Saturday, May 26, 2007

Cultivating the perfect garden aloe hybrid which would bloom throughout the year is ongoing and some are on the market already. Some aloe species in cultivation bloom three or more times a year, with only a few weeks between the previous inflorescens and the new one. There are also the tropical aloe species that bloom twice a year and the aloe species growing in very arid regions will bloom after good rains whenever that opportunity arrives. Combining these aloes in hybrids is difficult as the seeds are seldom viable when the plants differ so much, but there are people out there who just love a challenge.
We started off with Aloe species plants. It is convenient to know exactly how the plant will look and what it needs to grow when planning where to plant it. Then in time we obtained some hybrids. A few times we thought (or was told) that the hybrid was a species plant and at first we were disappointed, but in the end we were not unhappy with the mistake as the hybrids were always very nice.
These plants were easy to grow and more often than not, they had very attractive flowers.
Then we saw some hybrids not done by the birds and bees but by careful cultivation. They were stunning. However we do not have the years on our side, so we made some uncomplicated hybrids and enjoy the surprises given to us by the birds and bees.

Aloe dorothea hybrid is ideal for a border. The aloe sends out offshoots which will form a solid border. The leaves are a shiny yellow-green which will shade dark olive in full sun. The bright red flowers are also glossy and to top this, this aloe hybrid blooms at least three times a year - that is less than a month from the seeds on the old inflorescens to when the new one starts to grow out.

Some medium size aloe hybrids for the garden.
Photo above. The aloe from my previous blog on buds Aloe petricola x Aloe speciosa, is a convenient size plant for most small gardens and this aloe always shows off well in a green garden - even when not in flower. Flowering time is in winter.

Aloe framesii x Aloe arenicola hybrid is a deep green going over to wine red in full sun.  It is a very attractive aloe but would not show off from a distance in a green garden - it usually has the effect of surprise at finding the pretty plant when it catches the eye of visitors in our garden.

photo above. Against the wall - what better than an assortment of Aloe arborescens hybrids and cultivars.

A focal point

The focal point could be on size. We had no idea that this would be the size that this hybrid below would aim for. It is not planted as a focal point but on the side of the garden behind a tree. Many aloes grow higher than 2 m. but that is mainly due to a long stem not a large rosette like this aloe. This seed decided to go one better on Aloe marlothii. The effect of this hybrid on visitors in the garden is - "What is this?!" A man can stand in front of this aloe with his arms spread out and the aloe will still be higher and wider (and it is still growing).
The pole is 2 m. above ground.
At half the size in bloom.
It is possible to see the parent plants of an Aloe F1 hybrid. Further back than that is for the experts with experience in hybridizing. Some garden hybrids have been going on for generations, we do not even try to think what is in their background as long as they are pretty and easy for the garden, that is what matters.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

more aloe buds Our winter is an exciting time with at least 80% of our aloes blooming from late fall to early spring. The real thrill is when a rare aloe blooms for the first time and buds are visible on our Aloe sabaea from Yemen! I have not seen this aloe in bloom except on a picture. Buds are also showing on Aloe rubroviolacea, also from Yemen and I have not seen it "live in bloom" either.

The raceme is often mentioned in describing aloes, it is the part of the stem on which the flowers are attached. The length of the raceme change the image of the flowering aloe a lot.
Directly below is Aloe mitriformis with a very short raceme.

Variations occur in this aloe - below is a longer raceme.

The buds of Aloe mitriformis on the left has just passed their green phase. This is the stage in the development of the flowers that I find the most attractive of this aloe, before it changes to the flowering shape on the photo right. Aloes tend to vary in the same species.  The raceme is longer which space the flowers wider apart. The new bud can be seen on the right bottom of the photo on the left. It is obvious that the flowers will not be densely packed. However, that is not the only difference, these flowers are wider apart but much longer than the Aloe mitriformis flowers above - and how do you like those open flowers! The curling of the pedals are so charming. The bees do not have a problem pollinating these narrow long flowers as the nectar flow down and the pollen is also right at the opening of the flowers. The stigma will appear after the pollen is gone, most aloes are not self-fertile.

This is a lovely hybrid of Aloe petricola X Aloe speciosa. Aloe speciosa is obvious in the flowers and buds and Aloe petricola is prominent in the size and shape of the plant. A. petricola is not quite 50 cm high and Aloe speciosa is a tree aloe reaching 3 meter easy. This hybrid plant is just under 50 cm.
 The many flower buds of Aloe speciosa are packed so tight that the raceme with buds feels as hard as a rock. Compare the buds of this aloe with the hybrid above - The buds are much alike but Aloe speciosa buds are very dense. The raceme with flowers on the photo above is 40 cm long.
What is the meaning of the word "cola" - The lovers of the drink need not answer.....
It means "inhabiting or dweller ". petri (from petros) = rock + cola would be ... rocks/stones .. inhabiting stones.
There is also an Aloe arenicola which grows on the west coast and it is a sand dweller.

Saturday, May 05, 2007

but it is a bud...
It is obvious that the Aloe species differ a lot in the shape of the leaves, rosette
and flowers but the buds are also different. The best way to identify an aloe is by the flowers as the leaves and rosette will change shape and color depending on whether they grow in shade, sun or drought but the flowers remain the same. The buds are not taken into account mainly because they change in shape and color nearly on a daily basis and the flowers are so much easier to identify. It can be interesting to watch the change and to note the differences in the buds of the aloes species and hybrids.
Aloe cryptopoda. The bracts give a prickly effect. The buds point upward and as they grow they tip over and color yellow when the flowers open. Then after pollination they tip upwards again. All the different stages are easy to see on the photo.
Aloe gerstneri. The buds hang down from the start and lift slightly as the flowers grow and ripen. The shading of the buds to flowers are lovely. The seedpods point upwards. I can not remember seeing seedpods that hang down.

Aloe glauca is another one of the few aloes with "fluffy" bracts.
The buds point upwards and the flowers tip over to point down in a one-by-one fashion. The flowers seem spaced far apart but they are large which does not show on the photo - Prettier in real life. The teeth on this aloe are very sharp.

Aloe nuwerus. A lovely hybrid. The florescence branch with the racemes near to each other. This gives a nice show. The bracts over the very young buds look like fish scales. The colour of the flowers do not shade much. It is already obvious looking at the bracts on the young buds that the flowers will be many and tightly packed on the raceme.

The hanging aloes - Aloe hardyi hangs down but it sends the florescence upwards. The inflorescens is still small - near the top corner right.