The diary of two novice gardeners and allotmenteers

Chris and Steve's Weblog – City Chickens

Creeping Phlox Subulata

The plug plants of creeping phlox ordered from T&M have been potted on into small pots of moist compost and put outside. The five varieties include, Snowflake, Candy Stripes, Emerald Cushion Blue, Red Wings and Drummonds Pink. This a completely new plant to me but caught my eye as ideal for around the pond if it gets done this year. At least they can hopefully flourish in pots for the time being.

Creeping Phlox Subulata is a stunning, wintergreen perennial and ground cover plant, with lovely star-shaped flowers. Flowering from April to June, creeping phlox grows out to an attractive and eye catching, spring flowering green carpet. Creeping phlox is much loved by gardeners all over the world for its rich flower display and grows to approximately 15 cm tall. It is an ideal rock garden or woodland plant and is a welcome addition to any flower border. This lovely plant is easy to grow and care for.

Sempervivum Hybridum – Hens and Chickens

I wanted to have a go at growing these unusual plants mainly because I can remember them from the garden at our prefab where I lived from the age of six months to twenty one when I left to get married. My mom always referred to them as hens and chickens. I ordered the seeds from Seekay at 99p for 250 seeds. when they came in a tiny plastic tube I was amazed at the size of the seeds. They are miniscule. Like dust. Today, 1st March, I have scattered a few onto a flat tray of sandy compost, not covered them but put the tray into a polythene sleeve and put in on the window ledge. This is another one on my wish list for around the pond. The soil is quite gritty there and I can place a few rocks for them to grow amongst. Update 7th March – Much to my surprise I was excited this morning to find that quite a few of these seeds had germinated. They are very tiny but gave me a bit of a lift this morning. 22nd March and these tiny seedlings haven’t moved on much. I have read that they are hardy plants but I suspect that the process of getting them to that point is a little more tricky.

Sempervivum hybridum is an old-fashioned favourite often seen in planters. Commonly referred to as Hens and Chicks, this perennial plant is unique and forms clusters of fleshy rosettes. The foliage colours can vary from greens to bronze-reds and all shades between. The succulent foliage spreads and produces a mat of foliage. It grows well in full sun to partial shade and prefers well-drained soil. Hens & Chicks ground cover seed can be started either indoors or directly outside. If starting inside, start the seed 6 – 8 weeks before the end of frost season. If starting outdoors, wait until frost danger has passed and soil temperatures have warmed to 70F. Press the seed into the soil but do not cover it. Keep the seed consistently moist until germination occurs which is usually within 21 days. For transplanting into the garden, wait until  after last frost and space the plants about 24 ” apart. Amazon.

Sempervivum means ‘always alive’. Also called houseleeks, Sempervivum are commonly grown in containers but they can thrive in bricks, driftwood and between rocks, due to their ability to grow in very little compost. South-facing rockeries, gravel gardens and vertical walls also make good habitats. They perform best in a sunny position in well-drained compost with sharp horticultural grit added for drainage. A layer of grit added to the surface of the compost further aids drainage.  Houseleeks are most valued for their distinctive rosettes of succulent, spirally patterned foliage, although they also bear attractive flowers from spring to summer. Each rosette is a separate plant and is monocarpic which means that it flowers once and then dies but is soon replaced by other new rosettes called offsets. These offsets can be separated and planted up, and will then grow into new clumps. Sempervivum don’t need feeding, but do benefit from being repotted each year into compost containing slow-release fertiliser. http://www.gardenersworld.com/plants/plant-inspiration/growing-sempervivums/.

