Wednesday, 8 November 2017

Succulents and Righting Past Wrongs with Houseplants

Three weeks ago I posted here about my new plant obsession - succulents.

Since then I've posted about it on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter, and I've also made a YouTube video on the subject - why?


As I said in my last post, my history with houseplants reads like the plot of a murder mystery, except I'm clearly the villain. I've starved them of light, water and food, then drowned them for a while, and finally dumped their lifeless forms in the compost heap - dark eh!

When I rescued a sad Echeveria 'Perle Von Nurnberg' to try my hand at succulent propagation, I fully expected to fail, but I've learnt so much recently, from various succulent websites and YouTubers, that my crown cuttings have rooted and are growing, babies are forming on the rooted stems, and many of the leaf cuttings have grown roots too.


Spurred on by this success, I bought some more 'Perle Von Nurnberg' from the reduced section of my local DIY store, bought some unidentified Echeveria, a Graptopetalum 'Opalina', and some Pachyphytum oviferum (aka Moonstones) cuttings, plus some mixed cutting from Little Bunny Lilac's Etsy store. My collection was growing fast

Then I realised I had a problem -  I'd run out of window sill space!

We had a large plastic shelving unit going spare, so I decided to invest in some grow lights, and fit them to the shelves for a fancy grow-station.

After lots of research, I went for the Sunblaster Nano Tech T5 light combo kits. They come with the full-spectrum light tube, a reflector, fittings and fixings, a power cable and a double ended cable so you can connect two lamps together. If you would like to see me installing the lights, then do watch the Youtube video, I'd appreciate the views (and don't forget to like,share and subscribe while you're there ;-) )

I started with four lamps, enough for two shelves...then I went on a shopping spree at Surreal Succulents, and had to buy two more for a third shelf - Oops

Succulents Grow Lights installed shelving system
Succulent Grow Shelves

So here we are just three weeks down the line, and I have already had to expand my infrastructure twice over. I'd better not do it again in three weeks time!

Let's give you a list of the plants on the shelves, as far as I can, many plants are supplied unlabelled, and Echeveria for example come in hundreds and hundreds of hybrid varieties. Unless you have bought a named variety, grown from a named variety parent plant by a reputable source, you will be unlikely to identify it with any certainty.

Runyonii ‘Topsy Turvy’
‘Perle von Nurnberg’

‘Pik Ruza’

morganianum burrito
Rubrotinctum ‘Aurora’
‘Sandra Mottram’

ovata ‘Gollum’
‘Horn tree’





‘Little Gem’

My succulent journey is well and truly on the way, I'm looking forward to propagating lots of young plants so that I can start making projects with them all. Keep a look out for upcoming posts and YouTube videos.

PB xx

Tuesday, 7 November 2017

Molly Mumma's 2nd Gotcha Day

What's a Gotcha Day?

A Gotcha Day is the day an adopted creature comes into your life. You may not know the day they were born, but you can celebrate the day that their life and yours changed forever.

Molly is the second guinea pig to be adopted by us, and she is a very special girl indeed. Her full story can be read here, but on this her second Gotcha Day I made her the star of her very own YouTube video

Come along and see my beautiful, sweet girl having cuddles (and lettuce) with me.

Happy Gotcha Day Mumma!

Love PB xx

Thursday, 19 October 2017

The Start of a New Obsession - Succulents

You know when you get that 'feeling' about something or someone, and you just know it's the start of something big? Well recently I got that for an Echeveria at the local DIY superstore.

Echeveria Perle Von Nurnberg succulent plant
Echeveria - Isn't it pretty!

Historically, I've not had huge success with houseplants, and after a while I get annoyed with crusty looking soil, dusty window ledges and sunlight being blocked from rooms. Not to mention my extreme clumsiness - potted plants and cream carpets do not mix!

Then I was given a Moth Orchid (Phalaenopsis), then another, and another...I've got about 10 now (I think), they really love my West/ Northwest facing kitchen window. Then someone gave me their ancient Hoya (Wax Flower). I was terrified I'd kill it, but it also adores my kitchen window sill!

