Posts Tagged 'succulent'

Succulents (part 1)

ImageThese days, succulent plants seem to always be in the public spotlight.  Newspaper articles, books, blogs, magazines, TV spots, social media all regularly promote succulents as easy care, drought resistant, varied in color and form.  Usually these small pieces show a cacophony of diverse types, often jammed together into small spaces for an instant show (kind of like arranging flowers).  Seldom do these ‘arrangements’ last very long, either because they weren’t sustainable in the first place or because the owner knows little of the true needs of these plants.  But no worry, one can just go out and create another, using fragments of the original (most succulents root easily from casually planted cuttings) or by purchasing from the vast array of plants regularly available from retailers (succulents can be easy and inexpensive to produce en masse).

Seldom do any of the media examples showcase the mature form of a particular succulent plant or explain its native habitat and growing conditions.  ‘Succulents’ is a man-conceived grouping (one of the least natural) and include species from a variety of places around the globe, representing various climate zones and conditions.  Yet the cultural instructions offered by many experts do not include these details.  Because the plants we are talking about are generally tolerant of neglect or less than ideal circumstances, they continue to grow.  But if you are familiar with what a given species can look like when grown under optimal conditions, you can see the disparity.

Now there is a definite horticultural sub-cult of succulent fanciers whose main aim often seems to be growing as many different species, forms, or types of a certain group, or growing the only most rare or difficult and eschewing the common.  This is another thing entirely and can lead to an equally skewed horticultural practice.  Plants are grown as part of a collection, often for shows, and seldom allowed to mature to express their natural ways.  Species are made to conform to some fairly rigid concepts for keeping collections healthy or cultivating them for shows.  Consider the difference between an image of dogs playing in a dog park and those at a dog show to see what I mean.  While I have nothing against any of this, it is not why I am interested in succulents.

(to be continued)


Sedum rupestre ‘Angelina’

Many years ago, I first happened upon Sedum rupestre growing happily in the garden of a bed & breakfast where my wife and I were staying. When I commented on how interesting the arched flower spikes were, the garden owner, who did not know the species name, encourage me to take a few pieces home.

At the time, I was growing Sedum reflexum ‘Blue Spruce’, a cultivar that looks very similar, so I was careful to plant this new introduction some distance from the other. Out of flower they are very hard to tell apart, and both have yellow flowers. It is the flower spikes themselves that makes identity easy (S. reflexum flower spikes are upright from start to finish).

Subsequently, we came to plant this golden form on S. rupestre in the raised planter you see here, topped with a rusty iron grate, the golden-green color making a nice contrast to the dark iron as well as the darker foliage all around. You can see the normal gray form of the species in the foreground. I was pleased to see the flowering this spring – a means to verify that ‘Angelina’ is indeed a cultivar of S. rupestre (it is sometimes listed erroneously as another species).


‘Gilva’ vs. ‘Gilva’

'Gilva' and 'Gilva'The main succulent in this photo should be familiar to those of you who have seen my garden. It is a hybrid Echeveria I’ve grown for many years under the name ‘Gilva’ (discovered and described by Eric Walther in 1935 and presumed to be a E. agavoides × E. elegans cross). The plant habit is very similar to E. elegans, offsetting freely and quickly making a nice ground cover. The arching (like E. elegans) flower spikes branch dicotomously (into two equal parts – unlike E. elegans but like E. agavoides).

Notice the potted plant in the left foreground. This is being distributed currently by Succulent Gardens as E. ‘Gilva’. The rosettes are strikingly similar, perhaps larger, seemingly slower to offset, and decidedly flushed pink at their tips (the plant above NEVER flushes pink – instead turning yellow when stressed). it also produces many more flower stems per rosette, which are un-branched and whose flowers are a bit larger, with a more distinct yellow tip to the petals.
Echeveria 'Gilva'I’ve been growing these side by side for some time now and while it is sometimes hard to tell them apart, when they reach this stage it is clear they are different plants. I still prefer the original (to me) ‘Gilva’ as it makes a much more effective ground cover and there are always lots of offsets to start new colonies or give away. The pinker ‘Gilva’ is certainly a good pot specimen, perhaps better than the former which quickly outgrows any pot.


A blog by Seán A. O'Hara

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