Arenaria Montana – Mountain Sandwort

Arenaria Montana is a classic little alpine or rock garden plant. The plant has narrow, glossy green leaves that form prostrate mats of foliage that are evergreen. In mid-spring, Mountain Sandwort is blanketed by relatively large, white flowers.  Whilst it does best in full sun to partial shade, it is considered to be drought-tolerant. It is not fussy as to soil type or pH and is somewhat tolerant of urban pollution. Plants will grow to be only 2″ tall at maturity. Its foliage tends to remain low and dense to the ground and is slow growing. Their ground-hugging habit means that this useful plant can be used at the front of the border or, it can be used as a lawn substitute for low foot traffic areas. They are at their loveliest spilling over edges of walls and will quickly fill in spaces between stepping stones or trail down the sides of walls. RHS award 1993.

Sow in spring or in autumn. Prepare pots or trays with good free draining seed compost; moisten by standing in water, then drain. Surface sow two seeds per pot or cell and press them gently down to firm them in. Cover the seed with a fine layer of vermiculite if you have it.  Seal pots in a polythene bag or cover trays with clear plastic lids until after germination. It is important to keep soil slightly moist but not wet. Remove the covering once the first seedlings appear. Germination can take up to 30 days. If seeds do not germinate by 4 weeks remove pots/tray to a cool shaded area. Seedlings are usually large enough to handle after 4 weeks. Transplant the seedlings into 3½” pots. Two seedlings can be planted to one pot. Place the pots in a cold frame or unheated greenhouse to grow on.  Before transplanting outdoors, harden off gradually. They do best in moist but well draining soils.

Arenaria Montana has a shallow root system and can dry out very quickly. Cover substrate with vermiculite or mulch to retain water and keep your eye on small plants until they establish themselves. A relatively low maintenance perennial, simply remove damaged foliage in spring and fertilise with a complete balanced fertiliser, don’t fertilise after mid September. It should only be pruned after flowering to avoid removing any of the current season’s flowers.

Arenaria Montana is native to mountainous regions of south-western Europe from the Pyrenees of France to Portugal.

The genus name Arenaria is taken from the Latin arena meaning sand referring to the sandy habitats of many species. The species name Montana means simply ‘of the mountains’. Arenaria Montana is a member of the Caryophyllaceous family, a cousin of the popular Dianthus genus.

Today, 6th February, I sowed all twenty seeds received from Seekay at a cost of £1.22, I put them two to a module. Now I must wait for thirty days for germination. From past experience I know that Alpines aren’t easy to grow. We are planning on rebuilding the area around our old pond this year and these were  something I thought would be good there. Update 16th Feb – three green shoots showing after ten days.

Saxifrage White Pixie

Today I planted two white Saxifrage at the back of the pond. I bought the plants from Mick Market, one of the plot holders at the allotment. They are alongside the purple Aubrieta, also from Mick, and should spread well and help to hold back to soil to keep the pond water clean. 3rd Feb 2017. It seems that both of these rockery plants have been lost over the years that I was caring for Adam. We are planning to overhaul the pond area this year so I would like to replace them exactly as the chap I bought them from also passed away during that time. I will grow them both in memory of Mick. I don’t know what his surname was as we all called him Mick Market because he ran a fruit, flowers and veg stall on our local market.

Hybrid Saxifrage – The fine bright green leaves of White Pixie saxifrage are complemented  in mid  spring with white flowers on wiry stems. A tight, clump-forming, usually evergreen perennial, this hybrid resembles a sedum when not in flower. The clumps of foliage are a collection of tight rosettes of flat sprays of leaves. Will grow in partial sun in a moist, well-drained, gritty soil. If given full sun, moisture must be constant. Cut off spent flower stems and divide the clumps before summer heat arrives.

Aubretia Variegata

Now the ducks have moved home we have reclaimed the pond and have both spent time cleaning it up. Rob managed to get all the mud out and I have made the beds surrounding it ready for planting. Yesterday I bought two Aubretia plants from Mick Market at the allotment and they are now sited at the back of the pond with the hope that they will spread and hold back the soil and stop it from dirtying the water.

Tip – Cut back quite hard by shearing after flowering has finished to maintain a neat, compact growth habit and to encourage a second flush of blooms. Incorporate ericaceous compost into the planting hole for best results.