07 November 2007
Ice Ice plants, baby!
Before we go any further with this post, you may want to adjust your monitor's brightness level, or perhaps run and get your sunglasses. I'm tired out after a day in Wolfville and Halifax, meeting with several of my editors, so I'll just rest here for a bit...you go ahead, I'll wait.
Ready? Alright....as promised, a little post about ice plants. There are a number of different plants that go by the name "ice plant', including one genus from Africa that is fairly perennial, Delosperma (various species). I thought I had planted one of those this summer, but if I did, I've lost it or it went to sleep. These are quite hardy provided you have good drainage, and I know other gardeners here in NS who have had no problem with them. Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of them, but you can see one here.
But the plants that really rock my socks are those that are annual here, Mesembryanthemum, or Livingstone Daisy. Everything about this plant is appealing, from the succulent foliage that looks like it is frosted in ice to its cascading growth habit--good for hanging planters or edges of walls--to of course those amazing, luminous, even neon colours.
These neon colours can be very hard to photograph, because they are so vibrant that the digital camera's sensors get a bit flummoxed, except on cloudy days.
Whew...this one is a little softer in shade, and I have to say I don't like it nearly as well...but the other marvelous thing about ice plants is that they flower like crazy. Look no further for proof of that than the fact mine are still blooming even though we're now into the second week of November.
Everything about these flowers intrigues me, including the central florets, which change colour as the flower matures. they also act somewhat like a weather forecaster, opening in sunny weather, closing at day's end or on cool and cloudy days. For an interesting look at how the flowers open and close, visit this video; it's only five seconds long, so you shouldn't get too bored.
I'm going to try growing livingstone daisies from seed next year, because I want a LOT of them--they do very well in containers, and I'm going to plant some of them on a hill that is gradually being turned into an alpine garden, because the drainage is very good. That's the main secret to these plants--give them perfect drainage. If they're in too wet a site, or if it's a wet and soggy summer, they tend to rot, but I've only had this happen once in the few years I've been enjoying them in our containers and along the edge of a front garden. I'm not sure what it says about me that I like putting these vibrant coloured blossoms in close proximity to plants with gold or acid-green foliage, just to ramp up the brilliance factor a little bit.
You know how we are often served a sorbet or ice between appetizer and main course, to 'cleanse the palate'? Well, lest the dizzying neon glow of all these ice plant blossoms do you in, I thought a little cool, cobalt blue would cleanse your optical palate.
Are you still enthused? Quite a few seed houses carry Mesembryanthemum or Ice Plant seeds, although you may find it more of a challenge to find transplants, depending on where you live. I have two different nurseries where I've found them on a regular basis; with the mixed colours you never know what you'll get, but that's part of the fun of growing 'assorted colours of plants.