Ebenus cretica cultivation and propagation

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Alice

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Ebenus cretica cultivation and propagation
« on: March 12, 2012, 02:33:30 PM »
My question relates to Ebenus cretica in particular but also more generally to summer watering of certain plants (e.g. oaks) in the drier parts of the Mediterranean.
I have had conflicting advice, with most gardeners (with experience in the wetter Western Mediterranean, perhaps?) suggesting that this practice would kill the plants. However, can a young plant survive 5-6 months of drought without any water at all?
In other words, is there an East/West divide when it comes to watering schedules?
« Last Edit: September 29, 2012, 12:06:10 PM by Alisdair »
Amateur gardener who has gardened in north London and now gardens part of the year on the Cycladic island of Paros. Conditions: coastal, windy, annual rainfall 350mm, temp 0-35 degrees C.

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John

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Re: Ebenus cretica - summer watering?
« Reply #1 on: March 12, 2012, 08:58:20 PM »
Hello Alice,
I would say that you shouldn't water Ebenus creticus during the summer but that it should have had chance to establish itself through the winter before. It has a very deep searching tap root which allows it to survive in rock crevices in the wild. This is one of the reasons it can be difficult to grow well in a pot and then transplant so I would certainly suggest starting with a very small seedling or even sowing it in situ if it is intended for a rock crevice.
The one plant I managed to grow here in London survived on a rockery for about 2 years but was very unhappy and faded away. Wrong climate. Perhaps too wet in summer or perhaps too cold in winter, or both!
John
Horticulturist, photographer, author, garden designer and plant breeder; MGS member and RHS committee member. I garden at home in SW London and also at work in South London.

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Alisdair

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Re: Ebenus cretica - summer watering?
« Reply #2 on: March 12, 2012, 10:56:29 PM »
My own rather sad experience of this lovely plant bears out what John says. I was given a good-sized specimen in a two-litre pot, which I planted out in the autumn in our hot Greek garden. It did not survive the following (unwatered) summer, and I now believe that that was probably because it was already too old and established, in its pot, to be able to plunge its roots down in that first winter in the way that a younger plant might have been. So I'm trying now to raise some Ebenus cretica from seed, in the hope of planting them out very young in the late autumn.
Generally, with other plants, we try to give them a monthly deep watering in their first summer, then leave them. As our Mani summers are long and hot, usually with virtually no rain from May to October and sometimes even longer, we have to accept that some plants simply don't survive. You have to remember that with the native plants which do survive in the wild, for every seedling that is so luckily placed and so luckily treated by circumstances in its first winter that it has managed to get its roots down well and survives to become eventually a grand old plant, probably many hundreds less fortunately placed have perished in their first very few months or years. If we get a 50% or even 75% survival rate with our own plantings, we are almost certainly doing very much better than Nature!
Alisdair Aird
Gardens in SE England (Sussex); also coastal Southern Greece, and (in a very small way) South West France; MGS member (and former president); vice chairman RHS Lily Group, past chairman Cyclamen Society

Jill S

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Re: Ebenus cretica - summer watering?
« Reply #3 on: March 12, 2012, 11:26:42 PM »
I agree wholeheartedly, plant small, plant well, use the watering hollow idea, use mulch,  keep the weeds away, plant in autumn (Paros does get a decent rainfall in winter), be prepared to water thoroughly at intervals during the first summer and if they survive their first year then they stand a good chance of making it. A 60% survival rate is doing really well, so be prepared to loose more than you would like, but remember most plants are worth it!!
Member of RHS and MGS. Gardens in Surrey, UK and, whenever I get the chance, on Paros, Greece where the learning curve is not the only thing that's steep.

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John

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Re: Ebenus cretica - summer watering?
« Reply #4 on: March 12, 2012, 11:42:32 PM »
If you can get hold of a quantity of seed do try sowing some in situ as I suggested. If you sow 50 seeds, say 5 in each location you may end up with ten plants or if more you can thin them or just leave them to get on with it and sort themselves out!
John
Horticulturist, photographer, author, garden designer and plant breeder; MGS member and RHS committee member. I garden at home in SW London and also at work in South London.

Umbrian

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Re: Ebenus cretica - summer watering?
« Reply #5 on: March 13, 2012, 07:25:38 AM »
The advice given by JillS echoes my feelings for just about all planting when gardening in Mediterranean climate areas  especially if one is new to it and accustomed to gardening in a more temperate climate.
Alasdair's comments about success rates  in nature are also worth noting and should prevent us from getting too disheartened. I have been trying to establish Romneya coulteri here for quite some time feeling that it should be OK once established and having space for it to spread. In England I knew of a garden where it had to be curbed because it spread from the front garden into the street beyond. So far though I have had no luck but as I love it so much I am going to keep on trying! :( :) Any tips? Perhaps this should be a new topic Alasdair? :-\
MGS member living and gardening in Umbria, Italy for past 19 years. Recently moved from my original house and now planning and planting a new small garden.

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JTh

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Re: Ebenus cretica - summer watering?
« Reply #6 on: March 13, 2012, 08:12:21 AM »
Carol, there is already some info about cultivation of Romneya coultreri (under Perennials), see http://www.mgsforum.org/smf/index.php?topic=32.msg125#msg125.
Retired veterinary surgeon by training with a PhD in parasitology,  but worked as a virologist since 1992.
Member of the MGS  since 2004. Gardening in Oslo and to a limited extent in Halkidiki, Greece.

