Thursday, November 20, 2008

Succulent city - part 2

To start part two of my little succulent stocktake, I think a photo of the haphazard jumble of pots that is Succulent City is in order. Like any self-respecting city, it has grown like topsy without much town planning. It has suffered storms, has had whole streets knocked down by developers (ie, me) to make way for grander structures, but it still survives and thrives. Here it is, this afternoon...

Most of the pots here are not sitting on the ground. They're about three inches off the ground, sitting on a crude but effective little platform built from timber and wire mesh, to improve soil drainage all-round. With the improved drainage, most of the plants have thrived (makes me feel like I've been a responsible mayor by sewering Succulent City!) This is about the sunniest spot in my garden, all-year-round.

The photo of Crassula 'Campfire' which I showed in the previous succulent post was of that plant in midwinter, when it was at its reddest. This is how it looks this afternoon. Mostly green, but growing quite well. Maybe I was a bit harsh in my judgement about it. It has grown a fair bit since then.

I think this is Gasteria bicolor, but I could be wrong. It's definitely a Gasteria, and it is bicoloured, too, but that doesn't mean anything in the long run. For me, the most important thing is that it's happily growing and multiplying in its wide, shallow former bonsai pot.

The best I can do in naming this sunny personality is to call it Faucaria. Still working on the species name. I like the way it looks like a Venus fly trap, with its little rows of teeth.

These succulents have me completely bamboozled as to their correct name. I think it's an Echeveria, but it could be a hybrid with a graptopetalum – ie, a Graptoveria. Or it could just be a graptopetalum.

Ditto this one. Echeveria, Graptopetalum or Graptoveria hybrid? Nice colour, though. The rear pot is a bunch of cuttings getting up a head of steam.

Haworthia attenuata, a plant which has probably thrived the most since I created my elevated plinth of timber and wire. Really loves/needs good soil drainage.

I'm pretty sure this is a Graptoveria (the hybrid of Graptopetalum and Echeveria), but I just had to include this rainy morning shot again, as the gathered raindrops look more like some kind of clear jelly.

The same plant viewed from a more respectable distance.

I'm sure this is a Gasteria, and it's probably G. bicolor.

This is the attractive late winter/early spring flower spike of Gasteria bicolor.

Lurking in a less than ideal spot towards the back of Succulent City is this Kalanchoe 'Flapjacks', a plant which seems to suffer a lot from mildews, yet refuses to die. I just don't have a good spot left for it, yet it soldiers on.

Within the gaggle of plants here, I do have some favourites, and this Kalanchoe tomentosa is definitely one of them. A willing grower that's easy to strike from cuttings, it has wonderful, furry leaves.

The K. tomentosa's furry leaves are soft to touch and so animal-like. The original plant, which we bought on some long-ago driving holiday, has spawned a few dozen offspring which have gone to homes all around the country, as visiting friends took pieces home.

I've no idea what this purple spreader is called, but it's not doing as well as it should, and so it will soon get the universal cure-all for underperforming succulents: repotting. That does the trick more often than it should, too. Each of these little rosettes is no more 2cm across.

Pictured above and below is the same flower of a Pachyphytum, with different backgrounds courtesy of two larger pots in the background, sitting side by side. First up: luminescent blues!

With the background of the dusky pinky-brown pot next to it, the mood changes.

And here's the proud parent of the flower pictured above, this Pachyphytum is growing very rapidly indeed since this photo was taken about three months ago.

Another "I'm not sure" plant of the "could be Echeveria or some Echeveria hybrid" type.

Lurking in the background, in the ground, not a pot, is this Sansevieria, or mother-in-law's tongue. It gets no encouragement or help from me, and slowly gets bigger. Got to admire that. It seems to like the dappled shade where it lives.

Pictured above, the two different forms of Sedum spectabile 'Autumn Joy' growing here today - the green-leafed form and the purple.

This is how it looked in its first autumn here, earlier this year. I think this plant does a lot better in cooler climates than here. I brought it back from a friend, Amanda's, garden in Kyneton, Victoria, where it thrives. It did pretty well here in its first year, died back in winter, and is now bouncing back well in its second spring. Cool climate gardeners often rave about its performance, so I'm keen to see it do well here.

