Friday, November 30, 2012

Alpine Auriculas.

TERESE Gold centred

Alpine auriculas are well suited to the Swedish climate. They come in a large range of colours and are suitable for growing in pots, in an outside border or rock garden.
GÖRAN Light centred
The class type which we call Alpines can be defined as follows:-

  • They can have a Gold centre (yellow centred) or a Light centre (white or cream centred).
  • The petals are evenly shaded; being dark at the centre and becoming lighter to the outside edge.
  • There is no ring of paste on the flowers.
  • There is no farina (meal) on the flowers or on the leaves.
MONA Gold centred
Normally Gold centred auriculas can be found in various shades of red, orange, yellow and brown.
Sirbol Gold centred
Light centred auriculas are normally found in various shades of red, purples, lilac and blues.
Lee Paul Gold centred
Many more examples of alpine varities can seen  on my website Ray's Perennials.
Next week I will be writing about Border Auriculas.
Mrs Hearne Light centred

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Clay versus Plastic pots.

13w x 9h fancy pot, 11w x 10h pot, 10w x 10h 'Whichford' auricula pot
Both clay and plastic pots have advantages and disadvantages when it comes to growing auriculas.

I use both, but for different purposes. I use clay for growing and displaying my auriculas, whilst I use plastic for more every day use and for growing the bulk of my auriculas.
10w x 9h small pot,              10w x 13h 'Long Tom'
Clay Pots Advantages:-
Natural material.
Very pleasing to look at, many different styles to choose from and they quickly acquire an individual patina.
‘Long Tom’ clay pots are particularly pleasing. ‘Long Tom’ = height is greater than the width i.e. h. 13 cm w. 10 cm.
Keeps the soil dryer, less chance of over watering your auriculas.

Clay Pots Disadvantages:-
More difficult to clean compared to plastic.
Require more watering in hot dry conditions.
Usually more expensive than plastic pots.
6 x 6 Sq. plastic, 8 x 8 Sq. plastic, 11 x 9 round plastic
Plastic Pots Advantages:-
Light in weight.
Require less watering in hot dry condition.
Less expensive than clay pots.
Easy to clean.

Plastic Pots Disadvantages:-
Easier to overwater your auriculas.
Hard to find a good looking plastic pot
MATILDA in 11 x 10 clay pot, 24/11/12
I must admit I think that clay pots are much better for keeping and growing auriculas in. They just look so much better than plastic, particularly when shown in an auricula theatre.
I use clay pots for most of my display auriculas. ‘Long Toms’ if I can find them, this is not so easy in Sweden.
Auricula Theatre with clay pots.
I use plastic pots mainly for economic and space reasons. When you have thousands of offsets it makes sense to use small 6 cm or 8 cm square plastic pots. I use cheap plastic pots made from recycled plastic for this purpose.

Next week I will begin to write about the different types & classes of auriculas, starting with alpines.

Friday, November 16, 2012

Watering & Feeding of my Auriculas in Sweden.

Here I’m only writing about my watering and feeding scheme I use for my pot grown auriculas, those in borders get some general purpose granular feed once a year (normally spring) and I do not water them, they only receive natural rainfall.

Auriculas in pots:
I begin watering my auriculas in early spring, just after they have defrosted. I only water those that are on the dry side, the majority are moist enough when they defrost. I give a little water only to those that are dry, just enough to keep them moist.
When they show signs of growth I start to feed them with a diluted liquid general purpose feed. (N. 7%. P. 3%. K. 6%) I use only 50% of the recommended dose; I have found that a full strength dose encourages too much leaf growth, which is often weak and sometimes distorted.
I continue this feeding and watering scheme until they have finished blooming. I do sometimes increase the strength of the dose to 75% for some of my doubles, particularly those that are very often what I call only half doubles i.e. Albert Bailey, Cinnamon & Hopleys Coffee; I’ve found that the little extra feed helps the blooms to develop better.
After blooming I reduce the dose to 25% strength, until they are repotted or until July.  After then I stop feeding and I return to water only.
Some books and websites suggest using a tomato feed (N. 5.2%. P. 5%. K. 10%) as the higher potash content helps flowering. I have tried the tomato feeds available here in Sweden, but up to now have not seen any difference, I will continue my experiments with this and let you know how it goes.
Next week I will be writing about the benefits and drawbacks of using either clay or plastic pots. 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Soil & potting compost for growing Swedish Auriculas.Updated April 2015

Little Rosette
The important thing to consider when choosing a soil or potting compost for auriculas is that it should be light, drains easily and low in nutrients.