As I watched more videos from my favourite YouTuber (besides myself of course lol), Laura at Garden Answer, I realised how diverse the world of succulents is, the stunning arrangements you can create with them, and the propagation techniques you can try and (hopefully) master. My interest was piqued, but I wanted to start gently. So I got myself some Sempervivum (aka houseleeks, Hen and Chicks or Ice Plants), and created some exciting outdoor planters and projects.

Sempervivum old Strawberry Planter Pot
Sempervivum are a brilliant way into the world of succulents
Sempervivum are completely hardy in the UK, and will survive down to zone 4 in the USA (−34.4 °C (−30 °F)) - That's pretty darn cold!! The range of colours and textures is lovely, and they are so easy to propagate. When the 'mother' plant (or Hen) grows baby offshoots (chicks) on thick fiberous 'stems', you can either gently pull them off the hen and plant them somewhere else, or allow them to form a beautiful clump. Eventually the hen will die (after about 3 years), and you can take that opportunity to renovate the clump, or just position some of the chicks on top of the brown patch the hen leaves behind.

Sempervivum Hen Chicks offshoots ice plants houseleeks
The large central 'Hen' surrounded by her 'Chicks'
They are quite the most forgiving succulent, and being outdoor plants are much much less demanding than indoor (tender) succulents.

But then I saw it...shriveled and stretched out (etiolated), planted in a chunky glass container with no drainage and marked down from £5 to £2...

Etiolated Echeveria succlent plant propagation
The true state of this poor Echeveria
So I thought, I could use this poor sad creature to practice propagation etc on, the worst thing that could happen is that I kill it outright, and lose £2, but potentially I could have 10-12 leaves, a crown and a rooted stem to grow new plants from - isn't that a really exciting concept?

In fact it was so exciting that the following day I went back and bought the other 3 discounted Echeveria and created this...

Echeveria succulent plants propagated several ways
Leaf cuttings and Crown cuttings read to get growing
80 leaf cuttings, five crowns, four rooted stems (not shown), and an experiment with an unrooted stem, which unfortunately started to go mouldy, so I threw it away for the health of all the other cuttings.

I should mention that there is a really important step in between taking the cuttings and laying them on damp soil to form roots, and that is to allow the wet wounds to dry out and form a callous. This prevents the cuttings soaking up too much water and rotting off. It can take 3-5 days for this to happen, and smaller wounds will callous faster than large ones like crown cuttings.

In this photo the cuttings and soil surface had just been damped down with a spray bottle, I will now leave them alone for a week or so in a bright location, but out of direct sunlight.

This is a brave new world for me, and you can fully expect more blog posts, YouTube videos, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram posts on the subject.

Do you have a passion for succulents? Have you had a go a propagating them? Leave me a comment below and lets have a chat :)

PB xx

Tuesday, 10 October 2017

Carnivorous Plant Updates, New Arrivals and Seed Harvesting

Carnivorous Plant update:

It's been a really busy summer in my Carnivorous Plant collection.

Sarracenia var. unknown has had it's best year EVER! I've never had such big pitchers on it, and never seen it with such an intense colour either. That means I can stumble towards a partial identification, it's probably a rubra hybrid, though I couldn't be any more specific than that.

Carnivorous plant Sarracenia rubra strong colour July Pitcher Plant
Sarracenia rubra ssp unknown looking amazing in July

Carnivorous plant Sarracenia rubra 2017 best size pitchers colour Pitcher Plant
Sarracenia rubra ssp unknown 2017 brings the best size pitchers and colour yet

My Venus Fly Trap (Dionea var. unknown) has grown well too. Some of the traps achieved much stronger colour than this photo shows, and it fed regularly on all manner of things including craneflies and earwigs!

Dionea var. unknown growing well and flowering 2017 Venus Fly Trap
Dionea var unknown growing well
I've never seen a Venus Fly Trap in flower, many experts say the flowers are dull and it is better for the health of the plant not to allow the flower stem to develop...but I really REALLY wanted to see the flowers, so I let it carry on.

Dionea flowers July 2017 Venus Fly Trap
Dionea flowers! So pretty!!
I wasn't disappointed! The white Dionea flowers are tissue paper delicate, with fine veining that looks like neat pinstripes extending from chartreuse green centres. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.
 Moments after I took this photo, I snipped off the flowers right at the bottom of the stem, allowing the plant to use it's prey to feed up for the winter.

