This may seem a rather dull subject for a Saturday but it leads to a couple of jobs that need to be done (or needed to be done by me this week) so I have combined two plants with a similar problem.
First of all, heucheras. I am stupidly keen on heucheras and used to collect them but the flow of new ones became a flood and I (or my wallet) couldn’t keep up. And being away from the garden for the past four years stopped the collecting in its tracks. In Ireland I was gardening on rather heavy clay and that is one thing that the modern heucheras really don’t care for. But, back to the plants here, the really annoying thing about heucheras is that, as they age, the stems get lanky and you end up with a tuft of (increasingly smaller) leaves atop a woody trunk. This happens after two or three years, according to the variety, and something has to be done. The plants above (of ‘Lime Rickey’ I think) have been in situ for four years and you may be able to see that those tufts of yellow leaves are at the ends of woody stems. Now is the time to take action and I dig the plants up. There are usually less roots than you expect. I split them, breaking the base of the woody stems and replant one to three stems together in the hole with the base of the leaves just above ground level. The stems under the soil form roots and they soon make new growth.
We tend to think of heucheras as woodland plants and assume they want moisture but I have seen them growing wild in the US and, although the soil may be moist, they usually grow on sloping ground among rocks where they would never sit in wetness, unlike in a heavy clay soil.
Having a clear out of the greenhouse I uncovered a huge pot of Bilbergia nutans that had been neglected for years – few plants put up with neglect with the steadfast dignity of bilbergias. They show clearly the growth habit of most bromeliads, forming rosettes of leaves which, once mature, flower and then slowly die but not before they have produced offsets. In some, such as the popular houseplant guzmanias and aechmeas, these are produced at the base of the ‘vases’, within the lower leaves but in bilbergias, because the leaves are rather strappy the plantlets are produced at some distance, on stolons. In the photo above you can see the rosette that flowered in 2015 on the right, in 2016 in the centre and a new rosette growing on the left.