Wednesday, November 06, 2013

The Chosen Ones - First Batch

Choosing plants to go in the conservatory feels like being a judge in a beauty pageant! You have to select the most beautiful amongst the already beautiful lot (well most of them anyway). But apart from beauty other criteria must be fulfilled such as:

So who are the lucky ones that will wear a crown (or in this case a Bishop's Cap)?
Tolerates conservatory conditions at least during the winter (some of them will go out again in the summer).

Does not mind central heating and the conditions it can cause (fluctuating temperatures and low humidity).

Tolerates enclosure during the winter (very little breeze and air movement).

Relatively easy and disease free under glass (okay, strictly speaking there is no such thing but with little effort and maintenance by the owner, should remain fine most of the time).

Will actually benefit from being overwintered under glass with warmer temperatures as compared to a minimally heated greenhouse (i.e. more tender plants. Some plants do need a bit of seasonal winter chill hence unsuitable to be kept in a greenhouse and yet will need a bit of protection in the winter. In such a case an unheated greenhouse will often suffice).

Appreciates brightness and sunlight during the winter, and tolerates artificial lighting too (some plants prefer gloomy winter conditions and detest artificial lighting).

Most of important criteria of all:

It must be beautiful and serve a decorative purpose.

Although the last criteria is also the most debatable of them all. If you have a conservatory, and you're a plant lover/hoarder, surely you should use it to cram in and protect as many 'not so hardy for you area' plants as possible, right? Maybe...

Some gardeners say yes do that exactly as that and we've even seen a few that their conservatory is so packed during the winter you could barely walk through and let alone in it. If that's what they want and the purpose of the space suits them then so be it. At least their plant collection is protected and they get to enjoy them even if the weather is adverse outside (that is, if they can still walk through the plants).

But personally, our answer is no and this is where we will draw the line from now on. On previous winters our house gets so crammed with plants that it becomes a literal jungle for months on end. Both of us got sick of it and made it a resolve not to go in that direction again from this year onwards. Hence we have been doing a gradual culling of 'not so hardy plants' all through the year and most of it actually happened before the house renovation began.

We're both gardeners and love plants but the house is for humans (and our cats). It may be a jungle/desert out there but it should never be like that in the house any more and at any point. How long will we keep this resolve? Will we be disciplined enough to remain as such? Who knows! But we have to start somewhere and the future is already looking promising.

And this resolve will apply in our conservatory too. It will have plants to define the space as such but the plants that will be chosen must primarily serve a purpose of being decorative to enhance the space rather than just sit there seeking protection from winter.They will be part of the decoration and design of the space. And in moderate quantities too (it's only a small conservatory), so as to have ample space for the human (and cat) dwellers to enjoy them properly.

Enough of the wiffle-waffle now and the first batch of chosen ones are:

Agave lophantha 'Quadricolor'
Agave 'Cornelius' - extra fond of this Agave as I bought this as an inch and a half only diameter plant five years ago
Agave weberi 'Arizona Star'
Agave pedunculifera - I better take really good care of this as this was entrusted to me by a lovely Cornish nurseryman and it took him years of persuasion to make him part with it! It still has some debris and will need to dry up so I can give it a more thorough clean.
Astrophytum myriostigma - a winner by default as this was bought at the RHS Hampton Court Flower Show last July for the main purpose of being placed in the conservatory. It needs a nice new pot though!
Graptopetalum 'Ron Evans' RE611 - another one that needs a nice new pot but was chosen as it looked so good in the greenhouse. I think it deserves as upgrade of abode for the winter!
Strelitzia reginae - the first non succulent to have made it among the 'chosen ones'. Strelitzias on the whole seem tolerant of conservatory conditions all year round so that was a huge plus point as to why this was included. I tend not to bother with Strelitzias any more to be honest but this one made its way into our plant collection as this 'special one' was entrusted to us by another kind Cornish man. I just wish the variegation is more regular and pronounced. Still it's a nice plant! 
Some are in nice pots already (and have been featured previously) and by luck fit in with the planned decorative scheme of the space. Others will be re-potted on to nicer pots (there won't be leeway for functional looking pots indoors this time) and it should fun hunting down suitable ones in the next few days.

