Saving a Plant called Alan

I know the above heading sounds suspiciously like a World War 2 film starring Tom Hanks, but bear with me I could have the making of the next big horticultural blockbuster, possibly since Day of the Triffids!

It all started with our idiot son, (who regular readers will know from his infrequent appearances in this blog). When he was at university some 8 years ago be decided to buy a plant from a market, and not knowing the names of any plants, decided to call it Alan. Alan the plant suffered severe neglect throughout his university career until eventually they both emerged at the end. Idiot son with a 1st Masters in Physics (which I am very proud of); Alan however, emerged a dehydrated, emaciated stalk with barely a sign of life (which I am not proud of).

The upshot of all this is that Alan is dying. Over the past years I have taken numerous cuttings from Alan and he has been given to all and sundry. But Alan the original was in a sorry state. When I told the idiot son that Alan was headed for the compost heap he went through all the 5 stages of grief as he begged me to do something, or, at least write his obituary in this blog. I promised I would do my best, but knew it was all over as I headed to the compost heap with a decrepit Alan. But, just as I was dismantling Alan to put him in the compost there was a glimmer of green appearing at one side.

With a bit of luck we may have saved plant Alan. It is early days, but we shall be singing 10 Te Deums at Church this Sunday in thanksgiving to God for his survival so far. The first picture shows Alan on his deathbed, the second shows me administering the Last Rites before commending him to the compost heap. Finally Alan in intensive care; pray for him. Click on each photo for a larger view.

5th June 2021. Things I have been doing lately:

Cutting back Jasmine. Jasmine is one of those fast growing climbers that sometimes needs to be cut right back every few years to reinvigorate it and to keep it under control. In my case the severe cutback was forced upon me as we are having our house painted and I didn’t think it would be right to just paint around it. Late Spring early Summer is a good time to cut back Jasmine, as it will be growing strongly and will soon recover. Don’t be afraid to cut back right to a couple of inches from the ground. Never cut right to the ground as you may let an infection in. Once you have cutback, water and mulch, and hopefully you will soon see new growth.

The first photo below shows the Jasmine before its drastic cut. The second shows the cutback point. Whilst the final photo shows the plant already recovering and reaching for the wall. Click on each photo for a larger view.

My Solanum has recovered. Regular readers of this blog will remember that Cruella (my wife) touched a lovely climbing Solanum that I had grown to over 30ft along the walls of our outside kitchen. Again regular readers will know that Cruella’s icy touch is guaranteed to kill any plant by instantly turning its stem black.

Like the Jasmine mentioned above, my only recourse was to cut it back to the ground and see if it would recover. Now I am not saying that this works every time, but if it looks like you have lost a precious plant then it is always worth cutting it right back to see if you can save it. After all what have you got to lose.

The first photo below shows the Solanum in its blighted state after being touched by Cruella. The second shows the cutback. The final photo shows the Solanum growing at a great pace and should be at least half its former length this season. Click on each photo for a larger view.

Repotting a Fig cutting. Figs trees provide good cuttings and grow on quite easily. So if you have a tree you can either take cuttings to add to your stock, or take them just to give to friends. Once your cutting has been in its pot for a couple of years it is a good idea to pot them on, but remember that figs don’t mind their roots being tight, so don’t go too large.

In my case I have a cutting that is two years old, produces fruit, yet I don’t want to put it into the ground. In addition it is in a black plastic pot in full sun, and I think it’s roots are being baked. Before transplanting a fig make sure you prepare a nice free draining compost. Do not use compost straight out of the bag, instead make a mix of 2 parts compost, 2 parts garden soil and 1 part sand. You can also throw some Perlite in if you haven’t got sand. Mix all of this together well and place your cutting into its new home with as little disturbance to the root ball as possible.

The first photos below show my little fig being baked whilst waiting for his new home. The next photos show my mixing process in action, whilst the final photo shows the fig in its new home, which should be ok for about 5 years.

An update. For those of you interested the photo below shows the latest extent of my Agave Americana flower spike. I asked Cruella if she would take this photo, and she always says the same thing every time I ask her to take a photo- “are you going to get changed”; I think she is implying my gardening clothes are scruffy.

Author: spanishgarden

I live in both Spain and the UK and am a very keen gardener. I garden every day and enjoy sharing all the secrets that God allows us to discover in our gardens.

2 thoughts on “Saving a Plant called Alan”

  1. I was wondering what that tall Agave americana spike to the East is. I can see it from California. Anyway, Alan does not seem to be all that bad. He just seems to be pregnant. Did he bloom prior to this, or has that foliage just remained from a bloom years ago? Bromeliads are weird like that. They do not necessarily die back immediately after bloom. Anyway . . .


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