This week I visited Kew Gardens, where I saw many of the plants I’m collecting in my greenhouse, growing in the majestic splendour of the the newly restored Temperate House as well as the Palm and Waterlily Houses.

So my Six on Saturday is a tale of two greenhouse collections – mine and those at Kew

Carica Papaya

Papaya fruit growing in palm house kew

Looking up in the Palm House at Kew, I noticed some fruit developing on a graceful looking tree with large, hand-shaped lush green leaves.  I realised these were Papaya.

In July I was visiting a local Asda store and was surprised to find a collection of tropical plants gathered for sale around the entrance doors.  On closer inspection they turned out to include guavas, two types of Passion Flower and a Papaya.  The plants were each over a foot tall, looked green and healthy and cost only £6 each.  I bought a guava, a banana passion flower and this Carica or Papaya.

Carica papaya - young plant

I’ve been a bit worried about the papaya as the leaves appear mottled and I thought maybe it had a disease.  The most likely culprit seemed to be Papaya Mosaic Virus although pictures I have found of this online appear much more severe than the patterning on these leaves.  Looking at the leaves of the specimen at Kew, I could see similar patterning on the leaves but some very healthy looking fruits so I’m hoping that’s just how the leaves appear to look under glass in the UK.  Time will tell.

Stop press – I’ve just taken a really good look at my Papaya and the culprit is Red Spider Mite.  I’ve taken it outside and given it a firm spray with the hose to dislodge the beasties and as the weather is set fair I’ll leave it outside for a couple of days to monitor and hope the problem is contained to this one plant.  I’m trying not to use chemicals if I can avoid them.

Jacaranda mimosifolia

Jacaranda mimosifolia temperate house kew

I knew there’d be a Jacaranda mimisofolia somewhere at Kew, probably in the Temperate House.   We all went on a hunt for one, me enthusiastically and the rest of the party saying “but what do they look like?”.  My response of “you know that feathery leaved plant in the greenhouse” didn’t help.

I am very proud of this bonny little Jacaranda plant as I have grown it from seed this year. Its feathery, gracefully arched branches are so pretty and as its name suggests, is very similar in appearance to leaves of the mimosa.

Jacaranda mimosifolia young plant grown from seed

I have an affinity with Jacaranda as my parents had one in their conservatory when I was growing up.  It got so large it was pushing the panes of glass out of the roof.  It was becoming a problem, one which was solved by the great storm of 1987 when the entire wooden Edwardian structure was blown over and destroyed.  It was a shame as the conservatory had beautiful stained glass panels, impossible to replicate within the budget for replacement.  However, the Jacaranda tree was more generously accommodated in the new conservatory though and lived on.

The Jacaranda we found at Kew is tall, but they grow much taller and are commonly used as street trees in warmer climes.  It shows me that at some point in the future I may well have a problems with my seedling outgrowing my greenhouse, just as my parents did…

Jacaranda mimosifolia young plant from seed

Amorphophallus stipulata

Amorphophallus stipulata young plant

I bought this intriguing plant at the Chenies Manor Plant fair a few weekends ago.  The stallholder, Edulis nurseries, had a display plant in a large pot, which was two feet tall and had a thick stem, mottled with a brown and green pattern reminiscent of leopard spots.  There are many different types of Amorphophallus, common names for which include the name Leopard Arum and Umbrella Arum, both descriptive names for the patterning and shape of the plant.

Mine is only a baby, but it seems to like my greenhouse.  Since buying it, a second stalk has emerged from the base of the plant.

Amorphophallus konjac voodoo lily

I spotted a few of these at Kew, unmistakably Amorphophallus in shape but considerably older and larger than mine, one at least 1.5 metres tall. The patterning on those seen at Kew was paler than mine, with a cream background and green mottling.

Water-lilies and lotus plant


waterliliy house kew gardens

The waterlily house at Kew is just lovely.  The glass structure is square but contains a very large circular pond, filled with Santa Cruz water lilies and other tropical water lilies.   At the back of the pond was a stunning Sacred Lotus Flower, otherwise known as Nelumbo nucifera.

Sacred lotus flower Nelumbo nucifera

You won’t be surprised to learn that my greenhouse is not large enough to accommodate a tropical pond like this but I did buy some Nelumbo seeds over the internet in the hope I might be able to grow them in a ceramic glazed pot I have.  It has no drainage holes so would have been just the job for a greenhouse pond.

Nelumbo nucifera seeds

Unfortunately, despite following the instructions on the packet to chip the seeds, put in a bowl of warm water, change the water regularly, and keep it in a warm spot, the seeds have refused to germinate.

Maybe next year I’ll try waterlilies.


Epiphyllum spent flowers

At Kew, I spotted these spent flowers of an Epiphyllum, propped up on a wall.

I have previously described my Epiphllum ‘Queen of the Night’ which I bought on Ebay from an enthusiast who had a spare cutting.  At the same time I also bought four more different varieties of Epiphyllum plants mail-order from the Cactus Nursery in Devon.  The succulent leaves of these plants are wayward and all the greenhouse books I have read suggest planting the in hanging baskets so this is what I am trying.

Epiphyllum in hanging basket

Two plants are potted up in this first one, elegantly lined with sage green sphagnum moss. The second two plants are in this basket, lined with an old green jumper of mine, a slightly brighter and less tasteful pea green.

Epiphyllum in hanging basket


Hibiscus moscheutos 'Southern Belle'

This Hibiscus, just outside the Temperate House at Kew, took my breath away.  Called Hibiscus moscheutos ‘Southern Belle’ it has a flower worthy of its name. Showy, glamourous and striking it is a glorious rich pinky burgundy colour.  Notable are the  crimpings on the petals, a bit like those you find at the edge of a paper plate.  Believe it or not, this flower is indeed the size of a paper plate, the picture shows it next to my son’s hand.  He’s only 11 but does have large hands.

Hibiscus flower

I don’t have any Southern Belles adorning my greenhouse but I found out through twitter this week that they are easy to grow from seed, if I can source some.  For now, I do have this Hibiscus flowering in my greenhouse.  I don’t know its name but has lovely colouring, if not the size and blowsiness of ‘Southern Belle’.


Six on Saturday is a weekly meme – take a look at the comments at the base of host The Propagator to see more ‘sixes’ from other keen gardeners from all over the world.