Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Echium wildpretii rescue...

There are very few things that have me dressed and wielding a shovel miles from my home at 7:00 in the morning. This is one of them.

On a whim I’d taken Lila with me to run a few errands one day. We stopped for a walk and did the circuit around my plantlust.com partner, Patricia’s, ex-garden. She moved early in the year and the garden has been on a slow decline ever since; new owners with different priorities. Patricia and a team of gardening friends (including yours truly) had performed a couple of digs, rescuing her fabulous plants from certain death. There wasn’t much left to see the day I walked, mostly just crispy leaves and tall weeds. But then I spotted these…

Against all odds there were Echium wildpretii growing, lots of them. These guys hadn’t been watered since who knows when, because the new owners planned to remove all the "plant material" and start over with lawn they were just letting things die. The echium came from seeds dropped by a plant which bloomed in 2012, this plant (photo from 2012)…

That blooming action was two years ago. Last winter (2013/14) saw ice, snow, lows of 12F and several days and nights below freezing. Yet there were new seedlings. The plants I'd just spotted were actually the second crop, I took this group of photos (below) in October of 2013. Those plants didn't make it through last winter...

But evidently their late (second year) seedy siblings did. So once I spied this treasure Patricia and I talked, she contacted the new owners, and here we were, with a small window of time in which to get what we could...

That's why we were there at 7am, you see we'd been told everything was coming out at 8am that day, to make way for the new landscaping (lawn) and we needed to be gone before the workers arrived (couldn't have any pesky plant freaks standing in the way of progress). Furthermore the two days prior had seen highs of 99 degrees, that morning it was muggy and in the 70's, these were not ideal digging conditions. Of course we didn't let that stop us. Here's Patricia's haul (she may have grabbed a few other things)...

And I had a couple of flats like this. Are you wondering where the soil is? That's the sad thing. When you're digging plants out of baked cement soil you don't get any roots. None.

Here's what we left behind, (look ma no echiums!)...


This is what the roots looked like on the plants I took home (dark because I'd soaked them in water). Not very promising right?

So I cleaned them up, removed some of the leaves, and planted them in the stock tank recently vacated of cucumbers (so much for that fall veggie crop I was planning on).

They've been kept extra moist and in the shade ever since.

A few of the really sad ones (super lacking in roots) went in a vase of water.

Things were looking pretty dire later that first day, and for a few days after, but then they started to turn a corner and perk up. Here's how things looked a week later. I've watered them twice a day, everyday and not let the sun directly hit the leaves. Several outer leaves turned crispy and were removed, but the ones which remain are strong and show promise (no more wilting).

When I tug on the plants they seem rather secured in the soil, perhaps they've sent out new feeder roots? One can hope.

The success rate for the plants in water wasn't so good. Two of four remain.

However those two are developing small roots and seem relatively happy...

All that work in hopes of getting more like this, one of the best Echium wildpretii in my garden ever...

If all goes well from here on out I've got 16 (!!!) echium to plant out in my garden. That's amazing. Of course now I'm trying to decide if I...
  1. leave them here all winter (risky, above ground containers are more susceptible to freeze damage).
  2. pot them up individually and then stage them here for the winter (ready to be whisked to warmer environs when the temperature drops).
  3. plant them out in the garden once the rains return in October (or whenever they decide to return) and hope for a mild winter.
What would you do? Cast your vote!
All material © 2009-2014 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

30 comments:

  1. You have so many, you could experiment with all three methods of over-wintering. Hooray for plant rescue!

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    1. That really is the smart idea...I just get hung up on the desire to save them all!

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  2. What Alison said. Do it for science!

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    1. I always did think I'd someday become a scientist.

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  3. Danger Garden to the rescueeeeeeee!!!! Love it!

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    1. Can you even imagine how out of control I would be in Southern California where people are regularly getting rid of agave pups?

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  4. Yeah!! Echium wildpretii is a plant I'd get up for at any time, day or night. I let my two towers go to seed completely this year. Hopefully there'll be enough seedlings for a spectacular display in two years.

    I'm so happy that so many of your rescue plants survived. I wouldn't have given them much of a chance with virtually no roots, but they must be tougher than I thought.

    P.S. Installing lawn instead of drought-tolerant plants is the height of insanity, in my opinion, even in Portland.