And now the Newbies:

For my birthday in June, my best friend bought me two amazing beasts from Triffid Nurseries (he had to be pointed in the right direction, but the choices were definitely his own)

Sarracenia rubra ssp. gulfensis 'Yellow River' Florida

This delicious specimen came to me in full flower, with pitchers over a foot tall. It's been feeding gluttonously in the greenhouse over July and August, to the point where there are small 'burn' marks on the pitchers, and you can just see the dead insects through it.
Carnivorous Plant Sarracenia rubra gulfensis Yellow River Florida Pitcher Plant
Sarracenia rubra ssp. gulfensis 'Yellow River' Florida

It's so massive I couldn't get it all in one photo and do it justice. The flowers are the most alien I've ever seen on a carnivorous plant. The clever landing pad forming a cup to collect pollen and seed.

Sarracenia rubra gulfensis Yellow River Florida flowers Pitcher Plant Carnivourous Plant
Sarracenia rubra ssp. gulfensis 'Yellow River' Florida flowers are spectacular

Drosera binata dichotoma 'Giant'

Photo to follow! This Sundew is very aptly named. It's a huge, forked variety that attempted to take over the world shortly after it arrived. I ended up having to stake the 18" tall limbs to give everything else breathing space! It is sliding into dormancy now, so I'll have to take photos of it's fresh growth in Spring/Summer next year.

Seed Harvesting

As the Sundew flowering has been so spectacular this year, so I decided to collect the seed with a view to growing it next year.
Once the flowers had finished and the seed pods had turned brown, I labelled some small brown envelopes similar to this listing on Ebay. I wrote one envelope per subspecies of Drosera, then carefully cut the entire dried flower stem off each plant, as close to the plant as I could. Trying not to shake the stem, I opened the envelope with my left hand, and tipped the flower stem upside-down into the envelope with my right.
Drosera are very generous with their seeds, which look like fine, short clippings of hair, so dropping a few won't hurt! Believe me!!
I left the stems in the envelopes for a couple of weeks, until the seeds had fully ripened and dropped into the bottom of the envelope.
The next job was to clean the seeds.
I tipped the contents of the envelopes out onto a sheet of paper (one envelope at a time - don't mix the seeds up!). Then I carefully picked out all the bits of stalk, petal and seed head. Fine tweezers are invaluable at this point, and try not to sneeze or sigh heavily, or you'll be left with all the chaff and none of the seed!
When the seed is as clean of chaff as it can be, carefully pour the seeds back into the correct brown seed envelope, and seal it.
Seed from some species of Drosera need a period of cold stratification to germinate, others can be sown as soon as they are harvested.

Here are the requirements for my collection:

Drosera Species
Native Region
Stratify Seeds?

dichotoma ‘Giant’
Fresh – No /Stored -Yes

Stratification required
filiformis x intermedia
Stratification required
T Form
Fresh – No /Stored -Yes

As it happens, I haven't had time (what with starting my own YouTube channel - did I tell you about that? ;-) ), so everything is being stored until Spring, and I'll stratify or not, depending on the variety and it's requirements.

I'm really looking forward to sowing them though!
Have you ever tried growing Carnivorous Plants from seed? Tell me about your experiences in the 'Comments'
PB xx

Wednesday, 13 September 2017

Introducing my Family - part 7 - Claudia and Bunty

It started like this...

"Do we need another hen?"

My answer to MrPB's question was logical. Having lost Hetty, I felt we should wait until either Jane or Felicity passed away before trying to introduce new members to the flock. There is far less chance of bullying by introducing 2 new birds to 1 old one, than if you try to bring 1 new bird into an existing flock.

Felicity Jane Orpington hens exploring garden
Felicity and Jane

"It's a bit sad only having two chooks"

I replied the only way we could do it now, would be to add 2 point of lay hens to Felicity and Jane, thereby sharing the inevitable 'hen pecking' between the two new girls, who would probably form a close bond as a result.

MrPB thought I was being cheeky, but when I explained my reasoning, he agreed.