The conservatory itself is mostly finished with just a few bits of adjustment left to be done by the builders. Although these adjustments are minor, we can never really properly sort out the inside and decorate it until everything, as in completely everything that the builders needs to do have been done. Builders and delicate plants are rarely a good mix....

But the first batch have to start drying up so I can clean them thoroughly before they get their winter pride of place. It has been raining here almost everyday and it's quite astonishing how much dirt succulents can accumulate when wet and combined with autumn leaf fall. I have removed most of the dirt before I took them in but they really need to dry up first before I can 'polish them up' to perfection. At the moment they are on the floor but once the builders are all done I can move them to where they should be.

So far a few succulents and a Strelitzia have been chosen but what about more lush and leafy plants? That will have to be the second batch!

Mark :-)


  1. Excellent choices! I was happy to see four agaves among the seven plants.

    I love Astrophytum myriostigma. Here they are hardy outside, but I lost mine this summer to mealy bugs--it was the worst mealy bug year EVER.

    1. Funny how one year a bug can wreck so much havoc over other years, and makes you wonder what conditions preceded that to give them such extra wrecking vigour.

      Agaves were actually the first ones to come to mind when I started selecting plants, gorgeous lot aren't they? :)

  2. Such restrain. Please show us the results. I am in dire need of good influence in this category.

    1. Will definitely show the results Ricki, I just wish the builders would hurry and finish up soon!

  3. What a wonderful quandary! I think you've made some great choices and I'll be interested to see how the conservatory comes together. I imagine that you'll continue to tweak your collection as time goes on.

    1. Tweaking every so often keeps the interest going Kris :) will show the results as soon as everything has been put to place.

  4. Will there be a talent and swimsuit portion of the beauty pageant? Wonderful choices. You're wise to thin out the less than hardy plant collection! I keep threatening to do that myself each fall when I drag the jungle inside. Fortunately we have rooms that aren't used so the plants don't crowd our living space. Still, dragging so many plants in and out each year when we live in a place where so very many gorgeous plants will grow happily in the ground seems a little odd. Plant addicts...

    1. The dilemma of being a plant lover indeed Peter :) I'm pleased with our restraint so far, I do hope it lasts though! My favourite portion is actually the evening gown competition.

  5. You picked some beauties there. I like your new resolve to keep things nice as well as functional for the humans, not just the plants!

  6. Beautiful garden and plants...

  7. Some choice plants for the new location. That Bishop's Cap is really an interesting looking plant. I've heard of it but you know I do believe it's the first time I've actually seen a photo of it. I also like my house free of my plants. I have my 3 seasons of gardening and want to keep my house a house.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

    1. Keep it that way Cher and never let the plant collecting bug bite you too much :) love this cacti, caught my eye during the plant show!

  8. I admire your commitment to keeping the space usable and enjoyable. It is fun to have a bit of a contest to see which plants get pride of place. I do pull a few choice ones for placement in the living room over the winter, while the others go to the basement. And indeed the container they're in plays as big a role in the decision making as the plant its self. Must maintain "the look."

    Beautiful Agave pedunculifera, that's a new one for me...never heard of it before!

    1. Loree, I think you're the queen of beautiful pots! I love all your pots, you have great taste :)

  9. I'm impressed at the intent - only time will tell on the follow-through! Love that Astrophytum myriostigma , looks like a parcel to be unwrapped. Our conservatory is veyr much a working place, a sort of glorified boot room, so no scope for a decor plan, but I am wondering about filling my tomato greenhouse with lovely things that will over winter there and look attractive. They'll have to be pretty hardy though, I'll keep records of how low the temp goes. Enjoy yoour conservatory planning, look forward to seeing the leafy contingent that made the cut, and the whole show once suitable cleaned, primped, re-potted etc!!

  10. Looks like great picks! They are all fantastic!


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