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    1. Oh my, yes! I bet you have an echium forest! Or to start with a sea-scape. That's what I am excited about replicating with my new found wealth. In the past I've planted them as single focal point plants but watching how these seedlings grew they looked like sea anemones grouped together as a community. That's what I want in my garden.

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    2. Oh and yes to your P.S....the new landscape is cookie cutter boring with big swaths of lawn. Usually folks let lawns go dormant here (thus reducing water waste) but I have a feeling that's not the look these folks are after.

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  5. I have to agree with Alison, I'd try all three methods and see how it works out. Great that you were able to rescue so many. It's always so sad to see an established garden go to seed, so to speak

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    1. I was very tempted to include more photos of just what a change (and not for the better) this was but decided to instead focus on what we were able to save.

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  6. Option two, although you don't have to repot them all ready to be whisked indoors in the coldest of weathers, perhaps you can experiment with a few by leaving them out?

    That's a tough batch of plants, definitely worth saving all of them. Even more interesting is that I never knew till now that they can reroot just by leaving most of the main tap root intact.

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    1. I didn't know either! When my first couple of digs resulted in just a section of the main tap root I almost gave up, I was sure they were all doomed and didn't see the point. But then, since I'd made the effort to get there, I thought "what the heck" and forged on. I am glad I did! (oh and I forgot to mention there was talk of spraying too, we had no idea what had been sprayed just new these looked healthy)

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  7. How smart to put them in one nursery. I stuck them hither and yon--which makes remembering where they are to water something of a challenge. Some look okayish though. So glad you espied them and instigated the last dig.

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    1. It wasn't so much smart as convenience. I got home and planned to start potting them up, then I saw the stock tank and took the lazy way...glad to hear some of yours might make it!

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  8. Alison has a good point. Being lazy, I woud leave them in the stock tank, hope for a mild winter, and panic when a freeze hits. I mean, and wrap the stock tank in bubble wrap and cover the top in some way if a freeze is predicted.

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    1. I'm warming up to the idea of planting some out and potting some up. We'll see...

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  9. They want to dig up a garden and grow... a lawn??
    Love Echiums. We have some that thrive in south west England, although probably not that species. I'd go for option 2, probably, but then I'm a glutton for punishment when it comes to plants. I'd worry that they aren't robust enough yet to survive a winter. Whatever you do, good luck!

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    1. Yep, and a few boxwood. Charming.

      Good point about them not being robust enough to survive a winter, it's supposed to be a mild one but you just never know. It can be 99.9% mild but that 1 night of 12F can change everything.

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  10. I was thinking the same as Alison. Honestly I wasn't really sure what you saw in this plant until I Googled it and found that they are lovely when they bloom. Nice details and picture from San Marcos Growers.. http://www.smgrowers.com/products/plants/plantdisplay.asp?plant_id=2570
    Looking forward to getting progress reports : )

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    1. Oh Laurin, but you know what...I would be happy if these never even bloomed. It's the silvery green rosette of squid-like foliage that I love. The flowers, meh! (okay that's not quite true but close!)

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  11. That's exactly what I thought when I saw that grouping: sea anemones. Good luck with your driveway science project.

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  12. I also vote for all three options! Fancy letting a garden like that die to replace it with lawn...

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  13. Working all three options gets my vote. Yes, you run the risk of losing some, but just think of the definitive statements you'll be able to utter about their cold/exposure hardiness. Wonderful rescue!

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    1. After reading your comment I got to thinking about the fact one of those earlier babies (the 2013 crop) did live through last winter in my garden, last winter! I wrapped it with frost cloth and put an overturned terracotta pot over it. Maybe these are a super hardy strain...

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  14. Woohoo for saving perfectly good plants! (I'd have taken the rocks too, but that's just me.}:P )

    I'm for potting them up and babying them through the winter to give them more time to grow a good, strong root system, then planting them out where they'll live the rest of their days, living the high life in a garden where they are truly wanted.}:)

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    1. Oh don't get Patricia going on the rocks, she really(x10) wanted to take a few of the nice big ones with her, nicer/bigger than any you see in the photos. And you know, I'm leaning towards potting them up too, plants that are marginally hardy here never seem to do well when planted late in the season.

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  15. Such a beautiful plant! I can't believe the new owners don't see it. Nor do they see the beauty of a garden, even a simplified one (not everyone wants to tend a gardener's garden). Oh well, their loss is your gain!

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