We wanted more Orpingtons, but our chances were slim, as being September already, it was likely that this years pullets were already allocated to their new owners. With trepidation I rang the breeder we bought Felicity, Jane and Hetty from two years ago.

'Well, yeeees, I've got some pullets to keep the best ones myself you understand ...rather depends what colours you want...'

I explained we'd lost our Lavender splash '...haven't got any splashes left, have got a blue... and some chocolate, might have some gold laced...'

'Ooh, I definitely want a chocolate, plus another!', and with that she agreed to pen some birds up that we could see on Sunday afternoon.

Preparation, preparation, preparation

The very next thing I did was to get a decent, big, strong cardboard box for transportation. Our Goods-In/ Despatch department at work usually has a good supply available.

Then MrPB and I fashioned a weld-mesh divider for the hen run. We sectioned off the long strip between the back of the coop and the perimeter fence. This would make a perfect quarantine area for the new hens, they could see, hear and get used to Jane and Felicity, and we could make sure they were completely healthy. we planned for 7-10 days separation.

The pullets would need Grower's pellets to eat, and their own supply of water. We would also need to worm all four of them, and give them a dose of Ivermectin Spot-On treatment in case of other parasites.

When we got to the breeder, she had just a blue and a chocolate put aside for us in her farm shed. I thought we were going to see more birds, but rather than traipse round her field trying to trap alternatives, we decided to stick with these two. Besides, they were stunning, healthy looking birds, well feathered with good legs and feet, bright clear eyes, perfect beaks and clean nostrils and vents (Oh the glamour!)

The car journey home was uneventful, just a few 'bok's uttered from the back of the car. We took the carrying box straight out to the chicken run, and with MrPB filming, I unboxed the babies.

Jane and Felicity were deeply unimpressed, and expressed their displeasure loudly and repeatedly!

Choosing Chicken Names

The hens were all named after fictional female detectives, Jane Marple, Felicity Lemon and Hetty Wainthrop. The new ladies are no exception. We came up with a shortlist, and two of our most favourite characters were chosen.

Meet Miss Claudia Donovan from the US TV series 'Warehouse 13', and The Honorable Bunty Windermere from the BBC TV series 'Father Brown'. Both characters are keen, resourceful and clever - hopefully these two will match up to their namesakes.
Claudia Bunty Orpington hens pullets see new home
Claudia and Bunty taking in their new surroundings

Claudia is the Blue Orpington. She's a much cooler grey colour than Hetty's Lavender was. Bunty is the Chocolate, though this sounds drab, her wing feathers have a smart beetle-wing sheen to them,. This comes from the Black Orpington genes that help create the Chocolate, apparently in summer she will fade to a pretty milk chocolate tone...mmmmmm chocolate...

Bunty Claudia pullets see Felicity Jane Orpington hens next door
Who on earth are our new neighbours?

Claudia Bunty Orpinton Pullets meet video camera
Girls on film - get used to the camera ladies!

I'm really looking forward to sharing Claudia and Bunty's adventures with you. Don't forget to check out all my social media platforms, and please like, share and subscribe.
PB xx

Sunday, 3 September 2017

The Big Launch Day

The Pumpkin Becki Youtube Channel is live!!

I've been plotting (no pun intended) to start my own Youtube channel for a long time now, researching other channels, planning what content I could make, seeing if I was brave enough to be on camera.

I filmed a few chunks of practice footage over a weekend, one where I was ripping out and redoing a plant border for a time lapse video, and an intro to my channel, where I was utterly upstaged by the gorgeous Molly.

I've honed my technique and my editing skills, and uploaded 2 videos for you already!!
A quick intro...

And my first Fairy Garden!

Future videos will include how-tos, tours of my garden, projects I'm working on, adventures with the guinea pigs, hamsters and chickens and so much more.

The Youtube channel is intended to be a partner to my blog here, it won't take over from it, just like my Facebook, Twitter and Instagram feeds haven't. It's seriously hard work, but I'm enjoying myself, and that's the important bit :)

Be sure to stop on by, watch my videos, rate and comment on them, and don't forget to subscribe as well ;)

Rebecca xx