I have tried several of the ‘off the shelf’ soil mixes that are available in Sweden, but have found that none of them were really suitable for my auriculas. Many auricula books & websites mention mixing your own soil, using a mix of John Innes loam based compost, peat and grit. This is simply not available in Sweden, so I’ve experimented with the various potting composts that are available here.
Soil mix
The best solution that I’ve come up with so far and which suits my Swedish auriculas is using a planting compost, from Blomsterlandet called 'Yrkesodlarjord'  (Professional planting soil)and adding 20% perlite to it. This has worked very well for me and is not only fairly cheap but easily mixed and available.
I use this mix in my clay pots, plastic pots and as a planting soil in my outside borders. (Replacing the heavy clay soil I have in my borders)
I was very surprised that the more expensive potting composts did not perform as well; in fact I had more problems with rotting off and abnormal leaf growth with them. I believe that the problem may be that they contain too many nutrients for my auriculas or the soil retains too much moisture.
Fred Booley in border.
I’m still experimenting with my soil mix to see if I can improve it in any way. At the moment I’m reading a reprint of The Auricula, Its Culture and History, by George William Johnson, first published in1847; this has some very unusual and strange auricula compost mixes mentioned in it.
Many of them have well rotted cow dung in them, so next year I shall try adding some ready mixed cow manure (
kojödsel) to some of my soil mix to see what happens.( I only experiment on auriculas I can afford to loose)
I've also more recently been experimenting by adding Neem Cake to the soil mix not only as a slow release feed but also as a possible organic way to prevent attacks from wooly root aphids.
My soil mix works for me; you may have your own soil mix with which you have been successful with; if so do please let me know so that we can exchange ideas.
Border Auriculas i large pot.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Autumn & Winter care: part 2 Auriculas in borders.

South facing auricula border.
I grow quite a few of my auriculas outside in my garden all year round; they are planted in dedicated auricula borders, as edging plants for larger borders and in a rock garden.

The most important thing to consider when planting auriculas directly outside in garden borders is that the soil they are planted in is very well drained. It is very important that auriculas do not sit in wet soil in the winter as if they do they will very likely rot and die.
 I have a rather heavy clay soil so I replace this with normal planting compost mixed with around 20% perlite. (I will cover my soil recommendations for growing auriculas in Sweden more fully next week). A raised bed is also a good idea as this again helps to keep the soil well drained. 
Norhern rockery border 20th Jan. 2012
 I have borders sited in east, south, and west positions along with a rock garden on the north side of the house. In the summer they are in partial shade from the trees and bushes that grow in the garden; but in winter the trees are bare and all borders are exposed fully to the elements.
 I do not cover the auriculas growing in borders in any way in the winter, as I have found that covering them with fir tree branches or leaves causes them to be too wet and rot can set in. A natural covering of snow does help in protecting them from the hardest frosts and in fact they do better when it is a snowy winter. I have had temperatures down to minus 27ºC and although some may receive some frost damage when there is no snow, they have all come back in the spring.
Mazetta Stripe 14 jan 2012
 The auriculas I would recommend for the borders are border auriculas and alpines, other auriculas will also grow in borders and I have some doubles, stripes and fancies growing in a couple mine. They all survive in my outside borders, but the thing to remember is that those that have farina or paste on their flowers, will not look at their best when flowering as heavy rain can spoil the blooms.
Sword winter 2012
 If you have any other experiences of growing auriculas in harsh climates please do let me know as I’m always keen to learn more.
Fred Booley winter 2012
 Next week I will cover the soil mix I use for growing my Auriculas in Sweden.
Osbourne Green winter 2012