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Fleur Pavlidis

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Re: Ebenus cretica - summer watering?
« Reply #7 on: March 14, 2012, 09:17:02 AM »
Going back to the Ebenus, pictured below is a young plant which was given to me as a small specimen in autumn 2010. I watered it by hand during its only summer (2011) and as you can see it is doing very well. The older plant shown must be 7-8 years old and it was on the watering system when it was young.The bank where  it grows is watered but the Ebenus is off the system now. I had to chop out the centre to release it from a huge clump of grass two autumns ago, but it has come back without any problem.
In his book 'the Dry Garden Handbook", Olivier Filippi describes how he prepares the seeds before sowing (rubbing with sandpaper and swelling with boiling water) but even so he says germination is poor. At Sparoza Sally collects the self-sown seedlings which always pop up very close to the ancient mother plant. My mature plant is a seedling of this Ebenus planted in the 70s by Jacky Tyrwhitt.
MGS member, Greece. I garden in Attica, Greece and Mt Goulinas (450m) Central Greece

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John

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Re: Ebenus cretica - summer watering?
« Reply #8 on: March 14, 2012, 09:51:21 AM »
Regarding seed soaking. Filing the seed coat of Lathyrus odoratus (sweet pea) was something that I was told (many years ago) was necessary to get them to imbibe but I found that putting them in a cup with about 10mm of boiled water and leaving them to soak for about 48 hours got most of them to imbibe. This may be appropriate for a whole range of legumes.
John
Horticulturist, photographer, author, garden designer and plant breeder; MGS member and RHS committee member. I garden at home in SW London and also at work in South London.

Alice

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Re: Ebenus cretica - summer watering?
« Reply #9 on: April 17, 2012, 12:04:06 PM »
Many thanks to all who responded to my question about summer watering of Ebenus cretica.
The warning in O. Filippi's book "The Dry Gardening Handbook" that summer irrigation would kill it "as surely as a powerful dose of herbicide" was slightly worrying, yet I felt I could not abandon it to its fate for the first one or two summers, until it became well established.
It is good to know that watered E. cretica plants, grown in similar conditions to mine (not in London, that is!), are flourishing. Lovely, healthy plant, Fleur!
Amateur gardener who has gardened in north London and now gardens part of the year on the Cycladic island of Paros. Conditions: coastal, windy, annual rainfall 350mm, temp 0-35 degrees C.

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anita

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Re: Ebenus cretica - summer watering?
« Reply #10 on: April 17, 2012, 01:43:22 PM »
I've no experience with Ebenus but in the drier climes of Southern Australia the agreed wisdom on many native and Med species concurs with the advice of Jill, Umbrian and Fleur. Plant young, rather than advanced plants, plant in autumn while the soil is warm, water at planting and later if the plant is getting stressed then water when stressed during the first summer. Then it's on its own. Anita
Dry mediterranean climate, avg annual rainfall 530mm, little or no frost. Winter minimum 1C, summer max 45C

Joanna Savage

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Re: Ebenus cretica - pollination?
« Reply #11 on: July 26, 2012, 03:11:01 PM »
Returning to the idiosyncracies of 'E.cretica', I am wondering if anyone knows the pollination mechanism. Last year, as a start, I was able to germinate only one seed of the ten harvested. This year I watched more carefully and was surprised to see very few pollinators active while next door Salvias and Achilleas were being bomarded by several different pollinators. So far I have collected about two litres of the fluffy flower heads and there is very little seed. Perhaps 'E.creticus' has its own particular Cretan pollinator. Written from Toscana.

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John

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Re: Ebenus cretica - summer watering?
« Reply #12 on: July 26, 2012, 03:55:19 PM »
The last time I collected seed heads was in eastern Crete on the coast road and out of several dried inflorescence heads there were very few fertile seeds, maybe one or two per head.
John
Horticulturist, photographer, author, garden designer and plant breeder; MGS member and RHS committee member. I garden at home in SW London and also at work in South London.

Joanna Savage

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Re: Ebenus cretica - summer watering?
« Reply #13 on: July 26, 2012, 04:28:20 PM »
Thanks John, I'll keep trying to find seed, or to hope that some germinates on the ground of its own accord. In truth the plant suffers so much in our winter I might soon have to abandon my attempts to grow it. Joanna

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John

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Re: Ebenus cretica - summer watering?
« Reply #14 on: July 26, 2012, 04:53:19 PM »
When you do get seed in my experience it is very long lived even without any special storage methods. I am not sure if I used my hot water method the one time I germinated some but it's worth mentioning. With sweet pea seeds I used to chip them to get good germination with was tedious and time consuming. Then I tried an experiment by pouring just boiled water onto them in cups and leaving them to go cold. It was perhaps only about 15 mm deep but it did the trick. By the next day most had imbibed and went on to grow away well. I have a feeling that I did this with Ebenus but I can't honestly remember. If you ever have enough seed give a go.
John
Horticulturist, photographer, author, garden designer and plant breeder; MGS member and RHS committee member. I garden at home in SW London and also at work in South London.