Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Must Have: Horsetail Restio Seedheads

Elegia-capensis-in-flower-111114-640

 

The feathery growth of horsetail restio is a thrill in itself. For years, savoring the soft-and-green foliage was my relationship with this plant. Then, on trip to San Francisco, I chanced upon this colony. It wasn't just green and feathery: It had produced staggering ebony-brown seedheads. With horsetail restio, green and feathery was just the beginning!

  

I also grow another restio: Giant Cape rush, Chondropetalum elephantinum. (This species is now also known as Elegia elephantina; for clarity, I'll continue to refer to it as Chondropetalum.) From the first year, this Chondropetalum moved beyond mere vegetative growth all the way to seedheads. As each season's stems matured, they developed lengthy and narrow clusters of seeds the same rich ebony color as those of Elegia capensis. But for Chondropetalum, there didn't seem to be distinct stages to the growth cycle. No now-we-grow-stems-but-only-later,-maybe,-might-we-flower-and-form-seedheads. Every Chondropetalum stem formed that season also developed its own seedhead that very same season, and in one continuous sweep of activity.

 

The Chondropetalum colony is no older than the Elegia colony, and its container no larger. Both plants receive the same attentive care: never a lack for water, plenty of heat and sun Spring to Fall, and bright light in the cool but frost-free greenhouse all Winter. And yet the Chondropetalum sets seed annually, whereas the Elegia hasn't done so even once.

 

The seedheads in this Bay Area colony of Elegia are about six inches long and, overall, the head is as thick as a banana. In color, texture, and shape, could the cluster be a more striking contrast to—and partner with—the foliage? So desirable! How can I help my own Elegia colony along?

 

Elegia-capensis-in-flower-111114-closer-640 

 

As far as I can determine, both species thrive with similar conditions and handling. And in the Mediterranean climate they prefer—frost-free and sunny, but with plentiful groundwater—Elegia capensis is both very fast growing and quite large: to eight feet and taller, and quickly spreading in clumps several yards across. My Elegia colony was barely four feet tall, half the height of my Chondropetalum. What wasn't I doing for the Elegia to help it become more vigorous as well as more fruitful or, rather, seedful? Or maybe something I was doing was getting in the way of its adoption of a yearly growth cycle that was more one-stage, more stems-and-seedheads-all-in-one-fell-swoop—more like the Chondropetalum.

 

Here's the plan that, I hope, will suggest the answer:

 

     1. This Spring, I'll pot-up the Elegia, using the sandy soil it loves.

 

     2. I'll fertilize regularly. One source recommends fish emulsion. Got it.

 

     3. Perhaps most important of all, I'll add a source of silicate. This is a form of the element silicon that enables plants to form stronger and more profuse structures, from thicker cell walls to taller and stronger stems. Young bamboo canes are as notoriously prone to snapping as mature bamboo canes are flexibly strong and resistant to snapping. Absorption of silicates from the soil is what makes the difference. Mature Elegia stems are rigid and flexible just like bamboo canes, and with as speedy growth. Surely, they need silicate, too. 

 

In contrast to the Bay Area beauty, my colony of Elegia is both short and barren. Almost certainly, a good supply of silica will help it grow taller. More seedful, too? I'll report in during this season's growth cycle. Stay tuned, then, for a post on Elegia capensis in July or August, 2015.

 

 

Here's a look at my colony of Elegia capensis. It's beautiful, but not yet so happy it has favored me with flowering and seedheads. Soon, please.

 

Here's a different look at the other restio I grow, Chondropetalum elephantinum, as well as information on how to grow restios in general.

 
 
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