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2:47pm on Saturday, 26th August, 2006:

Ice Plants


My mother's second husband, Walt, used to like gardening. Well, he liked the practice (digging holes and planting plants) but not the theory (all those Latin names). He always referred to flowers by their common names, which was good from my point of view as I don't know — or want to know — the Latin names either.

He'd occasionally give me cuttings of plants to put in our garden (or, more precisely, for me to get someone else, eg. my father-in-law, to put in our garden). He was particularly fond of ice plants, which are very good for producing side growths that you can snap off and replant elsewhere. Every couple of years or so, he'd give me some.

I finally noticed that there were seemingly two plants he gave me that he called ice plants, and that neither of them matched what the plant books called ice plants. His were both Alpines, and both had fleshy leaves, but the flowers were completely different when they came out. I asked him about it, and he didn't know what I meant, so we went into his garden and I pointed at one of the plants and asked what it was. "It's an ice plant", he said. I then found one of the others, and pointed that out, and asked him what that was. It flummoxed him. "Well, that's also an ice plant. There must be two kinds of them!". Further questioning revealed that he'd acquired both types as cuttings without knowing what they were, but he'd been told by other people that they were ice plants.

It was at this point that I realised what had happened.

If someone admires something in your garden and says, "That's a nice plant", make sure you get the spacing correct.

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Copyright © 2006 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).