Well, it’s frosty outside and the sun is shining and you probably want me to write about snowdrops. There’s a lot of snowdrop waffle at this time of year, (I’ve done it myself) totally ignoring the freezing cold out there and the requirement to bend to see them.
No, I feel more inclined to admire succulents right now.
I was bounced into growing succulents by red spider mite. It got a grip on the plants in my conservatory which was totally unshiftable. (See the spider mite section in this post) And that was in the days when there were still quite a few chemical solutions around. (and yes, I tried the ‘natural’ ones too. I’m not totally bad.)
But succulents appeared to be immune to that particular blight. I have since discovered that mealy bugs enjoy a bit of succulent but they also are more manageable. (Using cotton buds to administer fatal swabs of rubbing alcohol. I know = chemical. But it seems to work.) So I chucked out everything (mostly) apart from succulents.
I am not about to tell you lots of plant names or tricks of succulent care. It’s all elsewhere online or in books. And they do seem to be dead easy to manage. Apart from trying to keep the ones in the greenhouse warm enough in the freeze lately, (slight fail, but keeping anything or anyone warm is a current challenge) they have required nothing of me for months, while the bulbs in containers have been being devoured by squirrels and mice.
And when succulents are demanding it’s not very. Apart from the times I realise with horror that every one of the damn things is going to need repotting one day and worse, that that will result in twice as many pots of succulents as I have now, because repotting leads to propagating. Bits fall off and have to be poked into a pot. Tops get cut off leading to two where there was one. Look it up.
However, they are a great pleasure to look at and I am still managing to accommodate them all. Just about.
So I thought I’d share some succulent contemplation with you.
They are like little sculptures. You can keep the flowers: it’s just the shapes and colours I love. Subtle and elegant. I don’t think I’ve done them justice generally. I’ve tended to keep them in separate pots on shelves. We built the shelves and filled them.
And here are Charles’s shelves. (He did the ones in the conservatory too..)
Nice, but I think I could do better.
Not by mixing madly them up in pots or, worse, in pots with other plants. I find mixed pots of things a bit horrid, like borders over planted with multitudes of random plants. But curiously, how different is it when I put them in a box together?
Then last year I realised it might be even easier to look after them if there were several in one container. And that they might actually make good patterns together.. So I am trying this, with plants too small as yet to tell me whether the result will be pleasing. But I’m loving the trip.
And I think there may be some future in the way some of my plants are getting very big. That could be impressive and dramatic – if harder to find space for in winter.
I’ve also discovered that there are lots of people on Instagram doing wild and wonderful things with succulents, with far more imagination than I’ve had so far. I learned about cutting into the centre of aeoniums (I do know one name – they are my favourites) to persuade the plant to multiply in the centre, which is a little more exciting than their usual trick of just growing taller and taller and taller and falling over.
Though if you chop the top off, to make it start again, and keep the solitary stem, lo and behold, the stem usually produces MORE babies. Usually all the way up the stem, but my photos of that didn’t work.
I think there is a long way to go yet, finding excitement and pleasure with these plants. Which is a good job, because when I over wintered a plant in the conservatory which was not a succulent, in the spring, would you believe, there were the indestructible spider mites! They had somehow survived the demolition and rebuild of the conservatory. Sigh..