The “Trouble” With Succulents

You may wonder why, in the middle of July, (the month I claim is the only “summer” that we have here in Connecticut), I am writing about what are mostly house plants for me and not about the glories of the garden.

Well, when you have as many house plants as I do, sometimes they need attention even in the summer. In fact, I find that they pretty much need attention year round. So this is the motto I have tried to adopt about gardening:

Do what has to be done,
When it has to be done,
The way it ought to be done,
Whether you feel like it or not.

Those last 2 lines have been a challenge the last few years because of the “unfortunate incidences,” but I still do what I can when I can.

Now, as for the succulents. I love them, particularly when they look like this.

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The trouble is, after awhile, they always get leggy and scraggly and look like this.

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This, of course, is the solution.

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And these clippings, properly trimmed, can often be made into new plants. But that’s what had me messing with succulents on a mid-July day instead of weeding, or something else.

My Idea of Succulents

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You’ve heard me talk, in the past, about a “regional sense of place.” In fact, some of my most controversial posts have been about not making all our gardens look like everybody else’s gardens.

After all, isn’t this what we complain about when we travel? When we fly–or drive–all our “places” look the same. We can drive from one city to the next–or even one suburb–and eat in the same chains and shop in the same stores we have back home and never really leave our comfort zones.

If those of us in the temperate zones (and I am using that term loosely–I mean roughly zones 4-7 or perhaps zones 5-7 or 5-8) all start planting the same plants and using the same sorts of garden decorations, every place will look like every other place.

Certain things are very regional: I am referring to bottle trees in the south for example, lobster pots in coastal New England–those two examples immediately come to mind. If we start plunking them down anywhere and everywhere, they lose their “regional” association.

I feel the same way about plants. While I am not such a plant “snob” to suggest that I can’t grow imported plants because I am not in Japan, the Himalayas or China, or, with respect to natives, not living on the prairies, say, there is a bit of a limit.

Certain things like cone flowers and black eyed susans might look at home in my garden because they pretty much look at home anywhere. Breeders have pretty much assured that. They’re not prairie plants now so much as cottage garden plants, or wildflowers.

But succulents? As I said once on this blog, I don’t live in Arizona. There’s nothing “desert-like” about my property, even in a drought. Not with my heavy clay. So for me, I think they look terribly out of place. That’s why you’ll find them in pots, on my porch, as in the photo, above.

In fact, those gold-sword yuccas that everyone seems to plant here in Connecticut look out of place to me. Their foliage does NOT particularly hold up well in the winter. Yes, it holds up better than perhaps an ornamental grass might–but just barely. It still looks ratty. Just plant an evergreen. There are hundreds to choose from–and no, while they’re not native, they do look more natural to our landscape than some desert plant.

But that’s just me, and as I have said lots of time here, if we all liked the same thing, we’d have a very boring world. Still, you’re not going to find any yuccas on my property any time soon!

Wordless Wednesday–Real Plants Instead of Plastic

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Less than a week ago I had photos from our local mall of the most dreadful plastic plants.

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These are from an atrium of a building in West Hartford center. They never see a hint of natural light–and barely get any artificial light either. I had to touch them to believe they were real.

And most of these are plants that clean the air as well. Beautiful job!

My Own Long-Lived House Plant

All winter long, readers of the Duluth News Tribune have been sharing stories, with photos , of their house plants and how long they had been in their families.  Some had been passed down from great-great grand parents and were almost 100 years old! Now that’s impressive!

In most cases, the longest lived house plants were exactly those that you would expect–the so-called Christmas cactuses. But some of the plants surprised me. One person had a smaller flowering amaryllis.

Several people had oxalis bulbs–what we often see being sold everywhere around St. Patrick’s Day as “shamrock” plants.

One person had a sedum One had a fern. And then there were miscellaneous others . There were a series of articles written.  You can Google it to see the articles with photos .

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This is my longest lived plant. A neighbor gave it to my parents in the late 1970s and I took it shortly thereafter. It’s a rhizamatous begonia, x giganticum.

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These are the flowers. It only flowers once a year for me, right about now, but it does have a long bloom time.

I have given away lots of divisions of this plant and even made myself a “spare” in case something should happen to one of them. I think they’re great–and of course they have a lot of history with them.