Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Colocasia and Alocasia Timelapse Video

Whilst idly browsing the growing on the edge forum one evening last week, I found this amazing video and just had to share it!

It's been made by forum member, Yorkshire Kris, and shows some of his Alocasia and Colocasia growing indoors on a windowsill for the winter. The video has been shot using some cunning timelapse photography over a period of 12 days so that the movment of the plants and the emerging leaves can be seen. Pretty cool!

Yorkshire Kris has just started a new blog on exotic gardening. It promises to be a good read as it develops: http://exoticyorkshiregarden.blogspot.com/

It is amazing how much growth these things can push out at this time of the year when conditions for them are far from optimal: The low light levels, low humidity inside our centrally heated homes and the greater risk from pests such as red spider mite and mealy bug do not combine to make Colocasia heaven. And yet, they still grow!

They'll grow even faster when placed back outside in the summer, which is a nice thought to cheer a dreary January day!

I too, overwinter many of my Colocasia inside, but tend to tread the fine line between letting them go into dormancy and just about keeping them growing by cutting right back on the watering. I find that they are pretty easy to overwinter that way, as they grow more slowly. I then don't have problems with over-stretched petioles caused by the leaves craning towards the light.

With old Colocasia that have developed a large rhizome, I usually lift them, remove the soil and dry them before storing. This method is obviously a bonus if space is an issue, but can only be used if the rhizome is large enough to withstand a few months of dessication and is not an option for young plants.

Alocasia have slightly different overwintering requirements. These are very prone to rotting off under the soil during the winter months, especially at cool temperatures. I try to combat this risk by potting them into the smallest pot I can cram them into and bringing them into somewhere warm! That way, there is less soil to retain moisture and I can get a better idea of how moist the soil is right the way through the pot. With large pots, it can be surprising just how wet the centre of the compost can be when the surface looks dry. I then keep the plants ticking over with very light watering, and ensuring that the temperature does not drop too low. Easy!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Melianthus major in bud in January!

If you have even the slightest interest in gardening you cannot fail to notice that, so far at least, this is proving to be a very mild winter. Here in East Devon, we've only had a handful of slight frosts so far. Even so, at one week into January, whilst having a brief rummage through the garden I was very surprised to find that my Melianthus major has a big fat bud on it. Talk about early!

New flower bud on Melianthus major

I know some gardeners that turn their noses up at this plant and I've heard it said that it's a bit too common, but I rate Melianthus major very highly. Besides, plants have to earn their popularity, right? I love the large, ornamental leaves. I love the slightly glaucous colour to the foliage. I love the rapid rate of growth. And I love the way it fits in so well with other subjects in a subtropical garden setting. It's my kind of plant!
Beautiful glaucous leaves on Melianthus major
However, I have a confession to make. I've killed a few of these now. I have read that Melianthus major is easy to propagate from seed or cuttings, but I've never tried either. Instead, I've always bought plants and been really pleased when they take off so well upon planting. They grow fast. But each time, I'd made a critical mistake, and planted them out towards the end of the summer. Melianthus major is not massively hardy. The leaves go black at around -4, and the stems can be cut to the ground at around -5 or lower. Thankfully, it resprouts from the ground, and due to the fast growth rate will usually have recovered well by the end of the season. That is, if it has an established root system to regenerate from. My newly planted specimens were never established enough to make a reappearance after being frosted.

This year, I found one for sale late February. It got planted out in March. Once the soil warmed in the Spring it really took off. 9 or 10 months on and it has had the entire growing season to put out roots and harden off the new wood. Now, in January, it is looking fantastic. And with that bud! I would normally expect flowers in late Spring on the previous seasons growth (plants that are cut to the ground and reshoot after winter won't flower) so this was a real surprise.

Lets hope that the rest of the winter is just as mild and that the flower gets it's chance to open!
Detail of new leaf opening
Melianthus major and a Kniphofia sp (red hot poker) photographed at Abbotsbury Subtropical Gardens in sunnier times.