Of dahlias and bearded botanists

Today’s flower comes all the way from the mountains of South America, is named after the Swedish botanist Anders Dahl and is a large daisy.

Funnily enough Dahl never saw the blooms in his life. But when the first dahlias turned up in Europe in the late 18th century two years after he died, other botanists were reminded of Dahl’s shaggy beard. Presenting the shaggy pink dahlia!

pink dahlia.jpg

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Succulents are the new black

One of the joys of gardening in a temperate climate like Adelaide’s is the ability to grow a range of plants that were sadly missing all through my days in Calcutta, Brisbane and Darwin. These are the succulents, a group of plants that have generally adapted to living and flourishing in the parts of the world with high temperatures and low precipitation or rain. Cacti are succulents, as are some xerophytes or plants that have adapted to less moisture. Try as you might, unless you are Debra Lee Baldwin, it is quite difficult to keep succulents alive for a great length of time in the three cities named above. At least that was the way it was for me.

But Adelaide has given me a chance to grow and love succulents. To the point of now being mildly obsessed by them. The geometric shapes, the muted greys, blues and greens, the magical flowers – all these are but some of the reasons I now know my echeverias from my sempervivums and my jovibarbas from my aeoniums. They fit into my preferred palette of colours, grow slowly and are well suited to the climate we have.

So, without further ado, here are a few of my favourite succulents; some are growing in our garden, and a couple are from gardens I have visited. I hope you enjoy them!

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The succulent wreath in the slideshow is a display from Hillside Herbs and the succulent wall art is from Sophie Thompson’s open garden in Mount Barker that I visited last weekend.

I know, that was too short! But there is more. There will be more, but in the next post. Till then, happy gardening.

Speed dating on the slime trail

‘Good God, I think it’s unfair. All those damned slimy things wandering about seducing each other like mad all over the bushes, and having the pleasures of both sensations. Why couldn’t such a gift be given to the human race? That’s what I want to know.’

~ Lawrence Durrell, on hearing how snails mated. And I got a photo this morning to prove it!

This is how it happens; they fire a dart of calcium into each other hard enough to push it through the skin. The calcium dart is coated with a hormone that prevents the sperm from being digested when the actual mating takes place. After this they feel each other up a little with their tentacles till the appropriate area (under the right eye) is stimulated. Each snail then injects sperm into the female part of the other. Oh, did I not tell you? Snails are hermaphrodites with both male and female organs fully working in every snail. When mating is done they each store the sperm till their eggs are ready to be fertilized.

snail sex
(White calcium dart exchange, photo mine)

In the words of Durrell’s younger brother Gerald (whose books taught me all I know about sex by the way), they then walk away without so much as a nod or a thank you. Lucky molluscs!