Cheery little Sedum 'Jelly Beans' occupies the lower apartments in the Crassula 'Coral' hi-rise block. They're very fragile and drop little beans if bumped in the slightest way, and these then sprout to form new plants very readily, just where they fall to the ground.

Sempervivums are another of my favourites. They grow well, don't complain, look great, multiply readily and have an interesting history as 'houseleeks', planted onto roofs of European houses in earlier times. I think this is Sempervivum tectorum.

Coming back well in rehab, this is Senecio jacobensii, a trailing succulent that belongs in hanging baskets or tumbling over walls and banks. A fierce autumn storm knocked this delicate plant into tatters, and I'm starting again from the scraps which I picked up off the ground. In the middle of winter, it produces superb purple foliage.

Finally, here's Stinky the Stapelia, a new addition to Succulent City, given to me as a cutting by Pam's good friend Audrey, who lives in Yass, a country town near Canberra, our national capital. Audrey's Stapelia is a big, healthy clump of stems, so they must like the extremely chilly winters that Yass gets, and the hot, dry summers there too. Why Stinky? Well, Stapelias are a carrion-flowered succulent, sending out star-shaped flowers which smell of dead flesh. The crook smell attracts flies which then help in the pollination process (instead of bees).

Before I sign off on all this succulent mania, I should give a plug for the great blog called "A Succulent Obsession" by a Canberra resident. He has some wonderful succulent photos and his blog is well worth visiting. There's a link to his website on the right here in my blog links.

As for my succulent growing tips, there are a couple. Sunshine and good potting mix drainage are super important. 

However, equally important is watering them. In their native habitats, many succulents experience wet, cool winters and hot, dry summers, so I simply never water them in summer here in Sydney (as Sydney really is too wet for them already) but I do water them a bit in winter if things have been dry. I tend to also replace the potting mix fairly regularly, as it tends to become over-dry and water-repellent by the end of summer, and when you start watering the plants in winter the potting mix won't absorb any moisture and the plants don't get any benefit from the water. I don't find that wetting agents are all that helpful for rewetting dry potting mixes, and I prefer to replace the mix if the plant is struggling in any way. The discarded potting mix goes into the compost heap, so it isn't wasted.

I do also use a specialised Cactus and Succulent liquid fertiliser in early spring, then again in late spring. Not too much, but just a little booster in the growing season. They don't seem to grow much in summer, so I don't fertilise them then, but I do give them another light liquid feed in early autumn, when they tend to do a bit more growing once the summer is over. I'm not sure whether that's the right thing to do or not. In fact I've never read much about fertilising succulents anywhere. It's just what I've noticed and have decided to do. The fertiliser pack encourages you to feed them all through spring and summer, but somehow I suspect they just want you to use lots of their product, then buy some more. Succulents live in poor soils in the wild so they don't get much fertiliser apart from a trickle down from rain falling on animal poo and decayed plants and leaves. But potting mixes really are barren places after several waterings have washed any nutrients away, so I think the occasional feed is a good idea during the plants' growing periods.


Kyle @ Yumoh said...

Really enjoying reading your blog, especially these posts about succulents... When we were kids, we used to get the giggles over the eccentric people in the "Cactus and Succulent Society" in the NSW country town of Wagga Wagga where I grew up - but now, living in the inner west of Sydney, with a hot, north-facing concrete-slab of a backyard, I AM one of those eccentric Cactus and Succulent people!

eg said...

Bonjour de Paris!
I like so much crassulas and Sydney, so i have visited you...
Congradulations for your beautiful garden!

Anonymous said...

Congradulations for your beautiful garden!. The small plant with red leaves that is sufferin and needs repotting in probably a Sedum, perhaps S. stoloniferum (light pink flowers)or S. anacampseros (purple flowers). Both adquires red tonalities when placed in full sun.

Anonymous said...

That "purple spreader" is called Bronze Carpet Stonecrop Sedum.

I have a bunch of it and I love it.