow should take note.

So that is going to keep me active for a bit. Once the rock arrives I can get started, assuming that we do finally move into spring and summer. I don't like damging roots / plants when there are still frosts.

There will probaly be photos of who gets lets damaged when it comes to digging the agave salmiana up. I know who my money's on.
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