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The Hoardiculturist #3

My aeonium collection

My aeonium collection

When I was about ten or eleven my parents gave me the Haworthia attenuata that had thrived on our sunny kitchen windowsill for many years. I was fascinated by this curious plant, whose untidy rosette of green leaves banded with raised white tubercles reminded me of the waving tentacles of a sea anemone. Despite competing against a Scalextric slot car racing set, Action Man and numerous Corgi cars for my attention, the haworthia prospered and grew into a sizeable clump.

The delivery of this plant into my fingers led to a life-long fascination with cacti and succulents, and by the time I was in my mid-teens I had already collected several hundred plants that were arranged on the windowsills of the family house. However, lack of space indoors was a serious threat to my obsession, so I was delighted when, for my sixteenth birthday, I was given a small greenhouse to re-house my plants. For many years, I devoted much of my free time to nurturing the plants, but by my late teens a combination of other interests, including girls, guitars and pubs, meant my original collection suffered (completely died) through neglect.

However, I have always retained an interest in this group of plants and have long wished to travel to the Canary Islands so I could see my favourite group of succulents, aeoniums, growing in the well-drained volcanic soil of Tenerife, Lanzarote, Fuerteventura and Gran Canaria. Alas, I have yet to visit, but I have seen many thriving at the Abbey Gardens on Tresco in the Isles of Scilly (an archipelago of 150 islands and rocks). These sub-tropical gardens, 25 miles off the coast of Cornwall in the south west of England, are home to 20 different aeoniums, including the dark and seriously gorgeous Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’ , A. arboreum ‘Purpureum’ and the large green rosettes of A.cuneatum, which stud the walls and have a mass of coral pink roots, so slender they resemble the finest filaments.

In my own garden I have 19 aeoniums, which I grow in pots so they can be put in a frost free place overwinter. I love them all, but perhaps my favourite is A.castello-paivae, an unusual species with a slightly prostrate habit that makes a mass of wiry stems topped with small rosettes of slender, slate grey leaves ending in a red tip. As a collector I’m always on the lookout for others and I’m desperate to get hold of A. decorum ‘Sunburst’, which I’ve only ever seen in a photograph taken at Huntington Gardens, Los Angeles. If anyone could let me know where I might get one from I’d be very grateful.

My aeonium collection
Aeonium ‘Frosty’
Aeonium ‘Zwartkop’
Aeonium arboretum ‘Atropurpureum’
Aeonium arboreum ‘Magnificum’
Aeonium arboreum ’Purpureum’
Aeonium balsamiferum
Aeonium canariense
Aeonium castello-paivae
Aeonium ciliatum
Aeonium cuneatum
Aeonium holochrysum
Aeonium lindleyi
Aeonium percarneum
Aeonium sedifolium
Aeonium simsii
Aeonium tabuliforme
Aeonium undulatum
Aeonium undulatum ssp ‘Pseudotabuliforme’
Aeonium urbicum

Aeonium castello-paivae

Aeonium castello-paivae

Aeonium canariense

Aeonium canariense

Aeonium undulatum

Aeonium undulatum

Aeonium 'Zwartkop'

Aeonium 'Zwartkop'

Aeonium 'Simsii'

Aeonium 'Simsii'

9 comments to The Hoardiculturist #3

  • I love aeoniums – I had no idea there were so many different ones. I lost my huge ‘Zwartkop’ by being complacent about the frost after it had overwintered outside happily before. I have also lost a large castello-paivae – all but one branching bit has died. I got a few of the aeoniums from Holly Gate Cactus in West Sussex – a great place and large collection of plants for sale although they are often a bit small and straggly compared with stuff from Archaelogical Plants for instance. Now you’ve reminded me I might drive over tomorrow as I lost a few other small succulents too. I’ll keep an eye out for ‘Sunburst’ and let you know if they have it (or probably buy their very last plant for myself! LOL!)

    • Nooo, please buy it for me. I’ve wanted a ‘Sunburst’ for years, but have never managed to track one down. I love Holly Gate Cactus Nursery – great displays and fab plants.

  • Hi! I sure wish I had known you were out there when I was watching my big old “Bronze Tea Cup” Aeonium croak. I tried everything to keep it going. It had a dinner plate sized head on it! It was gorgeous! I have had terrible luck with aeoniums, and have given up on them. I live in South Florida…maybe this is the problem???

    Anyway, you are so lucky to have such a wonderful collection. I, too, long to visit the Canary Islands, and am really, really hoping to get to do it one day! It would be the highlite of my life (along with a same trip to Cape Town, SA), to check out all of the Haworthia and Gasterias growing in the wild!

    Take care!!!

  • 19 eh? not bad. This has sent me racing down to the greenhouse to do an inventory of my ‘collection’ and i find i have a measly seven different types. anyway, if you’re interested, they are:
    A. arboreum
    A. ‘Margo’
    A. Zwartkopf’ (of course, the ‘gateway’ aeonium)
    A. ‘Sun Disc’
    A. ‘Green Eye’
    A. cuneatum
    and another unlabelled one which i am fairly sure is A. haworthii

    but although i cant beat you on numbers they thrash yours on size. Mine are beasts. my A. arboreum alone could take your whole collection…
    Now you have brought out my nasty competitive side! i am going to go and have a cup of tranquilitea and a sit down now…

    • Ooh you really do have a competitive streak. You’re right though, some of my aeoniums are a bit puny, but as I’m used to saying, size isn’t everything. Actually I’m not used to saying that and I’m not going to start now. Size is everything and I wish the things would grow. Go on you bxxxxxds grow. Now I need some tranquilitea. Please, just grow.

  • I went to Holly Gate today….. it was bloody well closed! Not open until April 24th. Pfft! It all looked a bit more dilapidated than usual and nosing in at the windows there didn’t seem to be as much stock out but maybe it’s been closed up for the winter. So no ‘sunburst’ for either of us. I am also a bit peeved that I am losing in the competitive aeonium stakes. I think I might only have five different ones although one was from Adelaide Botanic gardens – a little head was just lying on the path begging to be looked after and is now thriving. A nice bright green one I took as a cutting from the garden of a house in Mallorca I stayed at. I do like it when my plants have a bit of a provenance.

    • What a bummer – you’ll just have to make up for it by spending a little more when it does open. I can see this competitive aeonium thing is going to get out of hand so I’m going to have to track down a few more plants to see off challengers.

  • Hello Martyn! Thank you for your wonderful visit to my site and for the invitation to yours! As soon as your Wildlife Gardening book was about to go on the shelf, I had to snag a copy. Love it! I’m not much of a gardener, however I’d like to be! So I will definitely be frequenting this place! Beautiful aeoniums by the way!

  • I potted mine up yesterday and gave them some extra feed. Keep em growing! but i can see that isnt going to wash and Arabella is scarily close behind me. i need more…

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