A Succulent Love Story

I used to hate succulents. I hated them enough to tell people I hated them. I can’t remember what it was specifically that I despised so much, I guess it was simply that I thought they were ugly. However, over the years the lines blurred and succulents appeared in my own garden, even in my home. Soon there were no longer blurry lines, just one black line that divided love and hate and I had pitched my tent, nay, built a house, on the love side.

That said, as a gardener I couldn’t know less about succulents or the types I have in my own home. After a quick head count it appears I have ten different varieties growing inside and eighteen varieties outside (not including a double up of the ones from inside) – 28 all together. I know there is Sedum ‘Autumn joy’, Jade (Crassula ovata), Pig Face (Carpobrotus spp.) and Jelly Bean (Sedum rubrotinctum) amongst these but that’s about all I know.

I don’t know how this has happened. Did I skip class to go the pub when it was succulent day at school? Sounds like something I would have done…”

Whatever the case, I now have a very happy and successful succulent garden regardless of their genus, species or growing specifications. I will tell you the very few things I know and hopefully my good luck will pass on to you and we can all have happy succulent gardens together.

One: If one night you go for a late night walk with your best mate and there is a pile of succulents on the side of the road, grab them and take them home. Put them at your backdoor and tell yourself not to forget they are there. When your best mate asks for your gardening advice (since you are a trained horticulturist) tell her in a confident voice, “take off the bottom leaves and plant”, then remember to do that yourself and see what happens. They will grow. I know this because I did this but I don’t know what they are called.

Two: If you want plants in your home and you are any of the following: forgetful, broke or sunlight poor, stick a succulent in a vase and call it a day. Everyone has succulents in their gardens. Ask your mate, mum, manager (I got on a roll with ‘m’) for a cutting of a succulent you fancy and put it in a vase or jar or whatever holds water and forget about it. I have a grey leafy number, which I am sure has Christmas in it’s name, in a vase in my bedroom. It has been there for maybe a year. I can’t remember the last time I put water in the vase and despite my neglect it has green shoots reaching out to my window. I’ve  found the plants I plonk in water grow roots, and when it’s time for a change I simply plant them out in my garden and grab a cutting from a different plant.

Three: Succulents have beautiful flowers. They are interesting and colourful and look awesome as a cut flower, alone or mixed with other foliage and flowers.

Four: Succulents look awesome when planted with all kinds of plants. In one section of our rental garden I have plants that I have gathered from all different places chucked in together. My current fave is a mixture of succulents, nasturtiums and a variegated geranium I am very fond of (which is the only other plant I once said I hated and would never grow…but that’s another story).

Five: Succulents show off throughout the year. The more kinds you plant the better the visual impact and reward.

Six: You can grow plants from leaves. It is so easy. Twist off a leaf you like, forget about it for a few days and then either stick it in some soil or lay it on top. And water, obvs.

So that’s it. Ugly is in the eye of the beholder. Sometimes the problem isn’t with the object deemed ugly, it is with the perspective of the person viewing the objects. Over the years I’ve seen succulents put on such a display of flowers that the bees rejoice and my vegetable garden reaps the rewards. I have taken bunches of succulents flowers to friends and family to brighten their days. I have watched as plants I can hardly remember planting feel their way down garden beds and spill onto steps. This group of plants I once though too ugly to even discuss has become a true joy to me, bringing much beauty to my garden and home. So, although I have’t passed on information worthy of Peter Cundall, sometimes in life it’s nice to be told to keep it simple stupid. You do the simple. I’ll do the stupid.